MFA Degree Requirements
(30 hours plus 18 hours of electives, for a total of 48 credit hours)
Workshop Requirement (12 hours or more)
The Program requires that all MFA students take twelve hours of workshops in their primary genres (e.g., fiction or poetry). You may take additional workshops to satisfy your elective requirements, and we encourage you to experiment with other genres; such courses will be counted toward your electives, not your primary workshop requirement. Each workshop may be taken as many times as appropriate.
First-year students are required to register for a workshop in their primary genre the first semester.
All workshops require students to produce a substantial portfolio of their own work as well as to evaluate and articulate the strengths and areas for development of their colleagues’ work. Self-evaluation is another important part of the process. Most workshops also require at least a portion of major revision to new work.
List of Workshops
ENGL 666 Creative Writing: Fiction.
Semester course, three credits. Study of craft and revision, with the goal of producing sophisticated fiction. Workshop members produce a volume of writing–short stories or a portion of a novel—totaling approximately 50 or more pages. May be repeated for credit. Grading is pass/fail.
ENGL 666 Creative Writing: Novel.
Two-Semester course, three credits per semester. Typically offered every second year, the novel workshop is an opportunity for MFA students to develop and draft a long work of fiction, usually at least 100 pages per semester. This is a two-semester commitment and is restricted to nine members, all of whom should have passed their first year of coursework. Grading is pass/fail.
ENGL 667 Creative Writing: Poetry.
Semester course, three credits. The craft of writing and revising poetry, with the goal of producing professional-level poetry. Workshop members shall produce a substantial amount of poetry and in addition be able to evaluate and articulate the strengths of their own work. May be repeated for credit. Grading is pass/fail.
ENGL 668 Creative Writing: Drama.
Semester course, three credits. The work for this course will include reading and analyzing a number of one-act plays, as well as completing a one-act script. May be repeated for credit. Grading is pass/fail.
ENGL 671 Film and Television Scripts.
Semester course, three credits. The workshop is a practical study of the format and storytelling strategies of a presentation-ready film script. Students are expected to develop a screen story, a full treatment, and the script for a one-hour (sixty-page) fictional film. Grading is pass/fail.
ENGL 672 Writing Nonfiction.
Semester course, three credits. Study of craft and revision, with the goal of producing sophisticated nonfiction. Workshop members produce a volume of writing totaling approximately 50 or more pages. May be repeated for credit, especially as varieties of nonfiction addressed may vary (memoir, belles lettres, oral history, etc.).
Other Coursework Requirements and Recommendations
Form and Theory Courses (recommended)
At present, Form and Theory courses count toward your literature-seminar requirement.
ENGL 629 Form and Theory of Poetry.
Semester course, three credits. This course will address a number of key issues concerning the structure of verse and the function of poetic discourse and will provide readers and writers of poetry an opportunity to study and practice a broad range of poetic forms and techniques, as well as to explore various genre conventions and their thematic and rhetorical significance. Students may study poems from various periods, with some focus on the contemporary, and apply to them the insights offered by major theorists of poetry and poetics. They also may write imitations, parodies and responses examining and demonstrating poetic approaches.
ENGL 630 Form and Theory of Fiction.
Semester course, three credits. Addresses a number of key issues concerning the structure, conventions, and function of narrative discourse by studying a broad range of narrative forms. Students will read stories and novels from various historical periods, with some focus on the contemporary, and apply to them the insights offered by major theorists of narrative. They also may write imitations, parodies and responses examining and demonstrating the aesthetics of fiction.
ENGL 631 Form and Theory of Creative Nonfiction.
Semester course, three credits. May be repeated once for credit. Will address a number of key issues concerning the structure, conventions and function of varied types of creative nonfiction and will seek to give readers and writers an opportunity to study a broad range of forms in the genre, which may include magazine articles, research-based reportage, New Journalism, memoir, biography, autobiography, the meditative essay, the personal essay, the lyric essay and others, as well as to explore genre conventions and their thematic and rhetorical significance. Students will read across this range of forms, with some focus on contemporary writing, and apply to them insights offered by major theorists of the genre. They also may write imitations, parodies and responses examining and demonstrating the aesthetics of creative nonfiction writing.
