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Brown: Creative writing major ill-advised

BY MARCUS BROWN | NOVEMBER 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa plans to unveil a new creative-writing major in the fall of 2015, which would combine the creative writing track only accessible after the completion of 60 semester hours and the traditional English major and make it available to all students. The UI has a rich history as an epicenter of literary achievement, much in part because of the prestige of the Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. The M.F.A. program is the most highly respected and oldest program of its kind in the United States, and as a result, the University of Iowa has a large reputation to uphold. The undergraduate creative-writing track in its current incarnation is a reflection of this high standard of artistic ambition and a way for students to pursue an area of interest with a group of peers demonstrating a corresponding level of interest.

The temptation to enlarge the pool of students in the creative-writing track is understandable, but it should not be at the cost of the overall program. Selectivity may reduce the number of students eligible for the creative-writing track, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It is all too common for students to switch their majors numerous times between freshman year and graduation. I dropped a minor within my first two weeks at the university. That said, the numerous requirements for the creative-writing track serve a purpose similar to the application process of the College of Nursing or Tippie College of Business. A well-rounded foundation and demonstration of commitment is required for those wishing to pursue specific facets of the STEM fields, and the creative-writing program should be no different.

The admission requirements implemented are not to discourage students from applying to the extensions of their field offered at the university but rather to ensure that level of candidates is reflective of the high standards the program holds itself to. I am not suggesting that any students should be refused the opportunity to experience all that the university has to offer. However, I do believe that maintaining a degree of selectivity will further enhance the reputation of the already prestigious literary traditions found in the University of Iowa and continue to attract competitive applicants who are serious about bettering their craft.

What I am advocating may resemble a form of scholastic Darwinism, and to some degree, it is. It is not for the purpose of dissuading any students who genuinely wish to broaden their educational pallet. I am speaking for students who, such as me, came to the UI with the sole intention of participating in a vigorous literary program of like-minded peers.

I would like to believe that mandating application to the creative-writing track is strategic and serves to ensure that those applying are aware of the commitment they are making both to the program and the continuation of their craft in that specific field. If a compromise must be made to accommodate those with cursory interest in the creative-writing track and those wishing to pursue it in part because of its exclusivity, I do not believe the creation of an non-selective major is the best way to go about it.


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