The English Department will now offer “Introduction to Creative Writing” starting this semester as part of an effort to make creative writing classes more accessible to students.
Comprised of three 15-student sections offered exclusively in the fall, “Introduction to Creative Writing,” is currently the only creative writing course open to all undergraduates and requires no application, giving students a platform to develop their writing skills for more intensive classes later in their Yale careers. In fall 2011, internal and external reviews of the undergraduate writing programs recommended that the department establish links between the planned introductory course and upper-level creative writing courses.
Professor John Williams, associate director of undergraduate studies in the English department, said the amount of student interest in the course exhibited a “pent-up need” for a traditional creative writing class among pre-existing non-fiction and literature-based seminars. Exactly 109 students applied for the 45 available course slots.
“We’d been talking for a little while [about] introducing students to different genres, so students feel a strong sense of mastery before they go on to take more advanced courses,” said Richard Deming, a professor teaching “Introduction to Creative Writing” this semester.
“Introduction to Creative Writing,” which is also taught by English professors John Crowley and Langdon Hammer, includes a sampling of fiction, poetry and drama. Students from all sections of the course are required to attend sessions with guest lecturers such as writers Tom McCarthy, James Salter and Sarah Ruhl as well as other members of the Yale faculty. Deming said he thinks lectures by other professors will help students meet upper-level faculty and Hammer added that the class is “partly a showcase for writing at Yale.”
Most advanced creative writing seminars require students to submit writing samples to be considered for admission, and the introductory course will give students the opportunity to compile a strong portfolio of work, Deming said.
Williams said since the program is in its first semester, the department plans to evaluate in December whether it will add more sections next year to accommodate the high demand.
Elizabeth Miles ’17, who has a spot in Crowley’s section, said she preregistered for the course because it covers areas of creative writing that she had not learned in high school.
Tao Tao Holmes ’14, a staff columnist for the News, said she took the introductory English course “Reading and Writing the Modern Essay” as a freshman and has taken several writing courses since, but she still has not been able to enroll in any fiction seminars without relevant writing samples.
“It ends up being a group of people taking the same classes, since you have an automatic advantage if you got into a writing seminar and have good writing samples already,” she said. “It’s hard for people who haven’t had exposure to break into it.”
English major Katie Stewart ’14 said the new introductory creative writing course will give students an advantage when later appying to upper-level seminars, adding that she wishes “this class had been around when [she] was a freshman.”
English majors not enrolled in the writing concentration can count two creative writing credits toward their major.