I’m Emptying My Bank Account to Go to Columbia
Growing up in northern Uganda, I managed to piece together an education by winning one scholarship after another. But I will somehow have to come up with tens of thousands of dollars on my own to attend one of America’s most elite institutions.
The good news came first: I had been admitted to Columbia University’s MFA writing program. I danced in celebration.
The bad news came later: The school would provide no financial aid—at least this was the news at first. I was devastated, but told myself, Anena, this is Columbia, you can’t let it go . I put up a GoFundMe where I am presently begging the world to contribute to my approximately $100,000 costs of attendance for just the first year of a two-year program ($62,912 of that is tuition, the rest is “living expenses” and other fees). By mid July, I had slightly more than $1,500 in donations.
In the months since I was admitted in March, I have continued singing into Columbia’s ears, telling her how much I need her, asking her to give me some funding. She said, I don’t have funding now; when I get it, I’ll let you know. In early June, I received an email saying I had received a scholarship after all. My heart leapt into my hands. I clicked the link to my student profile to see how much I had actually been given. $10,000. I quickly told myself, Relax, Anena . This is a more-than-good start. It means Columbia wants you for real real . So I wrote again and asked Columbia for more. On July 9, Columbia gave me another $10,000.
I danced again, but cautiously, careful not to jinx further good fortune. The cost of attendance for just one year is tens of thousands more, and I simply do not have it. I am praying, hoping. Every little bit helps, and I’m determined to come up with the rest . The mystery was—and still is—how.
Read: Elite colleges constantly tell low-income students that they do not belong
I have spent 18 years in school, 16 of which were on some form of scholarship. From when I began primary school, in 1993 in northern Uganda, I knew that my parents didn’t have the means to sufficiently take care of the eight children they had brought into the world. But I understood that if I excelled in class, I would always get a bursary for school, as was common at the time: Because of the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency led by Joseph Kony, northern Uganda had become a hub for humanitarian agencies and nongovernmental organizations, many of which sought to help poor children—especially bright girls—attend school.
I began secondary school in 2000 at one of the best schools in the region, Sacred Heart Girls Secondary School, which had given me a partial scholarship. My father rode his bicycle to school every fortnight to bring me roasted groundnuts and peanut butter, and to remind me not to lose sight of the twin goals of keeping my grades high (so that I could keep my scholarship) and graduating. I was happy.
During the long vacation before I started high school, I sat under the mango tree at home with my mum one day. We were listening to Radio Mega, the government-owned community radio station we always used to listen to, when an announcement aired about a writing competition. I quickly left the shade of the mango tree for the hut I shared with my two big sisters. I plucked out a sheet from my exercise book and wrote a poem. I won the contest and secured a bursary for a year of high school. The poem had saved my future.
I grew up in a culture of storytelling. By the fireplace, my paternal grandmother would tell us endless stories that made us laugh, awed and scared in equal measure, until she became born-again and said the folktales were ungodly. Luckily for me, the stories had found a home in my head. They were not going to leave.
During secondary school, I fell in love with literature. I read Soyinka, Achebe, Ngugi, and p’Bitek. Mills and Boon novels were the it then too. I buried my face in between pages as others screamed their voices hoarse at athletics. I went on to study literature—literature, always literature, as writing was never on offer—in high school as well. I emerged at the top of my class.
Read: When disadvantaged students overlook elite colleges
University beckoned. When results for the national exams were released, I was among the top five students from the district and was offered a scholarship to Makerere University. I wanted to be a poet but, because no university in Uganda offers creative writing, I settled for journalism. I loved literature, but what I wanted to do was write. With a journalism course, I would write my fingers numb.
For three years, I studied journalism, contributing articles to different newspapers. I continued writing poems in a big book specially dedicated to them. I graduated and worked as a writer and an editor in a newsroom for four years. During this time, I wrote more poetry and ventured into the short-story form as well.
I eventually decided to leave the newsroom to write more. The following year, 2015, I published my first collection of poems, A Nation in Labour . Three years after publication, the collection won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. My short stories also started getting recognition, becoming finalists for various prizes.
I wanted formal education in creative writing, the education I’d never had. I applied to universities around the world. For five years now I have been applying to schools, gaining admission but not financial aid. I have declined admissions offers and deferred many more, failing, always, to raise the necessary funds.
But Columbia is different to me. This was the program, the education I have dreamed of all my life. I put my all into my application for admission (granted) and my application for financial aid (denied). Only my appeals for further aid—what’s known as “institutional aid”—have been met with success so far, but I still have a long way to go.
Sometimes I get tempted to ask Columbia with a tone of entitlement— Columbia, you say you want me, then show me you want me —but I don’t, because she was clear from the start that all applicants had to be sure of their funding source. I had none. I just applied because she was the one I wanted.
I have taken the risk to pursue the course anyway. I have emptied my bank account to pay the tuition and housing deposits. I have put aside my shame to beg strangers to contribute to my GoFundMe. A poetry performance in June at the National Theater in Kampala managed to bring in $4,603. I plan to do another. My hope has never been this fat, this wild. But my anxiety has never been this intense. I try to breathe. I smile when it gets unbearable.
I’m trusting the road will smoothen out eventually—this road to bettering my craft; this road to writing and not just reading like school here taught me to; this road to a dream that has refused to go, like a scar on a forehead.
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Columbia University School of the Arts
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Poetry: Timothy Donnelly, Dorothea Lasky, Shane McCrae, Deborah Paredez, Lynn Xu
Fiction: Paul Beatty, Anelise Chen, Nicholas Christopher, Rivka Galchen, Heidi Julavits, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Victor LaValle, Sam Lipsyte, Ben Marcus, Orhan Pamuk, Matthew Salesses, Gary Shteyngart, Alan Ziegler
Nonfiction: Hilton Als, Jaquira Díaz, Lis Harris, Leslie Jamison, Margo Jefferson, Wendy S. Walters
Translation: Susan Bernofsky
Recent Adjunct Faculty: Mark Bibbins, CAConrad, Cynthia Cruz, Mark Doten, Joshua Furst, Alan Gilbert, Xiaolu Guo, Madhu Kaza, John Keene, Nicole Krauss, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Lynn Melnick, Daphne Merkin, Ben Metcalf, Erroll McDonald, Jen Percy, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Alice Quinn, Camille Rankine, Leanne Shapton, Benjamin Taylor, Jia Tolentino, Lara Vapnyar, Natasha Wimmer, Brenda Wineapple, Phillip B. Williams, James Wood, Monica Youn, Jenny Zhang
The program offers partial funding, including administrative and teaching fellowships, research assistantships, scholarships, and internships.
The program includes a joint course of study in literary translation known as Literary Translation at Columbia (LTAC) .
There are events, readings, and conversations throughout the year, including the Creative Writing Lectures, Nonfiction Dialogues, Life After the MFA panels, student reading series, and the Columbia Selects MFA Alumni Reading Series at KGB Bar.
Other programs and outlets include:
Columbia Artist/Teachers (CA/T) provides MFA teachers with training and teaching opportunities on and off campus, with students of all ages and levels.
Our Word , a student group promoting diversity within the Writing Program and in the broader literary community.
Columbia Journal , a student-run literary magazine.
Elisa Albert, Mia Alvar, Jonathan Ames, Daphne Palasi Andreades, G'Ra Asim, Hannah Assadi, Jesse Ball, Mary Jo Bang, Mandy Berman, Lucie Brock-Broido, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Jessamine Chan, Tina Chang, Melissa Clark, Emma Cline, Henri Cole, Kiran Desai, Rebecca Donner, Stephen Dubner, Peter Farrelly, Lexi Freiman, Matt Gallagher, Philip Gourevitch, Eliza Griswold, Marie Howe, Katrine Øgaard Jensen, Mat Johnson, Owen King, Jordan Kisner, Alexandra Kleeman, E.J. Koh, Rachel Kushner, Catherine Lacey, Stephen McCauley, Campbell McGrath, Lynn Melnick, Dinaw Mengestu, Susan Minot, Rick Moody, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Sigrid Nunez, Julie Otsuka, Gregory Pardlo, Martin Pousson, Richard Price, Claudia Rankine, Camille Rankine, Karen Russell, Vijay Seshadri, Brenda Shaughnessy, Mona Simpson, Emily Skillings, Sarah Smarsh, Tracy K. Smith, Lynn Steger Strong, Wells Tower, Mai Der Vang, Adam Wilson, Brian Young
The Best 15 Creative Writing MFA Programs in 2023
April 7, 2023
Whether you studied at a top creative writing university , or are a high school dropout who will one day become a bestselling author , you may be considering an MFA in Creative Writing. But is a writing MFA genuinely worth the time and potential costs? How do you know which program will best nurture your writing? This article walks you through the considerations for an MFA program, as well as the best Creative Writing MFA programs in the United States.
First of all, what is an MFA?
A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is a graduate degree that usually takes from two to three years to complete. Applications require a sample portfolio for entry, usually of 10-20 pages of your best writing.
What actually goes on in a creative writing MFA beyond inspiring award-winning books and internet memes ? You enroll in workshops where you get feedback on your creative writing from your peers and a faculty member. You enroll in seminars where you get a foundation of theory and techniques. Then you finish the degree with a thesis project.
Reasons to Get an MFA in Creative Writing
You don’t need an MFA to be a writer. Just look at Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison or bestselling novelist Emily St. John Mandel.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of reasons you might still want to get a creative writing MFA. The first is, unfortunately, prestige. An MFA from a top program can help you stand out in a notoriously competitive industry to be published.
The second reason: time. Many MFA programs give you protected writing time, deadlines, and maybe even a (dainty) salary.
Third, an MFA in Creative Writing is a terminal degree. This means that this degree allows you to teach writing at the university level, especially after you publish a book.
But above all, the biggest reason to pursue an MFA is the community it brings you. You get to meet other writers, and share feedback, advice, and moral support, in relationships that can last for decades.
Types of Creative Writing MFA Programs
Here are the different types of programs to consider, depending on your needs:
Fully-Funded Full-Time Programs
These programs offer full-tuition scholarships and sweeten the deal by actually paying you to attend them.
- Pros: You’re paid to write (and teach).
- Cons: Uprooting your entire life to move somewhere possibly very cold.
Full-Time MFA Programs
These programs include attending in-person classes and paying tuition (though many offer need-based and merit scholarships).
- Pros: Lots of top-notch programs non-funded programs have more assets to attract world-class faculty and guests.
- Cons: It’s an investment that might not pay itself back.
Low-Residency MFA Programs
Low-residency programs usually meet biannually for short sessions. They also offer one-on-one support throughout the year. These MFAs are more independent, preparing you for what the writing life is actually like.
- Pros: No major life changes required. Cons: Less time dedicated to writing and less time to build relationships.
Online MFA Programs
Held 100% online. These programs have high acceptance rates and no residency requirement. That means zero travel or moving expenses.
- Pros: No major life changes required.
