Course Descriptions
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General Information

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in creative writing is designed for students who wish to pursue a professional degree with emphases on both students’ writing and graduate-level scholarship in English.  The degree involves a three-year course of study, requiring a series of rigorous workshops centered on the development of students’ creative work, in addition to coursework in literary history, critical theory, and literary craft.  Students will have the opportunity to develop a significant body of publishable creative work with an understanding of and the ability to describe the work’s historical/ literary context.  
As the terminal degree in the field of creative writing, the MFA degree prepares graduates to teach at the collegiate level, as well as for employment in the fields of publishing, literary agenting, and editing. The degree also guides writers toward publishing in nationally prominent presses, journals, and magazines.
The MFA program offers specializations in fiction and poetry, and welcomes writers who aspire to high levels of literary quality, including fiction writers working with traditional genres (i.e., young adult, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc.).

Applicants to the MFA program in creative writing must have a Bachelor’s degree or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from an accredited university, school, or college, and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Applicants need not have received their previous degree in English, but all applicants must demonstrate readiness to engage in graduate-level scholarship in English.

Detailed information on applying to the MFA program is found here: How to Apply for Admission.

By the end of their degree program, MFA candidates should be able to:

  • Demonstrate mastery of manipulation of elements of craft/technique within their chosen area of emphasis. (In fiction, this is defined as:  form (the novel, novella, and short story); generic tropes; narrative structure; point of view; tone; and voice.  In poetry this is defined as: traditional forms; line/enjambment; imagery and metaphor; meter; rhyme and free verse);

  •  Demonstrate an understanding of the contemporary publishing landscape for fiction and/or poetry, for book-length works as well as for individual stories/poems;

  • Demonstrate the ability to curate/edit the creative work of others for publication;

  •  Create a book-length of work of publishable creative writing, as well as identify its audience/market;

  • Analyze and describe their creative work within the context of historical trends/ movements and genres in literature;

  • Compile a professional portfolio demonstrating an understanding of future career options and approaches to same.

1. Course Requirements

Reading by Frandsen

Creative Writing Curriculum

ENG 707:  Craft and Forms of Creative Writing (4 credit hours)

ENG 708:  Topics and Problems in Creative Writing (4 credit hours)

ENG 710:  Literary Editing and Publishing (4 credit hours)

ENG 705/709:  Graduate Workshop in Fiction / Poetry  (20 hours) (Students must take 5 workshops:  4 in their stated specialization, and 1 outside of it.)

ENG 711:  Introduction to Graduate Study

15 credit hours Electives, 12 of which must be taken within the Department of English at the 700-level.  These classes will normally be literature courses; in consultation with their advisors, students will be encouraged to plan elective courses around faculty offerings and topics that best reflect their individual interests and the ongoing aesthetic concerns of their creative work.  3 (or more, with advisor approval) credits must be taken outside the Department of English, and may be taken at the 300 or 400 level.

ENG 797:  Thesis Study (9 credit hours, see below) Students must sign up for 9 hours of thesis study at minimum.  These hours may be split across multiple semesters (including summer).  Thesis study is overseen by the chair of the student’s advisory committee.

ENG 795:  Comprehensive Exam (1 credit, hour, see below)


2. Time Limit

All requirements must be satisfied during the six calendar years immediately preceding the granting of the degree.

3. Advisory Committee

During the second year of study, and in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, MFA candidates must choose one Department of English creative writing faculty member to serve as MFA committee chair and advisor; two additional department faculty (one from creative writing, and one outside the student’s declared course of study) to serve as committee members; and a fourth committee member from outside the Department of English, chosen in consultation with the committee chair.

4. Residence

The MFA degree requires 6 semesters of full-time work beyond the baccalaureate and/or MA degree (excluding summer sessions), five of which are to be spent in full-time residence at the University of Nevada, Reno.  (Full-time residence requires a minimum of 9 credits per semester. Teaching assistants taking at least 6 credits per semester are also considered to be in full-time residence.)  It is assumed that students in their sixth semester will be completing their thesis projects (see below), and will likely be registered only for thesis credit.

5. Continuous Registration

Graduate School regulations require graduate students to maintain continuous registration of at least three credit hours per semester (summers excluded) to remain active in the pursuit of a degree.

6. Total Credits

The MFA requires 60 credits, 57 of which must be taken at the graduate level.

7. Transfer Credits

Students will only be allowed to transfer credits from previous graduate courses in exceptional circumstances, to be determined by the Department of English MFA Committee and Director of Graduate Studies.  In most circumstances, no more than three graduate classes applicable to the approved program of study may be accepted from graduate courses taken at another institution and/or the University of Nevada, Reno. These courses must have been completed within the six-year time limit for the MFA degree and must be approved to count toward the degree by the MFA Committee, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate School.  No previous writing workshops will count for transfer credit.

8. Seminar Requirement

MFA students are required to take all courses at the 700 level or above, with the exception of electives taken outside of the department of English.  The student may in unusual circumstances take a 600-level class in English, but only in consultation with his or her committee chair and the Director of Graduate Studies.

9. Comprehensive Examination (Written)

MFA students are required to take all courses at the 700 level or above, with the exception of electives taken outside of the department of English.  The student may in unusual circumstances take a 600-level class in English, but only in consultation with his or her committee chair and the Director of Graduate Studies.

In order to register for 795 (the comprehensive exam), a student must have met the following requirements:

(1)  filed a completed Program of Study with the Graduate School;
(2)  completed five semesters of study toward the degree;
(3)  met with the student's committee chair to work out plans for completing the written and oral portions of the exams;
(4)  returned the "Approval to Register for Comprehensive Exams" form, completed, to the English department office prior to the end of registration.

Working closely with his or her advisory committee, at the beginning of his or her second year of study, the student will prepare a reading list of 30 works. As soon as is feasible, the student will turn in an annotated bibliography of this reading list to his or her committee.  Prior to the end of his or her third year of study, the student will take a one-day written examination, prepared by the committee, focusing on ideas and concepts represented by the student's reading list and annotations. After the student has passed the written exam, the advisory committee will conduct an oral exam, not to last more than an hour and a half.

10. Thesis

An MFA candidate must be enrolled full-time (minimum 9 credits per semester), except during the last semester of study, when he or she will be expected to complete a thesis:  a book-length work of fiction or poetry of publishable quality, written and revised over the course of the student’s studies. Once constituted, the student’s advisory committee will approve a thesis prospectus, and the student will draft the thesis under the committee’s supervision.  Prior to the end of the third year of study (by which time the student shall have registered for/completed 9 credits of thesis study) students will present a polished draft of the thesis to their committee for review, then (shortly after completing the Comprehensive Examination) defend the completed thesis before the full committee.  The committee will then vote according to Department of English bylaws whether to confer the MFA degree.

11. Graduation

To graduate in any given semester, the student must file an Application for Graduation by the dates specified for that semester in the university catalog and meet that semester's deadlines for submission of the Notice of Completion and (if on the thesis plan) the final copy of the thesis to the Graduate School. Students should be aware that graduation application dates at the University of Nevada, Reno are unusually early: the deadline is generally eight weeks prior to graduation.

12. Paperwork

The student is responsible for knowing the degree requirements and for submitting all Graduate School forms on time. Early in their graduate careers, students should become familiar with the most important of these forms: the Program of Study, the Notice of Completion, and the Application for Graduation. Most Graduate School forms are available on the web at The Application for Graduation is available on the Graduate School's website:

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