MFA PROGRAM

Course of Study

Courses of Study for the MFA Program

Learn More:

MFA in Writing and Consciousness Curriculum
MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts Curriculum


MFA IN WRITING AND CONSCIOUSNESS CURRICULUM

This 48-unit degree results from two full-time years of coursework, which can be accomplished entirely through weekend intensive and online work, and culminates in completion of a book-length literary project. The curriculum offers students four different kinds of educational experiences: (1) Writing workshops, (2) Seminars on the Art of Writing, (3) Consciousness coursework and (4) The Artist in the World (professional development for literary artists).

8 Core Requirements:
Students complete required units in all four categories (Writing Workshop, Writing and Consciousness, The Art of Writing and Professional Development: The Artist in the World. Students can also choose to work more deeply in areas that provide them the most artistic growth and/or professional development. For example, students wanting to emphasize their academic development may take the maximum Writing and Consciousness units, while students focused on their careers may want to take the maximum Art of Writing and Artist in the World courses.

All students MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts complete 18 units of Writing workshop (includes MFA workshop and MFA project).

I. Writing Workshop and MFA Project (18 units)
WRC 7093 MFA Workshop I (6 units)
WRC 7094 MFA Workshop II (6 units)
WRC 7712 MFA Project (3 units)
WRC 7712 MFA Project (3 units)

II. Writing and Consciousness** (6 units)
A. Required Courses
WRC 7081 Creative Inquiry for Writers: Writing and Consciousness (3 units)
WRC 7124 Contemporary Literature: Perspectives and Practices (3 units)

III. The Art of Writing* (9 units)
Select From The Following:
WRC 7087 Writing as Art: The Art of Text/Image (3 units)
WRC 7131 Poetic Forms: The Art of Poetry (3 units)
WRC 7138 Invention and Revision: The Art of Fiction (3 units)
WRC 7142 Recreating the Real: The Craft of Nonfiction (3 units)

* Students with interdisciplinary arts interest or experience can substitute some Art of Writing requirements for courses offered in the MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts curriculum [See the “Interdisciplinary Arts Seminars” or “Arts Practice Seminars” sections of page 6].

WRC 8888 Special Topics (1-3 units)

IV. Professional Development: The Artist in the World (6 units)
WRC 7128 The Artist in the World: Preparing the Artist’s Portfolio (3 units)
CIA 7038 Interdisciplinary Pedagogy (3 units)

V. Electives** (9 units)
Select From The Following:
CIA 7301 Teaching Practicum (3 units)
WRC 7083 The Art and Craft of Teaching Writing (3 units)
WRC 7085 Editing and Publishing (3 units)
WRC 8799 Independent Study (1-3 units)
WRC 8888 Special Topics (1-3 units)
CIA 7218 The Artist as Administrator (3 units)
CIA 7301 Teaching Practicum (3 units)
CIA 7302 Community Arts Practice I (3 units)
CIA 7303 Community Arts Practice II (3 units)


** Students may also take up to 6 “Writing and Consciousness” and/or elective units from any graduate CIIS program with advisor approval.

Course Descriptions

MFA Workshop I (6 units)
This workshop focuses on learning to read as a writer, to write as a reader (of literature and life), to offer helpful and respectful responses to work in progress, and to challenge old habits and assumptions. This is a multigenre workshop, which inspires cross-fertilization of ideas and techniques. Participants bring in their most current and urgent writing for responses that support the writer, explore the nature and lineage of the work, and provide questions and suggestions for revision. The primary focus of this course will be the consideration of course participants’ work, but writing exercises and pertinent readings will further open us up to a wide range of aesthetics, voices, and artistic and craft techniques. The aim in this workshop is not to reach consensus, or to establish a particular aesthetic or set of rules, but to expand each writer’s self-awareness and capacity to develop a unique, extraordinary voice and body of work.

MFA Workshop II (6 units)
A follow up to MFA Workshop I, this course allows students to build on the skills and expertise of the first semester by offering a new perspective or approach. Students’ artwork continues to serve as the primary course text. Students also prepare for and respond to each other’ work, continue to work with outside mentors, keep online journals and read and reflect on texts from a variety of arts forms. But they also begin to focus on the development
of a body of their own work and their culminating project for this course is a plan for developing their MFA project.

Contemporary Literature: Perspectives and Practices (3 units)
This course asks students to engage modern and contemporary literature through the social, psychological and spiritual movements of the modern/post-modern eras. Making use of interdisciplinary perspectives, the course invites students to consider how new ideas, cultural events and social or technological developments have sparked or inhibited creative work and how/when/why art shapes or shifts culture.