- Cons: These MFAs have less name-recognition
The Top 15 Creative Writing MFA Programs Ranked by Category
The following programs are selected for their balance of high funding, impressive return on investment, stellar faculty, major journal publications , and impressive alums.
Fully Funded MFA Programs
1) johns hopkins university, mfa in fiction/poetry (baltimore, md).
This is a two-year program, with $33,000 teaching fellowships per year. This MFA offers the most generous funding package. Not to mention, it offers that sweet, sweet health insurance, mind-boggling faculty, and a guaranteed lecture position after graduation (nice). No nonfiction MFA (boo).
- Incoming class size: 8 students
- Admissions rate: 11.1%
- Alumni: Chimamanda Adiche, Jeffrey Blitz, Wes Craven, Louise Erdrich, Porochista Khakpour, Phillis Levin, ZZ Packer, Tom Sleigh, Elizabeth Spires, Rosanna Warren
2) University of Texas, James Michener Center (Austin, TX)
A fully-funded 3-year program with a generous stipend of $29,500. The program offers fiction, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting. The Michener Center is also unique because you study a primary genre and a secondary genre, and also get $3,000 for the summer.
- Incoming class size : 12 students
- Acceptance rate: a bone-chilling less-than-1% in fiction; 2-3% in other genres
- Alumni: Fiona McFarlane, Brian McGreevy, Karan Mahajan, Alix Ohlin, Kevin Powers, Lara Prescott, Roger Reeves, Maria Reva, Domenica Ruta, Sam Sax, Joseph Skibell, Dominic Smith
3) University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is a 2-year program on a residency model for fiction and poetry. This means there are low requirements, and lots of time to write groundbreaking novels or play pool at the local bar. Most students are funded, with fellowships worth up to $21,000. The Translation MFA, co-founded by Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, is also two years, but with more intensive coursework. The Nonfiction Writing Program is a prestigious three-year MFA program and is also intensive.
- Incoming class size: 25 each for poetry and fiction; 10-12 for nonfiction and translation.
- Acceptance rate: 3.7%
- Fantastic Alumni: Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Sandra Cisneros, Joy Harjo, Garth Greenwell, Kiley Reid, Brandon Taylor, Eula Biss, Yiyun Li, Jennifer Croft
4) University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
Anne Carson famously lives in Ann Arbor, as do the MFA students U-Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. This is a big university town, which is less damaging to your social life. Plus, there’s lots to do when you have a $23,000 stipend, summer funding, and health care.
This is a 2-3-year program, with an impressive reputation. They also have a demonstrated commitment to “ push back against the darkness of intolerance and injustice ” and have outreach programs in the community.
- Incoming class size: 18
- Acceptance rate: 4% (which maybe seems high after less-than-1%)
- Alumni: Brit Bennett, Vievee Francis, Airea D. Matthews, Celeste Ng, Chigozie Obioma, Jia Tolentino, Jesmyn Ward
5) Brown University (Providence, RI)
Brown offers an edgy, well-funded program in a place that doesn’t dip into arctic temperatures. Students are all fully-funded for 2-3 years with $29,926 in 2021-22. Students also get summer funding and—you guessed it—that sweet, sweet health insurance.
In the Brown Literary Arts MFA, students take only one workshop and one elective per semester. It’s also the only program in the country to feature a Digital/Cross Disciplinary Track.
- Incoming class size: 12-13
- Acceptance rate: “highly selective”
- Alumni: Edwidge Danticat, Jaimy Gordon, Gayl Jones, Ben Lerner, Joanna Scott, Kevin Young, Ottessa Moshfegh
Best MFA Creative Writing Programs (Continued)
6) university of arizona (tucson, az).
This 3-year program has many attractive qualities. It’s in “ the lushest desert in the world ”, and was recently ranked #4 in creative writing programs, and #2 in Nonfiction. You can take classes in multiple genres, and in fact, are encouraged to do so. Plus, Arizona dry heat is good for arthritis.
This notoriously supportive program pays $20,000 a year, and offers the potential to volunteer at multiple literary organizations. You can also do supported research at the US-Mexico Border.
- Incoming class size: 9
- Acceptance rate: 4.85% (a refreshingly specific number after Brown’s evasiveness)
- Alumni: Francisco Cantú, Jos Charles, Tony Hoagland, Nancy Mairs, Richard Russo, Richard Siken, Aisha Sabatini Sloan, David Foster Wallace
7) Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ):
Arizona State is also a three-year funded program in arthritis-friendly dry heat. It offers small class sizes, individual mentorships, and one of the most impressive faculty rosters in the game. Everyone gets a $19,000 stipend, with other opportunities for financial support.
- Incoming class size: 8-10
- Acceptance rate: 3% (sigh)
- Alumni: Tayari Jones, Venita Blackburn, Dorothy Chan, Adrienne Celt, Dana Diehl, Matthew Gavin Frank, Caitlin Horrocks, Allegra Hyde, Hugh Martin, Bonnie Nadzam
FULL-RESIDENCY MFAS (UNFUNDED)
8) new york university (new york, ny).
This two-year program is in New York City, meaning it comes with close access to literary opportunities and hot dogs. NYU is private, and has one of the most accomplished faculty lists anywhere. Students have large cohorts (more potential friends!) and have a penchant for winning top literary prizes.
- Incoming class size: 40-60
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Alumni: Nick Flynn, Nell Freudenberger, Aracelis Girmay, Mitchell S. Jackson, Tyehimba Jess, John Keene, Raven Leilani, Robin Coste Lewis, Ada Limón, Ocean Vuong
9) Columbia University (New York, NY)
Another 2-3 year private MFA program with drool-worthy permanent and visiting faculty. Columbia offers courses in fiction, poetry, translation, and nonfiction. Beyond the Ivy League education, Columbia offers close access to agents, and its students have a high record of bestsellers.
- Incoming class size: 110
- Acceptance rate: 21%
- Alumni: Alexandra Kleeman, Rachel Kushner, Claudia Rankine, Rick Moody, Sigrid Nunez, Tracy K. Smith, Emma Cline, Adam Wilson, Marie Howe, Mary Jo Bang
10) Sarah Lawrence (Bronxville, NY)
Sarah Lawrence offers speculative fiction beyond the average fiction, poetry, and nonfiction course offerings. With intimate class sizes, this program is unique because it offers biweekly one-on-one conferences with its stunning faculty. It also has a notoriously supportive atmosphere.
- Incoming class size: 30-40
- Acceptance rate: N/A
- Alumni: Cynthia Cruz, Melissa Febos, T Kira Madden, Alex Dimitrov, Moncho Alvarado
11 bennington college (bennington, vt).
This two-year program boasts truly stellar faculty, and meets twice a year for ten days in January and June. It’s like a biannual vacation in beautiful Vermont, plus mentorship by a famous writer, and then you get a degree. The tuition is $23,468 per year, with scholarships available.
- Acceptance rate: 53%
- Incoming class: 40
- Alumni: Larissa Pham, Andrew Reiner, Lisa Johnson Mitchell, and others
12) Institute for American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM)
This two-year program emphasizes Native American and First Nations writing. With truly amazing faculty and visiting writers, they offer a wide range of genres offered, in screenwriting, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
Students attend two eight-day residencies each year, in January and July, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At $12,000 a year, it boasts being “ one of the most affordable MFA programs in the country .”
- Incoming class size : 22
- Acceptance rate: 100%
- Alumni: Tommy Orange, Dara Yen Elerath, Kathryn Wilder
13) Vermont College of Fine Arts
One of few MFAs where you can study the art of the picture book, middle grade and young adult literature, graphic literature, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry for young people. Students meet twice a year for nine days, in January and July, in Vermont. You can also do many travel residencies in exciting (and warm) places like Cozumel.
VCFA boasts amazing faculty and visiting writers, with individualized study options and plenty of one-on-one time. Tuition is $48,604.
- Incoming class size: 18-25
- Acceptance rate: 63%
- Alumnx: Lauren Markham, Mary-Kim Arnold, Cassie Beasley, Kate Beasley, Julie Berry, Bridget Birdsall, Gwenda Bond, Pablo Cartaya
14) university of texas at el paso (el paso, tx).
The world’s first bilingual and online MFA program in the world. UTEP is considered the best online MFA program, and features award-winning faculty from across the globe. Intensive workshops allow submitting in Spanish and English, and genres include poetry and fiction. This three-year program costs $14,766 a year, with rolling admissions.
- Alumni: Watch alumni testimonies here
15) Bay Path University (Long Meadow, MA)
This 2-year online program is dedicated entirely to nonfiction. A supportive, diverse community, Bay Path offers small class sizes, close mentorship, and a potential field trip in Ireland.
There are many tracks, including publishing, Narrative Medicine, and teaching. Core courses include memoir, narrative journalism, and the personal essay. The price is $785/credit, for 39 credits, with scholarships available.
- Incoming class size: 20
- Acceptance rate: an encouraging 78%
- Alumni: Read alumni testimonies here
Prepare for your MFA in advance:
- Best English Programs
- Best Creative Writing Schools
- Writing Summer Programs
Best MFA Creative Writing Programs – References:
- The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students , by Tom Kealey (A&C Black 2005)
- Graduate School Admissions
With a Bachelor of Arts in English and Italian from Wesleyan University as well as MFAs in both Nonfiction Writing and Literary Translation from the University of Iowa, Julia is an experienced writer, editor, educator, and a former Fulbright Fellow. Julia’s work has been featured in The Millions , Asymptote , and The Massachusetts Review , among other publications. To read more of her work, visit www.juliaconrad.net
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Education For Your Life
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Columbia Mfa Creative Writing Acceptance Rate
Financing your degree.
The School of the Arts awards over $13 million in student aid each year in the form of tuition scholarships, paid service positions, teaching appointments and institutional awards.
We believe that the education and resources provided by the School of the Arts support an investment that will yield personal, intellectual and professional gains for the rest of your life. We also realize that meeting the cost of this investment requires careful planning.
Working with Columbia’s Office of Student Financial Planning , we are committed to assisting both prospective and current students with the knowledge and understanding necessary to finance our Master’s programs. The majority of our students use a combination of personal savings, external resources, scholarships and loans to cover the cost of attendance.
Applicants are encouraged to actively explore all options, even before acceptance into the school, and to develop a plan to support the costs of graduate study for the duration of their respective programs. If you wish to have financial need considered in scholarship and fellowship decisions, all appropriate applications should be completed prior to your receiving an admissions decision, but no later than February 1, 2022.
University-wide information regarding financial aid, billing and payments, and other important policies and procedures can be found on Columbia Universitys Student Financial Services website.
Types of Financing
SCHOLARSHIPS AND FELLOWSHIPS
The School of the Arts offers a number of fellowships and scholarships to incoming MFA students who demonstrate a combination of merit (based upon the admissions committee review of the application materials), documented financial need and/or a commitment to serve the School through one of our service opportunities. Service opportunities are competitive and vary by Program. Students typically apply at the end of their first year for awarding in their second year. Paid service opportunities may include teaching positions or other positions that serve the School.
