2-Year Program

All MFA Creative Writing students are expected to attend closely to questions of form and aesthetics, as well as to the historical and critical contexts of literary work. Most classes combine workshopping of student-generated work with discussion of assigned texts. Students are also encouraged to explore the intersections between writing and other media/art forms, such as performance, digital media, visual art and film. While not all classes are offered every year, over the two-year program all students will take a wide selection, honing their individual visions and practices while experimenting with new forms and subjects. Writing students also benefit from being able to take courses for elective credit in the MA Program in Aesthetics and Politics, as well as other MFA/upper-level BFA courses throughout the Institute.

In addition to MFA core creative and critical coursework, all candidates are required to give at least one public reading in their final semester, and produce a substantial manuscript (thesis), with a page count appropriate to related published work in the genre (i.e. 60-80 pages for poetry, 100-plus pages for a novel or creative nonfiction project, and so on), in order to complete the program.


Students may further developing their practices via named concentrations in:

  • Image + Text is suitable for students who seek to develop their writing in the context of the image. This includes understanding writing as image form, or as a process of imaging, as well as how text can be used as a means to complement and work with pictorial images in cultural and media form. Courses include writing as image, text and the imagination, as well critical writing on the image, ekphrastic writing and creative arts criticism.
  • Writing and Performativity offers students an array of courses focused on critical investigations and creative practices of performative writing. This includes the study and implementation of performative tropes—embodiment, presence, erasure, scripting, kinesthetics, musicality, display, rhythm, reenactment, haunting, and so forth—as tools of textual production.
  • Writing and Its Publics deals with the public face of writing, be it publishing or writing for various art audiences. It is suitable for students who seek to develop their work in public contexts, including socially engaged writing practices as well as students seeking to explore new and independent and more standard institutional forms of publishing.
  • Documentary Strategies takes on the key themes within documentary nonfiction. Courses in this concentration include the demarcation (or blurring) of the lines between fact and fiction and the nature of the “pact”—autobiographical or otherwise—that nonfiction proposes to its audience.

Full Curriculum

Detailed curriculum and academic requirements can be found in the online course catalog.

View Curriculum Requirements

Interdisciplinary Opportunities

In addition to CalArts' rich and diverse community and naturally collaborative atmosphere, the Institute provides several programs of study that can be pursued concurrently with a student's chosen metier.

Center for Integrated Media

The Center for Integrated Media concentration is designed specifically for MFA students whose creative use of technology—in particular digital media—goes beyond their primary areas of study.

Center for Integrated Media

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