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The Creative Thesis

Prerequisites: Four courses in the Program (part of this requirement can be waived) with very strong recommendations from the instructors.

The student applies to the Program for permission to write a creative thesis in late March of the junior year. In deciding which students are most likely to bring an extended creative project to a successful conclusion, the Program considers demonstrated talent, potential, discipline, skill at revision, and ability to make good use of criticism. The Program welcomes applications from students in all departments, but not all departments are delighted by the idea of a creative thesis. The English Department routinely allows creative theses. Comparative Literature, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Slavic Languages, Psychology, Sociology, History, Politics, and The Woodrow Wilson School have all in recent years approved the writing of a creative thesis. English majors accepted for a creative thesis may count a maximum of 2 creative writing courses at the 300 or 400 level toward their 8 English departmentals, and their theses are supervised and graded by Program faculty. (English majors not accepted for a creative thesis may still count one 300 or 400 level creative writing course as their Program I cognate.) Otherwise, their requirements--distribution, senior comprehensives, etc.--are identical to those of regular English majors. Thesis students may not take other creative writing courses.

Majors in departments other than English should, after successful application to the Program, secure the written permission of the Departmental Representative of their major department to undertake the creative thesis. Such students will usually be assigned advisors in both the Program and the major department. These advisors will negotiate the grading procedure. The major department may have special requirements--for example, a critical preface or an extensive bibliography.

Thesis tutorials meet weekly or every other week throughout the year (creative thesis seniors do not take other Program courses). The Program has no "spring theses." Students are expected to begin their theses over the summer, and those who have not made satisfactory progress by mid-October are returned to their major department to write a regular thesis.

There is no set length for the thesis. Fiction theses have ranged from 80 to 400+ pages, 100-200 pages being typical. A poetry thesis normally contains 20-40 poems, depending on their length. In general no more than 20% of the thesis should be revised work from previous years. The thesis deadline is established by the program in creative writing, typically sometime in the first week of April.

The thesis will receive a "review" by a faculty reader. As well as this "review", often quite extended, the thesis receives a grade: perhaps because this will have been the first time a Creative Writing student will have encountered anything other than Pass/Fail, perhaps because the grade must be agreed upon by both reader and adviser, it has from time to time come as a disappointment to reader, supervisor and student.

In general though, students and faculty agree that a creative thesis is both utterly exhausting and immensely rewarding.

Additional Information

Creative Thesis Application ›

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