Priority for School of the Arts scholarship support is given to full-time MFA students in the first and second years of their Programs who are completing coursework since tuition is billed at the full rate only for the first two years of study. Scholarship support is typically not available to Research Arts students (students who are continuing in the Program beyond the second year and who have completed required coursework). Students working on their thesis projects in their third year and beyond are billed at the significantly reduced Research Arts tuition rate. Please note that additional thesis fees may apply.
MA in Film & Media Studies students are ineligible for scholarships from the School of the Arts. In some cases, MA in Film & Media Studies students may be compensated for teaching assistant and/or research assistant positions. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for federal loans and work-study.
Please see the Additional Financial Aid Policies and Procedures section for more information regarding institutional financial aid. Please note that neither institutional nor federal aid is available for summer courses.
HOW TO APPLY
MFA Applicants who wish to have their financial need considered in potential offers of School of the Arts scholarship or fellowship aid (also referred to as “institutional aid”) must complete the following steps:
Choose the pull-down menu option in your School of the Arts MFA Application for Admission stating that you wish to be considered for institutional aid.
U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents only : Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form at www.fafsa.ed.gov by February 1, 2022. Columbia’s School Code is 002707.
All MFA applicants : Complete the online School of the Arts Financial Aid Application by February 1, 2022 for admission in the fall of 2022.
Please note that financial need has no bearing on the School’s admissions decisions.
OUTSIDE SCHOLARSHIPS AND FELLOWSHIPS
The School of the Arts is pleased to offer admitted and current students access to our Artists’ Resource Center database of outside scholarships and grants at arc.columbia.edu . This regularly updated site contains over 2,300 outside scholarship and grant opportunities. In addition, student staff members are available to meet with admitted and current students to help them in the application process.
Please note: if a student has received an offer of institutional aid from the School of the Arts while also receiving outside scholarship funding, the School of the Arts reserves the right to reduce its institutional funding if the cumulative total of the awards equals or exceeds the cost of tuition.
FEDERAL AND ALTERNATIVE AID
For information about federal aid and private aid, including Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate PLUS loans, federal work-study, Perkins loans and private loans, please visit the Columbia University Financial Aid website here: http://sfs.columbia.edu/content/getting-started
U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents who wish to apply for federal aid must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or “FAFSA”) at www.fafsa.ed.gov by February 2, 2021 for admission in the fall of 2021. Columbia’s School Code is 002707.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT FUNDING
As a requirement of the I-20 application for a student visa, international students must demonstrate they have sufficient funds to meet the costs of tuition, fees and living expenses.
Because U.S. citizens or permanent residents may be eligible for federal student aid, international students, who are ineligible, have a more limited opportunity for financial assistance at the School. International students are, however, eligible for School-based scholarships and fellowships, and are encouraged to complete the steps outlined above in the Scholarships and Fellowships section.
International students may also be eligible for loans through private lending sources, which usually require a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. For more information, please visit the Columbia University Financial Aid website .
Before you apply, and especially if you are accepted, here are some important things to consider:
All School of the Arts students, both international and domestic, are ultimately responsible for funding their education. While the School of the Arts offers some fellowship support based upon a combination of merit and need, such funding is not guaranteed and, if granted, would likely apply only to the first and/or second year(s).
Each School of the Arts MFA Program requires at least two years of full-time study. Some allow up to five years for completion of the thesis project, although during the thesis period (also referred to as “Research Arts”), tuition is greatly reduced.
A monthly tuition payment plan is available. Information about the TuitionPay Payment Plan, can be found here .
Timely tuition payment is critical each semester. After their first semester, current students who have student account balances over $999 from a previous semester are not allowed to register for subsequent semesters. This may place international students in jeopardy of violating their student visas.
International admitted students should also explore the Artists Resource Center. Please see the Outside Scholarships and Grants section above for more information.
Columbia University School of the Arts is pleased to participate in the Department of Veteran Affairs Yellow Ribbon Program.
The School of the Arts is offering up to $5,000 in fellowship support for up to five eligible post-9/11 veterans for every academic year on a first-come, first-served basis. For information about the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program eligibility and benefits, please see the Columbia University Veterans Affairs page and/or the Columbia University Yellow Ribbon Program page on the Student Financial Services website.
If you are an admitted or current student and would like to apply for Yellow Ribbon Program benefits, you must complete an online application no later than July 1. Please click here for the application.
Please click here for information on the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018.
Additional Policies and Procedures Regarding Institutional Aid
To receive institutional aid from the School of the Arts, students:
must be registered as full-time. For students still taking courses (typically first- and second-year students), this means registration for at least 12 credits per term. For Research Arts students (those who have completed 60 credits), this means registration in the appropriate Research Arts category. Students teaching in the Undergraduate Writing Program (UWP) who are funded through the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences must be registered full-time or as Research Arts students.
must not be on disciplinary or academic probation
First-year students who meet these requirements will receive an equivalent level of student support in their second year. Students may be eligible for increased support in the second year through department service positions and/or teaching assignments. These positions provide relevant professional work experience for your résumé and/or CV. They include instructional and non-instructional positions. These hourly positions are paid through University Payroll and are subject to appropriate city, state and/or federal withholding.
Typically, institutional support presumes enrollment during the Fall and Spring semesters. Enrollment in only one semester may result in an appropriate reduction of the award.
Students who accept these awards thereby agree to these terms. Additional terms and conditions may apply. Students should consult their specific financial aid award letters and/or the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid for additional terms and conditions.
These policies and procedures are subject to change.
columbia University mFA
The Columbia University School of the Arts, (also known as School of the Arts or SoA ) is the fine arts graduate school of Columbia University in Morningside Heights, New York. It offers Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in Film, Visual Arts, Theatre and Writing, as well as the Master of Arts (MA) degree in Film Studies. It also works closely with the Arts Initiative at Columbia University (CUArts) and organizes the Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF), a week-long program of screenings, screenplay, and teleplay readings.
Founded in 1965, the school is one of the leading institutions for the study of visual and performing arts in the United States. Among the school’s distinguished graduates are sculptor David Altmejd, visual artist Lisi Raskin, painter Marc Handelman, sculptor Banks Violette and painter Dana Schutz.
The workshops, master classes, seminars, and lectures are created for writers by writers who discuss student work and examine literature from a practitioner’s perspective, not that of a scholar or theorist. We draw fully on the cultural resources of Columbia University—its faculty, libraries, archives, scholarly centers, diverse students, and wealth of facilities. The other Programs of the School of the Arts—Film, Theatre, and Visual Arts—enrich the Program’s programs. The 28 departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offer courses that provide incomparable opportunities for a developing writer. In addition, the Program offers its students the chance to edit, manage, and publish their own magazine, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art.
columbia university mFA Degrees & Awards
I’m Emptying My Bank Account to Go to Columbia
University beckoned. When results for the national exams were released, I was among the top five students from the district and was offered a scholarship to Makerere University. I wanted to be a poet but, because no university in Uganda offers creative writing, I settled for journalism. I loved literature, but what I wanted to do was write. With a journalism course, I would write my fingers numb.
I eventually decided to leave the newsroom to write more. The following year, 2015, I published my first collection of poems, A Nation in Labour. Three years after publication, the collection won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. My short stories also started getting recognition, becoming finalists for various prizes.
I danced again, but cautiously, careful not to jinx further good fortune. The cost of attendance for just one year is tens of thousands more, and I simply do not have it. I am praying, hoping. Every little bit helps, and I’m determined to come up with the rest. The mystery was—and still is—how.
Sometimes I get tempted to ask Columbia with a tone of entitlement—Columbia, you say you want me, then show me you want me—but I don’t, because she was clear from the start that all applicants had to be sure of their funding source. I had none. I just applied because she was the one I wanted.
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4 fully funded Creative Writing MFA programs in the US worth exploring
With fluctuating costs and other economic uncertainties piling up around us, one might think it outlandish to pursue a Creative Writing degree. But those who are enthusiastic about honing their creative grasp of the English language—whether to develop themselves as a poet or fiction writer or to finish a novel/longform nonfiction project in a conducive environment—take the idea of a Master of Fine Arts seriously despite the potential glares from stunned eyes. That is because they are well-informed and passionate about the career prospects that come with an MFA—which mostly involves the prospect of academic jobs for creative writers.
If you are one of them, read on to discover some of the most popular MFA programs available in the US, where the MFA in Creative Writing was first conceived at the University of Iowa. While Canada, and now some programs in the UK, have also started offering the degree, it is in the United States that it is most common and rigorous.
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Unpacking the craft of creative writing
A word of caution here: an MFA degree is typically considered a terminal degree (the highest academic degree that can be awarded in a particular field) in the field of Creative Writing in most US universities; however, there are PhDs for Creative Writing available in the UK and a very small number of US universities. The American programs are more generous with funding, and they include coursework as part of the first two years of the PhD programs.
The British programs have funding packages that are more complicated and less generous than US-based MFA programs.
Admitting only 12 writers per year, the MCW, part of The University of Texas at Austin, is a highly competitive program. Their mission is to provide all its students fully funded residency and support for three years so they can channel all their energy towards the craft and production of creative projects. During this time, candidates also get to study a secondary genre alongside a primary one (fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and playwriting). Former students include: Sindya Bhanoo, who won the 2022 New American Voices Award for her debut short story collection, Seeking Fortune Elsewhere: Stories , Catapult, 2022); Rachel Heng, author of The Great Reclamation: A Novel (Random House 2023) and Nathaniel Harries, author of The Sweetness of Water (Little Brown, 2021), longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. Other writers from the program have been finalists of the Pulitzer Prize, International Dylan Thomas Prize, and National Book Award.
Accepting only six poetry and six fiction writers per year, the MFA at Syracuse University is another competitive program. While the students at MCW are not required to take up teaching duties to fund their program, students at Syracuse University are required to do so via teaching assistantships. They are also given the chance to teach in their Writing Program and the Living Writers course, which often invite some of the most prominent contemporary writers. The work requirement makes it possible for them to fund their tuition fully. Other expenses are covered by the annual stipend of USD 17,500. Their faculty members include 2017's Booker Prize winner George Saunders, author of books like Lincoln in the Bardo (Random House, 2017). Saunders graduated from the same program in 1988.
Matthew Salesses demystifies the craft of writing
Brown's MFA program is known as "Literary Arts" as it involves poets, fiction writers, and cross-disciplinary writers. Highly selective and fully-funded, the program prides itself on admitting around 10 to 30 percent of its students from abroad. Unlike the previous two, this program spans for two years. They vow to give writers the time and resources to explore their creative and critical potentials fully, and faculty members include the National Book Award finalist Karan Mahajan, critic, essayist, and books such as The Association of Small Bombs (Penguin Books, 2016).
The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa's MFA program in fiction and poetry is better known as the Iowa Writers' Workshop—the first creative writing program in the world, launched in 1936. Their graduates include eminent, award-winning writers such as Tennessee Williams, Kurt Vonnegut ( Slaughterhouse-Five ), Marilynn Robinson ( Gilead ), Yaa Gyaasi ( Homegoing ), Nobel laureate Louise Glück, and Bangladeshi writer and translator Shabnam Nadiya.
