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New English and Creative Writing Degree in final stages

BY BEN MARKS | NOVEMBER 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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Many of the students who are interested in humanities and literature come to Iowa City as freshmen because of its fame as a “City of Literature” and a community of writers, University of Iowa English Professor Loren Glass says.

However, the Creative Writing Track isn’t open to students until their junior year.

On Wednesday, however, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences held a faculty meeting to change that by approving a plan for a new major at the university.

The degree in English and Creative Writing is expected to be offered in the fall of 2015 and will be designed as a combination of the department’s pre-existing English degree and Creative Writing Track, English Department head Jonathan Wilcox said.

Unlike the Creative Writing Track, however, which is only open to juniors and seniors after a competitive application process, the English and Creative Writing major will be open to any student who wishes to pursue it.

“I’m hoping it will introduce [incoming students] to the literary culture of Iowa City in a much more systematic way than they have in the past,” Glass said. “And really invite them more formally into the wonderful writing community we have.”

Currently an English major is 36 hours and the Creative Writing Track is 13. The new major will be 42 hours with half the time devoted equally between the two subjects, making it the hardest creative-writing major Wilcox said he was aware of.

“But that’s deliberate,” he said. “We have a reputation for being the best, and we want to keep it that way.”

Director of Undergraduate Studies Doris Witt said faculty in the English Department, Nonfiction Writing Program, and the Writers’ Workshop will collaborate to teach a variety of courses in the major.

“Students on our current Creative Writing Track have told me as much as they love writing, they know what they need at the undergraduate level is a solid, well-rounded education,” she said.

If the major is approved by the state Board of Regents in February, Wilcox said the Creative Writing Track will stop accepting new applicants and the 100 students currently enrolled in it will be given the option to continue to graduation or switch over.

Sophomore English major Billie Flaming said she would definitely consider switching from her English degree to the proposed major.

“It takes of a lot of the pressure off the application process, and if it’s open to everyone, it gives it a more welcoming feel,” she said.

Although Wilcox said the creation of the major is not directly related to the university’s recruitment push, he said he believes it will definitely help as it will only boost the prestigious writing reputation Iowa City is known for.

“We do creative writing really well,” he said. “It will attract the best. We can be picky, which is why it’s a hard degree.”

Wilcox said he is almost completely unsure how many students the major will attract, but guesses it will be roughly 200 or so based on the high levels of interest he’s seen from students.

Wilcox said some faculty have been concerned the new major will draw too many students away from the traditional English degree, but he disagrees.

“It’s not going to make life harder for people who are teaching Dickens,” he said. “You’re just going to have folks taking Dickens who are partly interested because they want to see how they can give their novels a Dickensian voice.”


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