Published March 20, 2014
The Department of English is nothing if not devoted to genre-bending forms of writing. In fact, for 50 years it has been a haven for new and unique literary forms, promoting daring explorations of language and thought.
The authors of this history include cutting-edge writers like Charles Olsen, John Barth, Michel Foucault, Robert Creeley, Donald Barthelme, Amiri Baraka, J.M. Coetzee, Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein, Raymond Federman, Dennis Tedlock and Leslie Fiedler, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning poets like Carl Dennis and Robert Hass.
The department’s alumni include Charles Baxter, Samuel Delany, Ishmael Reed, Fran Striker, Elizabeth Willis and many others, a number of them award-winning graduates of UB’s world renowned Poetics Program.
The department is building on its reputation by offering a new degree program: an MA in English with a Certificate in Innovative Writing, designed to offer a supportive atmosphere for exploring and creating new forms writing.
The new certificate program is described by Christina Milletti, associate professor of English and director of UB’s Creative Writing Certificate Programs, as “a unique form of graduate study focused on the practice of creative writing, along with literary and aesthetic inquiries.” But, she says, it goes far beyond that.
“Our new certificate is specifically designed to encourage writing as an investigative, exploratory process,” Milletti says, “a mode of inquiry that can articulate our many, varied experiences of 21st-century culture.”
She says the program’s workshops and seminars will be enhanced by the MA and PhD communities at UB, as well as by the department’s distinctive Poetics Plus and Exhibit X Fiction Series, which will continue to bring scores of award-winning guests to campus.
“We’re hoping to attract students who look at writing as a form of critical examination deeply indebted to inventive thought,” she says,” students who acknowledge or are troubled by their experiences with new media platforms and social circuits. Above all, writers who are deeply invested in thinking through their role in, and their translation of, our enhanced global environment: the languages, peoples and cultures all around us. How does all that information translate into poetry and fiction? How does that change our understanding of different genres? What new forms of writing might happen in the 21st century? It’s an exciting time to be a writer.”
Like students enrolled in the traditional English MA degree program, students in the Innovative Writing Certificate program will earn a 30-credit hour MA in English — a degree that will be of great help to students hoping to boost their writing careers or future applications to MFA and PhD programs.
However, graduate writing students will complete 15 of those credits in student-centered creative writing courses in poetry or fiction, in which they will produce original material. The other 18 credits will be earned in elective graduate literature seminars with MA in English students. All MA students are required to take “Introduction to Critical and Cultural Theory.” However, Certificate in Innovative Writing students will write a “creative” thesis to complete their degree.
Of the 15 required creative writing credits, six will be earned by participation in a Fall Workshop Colloquium during which students participate in a workshop in their chosen genre (fiction or poetry) and meet three or four times a semester with the other workshop (poetry or fiction) to discuss questions of genre and how each genre deploys writing strategies in distinct ways.
“Our aim,” Milletti says, “is to develop a sense of aesthetic interconnectivity and community in all our students. We’re building appreciation and awareness, not difference.
“Above all,” she continues, “we want to offer our graduate writers a space where they can begin to write what they couldn’t write alone, and a supportive community of faculty members and students. Buffalo has fostered artists and writers for a very long time. We’re inviting more writers to benefit from that tradition.”