You are what you eat in Mashiul Alam's "The Meat Market" (trans. Shabnam Nadiya)
UIowa is a pioneer and a hub for creative programs, and the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop was soon joined by the equally prestigious MFA in Nonfiction Writing Program, also the nation's first, with acclaimed writer and critic Melissa Febos among its current faculty members.
Both these programs are fully funded throughout its three years, which usually includes a full tuition scholarship in addition to teaching stipends for Graduate Assistantship positions and grants provided through arts fellowships.
The MFA programs at UIowa have produced writers that have been up for major recognitions such as the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, and the Booker Prize. Internationally acclaimed writers such as Yiyun Li, Rebecca Makkai, Carmen Maria Machado, Karen Russell, and V V Ganeshananthan have been some of the teachers at the program.
Meanwhile, their prestigious International Writing Program, which hosts writers from around the world in the Fall semester, has included Bangladeshi writers such as Humayun Ahmed, Shihab Sarkar, Mohammad Rafiq, Ruby Rahman, Anisul Hoque, and most recently Mashiul Alam . IWP's summer writing program, called Between the Lines , is currently accepting applications from Bangladeshi creative writers aged 15-18.
In defense of brevity
There are many other prestigious creative writing programs in the US, among them the MFA programs at Columbia University, New York University, Bennington College, and others, but funding, if available, is partial and difficult to get by.
If you have completed graduation or will be doing it by the end of this year, and are interested in creative writing programs, you should look up these program websites and start preparing accordingly. Interested candidates should focus on their writing samples and recommendation letters. Most of their admission windows open in September and run up to December. They allow students to apply without their final semester grades in cases where the students' universities delay in publishing the results. While none of these programs makes GRE scores mandatory, English language proficiency tests like the IELTS or TOEFL are an essential requirement for international students who have not completed formal schooling in an English speaking country.
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আমি দেশকে বদলে দিয়েছি: প্রধানমন্ত্রী
প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনা বলেছেন, আন্দোলনের নামে আবার শুরু হওয়া অগ্নিসন্ত্রাসের শিকার হচ্ছে সাধারণ মানুষ।
৫৭ সেকেন্ডে ৪৩ ব্যালটে নৌকায় সিল: সেই সাবেক ছাত্রলীগ নেতা আটক
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He was young, energetic, and full of life and laughter. He bellowed the latest tunes and told the funniest jokes at the drop of a hat. He only had one quest in life, and it was to learn how to read.
He loved newspapers and magazines but was only able to look at the pictures. This frustrated him. He had been a special education student in the local district, and by the time he was promoted to the ninth grade, he still could not read. His name was Kenneth “Undre” Cooper.
His guardian came to the Community Students Learning Center searching for help. She wanted to enroll him into the after-school program but could not afford the fees. After meeting Kenneth and experiencing his bubbling personality and his passion to learn to read, one of the Community Students Learning Center’s employees decided to sponsor him so that he could become a part of the program.
Kenneth’s hunger for reading motivated everyone to help him. Not only did the after-school program instructors work with him, but other employees took time out of their schedules to volunteer to help Kenneth learn how to read.
After a year or so, Kenneth had learned how to read and shared this news with everyone with whom he came in contact. He was so excited and his words to CSLC Executive Director, Beulah Greer, were: “I am going to read EVERYTHING!”
Sadly, Kenneth died as a result of a tragic accident which caused trauma to his brain, but his memory lives on in the hearts of the employees and students of the Community Students Learning Center. He indeed fulfilled his one quest in life-he learned how to read!
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How to Become a Writer in the District of Columbia (DC) with a BFA, MFA or Similar Creative Writing Degree
Created by CreativeWritingEDU.org Contributor
With many preserved historic areas there’s a good chance you can take a walking tour past the original homes of some of your favorite authors right here in the District.
Walt Whitman is one example. He called DC home for a decade in the 1860s. The person behind such works as Leaves of Grass , his style was unique and forever changed poetry. Not surprisingly his innovation to abandon the then-popular structure for meter and rhyme was scorned by his contemporaries. Whitman’s time in DC gave him unique experiences that would show up in his writing ever after.
Fast forward to the 21 st century and DC’s own Jonathan Safran Foer is the most recent proof that a writer from the capital can succeed in the world of words. Everything Is Illuminated was his first novel and was made into an award-winning film with major Hollywood star power. The novel itself was also highly acclaimed, winning several prominent national awards and appearing on the New York Times bestseller list.
Safran Foer has since followed upon his initial success with more memorable work, and now he’s also a creative writing teacher at New York University.
In fact, it was at a university, when Safran Foer was a freshman, that he first caught the writing bug when he took an introductory fiction writing class taught by none other than Joyce Carol Oates. He found he liked writing so much that he continued in the academic pursuit, and his thesis under Oates turned into the first draft of Everything Is Illuminated .
Safran Foer discovered in college what other successful writers have too: uniquely talented and inspiring writing professors who make a profound and early difference.
Speaking of Oates’ guidance as a writing professor, Safran Foer says…
“…she was the first person ever to make me think I should try to write in any sort of serious way. And my life really changed after that.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer on his writing professor Joyce Carol Oates
Safran Foer earned an undergraduate degree and that was all he needed to launch his successful career. A BA or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) is great for laying a solid foundation in the literary arts.
While a bachelor’s was enough for Safran Foer, for us mere mortals, an MA or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) can take things to the next level and get you ready for both the artistic and business side of getting published, going beyond coffee shop writing groups and amateur criticism.
DC – Birthplace of the Harlem Renaissance
In fact, some argue that this African American intellectual and cultural revival in the 1920s and 30s got its start in the nation’s capital before moving to NYC.
Langston Hughes, who was influenced by Whitman, authored dozens upon dozens of short stories, novels, poetry collections, children’s books, and plays. While working as a busboy in a DC hotel, Hughes happened by one of the most popular poets in the nation at the time, Vachel Lindsay. Hughes put some of his poems next to Lindsay’s plate, and the next day national newspapers were talking about Hughes’ poems. From there he would go on to be a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
Husband-and-wife duo Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Dunbar-Nelson lived in LeDroit Park. Paul wrote 17 books and was one of the first African American writers to gain national prominence, even though he died at the young age of 33. Alice was an outstanding poet in her own right with her own style, and this plus her literary reviews of prominent Harlem Renaissance writers shaped the trajectory of the movement.
One of the most important sites associated with the Harlem Renaissance is writer Georgia Douglas Johnson’s old house, today a few blocks away from the U Street Corridor, then-known as the S Street Salon. Every Saturday night she would host a local writers’ party where up-and-coming African American writers in DC could mingle with their older more experienced counterparts.
Johnson herself was an accomplished playwright and poet, and she also penned a weekly newspaper column. Her plays include Blue Blood and Plumes .
Zora Neale Hurston was one of those young up-and-coming DC writers who attended Johnson’s S Street Salon soirées. In fact she moved in with Johnson for a while, and was published for the first time while living in DC. In addition to her involvement in the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston went on to become an anthropologist and ethnographer of Black folklore, as well as the author of four novels including Their Eyes Were Watching God .
DC has been the birthplace of many important literary movements in the past, and will undoubtedly continue its tradition of leadership and creativity going into the future. You’re in the right place at the right time. All you need now is the creative writing chops to add your name to the list of great writers from DC.
District of Columbia’s Creative Writing Classes, Courses, and Workshops Can Prepare You for a Creative Writing Degree
As with any creative endeavor, your progress as a literary arts wordsmith improves with practice and experience.
Because Washington DC attracts some of the nation’s brightest it should come as no surprise that the city hosts plenty of opportunities for practice that will stimulate your talent.
Capitol Hill Writers Group welcomes aspirants in all genres of fiction, whether you have several books published or none at all. Membership is free and allows you to take advantage of regular meetings complete with Clarion-Method constructive criticism.
If you’re looking for a community, check out the DC Writers’ Salon. It has groups that meet anywhere from daily to monthly. In a unique approach, instead of groups focused on a particular genre, this salon has groups focused on specific tasks.
One group is dedicated to getting you out of bed and meets every morning at 8:30. One group is focused on holding writers accountable. Another group features writers talking about their craft. And of course, one group is dedicated to socializing where local writers can get to know each other.
The spoken word can be a powerful medium, a fact that’s made reality at The Inner Loop. This organization celebrates writers who want to read their work out loud with a monthly gathering plus additional programming that supports the goal of vocalizing authors like retreats, radio programs, and residencies.
Writers’ conferences are a great place to meet people like yourself in addition to publishers who are fishing for new talent. Each year DC’s historic Eastern Market is graced by the Literary Hill Bookfest, a celebration of the district’s authors and the books they write. Children’s authors provide entertainment for the kids while the adults attend author talks throughout the day on a range of literary topics.
When it comes to publishing, Literary and Creative Artists is one DC-based lit agency with more than 80 clients who include everyone from first-time to best-selling authors. They accept submissions in fiction and non-fiction.
Writing Colleges in DC Offering Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Creative Writing Provide a Path to Becoming a Writer
Writing is a craft that’s honed over generations and passed down. Degree programs in English and creative writing are designed to facilitate this generational fostering of artistic talent.
Jonathan Safran Foer launched his career thanks to his inspirational writing professor, and he himself is now passing on the literary arts to his creative writing students.
When you’re ready to get serious about supporting yourself as a writer and honing your skills to the professional level, that’s when you know it’s time to earn a creative writing degree.
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and Other Bachelor’s Degrees in Creative Writing in Washington, DC
George washington university.
COLUMBIAN COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Degree: Bachelor – BA
- Creative Writing and English
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Other Master’s Degrees in Creative Writing in Washington, DC
COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Degree: Master – MFA
- Creative Writing
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Get connected, workers force funding for moscow metro.
By Boris Kagarlitsky and Renfrey Clarke
MOSCOW — During the Gorbachev years, the popular Russian journalist Alexander Kabakov published a science fiction story entitled The Non-Returnee, in which he described the horrors of life after perestroika. He depicted a Moscow in which normal life had disintegrated, there was shooting on the streets, and one part of the city was at war with another. The only thing that still worked properly was the city's underground rail system, the metro.
Residents of the Russian capital are simply incapable of imagining the metro shutting down. But it now seems that a continuation of neo-liberal "reforms" is fraught with just this danger.
In Soviet times, the building of metro systems — not just in Moscow, but throughout the country — was funded centrally. The necessary sums were simply not to be found in local budgets.
Now the metro systems have been handed over to local authorities. In Moscow there is one transport policy, another in St Petersburg, and in provincial centres yet another. The uniform fares and technical standards of former years are now things of the past. Every city tries to solve its own problems as best it can.
In the recently adopted federal budget, no provision was made for the centralised funding of urban underground rail systems. City treasury authorities also refused to finance work on building and maintaining metro lines.