Creative Inquiry for Writers: Writing and Consciousness (3 units)
In fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, writers explore myths, dreams, reality and illusion, self-awareness and self-deception, and the awareness of awareness of inner and outer worlds. This core introduction to the study of writing and consciousness includes both imaginative works and historical and contemporary theories of mind: philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific. Students will employ creative modes of inquiry—both academic and imaginative—in the analysis and synthesis of course texts with self-reflection, artistic self-discovery, and the collaborative transformation of community. The class will include in-class creative and analytical writing exercises; multi-disciplinary, multi-genre collaborative presentations; and a substantial critical reflection.

MFA Project (3 units x 2 semesters)
Developed over two semesters, participants work with a single faculty advisor throughout the year as they develop their thesis: a minimum of 70-100 pages of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or cross-genre work, and a substantial self-reflective essay.

The Artist in the World (3 units)
In The Gift, Lewis Hyde writes that, in the modern world, “works of art exist simultaneously in two ‘economies,’ a market economy and a gift economy.” Artists, writers, and performers all have additional tasks, beyond the making of the art itself: to find ways to survive emotionally and financially, to develop the ability to continue making art despite all the usual challenges of life, and to discover not only how they want to bring their projects into the public realm, but how they want to engage the world politically, socially, and imaginatively. Depending on student needs and interests, subjects covered may include artist’s statements; book proposals; CVs and cover letters; grants, fellowships, and residencies; emotional resilience in the face of the world’s responses to our art; and ways of identifying not only the types of day job that work well for different temperaments and skill sets, but also the agents, publishers, galleries, or performance venues most likely to be interested in a given artist’s work. This course will mix this practical information with a chance for participants to reflect on themselves, their learning, their creative processes, and how they want to use what they’ve learned in the future.

Requirements include 6 to 9 units of the following:

The Art of Poetry: Poetic Forms (3 units)
This class offers an intense survey of poetics designed to give writers more tools for approaching the sound, rhythm and adhesive nature of language, with attention to the strategies of contemporary experimental and avant-garde poetics. All writers, whether their primary modes are fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, benefit from the close study of language, sound, and image. Poets have actively used writing as a means to change our perceptions and society. From the disruptive mosaics of the modernists to the mathematical permutations of the oulipo, the avant-garde has sought change through the reshaping of form, thereby disrupting meaning’s tendency toward rhetoric and the curtain of its untruth.

Invention and Revision: The Art of Fiction (3 units)
In order to create writing that successfully engages with the world, we each need to invent our own approaches to the art of storytelling. In this methods/workshop course, students experiment with the imaginative possibilities of such narrative elements as traditional and alternative structures, points of view, language and imagery, complications of character, the handling of time, and significant detail. The class analyzes selections from a diverse,
international group of writers and texts—traditional and experimental, classic and contemporary, insider and outsider—in the process of expanding our tools and abilities as writers. Each writer’s unique vision, subject matter, and voice is honored and strengthened in the course of this work as participants discover the artistic implications of their own narrative choices and how these relate to the deeper meanings of their work.

Recreating the Real: The Craft of Nonfiction (3 units)
An in-depth study of the art and craft of nonfiction, including the personal essay, travel writing, the spiritual autobiography, social and political commentary, cultural critiques, stories of place and more. In our reading of both published essays and the work of participants, we will examine the methods, stylistic possibilities, and ethics of writing about real people and real situations and the boundaries of fiction/nonfiction. We will also consider the place of nonfiction in constructing a literary life, nonfiction as a persuasive tool for change, and the audiences for various kinds of nonfiction.

Writing as Art: Text and Image (3 units)
Much contemporary teaching about writing focuses on the writing process as a tool for self-discovery and personal growth or on writing as a process of effective communication. This course explores writing as an art process. We’ll examine the relationship between word and image in writing—and students will complete projects that allow them to develop writing as art objects and writing pieces that actively make use of aesthetic elements. Students develop and create various writing as art objects—such as postcards, visual/written maps, illustrated “books”, and boxes built from text and image.


MFA IN CREATIVE INQUIRY, INTERDISCIPLINARY ARTS CURRICULUM

This 48-unit degree results from two full-time years of course work, which can be accomplished entirely through weekend intensive and online work, and culminates in completion of a substantial artistic project, developed with and supervised by an MFA faculty member. The curriculum offers students four different kinds of educational experiences:

(1) MFA Workshop for Interdisciplinary Artists, (2) Creative Inquiry and consciousness coursework, (3) Interdisciplinary Arts Seminars (interdisciplinary and arts practice seminars), and (4) The Artist in the World (professional development for interdisciplinary artists).

