Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
Lisa Wells (BFAW ’12) is the author of The Fix, winner of the 2017 Iowa Poetry Prize. A new book of nonfiction is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2019.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Goddard College (BFAW) is an undergraduate degree program comprised of a community of learners, students, and faculty who aspire to integrate the following into their lives: creative writing as an art and craft done individually and with others, an engaged study of literature, an understanding of language and the social context, and reflection on the role of the artist in the world. The program is low-residency and grounded in the principles and practices of student-centered, progressive education.
The BFA community values experimentation and encourages students to write in ways that might be new for them. BFAW students, in concert with faculty, design a program whereby they write in two genres (poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction, drama, hybrid forms), study works across eras and cultures, become acquainted with literary theory, write on the ethics of being a writer, and compile a senior study which contains a creative manuscript and critical writing that puts their work in context. BFAW students engage the art of literature and character-based writing rather than mass-market uses of language.
Goddard’s semester format comprises an intensive eight-day residency on campus and 16 weeks of independent work and self-reflection in close collaboration with a faculty advisor. A student’s semester studies are carried out where the student is, be that in their home community, engaged in a community service project, traveling, and so on. The college pioneered this format nearly a half century ago particularly to meet the needs of adult students with professional, family, and other obligations seeking learning experiences with relevance in real-world circumstances. Following completion of the degree work, Goddard students attend a three-day commencement residency to share their work with other students in their program, to have their achievements celebrated, and to participate in commencement.
Residencies are a time to explore, network, learn, share, and celebrate with peers, staff, and faculty. While students work with advisors to forge individualized study plans for the semester, they also have the opportunity to attend workshops, advising groups, keynote addresses, large celebrations and a host of other rich and interesting events where they also learn from other adult students. Together with their faculty advisors, students consider study ideas, program content, personal goals, and what they might do to achieve their goals. This model combines a strong sense of community with personalized learning, enhanced by open and extended written dialogue with a faculty mentor. The strength of the program rests on the excellence of our faculty and their commitment to students.
During the semester, students send faculty advisors packets that typically contain process letters describing their learning and (depending on the program and study goals each semester) some of the following: a bibliography of resources, a study journal, annotations or a critical essay, a research paper, creative and critical writing, slides, photos, or samples of artwork, and an autobiographical account or audio/video presentation. A detailed response from the advisor is both supportive and challenging, engaging in the learning the student presents as offering resources and strategies for the next packet. Additionally, the advisor will also address the packet in the context of the student’s semester goals and the student’s progress toward fulfilling degree criteria. Over the semester, the exchanges between student and advisor create a dialogue that is exceptionally rich and nuanced, reflective and holistic. Out of this comes learning that is transformative and empowering. At the end of the semester, students and advisors write comprehensive evaluations of the student’s work.
All students must satisfy General Requirements for the BA/BFA at Goddard College. In addition, students pursuing the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing will demonstrate a particular competency in the arts and humanities as follows:
- Development of Craft – Students learn to pay close attention to their own works, often revising a story, chapter, poem, or essay several times. Alongside revising their own work, BFAW students read the works of other writers closely observing and identifying techniques of craft they might employ in their own work. The BFAW student therefore aims to produce consciously, carefully crafted work, and understands their work in the context of other literary traditions.
- Writing in Two Genres – At the culmination of their studies, students should possess a basic understanding of literary traditions, theory, and movements, as well as the ability to recognize the contribution of literature to culture and society. BFAW students, and especially those considering graduate study, should possess the ability to articulate ideas and information in at least two areas of literary traditions, theory, and movements. A comprehensive understanding of literary theory enables students to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.
- Reading as a Writer – Reading as a writer means the writer recognizes the impact of technique on the reader. Therefore, as students of writing, BFAW students are able to articulate, in close readings, the construction of writing: structure, use of language, and other techniques of craft, and the impact on the reader.
- Literary Criticism – At the culmination of their studies, students should possess a basic understanding of literary traditions, theory, and movements, as well as the ability to recognize the contribution of literature to culture and society. BFAW students, and especially those considering graduate study, should possess the ability to articulate ideas and information in at least two areas of literary traditions, theory, and movements. A comprehensive understanding of literary theory enables students to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.
- Reading and Studying Literature Across Eras and Cultures – During the course of their degree program, students engage texts from previous centuries and from cultures outside their own context and familiarity. This requirement is meant to help students understand tradition and continuity in the language arts, and to identify authors and movements that might inform their own projects. Reading across cultures also serves to help students to be self-aware about the language and arts traditions from which they come.
- Introductory and Advanced Genre Workshop: These workshops introduce students to approaches to theory and practice in four genres: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and drama. Hybrid forms may also be presented. Each genre workshop is a two-part workshop, with either the introductory session taking place at the first residency, and a follow-up advanced workshop taking place at the next residency, or both introductory and advanced workshops happening during one residency week. The introductory workshop usually includes readings in the genre, an introduction to basic literary terminology in that genre, and a few writing exercises aimed at generating new work. The advanced workshop might include an introduction to a historical aspect of the genre, contemporary theoretical debates within the genre, and exercises in revision.
- Theory, Cultures, and Eras Workshops: Convened around various topics during each residency, these workshops introduce students to exemplary, revolutionary, and sometimes canonical texts from various eras and across cultures. Sometimes taking the form of a two-session workshop, the workshop will also attempt to introduce students to a piece of critical writing on the text and therefore introduce students to existing literary theory, reading methods, and the practice of writing either literary theory or a creative work of their own.
The Creative Thesis/Senior Study
You will present your Senior Study in the form of:
- A manuscript of 25-100 pages, depending on the genre, of well-crafted, significantly revised creative work;
- A 15-30 page reflective critical paper on the subject of craft, integrating literary criticism and explication of the writer’s own work;
- A reflective essay on the cultural/societal responsibilities of the writer;
- Bibliography and annotated bibliography;
- A reading of your senior study manuscript work to the residency community, followed by a question and answer period facilitated by members of the BFAW faculty.
You will leave the program with a complete draft of a creative manuscript that has gone through a number of revisions. At the same time, you will have gained a deep connection to your writing peers, many of whom will continue to sustain you as the work of writing continues.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative is an upper-division undergraduate degree open to students who have previously completed 60 semester credits.
Students may complete their first and second year of study in Goddard’s Individualized Studies track or transfer up to 75 semester-hour credits from one or more previous institutions.
Please contact the admissions office to learn more about the admissions process.