The cost of these tasks has been put at 3.4 trillion roubles, close to US$1 billion dollars. An immense sum for an impoverished country, this is nevertheless somewhat less than the Russian government, according to heavily understated official figures, spent up to the end of January waging its war in Chechnya.
Meanwhile, the Moscow city authorities would not seem to be short of money either, when it comes to funding projects dear to the mayor and his acolytes. The Moscow administration is currently spending vast sums building a concrete replica of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished in the 1930s. The city government is also outlaying a huge slice of its budget constructing an underground complex beneath the Manezh Square, and is now promising to erect the world's tallest skyscraper on the banks of the Moscow River.
Extremely dubious from the economic, architectural and environmental points of view, these projects have drawn numerous public protests. According to experts, none of them is likely to be fully realised. But none of them has encountered problems with finance.
If the funds needed for the Moscow metro were not found, commentators warned during January, all plans for developing the system further would have to be postponed. There would be no new lines or stations, and thousands of metro construction workers would lose their jobs. The cost of a metro journey, currently 400 roubles, would rise to 1800. There would be long intervals between trains, and one heavily used line would have to shut down entirely.
Executives of Metrostroy, the enterprise responsible for building and maintaining metro lines, warned that the escalators at many stations would have to be stopped, and that accidents underground would become a routine matter. For that matter, Muscovites would not be safe from accidents above ground either. Metro construction workers constantly pump water out of foundation pits and new tunnels. If this work were to cease, the soil would begin to subside and cave in.
At a conference in mid-January, the Metrostroy trade union resolved to call a strike for January 31 in protest against the disintegration of Moscow's underground rail transit system. The city authorities then declared that they would not allow the trade unions to force the redistribution of budget funds. It seemed that the prospect of the collapse of the Russian capital's transport system, and even the danger that people would be killed, troubled them much less than the need to observe "budget discipline".
Then the city authorities began to think again. Unlike most Russian workers, the people who build and run the Moscow metro are not without industrial muscle. The economy of the Russian capital depends on millions of workers being able to travel across the city each day by public transport. The cost to employers of even a brief metro stoppage would be enormous.
As they planned their action, the metro workers had a variety of effective tactics to choose from. If construction workers stopped pumping water from new tunnels, various existing lines would soon be flooded. Metro train drivers would not even have to strike; simply by following regulations and refusing to take out carriages with mechanical faults, they could cut the number of trains per hour to a handful.
The Moscow authorities had little reason to hope that the public would blame the workers rather than the city officials for the resulting chaos. Consequently, the prospect of strike action on the metro appears to have caused the city administration genuine alarm. This evidently penetrated to President Boris Yeltsin, for whom Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has been a vital political ally. Late in January, Yeltsin ordered the Russian government to come up with the funds needed to continue metro construction in several Russian cities, including the capital.
The future of Russia's metro systems is far from assured. Notoriously, funds budgeted or otherwise promised by the government are delivered late, and rarely in full. Despite Yeltsin's instructions, the new allocations for construction and maintenance will fall immediately under the gaze of cost-cutting zealots in the Finance Ministry.
Defenders of public transport, however, have the perfect answer to the financial hatchet-wielders: just take the money from the funds assigned for fighting the war in Chechnya.
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guelph humber creative writing
Office of Registrarial Services
New in 2022!
Explore the ways writing can drive social justice and environmental awareness. Create meaning through your writing and storytelling. You will take courses in speculative fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting and writing for the inclusive stage. You will develop a body of creative work that includes writing exercises, short creative pieces and a portfolio.
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Requirement for admission to the MFA program is a baccalaureate degree, in an honours program or the equivalent, from a recognized degree-granting institution. There is no requirement as to the discipline in which the degree was earned. Successful applicants will be expected to have achieved an average standing of at least second-class honours (B-) in their last four semesters of study. Note, however, that a limited number of students may be admitted to the MFA without having satisfied the degree requirement or academic standing requirement, if they are assessed as qualified to undertake graduate studies in creative writing on the basis of other experience and practice.
Further information on admission requirements, how to prepare for graduate school, and the financial commitment of a graduate program, can be found here.
We are now accepting fall 2024 applications.
Please read through the instructions below and apply by december 4th, 2023 to be considered for fall 2024 entrance..
The MFA application process involves multiple steps, in two separate portals, so please read through all the information. Get started well in advance of the deadline, as the application process takes time.
Applying to the Creative Writing MFA program requires that you submit an online application through the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) portal, as well as a CV, a letter of intent, and a writing portfolio to the University of Guelph SlideRoom portal.
Your OUAC application AND all three parts of your portfolio submission are due by 11:59pm on Monday, December 4, 2023.
Step one: complete the ouac application, to complete step one of your application, go directly to the ouac portal here ..
The OUAC portal offers the convenience of submitting your application and paying the CDN $110 application fee online.
After you submit your online OUAC application, and it has been received by the University of Guelph, within five (5) business days an account will be created for you in WebAdvisor. WebAdvisor is the University of Guelph student information system.
Once this account is created, you will receive an email with instructions on how to access WebAdvisor.
In WebAdvisor, you’ll see a checklist of documents you must then upload.
This checklist will include:
A transcript is required, with the institution grading scale and degree confer date, for each degree-granting institution in which you’ve been previously enrolled. Transcripts must be provided for every degree-granting institution you’ve attended, and for all full or partial programs you’ve completed.
Scans of your unofficial transcript(s) can be uploaded using the online application portal, or electronic transcripts can, in many cases, be ordered from your previous academic institution. If you prefer to submit a hard copy transcript, it can be sent to the Office of Graduate Studies, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road E., Guelph, ON N1G 2W1.
‘Official’ transcripts are not required at this time but, if admitted, applicants will have to provide official transcripts to the Office of Graduate Studies before their studies begin.
- TWO LETTERS OF REFERENCE
Your referees do not have to be academic references, but we recommend that you choose referees who can speak about your writing practice and your ability to navigate a graduate program successfully. They should be familiar with your current writing work, and it's recommended that you share relevant information about your application with them before you apply (including your CV and portfolio) so that they can write an informed statement. You may also use a professional reference in the writing field: a publisher, agent, author, or writing workshop facilitator.
Applicants and referees do not submit hard copies of their letters of reference. Letters of reference are always sent electronically, directly from the referees to the University of Guelph, and the applicant is not directly involved in this process.
You, as the applicant, will declare your referees on your OUAC application and then your referees will receive an email 1-5 days after you submit your OUAC application, around the same time you receive your WebAdvisor information. This request will include instructions on how to complete a Referee Assessment Form on your behalf.
Please contact your referees prior to submitting your application. If your referees have any trouble with the form, let them know they can reach out to [email protected] .
- ENGLISH PROFICIENCY TEST
Applicants who indicate on their application that English is not their first language are required to submit the results of a standardized language test, such as TOEFL, or IELTS. Find the list of standardized tests we accept, and the score requirements, here.
If you have any further questions about the OUAC application process and its requirements, please visit us here .
Or reach out to the program administrator, Libby Johnstone at [email protected] .
STEP TWO: Submit your CV, letter of intent, and writing portfolio to SlideRoom
Once you submit your online application through the OUAC application portal, you must submit an admissions portfolio which is made up of three documents: your CV, a letter of intent, and a writing portfolio.
This portion of your application must be submitted to a platform called SlideRoom by December 4, 2023, or you will not be considered for admission. The SlideRoom portal opens August 1, 2023 and closes at 11:59 pm on December 4, 2023.
Please note that SlideRoom will allow you to log in and edit your admissions portfolio as much as you like, but no further changes are allowed after you click submit. A US$5 fee will be charged to each applicant at the time of submission.
TO COMPLETE STEP TWO OF YOUR APPLICATION, GO TO THE UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH SLIDEROOM PORTAL HERE .
Then click on the ‘Creative Writing MFA Program’ from the list of programs to which you may apply.
Once you access the SlideRoom portal for the Creative Writing MFA, you will be required to answer a short series of questions and upload the following::
- CURRICULUM VITAE (CV)
The curriculum vitae should outline professional work, education, and awards, as well as all relevant publications, presentations, residencies, collaborations, community initiatives, and grants.
- LETTER OF INTENT
In no more than three (3) pages, 1.5 or double-spaced, describe your aspirations as a writer, your reasons for applying for this program at this time, and the genre(s) in which you are most interested. Please be as specific as you can. It’s important to let the admissions review team know exactly why our MFA program at the University of Guelph feels like the best fit for your studies.
- WRITNIG PORTFOLIO
Upload to SlideRoom 25-40 pages of published work, unpublished work, and/or works-in-progress. Your portfolio must include a minimum of two separate works, or two excerpts from separate works.
It is highly recommended that you submit work in more than one genre, so the admissions committee can see a range of material.
Your portfolio should be uploaded as a PDF or Microsoft Word document. Poetry and drama submissions may be single-spaced. Fiction and creative nonfiction submissions must be double-spaced. Please use 12 pt. font for all submissions.
You are also required (via a series of questions in SlideRoom) to indicate your primary genre—the genre in which you intend to write your thesis manuscript. Possible genres include fiction, creative nonfiction, drama/screenwriting, poetry, or mixed-mode narrative.
MFA students are still required to take at least one workshop outside of their primary genre and are not ‘locked in’ to the genre they choose as an applicant. This information simply helps us with considerations of balance over the program, in terms of the number of students we take per genre.
Note that ‘mixed-mode narrative’ (also known as ‘hybrid’) does not mean that you have included works of two or more genres in your portfolio. A mixed-mode narrative is a single work that includes multiple genres. Please declare your genre ‘mixed-mode narrative’ only if you intend to write a hybrid thesis (a singular work) written in two or more genres.
Find help with SlideRoom here.
For further questions about the application process, contact Libby Johnstone at [email protected]
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How to Apply
Applications to Humber are made through ontariocolleges.ca . Be sure to submit your application by the equal consideration deadline of February 1. You may apply after February 1, however, post-February 1 applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis depending on the availability of the space in the program. To check program availability refer to the Campus/Availability listing on Humber's program pages or ontariocolleges.ca .
Admissions Road Map
Apply through Ontario Colleges
If you’re an international student, you can apply directly to Humber via our International Centre.
Apply through the International Centre
Admission selection is based on the following 5 requirements:.
To be eligible for admission, you must possess the following:
- A bachelor’s degree, diploma or advanced diploma
Diplomas and certificates.
An applicant is considered a mature applicant if they have not completed secondary school or other postsecondary school, and will be 19 or older as of the first day of classes. Humber will invite you for testing to demonstrate that you meet all listed course requirements.
An applicant is considered a mature applicant if they have not completed secondary school or attended postsecondary studies, and will be 21 or older as of the first day of classes. Mature applicants for degree programs will be required to meet course requirements at the U/M level or equivalent.
College Transfer Applicants
An applicant is considered a college transfer applicant if they have completed some or all of a college-level credential. Humber may use a combination of secondary school and/or college courses and grades to determine program eligibility.
