The program in creative writing offers a two-year master of fine arts degree in creative writing in the areas of fiction and poetry. The MFA program is a small program within a large and vibrant writing community. The program typically admits six new students each year.
The MFA program is the only program of its kind to have an "alternating genre" admissions policy. The program admits fiction writers in even-numbered years and poets in odd-numbered years. This alternating admissions schedule allows the program to provide a 2 to 1 student/teacher ratio and lets fiction instructors focus entirely on one group of fiction writers, and poetry instructors on one group of poets for the two-year instructional period.
Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress
To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.
Master of Fine Arts Degree
MFA, with available tracks in Fiction or Poetry
Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement
Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement
Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement
More than half of degree coursework (27 out of 42 total credits) must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions
With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 12 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.
Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate
No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.
Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special
With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 10 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.
Credits per Term Allowed
Program-Specific Courses Required
Fiction track: ENGL 781 Graduate Fiction Workshop
Poetry track: ENGL 782 Graduate Poetry Workshop
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement
3.00 GPA required
Other Grade Requirements
No other specific grade requirements.
The MFA advisor (sometimes referred to as the MFA program director) will review student academic performance and conduct in all coursework to determine that students are making satisfactory progress toward the degree. If at any time the MFA advisor determines that a student’s academic performance and/or conduct has not been satisfactory, the MFA advisor, with the input and concurrence of the voting members of the Creative Writing Steering Committee, may place the student on probation or may dismiss the student from the program. The period of probation will be one semester in duration. Prior to the end of the probationary period the MFA advisor will review the student’s performance and conduct and decide, with the input and concurrence of the voting members of the Creative Writing Steering Committee, to reinstate or dismiss the student.
Advisor / Committee
The current MFA advisor (sometimes referred to as the MFA program director) advises all MFA students.
Assessments and Examinations
MFA candidates must submit a publishable written thesis in the genre in which they were admitted (fiction or poetry).
It is expected that the MFA thesis be completed in May of the second year in the program.
Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.
No language requirements.
Knowledge and Skills
- Imagine, create, and complete original literary works in the primary genre of study (poetry or fiction) in a manner that is sensitive to language and style.
- Develop editing skills including employing editing and revision techniques and strategies to work in progress; synthesizing evaluations and editorial advice from others; and analzying, editing, and evaluating work in progress by peers.
- Analyze, evaluate, and demonstrate understanding of works in the primary genre with special emphasis on current modes and practices.
- Demonstrate knowledge of literary forms and devices both as a writer and as a reader, and locate one's own work within literary and cultural contexts.
- "Read as a writer," that is, read work in the primary genre not only for its social, historical, intellectual, formal and interpretive value, but also for its capacity to inspire and generate new work and to discover in the finished work the process of its being made.
- Demonstrate understanding of professional and pedagogical practices and opportunities within and related to the field of creative writing.
- Recognize and apply principles of ethical conduct with respect to one's work.
Additional Learning Goals
- Engage with local communities of creative writers.