Writing and Consciousness
Come finish your novel or start a new one!
Artists in the Writing and Consciousness program can make hundreds of small works during their CIIS education, in constant dialogue with a community of artists working across disciplines. From these works they refine one or two large-scale and culminating projects, developed with artist mentors, advisors, and peers in a workshop setting. Through courses in historical movements, theory, and cultural identity, they develop frameworks for understanding a broad range of historic and contemporary literature, as well as visual and performance works. In workshops and literary practice courses, they make work-often in collaboration-and engage in critical discourse with their colleagues. They learn to articulate their own lineage and process, and name the writers and historical moments that have made their own work possible.
This 48-unit degree results from two full-time years of coursework, which can be accomplished entirely through weekend intensive and online work, and one or more of the following:
• a book-length manuscript or chapbook
• an evening-length dance, theatrical, or musical performance
• a visual arts exhibition
• a social justice/community arts project
The curriculum offers students four different kinds of educational experiences:
(1) MFA Workshop (either the Writing Workshop or the Workshop for Interdisciplinary Artists).
(2) Art history, critical theory, and cultural identity
(3) Seminars in writing, performing, arts practice, and interdisciplinary arts
(4) Professional Development coursework, including any of the following:
• Artist in the World
• Teaching for Social Change
• Editing and Publishing
• Community-based Art
All courses in the department are graded as Pass/No Pass
Core Requirements: MFA with a Concentration in Writing and Consciousness
I. Writing Workshop and MFA Project-18 units
MFA 7093 MFA Workshop I
MFA 7094 MFA Workshop II
MFA 7712 MFA Project: Two semesters
II. Writing and Consciousness-6 units
MFA 7071 Cultural Identity
MFA 7179 Resistance
MFA 7105 Arts and Culture: Movements and Frameworks
III. The Art of Writing-9-12 units
MFA 7087 Writing as Art: The Art of Text/Image
MFA 7138 Invention and Revision: The Art of Fiction
MFA 7142 Re-creating the Real: The Craft of Nonfiction
MFA 8888 Special Topics (1-3 units)
Sample special topics: Dance and the Poetics of Space; The Art of the Uploadable Video; Cinematic Writing; Interdisciplinary Writing; Radical Poetics: Literature from the Margins; Structure of Stories; Experimental Writing; The Craft of Choreography; The Graphic Novel; Performance and Social Change.
IV. Professional Development-6-12 units
MFA 7128 The Artist in the World: Preparing the Artist's Portfolio
MFA 7038 Interdisciplinary Pedagogy
MFA 7085 Editing and Publishing I
MFA 7281 Art and Social Justice: An Introduction (1 unit)
MFA 7172 Art Matters
MFA 7183 Catalyst
MFA 7302 Art and Social Justice: Intro (3 units)
MFA 7303 Collaborating Across Difference: Art and Dialogue
V. Electives-6 units
MFA TBA Interdisciplinary Workshop
MFA 7167 Art, Survival, and Radical Creation at Burning Man
MFA TBA Naked in the Digital Age
MFA 8799 Independent Study (1-3 units)
MFA 8888 Special Topics (1-3 units)
MFA 7093 Writing Workshop I (6.00 Units)
This workshop helps students to find and name the ambitions expressed in their work, and to significantly advance a book‐length project-a literary work of art. To that end, critique will focus on technical and craft decisions that enhance or limit the effects the writer hopes to produce. During this course, students will articulate the terms for a strong MFA project. They will learn how to speak with a degree of confidence about their ambitions for their work, and about their influences and predecessors. Students will practice techniques for reviewing, critiquing, and capturing the essence of the work of their peers. In addition, the workshop requires attendance at the Saturday Night @CIIS series, which features cross‐disciplinary work and conversation, as well as exposure to a variety of guest artists. Prerequisite: MFA student
MFA 7094 Writing Workshop II (6.00 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' work continues to be the primary course text, and students continue to work with outside mentors, keep online journals, and read and reflect on texts from a variety of arts forms as they develop a body of their own work and a plan for the MFA Project. Prerequisite: MFA student or instructor consent
MFA 7712 MFA Project (3.00 Units)
In MFA Project, students have the chance to significantly advance a large‐scale work that reflects their core values and obsessions as an artist. The Project will develop from the proposal presented to and accepted by the department. Students will draw on their arts lineage, the contexts that inform their work, discoveries from the first year as well as conversations and insights generated by the class and during individual meetings with the project advisor.
