The MA in Creative Writing is an exciting new programme at Durham University
. Taught by award-winning writers Dr Paul Batchelor and Dr Vidyan Ravinthiran, this is an academically rigorous programme that will develop students’ practical knowledge of writing poetry and prose fiction. Students will receive structured support through writing workshops and one-to-one tutorials in order to develop their own ideas. Students will also study a broad range of literature from the 20th and 21st centuries, and produce new work in response.
Creative Writing Poetry OR Creative Writing Prose Fiction
Each student will take one of these writing-workshop modules. In these modules students will write longer pieces within their chosen literary discipline, sharing their work and giving and receiving feedback and suggestions from the module convenor and the other students. There are few if any writing exercises. Each student can expect to have their work scrutinised closely in a workshop setting several times. These modules are assessed via a portfolio of ten pages of poetry plus 2,000-word self-critique, OR a 6,000-word portfolio of prose fiction plus 2,000-word self-critique.
Reading as a Writer
This seminar module brings poets and prose writers together, and (unlike any of the other core modules for Creative Writing) is also open to English Studies students. Each week we discuss some key poetry and prose from across the twentieth century, focusing on the technical innovations introduced by the writers studied, and the ways in which writers learn from one another, both within their medium and beyond it. The module combines breadth and depth of coverage, offering students an advanced understanding of a range of writers, schools, and styles in order to broaden their research interests, and help them to identify and research a topic of their own choosing with guidance from a subject specialist in the extended essay part of the Research Project. It is assessed via two 3,000-word essays.
Reading as a Writer: the Workshop
This is very much a companion module to Reading as a Writer, and is a writing-workshop module focussing on short, directed writing assignments and their discussion. The focus will be on formal and technical experiments, stretching students’ technical facility via assignments inspired by the texts studied on Reading as a Writer. Prose writers and poetry students will once again work side by side, sharing work and ideas, learning to appreciate literary conventions and their subversion. Each student can expect to have their work workshopped several times, though these engagements will not be as formal or thorough as those in Creative Writing Prose Fiction or Creative Writing Poetry. Assignments might include adapting syntactical techniques; investigative creative non-fiction; experimenting with poetic forms; creative translation; writing an opening paragraph; or trying out editing methods. It is assessed via a portfolio of EITHER ten pages of poetry OR 6,000 words of prose fiction, plus 2,000-word self-critique.
The Research Project provides students with the opportunity to produce a 6-8,000-word extended critical essay on a subject of their choosing. Students choose their own extended essay titles, with guidance from the module convenor and subject to the approval of the English Studies Board of Examiners. Focusing on depth rather than breadth, the essay is independently researched and builds on the work covered in the taught elements of the programme. Students will be expected to choose a research topic with particular bearing on their own creative practice, and to reflect on how their critical and creative work have informed one another, either in the main body of the essay, the introduction, or chapter dedicated to integrative reflection. Students may wish to refer to specific aspects of their own writing when writing this part of the essay. The Research Project also provides the opportunity for students to to produce a final portfolio of creative work: poets will be asked to produce ten pages of poetry; prose writers produce 6-8,000 words of fiction. The portfolio will consist of new work, produced after the completion of the structured workshop-oriented modules. The module is assessed via an extended essay of 6,000-8,000 words and a creative writing portfolio of EITHER ten pages of poetry OR 6,000-8,000 words of prose fiction.
Creative Writing students would take one module of their own choosing, either from the English Studies MA modules or taking this new optional module:
The Word in the World
This module focuses on the ways in which the students’ writing can be made available to the public. It would take the form of a series of lectures and seminars covering topics such as: how writers make a living; the possibilities and challenges presented by collaborating with other artists; how to adjust teaching methods according to the setting and audience; how to write a pitch letter; how to get a literary agent; submitting work to poetry journals; how to make the most of web resources; how to communicate with an editor; book design, blurbs, jackets; writing copy; formats; sales and distribution channels; publicity and promotion; book reviewing, etc. This part of the module will be taught both in-house at Durham and via visiting speakers such as editors, industry experts. Students would also be invited to either collaborate with a student in another medium (most likely music or the visual arts) or go on a teaching or literary-industry placement that would take place in July. This module is assessed via one 3,000-word essay and one 3,000-word report on the industry placement, teaching placement, or collaborative project.
Students are usually required to have an Honours Degree at 2:1 level or higher or GPA average of 3.2 from a recognised national or international university. Students should submit a sample of 4-6 poems or 2,000 words of fiction. All students for whom English is not their first language must have achieved a level of at least 110 in the TOEFL IBT (Internet Based Test) or 7.0 in the IELTS test (with no element below 6.5) or instruction in English for a degree within the past two years. All students must provide two positive academic or professional references.