The Senior Project in Creative Writing
The Senior Project in Creative Writing consists of a manuscript of poems, a collection of stories or novella, or a non-fiction work. The typical length of a poetry thesis is twenty to thirty pages of poems; a collection of stories consists of 3-5 stories - about fifty pages; a novella from 120-150 pages (although a recent one was 270 pages). Further, each manuscript includes an introductory essay, which reflects a significant understanding of some aspect or aspects of literary tradition and practice and their relationship to the finished manuscript, based in part upon readings done in literature, criticism, literary history, and theory, and upon writerly advice, as appropriate to the project and the student’s needs.
The expectation is that the initial proposal will reflect a student’s particular aesthetic, thematic, and imaginative interests. Past theses have dealt with such topics as point of view as a tool to explore mother-daughter relationships in fiction, lineation possibilities in the free verse lyric poem, and narratives based upon the seven deadly sins. An extensive reading list needs to be developed in the proposal as a way to explore the listed interests of the student; the list also reflects the student’s sense of a long continuum of literary endeavor.
Grades are based upon the quality of the writing in the creative pieces and the preface. Quality is a matter of liveliness, imagination, craft, substance, and care with language – the play of imagery, the aura of words, the short and long sequences of phrases and clauses, and nuances of style, motion, and tone. The grade also reflects a presumption of the writer’s understanding of story structure in fiction and the elements of design that distinguish poetry from prose. Revision is key, art and craft needing, together and separately, constant and measured attention (“reconciliation” in Coleridge’s words) until the writer can let the manuscript stand.