Students will complete a large‐scale project and prepare and essay situating the work within a cultural, aesthetic, or other framework, and describing the ambitions, challenges, and supports in the process. Prerequisite: MFA student; 24 units
MFA 7071 Cultural Identity (3.00 Units)
Building on the foundation initiated in Creative Inquiry: Movements and Frameworks, we will explore the visual and cultural bases of our identities, shared and individual. Beginning from the historical reservoir of images that Allan Sekula named the shadow archive, we'll trace a trajectory within contemporary visual culture from 1960 to the present, grappling with theories of postmodernism, post-colonial theory, and (post) structuralism, as well as the implications of cultural (mis)appropriation and the dynamic exchange between art and mainstream media. Balancing art history, cultural theory and art practice, we'll explore the ways in which the cultural phenomena named by these theorists shape our art practices, and how we strategically insert our voices into the fray. During the semester we'll be joined by guest lecturers, Targol Mesbah and Duane Deterville, both scholars of visual studies.
MFA 7179 Resistance (3.00 Units)
What role does contemporary art play as catalyst and provocateur? Conservative political moments are often coincident with moments of radical cultural production, as artists stake out a place for resistance and possibility. In this class we'll look past and present at everything from street theater to poster making to performative acts of civil disobedience. Building on the foundation of the Movements and Frameworks course, we'll explore contemporary cultural history with a particular focus on art and resistance. Both in and out of the studio, artists are destabilizing outmoded representational vocabularies, rethinking the human relationship with our environment, and collaborating with those outside the arts to propose innovative solutions to lived challenges. We'll take up this exploration in dialogue with local artists and activists, informing the present with historical context, and bridging theory and practice.
MFA 7105 Art and Culture: Movements and Frameworks (3.00 Units)
This course helps students to discover their artistic heritages and to locate the social, political, historical, psychological, and spiritual factors at the center of their art making. Students learn how to turn these factors into creative inquiry, a discovery‐oriented process that ultimately expands and deepens their art practice. They explore a variety of questions: What do I care about as an artist? What are the concerns embedded in my work, and how can I be curious/learn more about them? Who are my artistic ancestors and peers-and what can their creative inquiry/artwork teach me? Creative inquiry may also include exploration of myth, dreams, reality, illusion, and the roles of trust, confidence, and taking risks in creative work.
MFA 7087 Writing as Art: Text and Image (3.00 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. We'll examine the relationship between word and image work in writing - and you will complete projects that allow you 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. Prerequisite: MFA or TLD or TSD student
MFA 7138 Invention and Revision: The Art of Fiction (3.00 Units)
"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. Each student's unique vision, subject matter, and voice is honored and strengthened in the course of this work.
MFA 7142 Recreating the Real: The Craft of Nonfiction (3.00 Units)
An in‐depth study of the art and craft of nonfiction that may include 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.
MFA 8888 Special Topics (1.00 ‐3.00 Units)
A course of study not currently encompassed in the curriculum but relevant to the topics of writing and consciousness, creative inquiry/interdisciplinary arts, art and social justice, or theatre performance making.
MFA 7128 The Artist in the World: Preparing the Artist's Portfolio (3.00 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 need to find ways to survive emotionally and financially, 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. Topics 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 jobs 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.
MFA 7038 Interdisciplinary Pedagogy (3.00 Units)
Learning environments are cocreated. Socially engaged pedagogy works to connect life inside the classroom with the many worlds that students inhabit, bringing critical consciousness to issues of relevance outside the classroom. As we explore ways to cultivate an integral teaching community, this course will focus on how teachers can be agents of empowering change, fostering critical thinking, compassion, and curiosity. It will introduce students to a wide range of pedagogical theories, practices, and tools. Taking a hands‐on approach to professional development, we will engage throughout the semester in collective praxis, cycles of action and reflection on teaching styles and facilitation techniques. We will consider how to actively engage multiple intelligences and create educational containers in which diverse modes of learning and expression can shine.
MFA 7085 Editing and Publishing I (3.00 Units)
In this course, students will have the opportunity to produce the MFA inter‐arts journal, Mission at Tenth. Acting as the editorial board, students will solicit new work, make editorial decisions, prepare work for publication, interact with authors and artists, oversee print production, host a publication party with featured artists, and engage with booksellers for distribution. Prerequisite: MFA student or instructor consent
MFA 7281 Art and Social Justice: An Introduction (1.00 Units)
Open to the Institute as whole, this course provides an introductory framework for understanding the principles and practices of collaboration. We will examine how values and power relationships are manifest within conversational, collaborative, and interventionist models, a fundamental question when we focus our work on issues of justice and equity in any medium. We will also explore listening as an invested person in the room-engaged listening for possibility, raw material, or imagery for your creative practice. A prerequisite for an Arts and Social Justice emphasis, this course offers a broad historical survey of the way arts and social justice have intersected within activist and public art, and prepares students for entering community in any field where such engagement is involved. Prerequisite: Priority to MFA students
MFA 7172 Art Matters (3.00 Units)
On the street, and in schools, community centers, town squares and prisons, locally and internationally, artists are partnering with community members to create works of art, whether performed or material, out of the fabric of participants' lives. Artists in this expanded field often work across cultural, educational or economic difference, developing skills and strategies that extend well beyond the particular training of their individual artistic disciplines. Working from the belief that art has the potential to meaningfully impact the human condition, we will together envision and explore a wide range of potential practices not limited by studio‐based approaches to making art. Students will investigate the history and theoretical context of community arts as well as current examples and trends in the field through reading, video viewing, guest artists, discussion, field trips, and hands on experience.
