English Will Intensify Focus On Creative Writing

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

The English Department is placing an increased focus on creative writing, enabling students to complement their study of literature by writing fiction and poetry of their own.

Starting in the next academic year, a creative writing concentration will be offered within the English major. Students choosing the concentration will take three workshops in fiction or poetry writing.

"Our creative writing courses have always been immensely popular," said Prof. Rosemarie Bodenheimer, the department chairwoman. "In the past, however, admission to creative writing workshops has been largely limited to seniors, and those underclassmen who aspired to improve their writing skills had difficulty getting into the courses. The new writing concentration offers increased opportunities for students to polish their writing skills over time."

Eight students from the Class of 2000 will begin the concentration in February of 1998. Applicants must have received a grade of B-plus or better in the Freshman Writing Seminar, or earned an exemption from it, and must submit an eight-page creative-writing manuscript to be considered. The students will undertake a 12-course English major instead of the usual 10.

Assoc. Prof. Suzanne Matson (English), who has played a leading role in developing the writing concentration, said the sequence represents "a coalescence of writing offerings we've had out there, but not in any organized program." The new sequence will bring a less "haphazard" approach to the English Department's writing instruction, she said, while offering students closer mentoring from talented writers on the faculty.

"We're hoping the concentration will create more of a writing community among the undergraduates here," said Asst. Prof. Elizabeth Graver (English), who sees the program nurturing creative-writing skills in students by offering "a fertile ground from which they can write."

English faculty said the department has helped foster an appreciative climate for creative writing by inviting a steady stream of acclaimed poets and novelists to give readings of their work in recent years. Bodenheimer added the department's commitment to creative writing is strongly reflected in the work of its faculty, including Matson, a published poet and fiction writer, Graver, an award-winning author of short stories and a forthcoming novel, and several others.

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