Skip to contentSkip to navigation

Get the latest information about Fall 2021 Repopulation and COVID-19. Before coming to campus, take the COVID-19 Daily Screening.

MFA Degree Requirements

The MFA degree in Creative Writing requires a 54-unit course of study. The program is intended to take three years, and you are limited to five years to complete the requirements. Students are accepted into the program with a focus in one of three genres: poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction.

Visit the Fresno State catalog for full program information.

Coursework Requirements

In consultation with the MFA adviser, each student prepares and submits a coherent program individually designed within one of the two following frameworks:

MFA in Creative Writing

Seminars in Writing (16 units)

ENGL 261 — Seminar in Writing Poetry
ENGL 263 — Seminar in Writing Fiction
ENGL 265 — Seminar in Writing Creative Nonfiction

These workshops make up the heart of the coursework, and you will use them to work toward your thesis manuscript. Four sections are required, but some students choose to take more and count them as electives. It's a good idea to take one workshop nearly every semester, and to take them from different faculty. You may also choose to take a workshop outside of your genre.

Seminars in Form and Theory (8 units)

ENGL 241 — Seminar in Form and Theory of Poetry
ENGL 243 — Seminar in Form and Theory of Fiction
ENGL 245 — Seminar in Form and Theory of Creative Nonfiction

One course is taken in the student's focus genre and one in either of the other two genres.

These courses in literary craft provide intensive study in the forms, styles, and technical issues in the genres. Instructors rotate, and different faculty focus on different content. The creative nonfiction course is offered in the fall semester only, and the poetry and fiction courses are offered in the spring semester only.

Seminars in Literature or Critical Theory (12 units)

ENGL 250T — Seminar in Literature (topics class)
ENGL 280T — Seminar in Critical Theory (topics class)

These courses provide broad and necessary background in literary studies, and there are different topics offered each semester. Many of those topics will not be offered again while you are here, so look for topics and faculty you'd most like to take. You may choose a class that will deepen your knowledge of your chosen genre, or you may choose a class that will broaden your horizons by exposing you to something new.

Please note: The seminar paper that you write for one of these seminars is often used to fulfill your Graduate Writing Requirement, so don't put these off until the last minute!

Approved Electives (12-14 units)

Chosen from upper-division or graduate level courses.

In most cases, these courses will be graduate level English courses, but they may also include literary seminars, foreign language courses, or courses from other departments in art, drama, playwriting, etc. that are relevant to your plan of study.

Please note: Via the Division of Research Graduate Studies, see page 2 of the Program Adjustment Request form for a full list of Course Limitations for Graduate Programs.

Students are also encouraged to consider taking Engl 242 (Literary Editing and Publishing) and/or Engl 286 (Practicum in Literary Arts: Publishing and Programming) to gain real-world experience in professional publishing and editing. Students in Engl 242 serve as editorial assistants for the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and students in Engl 286 serve as editors and editorial assistants for The Normal School literary magazine, both in print and online. Both projects are nationally recognized.

Engl 242 is offered in the fall semester only; 4 units, and the course is repeatable. Engl 286 is offered each semester; units vary from 1-6, with a max of 6 that count toward the degree.

Thesis (1-6 units)

ENGL 299 — Thesis

See Specific Requirements below for full details. You can also consult the MFA thesis checklist (pdf, 84KB).

Total: 54 units

Note: At least 70% of coursework (38 units) must be at graduate (200-series) level.

MFA in Creative Writing: Emphasis in Publishing and Editing

Seminars in Writing (16 units)

ENGL 261 — Seminar in Writing Poetry
ENGL 263 — Seminar in Writing Fiction
ENGL 265 — Seminar in Writing Creative Nonfiction

These workshops make up the heart of the coursework, and you will use them to work toward your thesis manuscript. Four sections are required, but some students choose to take more and count them as electives. It's a good idea to take one workshop nearly every semester, and to take them from different faculty. You may also choose to take a workshop outside of your genre.

Seminars in Form and Theory (8 units)

ENGL 241 — Seminar in Form and Theory of Poetry
ENGL 243 — Seminar in Form and Theory of Fiction
ENGL 245 — Seminar in Form and Theory of Creative Nonfiction

One course is taken in the student's focus genre and one in either of the other two genres.

These courses in literary craft provide intensive study in the forms, styles, and technical issues in the genres. Instructors rotate, and different faculty focus on different content. The creative nonfiction course is offered in the fall semester only, and the poetry and fiction courses are offered in the spring semester only.

Seminars in Literature or Critical Theory (8 units)

ENGL 250T — Seminar in Literature (topics class)
ENGL 280T — Seminar in Critical Theory (topics class)

These courses provide broad and necessary background in literary studies, and there are different topics offered each semester. Many of those topics will not be offered again while you are here, so look for topics and faculty you'd most like to take. You may choose a class that will deepen your knowledge of your chosen genre, or you may choose a class that will broaden your horizons by exposing you to something new.

Please note: The seminar paper that you write for one of these seminars is often used to fulfill your Graduate Writing Requirement, so don't put these off until the last minute!

Practicums in Publishing and Editing (8 units)

ENGL 242 — Literary Editing and Publishing
ENGL 286 — Practicum in Literary Arts: Publishing and Programming

Students are encouraged to consider taking Engl 242 and/or Engl 286 to gain real-world experience in professional publishing and editing. Students in Engl 242 serve as editorial assistants for the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and students in Engl 286 serve as editors and editorial assistants for The Normal School literary magazine, both in print and online. Both projects are nationally recognized.

Engl 242 is offered in the fall semester only; 4 units, and the course is repeatable. Engl 286 is offered each semester; units vary from 1-6, with a max of 6 that count toward the degree.

Approved Electives (8-10 units)

Chosen from upper-division or graduate level courses.

In most cases, these courses will be graduate level English courses, but they may also include literary seminars, foreign language courses, or courses from other departments in art, drama, playwriting, etc. that are relevant to your plan of study.

Please note: Via the Division of Research Graduate Studies, see page 2 of the Program Adjustment Request form for a full list of Course Limitations for Graduate Programs.

Thesis (1-6 units)

ENGL 299 — Thesis

See Specific Requirements below for full details. You can also consult the MFA thesis checklist (pdf, 84KB).

Total: 54 units

Note: At least 70% of coursework (38 units) must be at graduate (200-series) level.

Specific Requirements

In addition to coursework, students must complete a thesis manuscript, the graduate writing skills requirement, and a contextualizing narrative.

Thesis

The thesis for the MFA degree in Creative Writing consists of a single book-length manuscript of fiction, a collection of poems, or creative nonfiction that works together to make a unified body of work. The thesis committee works closely with the student on style as well as content; it adheres to a high standard of publishable quality work. In their final semester, students will complete a formal defense of their thesis with their committee.

You can also consult the MFA thesis checklist (pdf, 84KB).

Graduate Writing Skills Requirement

Before advancement to candidacy, the student must satisfy the Graduate Writing Skills Requirement. This requirement is met by submission and approval of a sample of scholarly writing. (This is distinct from the sample of creative work required for program admission.)

See the MFA Program handbook for details.

Contextualizing Narrative

In addition to the general Graduate Division requirements, students are required to complete the MFA Contextualizing Narrative assignment with a grade of B or above. Students work with their adviser to create an approved reading list for the assignment. The Contextualizing Narrative assignment consists of craft-focused annotations of approved texts that allow students to demonstrate a theoretical and critical knowledge of their genre.

For more info, see the Assignment Description (doc, 14K).