MFA 7183 Catalyst (3.00 Units)
Building from the historical and philosophical foundation formed in the Art and Social Justice course sequence, Catalyst students will craft, develop, and document a community arts project. Though students will continue to investigate the history and practice of community arts, this is primarily a practicum class; students will instigate a collaborative project within a community, and evaluate their strategies, successes, and challenges on the basis of the critical discourse they've cultivated within the emphasis. We will meet as a group to offer resources in the development and execution of project work; to support and problem‐solve as student‐artists work in their identified communities; and to guide the reflective and evaluative piece of the Community Projects. Additionally, we will consider how students can articulate their work as community artists through marketing, promotion, and fundraising. We will look at the landscape of community arts funding and networking both locally and nationally so that students may be prepared to expand their work in the world as they emerge from their MFA Program.
MFA 7303 Collaborating Across Diﬀerence: Art and Dialogue (3.00 Units)
On the street, and in schools, community centers, town squares, and prisons, locally and internationally, artists are partnering with community members to create works of art, whether performed or material, out of the fabric of participants' lives. Often working across cultural, educational, or economic difference, these artists develop skills and strategies that extend well beyond the particular training of our individual artistic disciplines. Working from the belief that art has the potential to make a meaningful impact on the human condition, we will together envision and explore a wide range of potential practices not limited by studio‐based approaches to making art. Students will investigate the history and theoretical context of community arts as well as current examples and trends in the field through reading, video viewing, guest artists, discussion, field trips, and hands‐on experience. Prerequisite: MFA student; MFA 7302
MFA 7167 Art, Survival and Radical Creation at Burning Man (3.00 Units)
The Burning Man Event is one of the most vibrant hubs of creative thinking and making in the United States. This three‐unit course offers students an opportunity to deepen their artistic practice in an extraordinary setting. Informed by the ten principles of Burning Man, students will create a series of interdisciplinary performative art pieces on the playa. The ten principles are: radical self‐expression, radical self‐reliance, radical inclusion, immediacy, communal effort, participation, de‐commodification, gifting, civic engagement, and leave no trace. Students with an interest in any arts medium are encouraged to register; no performance experience is required. Before Burning Man, students will organize and plan projects in a workshop setting. Students will also read some of the existing academic literature that describes the performance making culture at Burning Man, view a slideshow of the art of Burning Man 1986‐Present with special guests, and explore the lineage of radical Bay Area Artists from the Dadaists through the Diggers through the Pranksters through the Cacophony Society. During the event, students will rehearse and perform group and solo site‐specific work, responding to the unique challenges and opportunities of the environment, and tour the major art works with associated faculty at Burning Man. After the event, students will create a reflection or response, in any medium. This course is recommended for people who have previously attended Burning Man and have experience camping in extreme conditions. This course is not open to students who have CIIS scheduling conflicts with the Burning Man dates.
MFA 8799 Independent Study (1.00 ‐3.00 Units)
Students will complete a large‐scale project and prepare an essay situating the work within a cultural aesthetic or other framework, and describing the ambitions, challenges and supports in the process.
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.
Academic Calendars for 2016-2017
|Fall 2016||Spring 2017|
|August 19, 20, 21||January 6, 7, 8|
|September 9, 10, 11||January 27, 28, 29|
|September 23, 24, 25||February 10, 11, 12|
|October 14, 15, 16||March 3, 4, 5|
|November 4, 5, 6||March 24, 25, 26|
|November 18, 19, 20||April 7, 8, 9|
Academic Calendars for 2017-2018
|Fall 2017||Spring 2018|
|August 18, 19, 20||January 5, 6, 7|
|September 8, 9, 10||January 26, 27, 28|
|September 22, 23, 24||February 16, 17, 18|
|October 13, 14, 15||March 2, 3, 4|
|November 3, 4, 5||March 23, 24, 25|
|November 17, 18, 19||April 13, 14, 15|
Friday 5:30-9:30 pm
Saturday 9 am-8 pm
Sunday 9 am-6 pm