In an effort to meet increasing student demand for upper-level writing classes and bolster the writing concentration, the English department is augmenting current offerings in both fiction and nonfiction writing classes, English Director of Undergraduate Studies Lawrence Manley said this week.
The size of the writing faculty — currently totalling about 14 — will also increase to 17 within two years to accommodate two new nonfiction classes and a handful of fiction classes. And with more faculty members available to advise independent projects, Manley said, two additional students will likely be accepted into the writing concentration, which includes about 20 students each year.
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The changes come as the popularity of writing classes is on the rise, Manley said.
“If we were going to look at a graph of the excess demand, I’d probably say it’s as great now as it’s ever been,” he said. “There’s a widening gap between the number of applicants and the sections available.”
Planned faculty additions will make the creative-writing faculty within the English department “as large as it’s ever been,” Manley said.
Next year, current Calhoun College Dean Leslie Woodard will teach a section of Introduction to Writing Fiction, doubling the current number of slots available in that course. And, Manley said, the department is still in negotiations with a fiction writer to teach an intermediate fiction workshop next fall.
Cynthia Zarin, a New Yorker staff writer and adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, will teach a nonfiction course titled “Profiles and Portraits,” which Manley said will serve as a third-person counterpart to English professor Anne Fadiman’s “Writing about Oneself.” Zarin taught a section of the introductory English class ENGL 120 at Yale last fall, a class that she “very much enjoyed” teaching. She said she plans to remain at Yale for at least a few years.
There are also tentative plans for New York Times Magazine contributor Jack Hitt to join the English faculty during the 2009-2010 academic school year to teach a nonfiction class.
Rising demand for upper-level courses inspired the English department to expand its staff, Manley said.
Students interested in classes specific to nonfiction writing past the introductory level could turn to just three courses last fall: “Nonfiction Writing,” “Advanced Nonfiction Writing,” and “Journalism.” This semester, the department’s upper-level nonfiction offerings include “Daily Themes,” “Writing about Oneself” and “Journalism.”
The sparse offerings made admission difficult.
“The first few years, trying to get into those classes was really discouraging,” said William Palmer ’08, who is a writing concentrator. “I ended up writing fiction after that. It was consistently easier to get into fiction-writing classes than nonfiction-writing classes, at least for me.”
Much of the impetus for the additions came from writing faculty themselves, Manley said. In February, nonfiction writing professors Fadiman and Fred Strebeigh wrote a memo, at the request of English department chair Langdon Hammer, outlining ways in which the department should expand. Fadiman said her and Strebeigh’s ideas were in tune with those expressed by other members of the department.
As a result of the changes, ”more good writers will find a place in intermediate and upper-level writing classes,” Fadiman said.
“Yale has chosen especially good instructors,” she said. “All these new offerings and expansions in fiction and nonfiction are going to help make Yale a really important center for good young writers.”
The department will lose one writing teacher next year: Rosencranz Writer in Residence Louise Gluck, the former U.S. Poet Laureate and current Yale verse-writing professor, at the University, will take a leave beginning in the fall semester.