Creative Writing Concentration

Creative Writing in the Department of English

In 1992, the poet and senior lecturer emeritus Robert Farnsworth established a concentration in creative writing, offering a path of study specifically for English majors interested in practicing the literary arts at Bates. The English Department thus begun the training of numbers of young writers who have since gone on to attend MFA programs, writing conferences, writing fellowships, and publish widely.

Premised upon the idea that reading critically and writing imaginatively are necessarily related and mutually nourishing activities, the concentration in creative writing complements and enhances the English major, and gives structured opportunity and a sense of purpose to students committed to the writing of poetry or prose. The writing workshops at Bates are led by practicing, published writers and poets. Currently staffed by lecturers Jessica Anthony and Myronn Hardy, the concentration is supplemented by workshops offered by Professor Clifford Odle, and regular campus visits from notable contemporary authors and poets through our reading series, Literary Arts Live.

English majors who wish to write a creative thesis first complete the introductory and advanced workshops in either fiction or poetry, and broaden their workshop experience through the completion of a third workshop outside of their chosen genre.

Requirements are the same as those for the English major, with the following additions and specifications:

  1. One introductory workshop from:
  • Fiction writing (291)
  • Poetry writing (292)
  1. A second introductory workshop from either of the above, or:
  • Creative Nonfiction (293)
  • Playwriting (THEA 240)
  • Screenwriting (ENTH 242)
  • Autofiction (395G)
  • A full-term or intensive summer writing workshop taken elsewhere. (Requests for such substitutions must be made in writing to the chair, and include a syllabus and portfolio.)
  1. One advanced workshop, following the student’s chosen genre, from:
  • Advanced Fiction (391)
  • Advanced Poetry (392)
  1. Three allied courses in the student’s chosen genre, often from among those taken to satisfy the major, in the English Department or in the literature of a foreign language, which will be useful to the student’s develop­ment as a writer, chosen in consultation with their advisor. For example, a fiction-writing student might take Modern Short Stories, Postmodern Novel, and Contemporary African American Literature ; a poetry-writing student might take Poetry in the 21st C.,  The Aesthetics of Seeing: Poetry as Witness, and I, Too, Sing America: Poetry of this Moment/Movement.
  1. A thesis (either one, or by approval, two-semester) consisting of a single cohesive manuscript in the chosen genre, or a closely-related hybrid genre.

Majors who elect the creative writing program count one of the writing courses toward fulfillment of the English major requirements, as well as the allied literature courses, and thesis. Thus, the usual number of courses required for the English major and the creative writing program is 13. (Students who elect to complete their second introductory workshop through Autofiction may have 12).

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Students undertaking a creative thesis shall:

1) Have successfully completed the three workshop courses required by the program. Students who have not yet done this, for reasons of off­-campus study, e.g., may undertake creative theses provided they take the remaining required writing course(s) by the end of senior year.

2) Submit a proposal to the department, requesting the opportunity to write a creative thesis and delineating your vision for the project you wish to write. Once the proposal is approved and assigned to an advisor, the student and advisor may begin devising a working schedule for the project.

There is no honors designation for a creative thesis, but students may apply to write for two semesters, registering for ENG 457 and ENG 458, so long as they have completed the advanced workshop in their chosen genre before the fall of their senior year, or are otherwise approved to write for one full year.

If the two-semester request is approved, the student shall proceed with the understanding (as with English Dept. honors projects) that the advisor’s assessment of the work produced during the fall term, and the student’s adherence to deadlines will determine if the project goes forward beyond the end of Fall term. The creative writing committee, composed of those faculty engaged in teaching workshop courses that year, may decide that a thesis should be completed by the end of the Fall term, or it may also grant an advisor and student request to extend a thesis into a two-semester project.

We expect many creative theses will be completed in one semester, and most students use the advanced workshop to develop the foundation for their creative thesis.

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THESIS EXPECTATIONS

Of course, the most important expectation is excellence. The thesis should be comprised of the best work you have brought (through intensive revision) to final form during the semester(s) spent working on the project. Theses may include revised developments of work first drafted in previous workshops, but will consist mainly of new work drafted and revised during the project. Although most creative theses will be composed in the genres of either fiction or poetry, it may be possible to write a thesis in creative nonfiction or a hybrid genre. The length and nature of such a project will be determined by student and advisor.

The broad outlines of expectation for one or two-semester theses are as follows:

ONE SEMESTER POETRY:  At least 15, but not much more than 20 poems. A ca. 10 page preface discussing craft, influences, intentions.

ONE SEMESTER FICTION: At least 40, but not much more than 60 pages of fiction. A ca.10 page preface discussing craft, influences, intentions.

TWO SEMESTER POETRY:  At least 25, but not much more than 30 poems. A ca.10 page preface discussing craft, influences, intentions. A public presentation (reading) from the work, to be delivered at the Summit senior year, is optional but strongly encouraged.

TWO SEMESTER FICTION: At least 70, but not much more than 100 pages of fiction (stories or novella, e.g.) A ca.10 page preface discussing craft, influences, intentions. A public presentation (reading) from the work, to be delivered at the Summit senior year, is optional but strongly encouraged.

TWO-SEMESTER creative theses may be read for approval and comment by the advisor and another member of the Bates faculty, not necessarily a member of the English Department. If thesis authors would like a second reader, they are responsible for securing agreement. Responsibility for assignment of a final grade rests with the thesis advisor.

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A Few Bates Alumni Writers

  • Pamela Alexander
  • Jessica Anthony
  • Christian Barter
  • Christina Chiu
  • Gabriel Fried
  • Jean Monahan
  • Elizabeth Strout
  • Craig Teicher