For Graduate Student Teachers
ENGL 500 Teaching Practicum. 500 is required of all entering MFA students as well as students assigned to teach 200 or to assist in large lectures.
ENGL 673 Teaching Creative Writing.
Semester course, three credits. At the present time, 673 is offered for credit in two ways: (1) an apprenticeship with an MFA faculty member who is teaching an undergraduate workshop, or (2) in conjunction with a student’s first assignment teaching ENGL 295 (Reading and Writing Literature). Apprenticeship requires faculty and director approval and is highly recommended before planning to teach 295 or an adjunct assignment elsewhere. Apprenticeship is also available to unfunded or part-time students as well as full-time, funded students.
Participation in the 673 symposium is currently required for teachers of 295, including those who have taught before. During the semester, this course gathers current teachers once a week for support, questions, and further training, with sample syllabi, exercises, and lesson plans. Students also develop Statements of Teaching Philosophy to help professionalize themselves for the job market. Extensive orientations take place the semester before 673 begins. Students not currently teaching are encouraged to drop in and offer their experience or begin preparing early for teaching 295. Offered every semester; grading is pass/fail, and evaluations of students’ teaching go into their permanent records.
Literature Seminars (12 hours or more)
The development of literary-analytical sophistication is an important component of the Program. You must complete a minimum of twelve (12) credit hours in literature seminars. You may take additional courses as electives.
See the Schedule of Classes for each semester’s offerings. Remember that Independent Studies will be limited.
Elective Coursework (18 hours)
As electives, students can take other graduate courses offered by the Department of English, including additional coursework in literature or workshops (Reminder: A workshop in a genre other than your primary concentration counts as an elective, not as the 12-hour workshop requirement for your degree). Each semester the English Department offers courses in areas such as literature, nonfiction writing, linguistics, research techniques, teaching, form and theory. All of these graduate classes count toward elective credits.
In some cases, with reasonable justification, it is possible to take a course in another department. Please remember that you must get prior approval from the Program Director or your advisor to take courses in any other departments.
Thesis (6 hours)
Your thesis is a collection of your best work; it may be a complete novel, a related series of poems, or a compendium of representative work—including, for example, short stories, a novel excerpt, and a series of poems.
MFA students take thesis credits (English 798) as a way to carve out time to create and revise a substantial and sophisticated thesis. You must take at least 6 thesis hours. No more than 9 thesis credit may be applied towards the 48 credit hour requirement; students wishing to enroll in more than 9 thesis hours (to satisfy full time credit hour requirements) may do so only with permission for the Program Director.
Note that, in accordance with Departmental guidelines about coursework and offerings, a very limited number of independent studies will be approved per semester. You should plan on doing the majority of your work in traditional offerings.
A student may take a maximum of six credits in graduate-level independent study courses. The prerequisite for all independent studies is six credits of appropriate graduate coursework. You must get permission to register for an independent study from the professor, the Program Director, and the Department Associate Chair or Chair. Forms are available from the English Graduate Programs Advisor. On that form you will be required to present a description of the project you wish to pursue, the anticipated product (such as a long paper) and a bibliography. All independent study proposals must be approved by the MFA Program Director prior to the beginning of the semester in which they are conducted. No overrides will be granted until the paperwork is submitted and approved.
Independent study is not available for a course that duplicates courses already being offered, even if you apply for an independent study in a semester in which the course is not available (such as summer). Neither can IS be used as thesis hours or for a creative writing project.
For academic credit (three hours per semester, up to six hours total) MFA students may participate in an internship (English 694).
Many students elect an internship with an organization such as Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts. One goal of this internship is to provide broad practical experience in literary editing. The internship involves a commitment of at least 10 hours each week. There is a required editorial meeting with literary editors, managing editors, and other interns up to three times a week at the Blackbird office or production facilities. The other hours are most often spent reading and replying to submissions and working on magazine production and design. Internship forms and overrides are available from the Graduate Programs Advisor. Interns may move on to associate editorships with Blackbird.
Other internships with local organizations, such as James River Writers, and with Richmond-based magazines, can also be arranged. Please see the Graduate Programs Advisor for availability.
David Wojahn, Director of Creative Writing
Thom Didato, Graduate Programs Advisor