An applicant is considered a college transfer applicant if they have completed some or all of a college-level credential. Humber may use a combination of secondary school and/or college courses and grades to determine program eligibility. Applicants must have an overall minimum grade point average (GPA) of 65 per cent in the program. Applicants are required to disclose and provide academic transcripts for all course work completed at the postsecondary level.
University Transfer Applicants
An applicant is considered a university transfer applicant if they have completed some or all of a university-level credential. Humber may use a combination of secondary school and/or university courses and grades to determine program eligibility.
An applicant is considered a university transfer applicant if they have completed some or all of a university-level credential. Humber may use a combination of secondary school and/or university courses and grades to determine program eligibility. Applicants are required to disclose and provide academic transcripts for all course work completed at the postsecondary level.
English Language Proficiency
International credit evaluation.
Canadian citizens or permanent residents with international education are required to provide a credential evaluation. Note, for international High school education course by course evaluations, ICAS must be used. For international post-secondary education, a WES evaluation must be provided. In situations where you expect to apply for transfer credit, it is recommended that a course by course WES evaluation is completed.
Please submit a cover letter describing the single book-length project you intend to work on in the program, your writing experience, and any relevant life experience. The letter should be no more than two pages, double-spaced in 12-point font. Please include your name and email address, and submit as MS Word or PDF.
Please submit a sample of your writing that is no more than 15 pages in length. Ideally, the writing sample should be taken from the project you intend to work on in the program. If this is not possible, please submit a sample in the same form/genre (e.g., fiction if you intend to work on a novel). The manuscript must be prepared according to professional standards: double-spaced, 12-point font, with name, title and page number on each page. Please submit as MS Word or PDF.
INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC EQUIVALENCY
Admission equivalencies for Humber depend on your country of study. Please enter your location or choose detect my location to see the requirements for your country below.
APPLYING WITH AN INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE (IB)
The 2023/2024 fee for two semesters was:
- domestic: $3,694.94
- international: $18,058.00
Fees are subject to change.
Humber offers a variety of scholarships each year.
*Plus Mandatory Health Insurance fee once per academic year: Fall start - $420 Winter start - $280 Summer start - $140
Program Specific Questions
Alissa York, program co-ordinator 416.675.6622 ext. 3451 [email protected]
Domestic students .
Phone: 416-675-5000 Email: [email protected]
Book A Tour
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Professional Writing and Communications
Online option, online full-time programs.
Online full-time programs are offered as either Daytime, or a combination of Evenings and Saturdays. Check your program Dates and Times to see what the program commitment will be.
Find out more about Full-Time Online programs
Humber’s Professional Writing and Communications graduate certificate program supports you as you learn and practise the craft of writing in the digital age while building a professional portfolio. This unique program provides the core transferrable skills you need to build a successful career in a variety of communications roles. Building on foundational skills such as storytelling, drafting, editing, pitching, interviewing and research, you will build proficiency in areas such as media writing, social media management, project management and design.
With a focus on writing for different audiences and purposes (including editing writing by Indigenous writers and about Indigenous issues), as well as using current technologies to maximize the impact of your message, you will be well-positioned to enter the workplace with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as a professional writer/communications specialist across a variety of sectors. You will also learn how to think strategically in preparation for taking on leadership positions within communications departments or starting your own freelance writing business.
This program allows you to find a community of writers and supports collaboration, networking, professional development and publication.
At Humber, courses are delivered in a variety of formats:
In-Person - An in-person course is delivered fully on campus.
Online Asynchronous (A) - An online asynchronous course has no fixed class schedule and allows students to engage with the course at different times according to their needs. Faculty provide modules, which are completed independently by the students according to established deadlines.
Online Synchronous (S) - An online synchronous course is delivered fully online and requires faculty and students to participate in real-time according to a fixed schedule. Classes are scheduled for a specific day and time.
Hybrid - A hybrid course is a combination of in-person and online classes and follows a set schedule. Students must be available to attend in-person classes at scheduled times during the semester.
The chart below outlines the delivery options available for each course in this program, by campus. For some academic terms, there may be more than one delivery option available. You’ll be able to select your preferred options when building your course schedule during open enrolment. Preferences for course delivery will be considered on a first come, first served basis. Some Humber programs are also delivered fully online, where all courses are delivered online.
International students: the impact of studying from outside of Canada on Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) eligibility differs significantly based on when you start your program. Please review the PGWP eligibility before choosing your program and course delivery.
Upon successful completion of the program, a graduate will:
Analyze the elements of storytelling in texts and choose appropriate narrative techniques and forms for a variety of writing projects.
Create documents suitable for a diversity of audiences and purposes using advanced linguistic and rhetorical skills.
Create documents that adhere to standards of structure/formatting for standard print and electronic forms such as informational articles, reports, blog posts, and web site copy, and strategically repurpose content across these forms.
Integrate new communications technologies into an existing media toolkit.
Manage a multifaceted editorial project or communications campaign from the planning stages through completion, using a team-oriented, collaborative leadership style.
Adapt a consistent, unique writing voice to different platforms and genres.
Assess the needs of complex communications campaigns and then select and deploy appropriate strategies to meet those needs, using knowledge of communications theory and audience analysis.
Produce and/or edit error-free publications for both print and on-line environments, through the use of grammar and mechanical rules, correct and relevant editorial terminology, and copy-writing and style guides.
Analyze the structure and mechanics of a variety of document forms, both electronic and print, and apply substantive, line-level, and copyediting revisions as appropriate.
Analyze the media landscape and the range of communications fields to plan ways to navigate the industry and market oneself.
Create an online portfolio and social media profile to market writing skills to potential employers and freelance clients.
Select suitable and credible research sources for strategic applications to a range of advanced communication challenges.
Work-integrated learning .
Students complete a twelve-week field experience allowing them to gain valuable practical and professional skills.
Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) at Humber
Work-integrated learning opportunities prepare you for your future career. You will apply what you’ve learned in class and in real-world environments through a wide range of academic, community and industry partnerships. These work-integrated learning opportunities may include field experiences, professional practicums and co-operative education.
A field experience offers students an opportunity to engage in intensive experiences related to their field of study or career goals to build their skills, knowledge and abilities. Field experiences may be paid or unpaid.
Programs requiring a professional practicum offer practice-based experience or work hours for a professional license or certification. Students work under the direct supervision of an experienced professional. Placements are unpaid.
Students in co-op programs gain experience through paid work terms in their field of study that become progressively more complex as their skill level increases.
Optional Co-operative Education
Students in co-op programs gain experience through paid work terms in their field of study that become progressively more complex as their skill level increases. The co-op portion of this program is optional.
If you would like to learn more about work-integrated learning at Humber, visit WIL AT HUMBER
Is Our Program Right For You?
Do you love storytelling? Reading? Listening to podcasts? When you’re walking down the street, do you spot the typos and errors on signs and in storefronts? Do you sometimes find yourself quietly correcting the copy on the websites you visit?
If this sounds like you, come join our dynamic community of creative-minded writing professionals.
Our program provides a supportive environment where you can learn from experts who will show you how to take your writing to the next level. By practicing and experimenting with different styles and forms of writing, you’ll build the skills, discipline and confidence you need to excel in the communications market.
Added bonus? You’ll form lifelong friendships with members of your writing cohort.
Watch the "Power Up Your Credential!" Info Session to learn more about the Professional Writing and Communications program.
Joining the World of Professional Writing
In today's increasingly virtual and text-based world, writing is everywhere. Yet not everyone can create documents with both accuracy and readability. Your job as a writer is to become very good at language skills such as grammar, style and mechanics. Communications directors and hiring managers are always looking for writers who understand the foundations of writing and editing and who can quickly learn the subject matter of their businesses.
The Professional Writing and Communications program is delighted to have the following professionals on its advisory committee.
Graduates of this program may find employment as
- Communications specialists or coordinators
- Freelance writers
- Web copywriters
- Social media managers
- Social media marketing specialists
- Report writers
- Proposal writers
- Grant writers
- Project Managers
Note: This is a post-graduate certificate. You must already have a bachelor's degree or the equivalent from a university or college.
Professional Writing and Communications Specialist Entrance Scholarship
One entrance scholarship is available. For more information about how to apply, please visit the website.
Scholarship Value: $1000
Academic Excellence Award in Professional Writing and Communications
This annual award is presented to the graduate of the Professional Writing and Communications Postgraduate Program who has achieved the highest overall GPA.
Award Value: $500
Excellence in Professional Writing
This annual award is presented to a graduate of the Professional Writing and Communications Postgraduate Program who has demonstrated both academic excellence and leadership in the program.
- FACULTY HIGHLIGHTS
Meaghan Strimas is an award-winning educator, writer and editor who joined Humber as a faculty member in 2012. Before accepting her exciting role in the Bachelor of Creative and Professional Writing program, she served as the program co-ordinator for the college’s graduate certificate in Professional Writing & Communications.
Meaghan worked at Quill & Quire magazine for several years as a marketing manager and at the University of Guelph as the program administrator for its Creative Writing MFA. In addition to her work as a professor and co-ordinator, Meaghan works as a freelance proofreader, copy editor and project manager, and is interviews editor at the Humber Literary Review , a magazine she co-founded in 2014. She is co-lead of the HLR Spotlight project, an experiential learning opportunity that is funded by Humber’s Office of Research & Innovation.
Meaghan is the author of three collections of poetry and the editor of The Selected Gwendolyn MacEwen . Her most recent collection, Yes or Nope , was the winner of the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. In the fall of 2018, she released the Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology , which she co-edited with the late Priscila Uppal. Meaghan is at work on a novel and a new collection of poetry, and she has an essay forthcoming in the anthology Good Mom on Paper (edited by Jen Sookfong Lee and Stacey May Fowles).
Meaghan holds a MA in Creative Writing. She believes that writing programs are essential because they cultivate confidence, teach technique and craft, offer mentorship and, perhaps most importantly, provide a space for artistic collaboration and community.
Communication remains an essential skill sought by employers, regardless of discipline or field of study. According to the Conference Board of Canada, the ability to communicate tops the list of essential employability skills that employers require. The ability to read carefully, write effectively and think critically provides the foundation to get, keep and progress on a job.
Graduates are able to find employment in a variety of service industries such as finance, hospitality and health services, as well as in government, not-for-profit organizations, corporate communications, publishing and digital media.
Humber Students Benefit from Five Centres of Innovation (COIs)
The Humber Centres of Innovation Network demonstrates our strong commitment to providing an experiential learning environment for students. Students and faculty work with industry partners on real-world challenges to prepare them to become the innovative and strategic problem-solvers of tomorrow. Come to Humber and experience interdisciplinary learning across five COIs.
Building The Foundation: Humber College Helps Students Find Their Way Into Post-Secondary Education
The need for pathway programs has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on workforce opportunities.
Top 10 Reasons to Choose a Humber College Pathways Program
Associate Dean of Pathways and graduate, Cameron Farrar, share their top 10 reasons to choose one of the Arts and Science Pathways programs.
No news at this time.