6 Core Requirements:

All students complete the minimum units in each category and get essential interdisciplinary arts, creative inquiry, arts practice and professional experience. Students can also choose to work more deeply in areas that promise them the most artistic growth and/or professional development. For example, students wanting to emphasize their academic development may take the maximum Creative Inquiry and Interdisciplinary Arts seminar units, while students focused on their careers may want to take the maximum Arts Practice and Artist in the World courses.All students complete 18 units of Workshop (includes MFA workshop and MFA project).

MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts (48 units)

I. Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop and MFA Project (18 units)

CIA 7091 MFA Workshop I (6 units) 
CIA 7092 MFA Workshop II (6 units) 
CIA 7712 MFA Project (3 units) 
CIA 7712 MFA Project (3 units)

II. Creative Inquiry (9 units)

A. CIA 7104 Creative Inquiry for Interdisciplinary Artists (3 units) 
CIA 7106 Art History and Meaning (3 units) 
CIA 7071 Aesthetics of Value (3 units)

III. Interdisciplinary Arts Seminars: Inquiry and Practice (9 units)

A. CIA 7223 Interdisciplinary Arts Seminar (3 units) 
B. Arts Practice Seminars or Special Topics* (6 units) 
Select From The Following: 
CIA 7202 Arts Practice: Inter-Arts (3 units) 
CIA 7203 Arts Practice: Performance Arts (3 units) 
CIA 7204 Arts Practice: Sound Arts (3 units) 
CIA 7205 Arts Practice: Visual Arts (3 units)*Students with substantial writing practice can substitute some arts practice requirements for courses offered in the MFA in Writing and Consciousness [See The Art of Writing seminars listed on page 8].CIA 8888 Special Topics (1-3 units)

IV. The Artist in the World (6 units)

CIA 7056 The Business of Art (3 units) Or WRC 7128 The Artist in the World: Preparing the Artist's Portfolio (3 units) 
CIA 7038 Interdisciplinary Pedagogy (3 units)

V. Sample Electives** (6 units)

Select From The Following: 
CIA 7218 The Artist as Administrator (3 units) 
CIA 7301 Teaching Practicum (3 units) 
CIA 7302 Community Arts Practice I (3 units) 
CIA 7303 Community Arts Practice II (3 units) 
CIA 8799 Independent Study (1-3 units) 
CIA 8888 Special Topics (1-3 units)**Students may also take courses from the "Writing and Consciousness" or "Elective" categories of the MFA in Writing and Consciousness curriculum, or from other CIIS programs as approved by their advisor.

Course Descriptions

MFA Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop I (6 units)

In this workshop, the students' artwork serves as the primary course text. Each class meeting, students from diverse disciplines (writing, performance, music, visual art, for example) present their work so workshop members become aware of the formal applications used, the techniques the artist has drawn on, the artistic process and influences on the work. The work presented and in-class exercises become the platform for an interdisciplinary arts inquiry into how the arts intersect, interrelate and rely on each other. Students keep "journals" allowing them to reflect on how their artwork grows and changes over the semester and study texts from a variety of art forms, to further add to their range and capacity. In addition, faculty workshop leaders draw on expert mentors who meet individually with students during the semester and also attend as guest lecturers. Students may work with one mentor throughout their degree or shift to a new one the second semester. Each semester the student plans and completes an arts project with his or her expert mentor and presents it to the workshop.

MFA Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop II (6 units)

A follow up to MFA Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop, this course allow students to build on the skills and expertise of the first semester, while offering a new perspective and approach. Students' artwork continues to serve as the primary course text. Students also prepare for and respond to each other' work, continue to work with outside mentors, keep online journals and read and reflect on texts from a variety of arts forms. But they also begin to focus on the development of a body of their own work and their culminating project for this course is a plan for developing their MFA project.

Art History and Meaning (3 units)

An interdisciplinary inquiry into art history that culminates in students "claiming" a lineage for their art-making. Students explore art history from an interdisciplinary perspective, examining historically how the arts have interrelated and informed each other and how the work of other artists makes their work possible. Drawing from diverse fields of art, students become more expert and fluent in the history of their own art form and related arts, discover and claim their particular lineage, and become more able to reflect critically about the evolution of the arts.Students teach the art history that grounds and shapes their work to class members.

Arts Practice Seminar (3 units)

This course provides arts instruction, while educating students in the history and practice of art forms. Offered on a rotating basis, the course will focus on one of the following categories: interdisciplinary arts, visual art, performance arts, or sound arts. Course will offer supervised art study, readings, and intensive art work.

