English Dept. considers intro creative writing course

In an effort to open creative writing courses to more undergraduates, the English Department hopes to expand course offerings as early as fall 2013.

Following a formal review of the creative writing program that occurred last academic year, the department is evaluating numerous options for addressing the lack of space in creative writing courses to accommodate student interest, including offering an introductory creative writing lecture for underclassmen next fall. The course would introduce students to major genres — poetry, fiction, drama and creative non-fiction — and provide them with an opportunity to get feedback in discussion sections, English Department Chair Michael Warner said. Students interviewed said the new course could break the cycle in which students who are rejected from writing courses one semester struggle to acquire the writing samples necessary to get into similar courses in future semesters.

“Yale has a very distinctive way of teaching creative writing,” Warner said. “We feel very strongly that creative writing is not merely a mode of self-expression, but that good writers need to be well read and need to understand the tradition they are joining.”

The creative writing program evaluation involved an “internal self-study” and an external review committee comprising faculty from creative writing programs at other universities. In addition to creating an introductory course, the review recommended that the English Department offer a more coherent curriculum that would allow students to take courses that build on one another.

Warner said the introductory course may follow a similar format to “Daily Themes,” a popular English lecture in which students write short creative pieces every day and receive feedback from their Teaching Fellows and peers. Richard Deming, a lecturer in English who teaches “Daily Themes” this semester, said he received nearly 200 applications for the 96-person class this term.

John Crowley, a senior lecturer in English and Creative Writing, said the department also hopes to expand waitlist sizes for creative writing classes. Since students may only take one creative writing course per semester but apply to as many courses as they like, competitive courses sometimes go with partial enrollment becuase admitted students opt for other courses.

Four students interviewed said they support the possible changes to the creative writing program.

“I definitely know a lot of people who are interested in writing but have a lot of trouble applying to the seminars because they don’t have samples,” Karolina Ksiazek ’15 said, adding that she applied to eight creative writing classes this semester and was only accepted to one.

Sally Helm ’14 said she thinks an introductory creative writing course that could include freshmen would be a valuable addition to the program, because she said students who are unable to take creative writing courses early in their Yale careers often struggle to get into them later.

Amelia Urry ’13 said admission to creative writing courses can be random.

“When you get into a writing class, it kind of feels like a magic formula you don’t understand,” she said.

The English Department offers 13 creative writing courses this semester.

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