Every attempt is made to ensure that information contained on this website is current and accurate. Humber reserves the right to correct any error or omission, modify or cancel any course, program, fee, timetable or campus location at any time without prior notice or liability to users or any other Person.
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- Apply Now APPLY NOW
Call 416-675-3111 or email [email protected] . If you have already applied, be sure to check your application status on myhumber.ca .
Domestic Applicants Enquiries
Domestic applicants can book a one-on-one advising appointment with an admissions representative.
International Applicants Enquiries
Contact the International Centre for information about full-time programs (including the International Graduate School), how to apply and to follow up on your submitted application.
Speak to the Program Co-ordinator about the course curriculum, projects and career options.
David Miller, program co-ordinator 416.675.6622 ext. 72095 [email protected]
Book a campus tour to take a closer look at what it's like to be a student at Humber.
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Sign-up now for more info on Humber, including programs, special events and more!
How To Become An Apprentice
Becoming an apprentice.
Find an employer willing to sponsor you as an apprentice.
Contact the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development to register as an apprentice.
Work with your employer approximately one year before attending Humber.
Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)
If you’re in high school – grade 11 or 12 – you can earn co-op education credits through work placements in some skilled trades.
Applications to Humber are made through ontariocolleges.ca . Be sure to submit your application by the equal consideration deadline of February 1. You may apply after February 1, however, post-February 1 applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis depending on the availability of the space in the program.
To check program availability refer to the Campus/Availability listing on Humber’s program pages, search by availability , or ontariocolleges.ca .
To see where you are in the admissions process, visit the Admissions Road Map .
If you’re an international student, you can apply directly to Humber via our International Centre .
Program advising appointments.
Get help narrowing down your program options or book a one-on-one pre-enrolment advising appointment with one of our Recruitment Officers.
Transfer & Pathway Advising
Book a virtual appointment with a Student Mobility Advisor learn more about getting Transfer Credit(s) for previous post-secondary experience, Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), and Pathways options.
Admission selection is based on the academic criteria indicated. Meeting minimum eligibility requirements does not guarantee admission.
Admission selection is based on the following four requirements:
- A bachelor’s degree
Letter of Intent
Please submit a one-page letter of intent (350 words) outlining your interest in this field of study. Your letter should express why you have an interest in professional writing and communications and in Humber's Professional Writing and Communications graduate certificate program.
All applicants whose first language is not English must meet Humber’s English Language Proficiency Policy .
International Credit Evaluation
International academic equivalency.
Applying with an International Baccalaureate (IB)
Once you have been accepted, and have confirmed your offer, you may need to complete a further set of requirements related to your program (Post-Admission Requirements).
Equipment & Device Requirements
Semester 1, 2
Fees & Financial Aid
The 2023/2024 fee for three semesters was:
- domestic: $5,802.35
- international: $18,608.69
Fees by Semester
Domestic Fees by Semester
International fees by semester.
Financial Aid, Scholarships and Bursaries
Understand the costs associated with coming to Humber and explore resources available from first year to your final year on Student Fees and Financial Resources .
Find out more about scholarships and bursaries that you may be eligible for, visit Student Scholarships . International students can visit International Student Scholarships .
Bursaries are available for Certificate, Diploma and Degree programs primarily based on financial need, visit Humber Bursaries.
External Awards, Bursaries & Scholarships
Find out more information about external scholarships and bursaries, visit External Awards.
Indigenous Student Awards, Bursaries & Scholarships
Humber offers a variety of bursaries and scholarships for Indigenous students, visit Indigenous Student Awards.
Explore Opportunities through Humber Pathways
Humber Pathways include:
- Opportunities to build on your college education and complete your diploma or degree at Humber.
- Degree and graduate study opportunities at other institutions in Ontario, Canada and abroad.
Additional information will be made available to students from their program before the beginning of the Winter term. Courses with in-person requirements will likely also have online components. The delivery mode of some courses is still being determined. Humber may need to change plans for in-person learning, subject to government and public health directives and/or additional health and safety considerations.
You can find a complete list of programs with downloads including program and course details at Current Student Resources
Students in programs marked as online/in-person will have a combination of those two types of delivery. Additional information will be made available to students from their program in the first week of June. Courses with in-person requirements will likely also have online components. The delivery mode of some courses is still being determined. Humber may need to change plans for in-person learning, subject to government and public health directives and/or additional health and safety considerations.
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36 Views of Moscow Mountain: Teaching Travel Writing and Mindfulness in the Tradition of Hokusai and Thoreau
L'auteur américain Henry David Thoreau est un écrivain du voyage qui a rarement quitté sa ville natale de Concorde, Massachusetts, où il a vécu de 1817 à 1862. Son approche du "voyage" consiste à accorder une profonde attention à son environnement ordinaire et à voir le monde à partir de perspectives multiples, comme il l'explique avec subtilité dans Walden (1854). Inspiré par Thoreau et par la célèbre série de gravures du peintre d'estampes japonais Katsushika Hokusai, intitulée 36 vues du Mt. Fuji (1830-32), j'ai fait un cours sur "L'écriture thoreauvienne du voyage" à l'Université de l'Idaho, que j'appelle 36 vues des montagnes de Moscow: ou, Faire un grand voyage — l'esprit et le carnet ouvert — dans un petit lieu . Cet article explore la philosophie et les stratégies pédagogiques de ce cours, qui tente de partager avec les étudiants les vertus d'un regard neuf sur le monde, avec les yeux vraiment ouverts, avec le regard d'un voyageur, en "faisant un grand voyage" à Moscow, Idaho. Les étudiants affinent aussi leurs compétences d'écriture et apprennent les traditions littéraires et artistiques associées au voyage et au sens du lieu.
Keywords: , designing a writing class to foster engagement.
1 The signs at the edge of town say, "Entering Moscow, Idaho. Population 25,060." This is a small hamlet in the midst of a sea of rolling hills, where farmers grow varieties of wheat, lentils, peas, and garbanzo beans, irrigated by natural rainfall. Although the town of Moscow has a somewhat cosmopolitan feel because of the presence of the University of Idaho (with its 13,000 students and a few thousand faculty and staff members), elegant restaurants, several bookstores and music stores, and a patchwork of artsy coffee shops on Main Street, the entire mini-metropolis has only about a dozen traffic lights and a single high school. As a professor of creative writing and the environmental humanities at the university, I have long been interested in finding ways to give special focuses to my writing and literature classes that will help my students think about the circumstances of their own lives and find not only academic meaning but personal significance in our subjects. I have recently taught graduate writing workshops on such themes as "The Body" and "Crisis," but when I was given the opportunity recently to teach an undergraduate writing class on Personal and Exploratory Writing, I decided to choose a focus that would bring me—and my students—back to one of the writers who has long been of central interest to me: Henry David Thoreau.
2 One of the courses I have routinely taught during the past six years is Environmental Writing, an undergraduate class that I offer as part of the university's Semester in the Wild Program, a unique undergraduate opportunity that sends a small group of students to study five courses (Ecology, Environmental History, Environmental Writing, Outdoor Leadership and Wilderness Survival, and Wilderness Management and Policy) at a remote research station located in the middle of the largest wilderness area (the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness) in the United States south of Alaska. In "Teaching with Wolves," a recent article about the Semester in the Wild Program, I explained that my goal in the Environmental Writing class is to help the students "synthesize their experience in the wilderness with the content of the various classes" and "to think ahead to their professional lives and their lives as engaged citizens, for which critical thinking and communication skills are so important" (325). A foundational text for the Environmental Writing class is a selection from Thoreau's personal journal, specifically the entries he made October 1-20, 1853, which I collected in the 1993 writing textbook Being in the World: An Environmental Reader for Writers . I ask the students in the Semester in the Wild Program to deeply immerse themselves in Thoreau's precise and colorful descriptions of the physical world that is immediately present to him and, in turn, to engage with their immediate encounters with the world in their wilderness location. Thoreau's entries read like this:
Oct. 4. The maples are reddening, and birches yellowing. The mouse-ear in the shade in the middle of the day, so hoary, looks as if the frost still lay on it. Well it wears the frost. Bumblebees are on the Aster undulates , and gnats are dancing in the air. Oct. 5. The howling of the wind about the house just before a storm to-night sounds extremely like a loon on the pond. How fit! Oct. 6 and 7. Windy. Elms bare. (372)
3 In thinking ahead to my class on Personal and Exploratory Writing, which would be offered on the main campus of the University of Idaho in the fall semester of 2018, I wanted to find a topic that would instill in my students the Thoreauvian spirit of visceral engagement with the world, engagement on the physical, emotional, and philosophical levels, while still allowing my students to remain in the city and live their regular lives as students. It occurred to me that part of what makes Thoreau's journal, which he maintained almost daily from 1837 (when he was twenty years old) to 1861 (just a year before his death), such a rich and elegant work is his sense of being a traveler, even when not traveling geographically.
Traveling a Good Deal in Moscow
I have traveled a good deal in Concord…. --Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854; 4)
4 For Thoreau, one did not need to travel a substantial physical distance in order to be a traveler, in order to bring a traveler's frame of mind to daily experience. His most famous book, Walden , is well known as an account of the author's ideas and daily experiments in simple living during the two years, two months, and two days (July 4, 1845, to September 6, 1847) he spent inhabiting a simple wooden house that he built on the shore of Walden Pond, a small lake to the west of Boston, Massachusetts. Walden Pond is not a remote location—it is not out in the wilderness. It is on the edge of a small village, much like Moscow, Idaho. The concept of "traveling a good deal in Concord" is a kind of philosophical and psychological riddle. What does it mean to travel extensively in such a small place? The answer to this question is meaningful not only to teachers hoping to design writing classes in the spirit of Thoreau but to all who are interested in travel as an experience and in the literary genre of travel writing.
5 Much of Walden is an exercise in deftly establishing a playful and intellectually challenging system of synonyms, an array of words—"economy," "deliberateness," "simplicity," "dawn," "awakening," "higher laws," etc.—that all add up to powerful probing of what it means to live a mindful and attentive life in the world. "Travel" serves as a key, if subtle, metaphor for the mindful life—it is a metaphor and also, in a sense, a clue: if we can achieve the traveler's perspective without going far afield, then we might accomplish a kind of enlightenment. Thoreau's interest in mindfulness becomes clear in chapter two of Walden , "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," in which he writes, "Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?" The latter question implies the author's feeling that he is himself merely evolving as an awakened individual, not yet fully awake, or mindful, in his efforts to live "a poetic or divine life" (90). Thoreau proceeds to assert that "We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn…. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor" (90). Just what this endeavor might be is not immediately spelled out in the text, but the author does quickly point out the value of focusing on only a few activities or ideas at a time, so as not to let our lives be "frittered away by detail." He writes: "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; … and keep your accounts on your thumb nail" (91). The strong emphasis in the crucial second chapter of Walden is on the importance of waking up and living deliberately through a conscious effort to engage in particular activities that support such awakening. It occurs to me that "travel," or simply making one's way through town with the mindset of a traveler, could be one of these activities.