Aesthetics of Value (3 units)

An interdisciplinary inquiry into aesthetics that explores the ideas, principles and preconceptions that drive artists and culminates in them articulating and preparing their own aesthetics statement. What is the internal geometry of one's work, of any given work? How does an artist go about manifesting a vision, made of what choices of palette, rhythm or vocabulary, what harnessing or releasing of emotion, what tone of voice toward what effect, for what harmonic or disharmonic purpose? The Indian descriptions of Rasa as sap, juice that can be savored in a piece of art is about the ranges of emotion and other more subtle relationships within a single piece of art, or a body of work. Much has been written about aesthetics, and we will intersect with some of this material (from Sappho and Plato to artists and aestheticians in the current artistic discourse) and critically reflect on our own points of view. Students will learn to articulate the lens through which they view art and prepare an aesthetics statement.

The Business of Art (3 units)

As artists, we need to bring as much heart and creativity to the business of survival as we do to our art itself. The class encourages students to think and identify as Visionary Entrepreneurs, who are responsible for sourcing how to transform their "dream" into a reality. They will develop a plan of action and an overview for the next steps they need to take to make their vision into a lifework that supports them financially. They will also have the seed information needed to go on to create a more traditional business plan. Grounded in the vision plans, we will collectively develop boiler plate materials that can be used for fundraising, promotion, web design, etc. The Business of Art is designed to provide an environment in which each student is supported in looking both inward and outward, bringing together what may be disparate aspects of their creative life into a comprehensible whole,rooted in one's deepest values. Students will begin to envision the various possibilities of generating a livelihood that grows organically from one's heart intentions principles to the students' various performing art interests.

Creative Inquiry Through Interdisciplinary Arts (3 units)

Creative Inquiry is the quest one makes in life that becomes expressed through art. A discovery-oriented learning process, creative inquiry asks artists to explore the meaning-making opportunities art provides by giving them the chance to explore, for example, the questions and issues of one's era, the experiences that formulate one's art questions, the silences an artist has decided to fill. Social, political, historical, spiritual, and psychological factors "place" each of us on a path with other members of our generation. We also are heirs to arts that have gone before us, and are being created by our peers. How do we turn these factors into "creative inquiry" that carries us through life, as artists who keep our minds alive and continue expanding our capacity to translate deeply felt knowledge into works of art?

Interdisciplinary Arts Seminar (3 units)

Sample Course DescriptionIntersections of the Arts with Science and Spirituality: Gertrude Stein, H.D., and Zora Neale Hurston. Each of these ground breaking 20th century writers had powerful relationships with equally groundbreaking scientists of the era. Stein was influenced by psychologist William James and the "process philosophy" of mathematician/philosopher Alfred North Whitehead; poet H.D. was psychoanalyzed by Sigmund Freud, and then turned him into a character in Helen in Egypt; Hurston studied with Franz Boas and utilized anthropological techniques to gather Southern Black folktales and speech patterns, which she worked into her fiction. All three writers participated in influential art movements: Cubism, Imagism, and the Harlem Renaissance, respectively. And all three of them explored spiritualities other than those with which they were raised. In this course we will intersect with these women's lives, their poetic, prosaic, and theatrical writings, their philosophical and spiritual explorations, while engaging the major science and art movements of their era. We'll explore the insights and questions that arise through the medium of our own arts.

Interdisciplinary Pedagogy (3 units)

Interdisciplinary Pedagogy will explore and define our philosophies of teaching and learning; i.e., how do we conceive of the learning environment, the teacher-student relationship, the aim of our education practices. We will look at a wide variety of teaching environments as they apply to different art forms as well as academic teaching. Students will learn how to design courses and workshops, write syllabi, and articulate their own pedagogy. Students will gain experience teaching, facilitating discussion, and evaluating themselves and their students - and develop, plan, and teach in an environment (from class classroom to community organization) that meets their career goals. As teachers, we will attempt to use ourselves as examples of different pedagogic methods and tools. We will interrogate our histories, our philosophical points of view and our practices as part of the class.

MFA Project (3 units x 2 semesters)

Developed over two semesters, student-artists develop an artistic project that reflects their core values and expands the possibilities for their lives as artists. Students work with a single faculty advisor throughout the year. Students include a statement of their aesthetics in the project. 12 Examples of MFA Projects are:

  • A completed book-length manuscript
  • A fully produced dance concert or theatrical or musical performance
  • An original song cycle written and performed
  • An art exhibit
  • A collection of poetry suitable for publication
  • An original cd, or dvd suitable for distribution