MFA Creative Writing Program

Curriculum Details

When it comes to the development of a writerly sensibility, the CalArts Writing Program does not draw hard distinctions between “creative” and “critical” modes, espousing the belief that critical inquiry can and should inform creative practice. All 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.

Mentoring and Reviews

All incoming students are appointed a Mentor from the Critical Studies faculty. Mentors advise, guide and work creatively with students to ensure that progress towards the degree is as challenging and successful as possible. The mentor relationship is designed to be flexible and open; as with all interpersonal relationships, some are more casual, others more formal. The mentor is the student’s ally and can assist with information about all aspects of CalArts.

  1. Mentors and mentees typically meet three or four times a semester for advisement.
  2. Mentors conduct all Mid-Residency and Graduation Reviews. All students must effectively pass through a Mid-Residency Review to progress to the second year of the program.


All students are required to complete a thesis in their second year. The thesis is a self-generated project which students propose in the spring of their first year, begin drafting in the summer, continue to develop in the Fall in Thesis Workshops, and finish in the spring of their second year, via independent study with their mentors.  All CalArts Writing Program students give at least one public reading in their final semester, held at one of several exciting venues in Los Angeles. Thesis projects can take many forms at CalArts, but generally speaking we expect students to produce a substantial manuscript, with a page count appropriate to related published work in the genre (i.e. 60-80 pages for poetry, 100+ pages for a novel or creative nonfiction project, and so on).

Last edited by sblake on Feb 19, 2014
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