The CalArts MFA Creative Writing is unique in the field for the way it combines a dedication to experimental practice and a resolutely non-genre tracking curriculum. These commitments are intertwined: unlike in many MFA programs our students are free to pursue their imaginative and experimental impulses into whatever genre their work takes them—including into hybrid genre forms of their own. This is all in keeping to CalArts’s foundational commitment to experiment and interdisciplinarity. Students who come to our program regularly engage in substantial projects in multiple genres across their coursework and beyond. In other words, each student designs their own path through our curriculum, engaging with what questions of genre and practice inform their work as it develops. All this gives special import to the work each student does with their mentor during their time in our program. Students meet with their mentors multiple times each semester to discuss their plan of study, their creative work, and larger questions related to a life in writing and to connections between writing, other art forms, and intellectual endeavors. Our commitment to the mentor relationship is foundational to the pedagogy of CalArts.
While our program is non-tracking we do offer four optional emphases that help guide our students through our curriculum and the course offerings of other schools and programs in the Institute. We call these emphases our Concentrations. These non-required Concentrations are Image + Text, Writing and Performativity, Writing and its Publics and Documentary Strategies. Image + Text traces the relationship of the written word and the visual image, including the cinematic, the static image, and the materiality of language. Writing and Performativity offers students an array of courses focused on the creative and critical practices of performative writing. Writing and Its Publics deals with the public face of writing, be it publishing, community-based work, or writing for various art audiences, while Documentary Strategies takes on a wide array of artistic engagements with documentation, witnessing, and archives of all kinds. Students whose work and interests closely engage one of these four areas can formalize that engagement by declaring an official Concentration, which may be advantageous in their professional lives after the MFA.
In the Creative Writing Program, our core courses 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. 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.
Detailed curriculum and academic requirements can be found in the online course catalog.
View Curriculum Requirements