UChicago to offer undergraduate major in creative writing

Creative writing class
Lect. Rachel DeWoskin (right) leads students in a fiction writing course at Taft House.
Photo by
Jean Lachat
Andrew Bauld
News Officer for Arts and HumanitiesNews Office

The Department of English Language and Literature will offer a new undergraduate major in creative writing, beginning in Autumn Quarter 2017.

First-, second- and third-year students will have the option to major in creative writing, or take on a double major in creative writing and any major they wish to pursue, including English. A minor in English and creative writing also will be open to students outside those programs.

The major’s creation will help satisfy long-felt demand from students in the College for a creative writing major alongside the traditional program in English.   

“For years students have been asking for a program of study in creative writing,” program coordinator Jessi Haley said. “The courses we currently offer are notoriously oversubscribed. In the last five years we have expanded our faculty, but demand is always running ahead of us. This is a basis for future expansion.”   

While it will provide rigorous training in the skills required to write at a high level in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, students who graduate with a BA in creative writing will find themselves well suited to a wide range of career paths, said John Wilkinson, chair of Creative Writing.  

“A BA in creative writing doesn’t lead only to graduate school for an MFA,” said Wilkinson, a professor in English who led a group of Core faculty in designing the new major. “In any employment, literary skills are important, so there is a link to many practical applications. For instance, the major is great for science students looking toward science journalism or popular science writing, as much as for arts students interested in arts reviewing.”  

The creation of the creative writing major marks the culmination of a UChicago Arts initiative to offer majors in all of the living arts. The hope is that the new program will lead to continued growth in a variety of fields, including literary translation and new media, and will attract students from diverse fields and backgrounds eager for interdisciplinary collaboration.  

Alongside the current offering of workshop courses in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, new courses will be added to include seminars focused on issues of craft in contemporary literature, as well as a cross-genre seminars on the fundamentals of creative writing as a discipline. In total, students will complete 13 courses: 11 within the creative writing and literature departments, as well as two electives. All creative writing majors will complete a BA thesis and take a corresponding thesis workshop during their fourth year of study.

Vu Tran, assistant professor of practice in the arts and the director of undergraduate studies in creative writing, said the program aims to cultivate both compelling and adept writers.

“Our program will offer students a foundational, technical and critical understanding of their chosen genre, and then help them in their practice,” Tran said.