6 It is in the final chapter of the book, titled "Conclusion," that Thoreau makes clear the relationship between travel and living an attentive life. He begins the chapter by cataloguing the various physical locales throughout North America or around the world to which one might travel—Canada, Ohio, Colorado, and even Tierra del Fuego. But Thoreau states: "Our voyaging is only great-circle sailing, and the doctors prescribe for diseases of the skin merely. One hastens to Southern Africa to chase the giraffe; but surely that is not the game he would be after." What comes next is brief quotation from the seventeenth-century English poet William Habbington (but presented anonymously in Thoreau's text), which might be one of the most significant passages in the entire book:
Direct your eye sight inward, and you'll find A thousand regions in your mind Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be Expert in home-cosmography. (320)
7 This admonition to travel the mysterious territory of one's own mind and master the strange cosmos of the self is actually a challenge to the reader—and probably to the author himself—to focus on self-reflection and small-scale, local movement as if such activities were akin to exploration on a grand, planetary scale. What is really at issue here is not the physical distance of one's journey, but the mental flexibility of one's approach to the world, one's ability to look at the world with a fresh, estranged point of view. Soon after his discussion of the virtues of interior travel, Thoreau explains why he left his simple home at Walden Pond after a few years of experimental living there, writing, "It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves" (323). In other words, no matter what we're doing in life, we can fall into a "beaten track" if we're not careful, thus failing to stay "awake."
8 As I thought about my writing class at the University of Idaho, I wondered how I might design a series of readings and writing exercises for university students that would somehow emulate the Thoreauvian objective of achieving ultra-mindfulness in a local environment. One of the greatest challenges in designing such a class is the fact that it took Thoreau himself many years to develop an attentiveness to his environment and his own emotional rhythms and an efficiency of expression that would enable him to describe such travel-without-travel, and I would have only sixteen weeks to achieve this with my own students. The first task, I decided, was to invite my students into the essential philosophical stance of the class, and I did this by asking my students to read the opening chapter of Walden ("Economy") in which he talks about traveling "a good deal" in his small New England village as well as the second chapter and the conclusion, which reveal the author's enthusiasm (some might even say obsession ) for trying to achieve an awakened condition and which, in the end, suggest that waking up to the meaning of one's life in the world might be best accomplished by attempting the paradoxical feat of becoming "expert in home-cosmography." As I stated it among the objectives for my course titled 36 Views of Moscow Mountain: Or, Traveling a Good Deal—with Open Minds and Notebooks—in a Small Place , one of our goals together (along with practicing nonfiction writing skills and learning about the genre of travel writing) would be to "Cultivate a ‘Thoreauvian' way of appreciating the subtleties of the ordinary world."
Windy. Elms Bare.
9 For me, the elegance and heightened sensitivity of Thoreau's engagement with place is most movingly exemplified in his journal, especially in the 1850s after he's mastered the art of observation and nuanced, efficient description of specific natural phenomena and environmental conditions. His early entries in the journal are abstract mini-essays on such topics as truth, beauty, and "The Poet," but over time the journal notations become so immersed in the direct experience of the more-than-human world, in daily sensory experiences, that the pronoun "I" even drops out of many of these records. Lawrence Buell aptly describes this Thoreauvian mode of expression as "self-relinquishment" (156) in his 1995 book The Environmental Imagination , suggesting such writing "question[s] the authority of the superintending consciousness. As such, it opens up the prospect of a thoroughgoing perceptual breakthrough, suggesting the possibility of a more ecocentric state of being than most of us have dreamed of" (144-45). By the time Thoreau wrote "Windy. Elms bare" (372) as his single entry for October 6 and 7, 1853, he had entered what we might call an "ecocentric zone of consciousness" in his work, attaining the ability to channel his complex perceptions of season change (including meteorology and botany and even his own emotional state) into brief, evocative prose.
10 I certainly do not expect my students to be able to do such writing after only a brief introduction to the course and to Thoreau's own methods of journal writing, but after laying the foundation of the Thoreauvian philosophy of nearby travel and explaining to my students what I call the "building blocks of the personal essay" (description, narration, and exposition), I ask them to engage in a preliminary journal-writing exercise that involves preparing five journal entries, each "a paragraph or two in length," that offer detailed physical descriptions of ordinary phenomena from their lives (plants, birds, buildings, street signs, people, food, etc.), emphasizing shape, color, movement or change, shadow, and sometimes sound, smell, taste, and/or touch. The goal of the journal entries, I tell the students, is to begin to get them thinking about close observation, vivid descriptive language, and the potential to give their later essays in the class an effective texture by balancing more abstract information and ideas with evocative descriptive passages and storytelling.
11 I am currently teaching this class, and I am writing this article in early September, as we are entering the fourth week of the semester. The students have just completed the journal-writing exercise and are now preparing to write the first of five brief essays on different aspects of Moscow that will eventually be braided together, as discrete sections of the longer piece, into a full-scale literary essay about Moscow, Idaho, from the perspective of a traveler. For the journal exercise, my students wrote some rather remarkable descriptive statements, which I think bodes well for their upcoming work. One student, Elizabeth Isakson, wrote stunning journal descriptions of a cup of coffee, her own feet, a lemon, a basil leaf, and a patch of grass. For instance, she wrote:
Steaming hot liquid poured into a mug. No cream, just black. Yet it appears the same brown as excretion. The texture tells another story with meniscus that fades from clear to gold and again brown. The smell is intoxicating for those who are addicted. Sweetness fills the nostrils; bitterness rushes over the tongue. The contrast somehow complements itself. Earthy undertones flower up, yet this beverage is much more satisfying than dirt. When the mug runs dry, specks of dark grounds remain swimming in the sunken meniscus. Steam no longer rises because energy has found a new home.
12 For the grassy lawn, she wrote:
Calico with shades of green, the grass is yellowing. Once vibrant, it's now speckled with straw. Sticking out are tall, seeding dandelions. Still some dips in the ground have maintained thick, soft patches of green. The light dances along falling down from the trees above, creating a stained-glass appearance made from various green shades. The individual blades are stiff enough to stand erect, but they will yield to even slight forces of wind or pressure. Made from several long strands seemingly fused together, some blades fray at the end, appearing brittle. But they do not simply break off; they hold fast to the blade to which they belong.
13 The point of this journal writing is for the students to look closely enough at ordinary reality to feel estranged from it, as if they have never before encountered (or attempted to describe) a cup of coffee or a field of grass—or a lemon or a basil leaf or their own body. Thus, the Thoreauvian objective of practicing home-cosmography begins to take shape. The familiar becomes exotic, note-worthy, and strangely beautiful, just as it often does for the geographical travel writer, whose adventures occur far away from where she or he normally lives. Travel, in a sense, is an antidote to complacency, to over-familiarity. But the premise of my class in Thoreauvian travel writing is that a slight shift of perspective can overcome the complacency we might naturally feel in our home surroundings. To accomplish this we need a certain degree of disorientation. This is the next challenge for our class.
The Blessing of Being Lost
14 Most of us take great pains to "get oriented" and "know where we're going," whether this is while running our daily errands or when thinking about the essential trajectories of our lives. We're often instructed by anxious parents to develop a sense of purpose and a sense of direction, if only for the sake of basic safety. But the traveler operates according to a somewhat different set of priorities, perhaps, elevating adventure and insight above basic comfort and security, at least to some degree. This certainly seems to be the case for the Thoreauvian traveler, or for Thoreau himself. In Walden , he writes:
…not until we are completely lost, or turned round,--for a man needs only be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost,--do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of Nature. Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations. (171)
15 I could explicate this passage at length, but that's not really my purpose here. I read this as a celebration of salutary disorientation, of the potential to be lost in such a way as to deepen one's ability to pay attention to oneself and one's surroundings, natural and otherwise. If travel is to a great degree an experience uniquely capable of triggering attentiveness to our own physical and psychological condition, to other cultures and the minds and needs of other people, and to a million small details of our environment that we might take for granted at home but that accrue special significance when we're away, I would argue that much of this attentiveness is owed to the sense of being lost, even the fear of being lost, that often happens when we leave our normal habitat.
16 So in my class I try to help my students "get lost" in a positive way. Here in Moscow, the major local landmark is a place called Moscow Mountain, a forested ridge of land just north of town, running approximately twenty kilometers to the east of the city. Moscow "Mountain" does not really have a single, distinctive peak like a typical mountain—it is, as I say, more of a ridge than a pinnacle. When I began contemplating this class on Thoreauvian travel writing, the central concepts I had in mind were Thoreau's notion of traveling a good deal in Concord and also the idea of looking at a specific place from many different angles. The latter idea is not only Thoreauvian, but perhaps well captured in the eighteen-century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai's series of woodblock prints known as 36 Views of Mt. Fuji , which offers an array of different angles on the mountain itself and on other landscape features (lakes, the sea, forests, clouds, trees, wind) and human behavior which is represented in many of the prints, often with Mt. Fuji in the distant background or off to the side. In fact, I imagine Hokusai's approach to representing Mt. Fuji as so important to the concept of this travel writing class that I call the class "36 Views of Moscow Mountain," symbolizing the multiple approaches I'll be asking my students to take in contemplating and describing not only Moscow Mountain itself, but the culture and landscape and the essential experience of Moscow the town. The idea of using Hokusai's series of prints as a focal point of this class came to me, in part, from reading American studies scholar Cathy Davidson's 36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan , a memoir that offers sixteen short essays about different facets of her life as a visiting professor in that island nation.
17 The first of five brief essays my students will prepare for the class is what I'm calling a "Moscow Mountain descriptive essay," building upon the small descriptive journal entries they've written recently. In this case, though, I am asking the students to describe the shapes and colors of the Moscow Mountain ridge, while also telling a brief story or two about their observations of the mountain, either by visiting the mountain itself to take a walk or a bike ride or by explaining how they glimpse portions of the darkly forested ridge in the distance while walking around the University of Idaho campus or doing things in town. In preparation for the Moscow Mountain essays, we read several essays or book chapters that emphasize "organizing principles" in writing, often the use of particular landscape features, such as trees or mountains, as a literary focal point. For instance, in David Gessner's "Soaring with Castro," from his 2007 book Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond , he not only refers to La Gran Piedra (a small mountain in southeastern Cuba) as a narrative focal point, but to the osprey, or fish eagle, itself and its migratory journey as an organizing principle for his literary project (203). Likewise, in his essay "I Climb a Tree and Become Dissatisfied with My Lot," Chicago author Leonard Dubkin writes about his decision, as a newly fired journalist, to climb up a tree in Chicago's Lincoln Park to observe and listen to the birds that gather in the green branches in the evening, despite the fact that most adults would consider this a strange and inappropriate activity. We also looked at several of Hokusai's woodblock prints and analyzed these together in class, trying to determine how the mountain served as an organizing principle for each print or whether there were other key features of the prints—clouds, ocean waves, hats and pieces of paper floating in the wind, humans bent over in labor—that dominate the images, with Fuji looking on in the distance.
18 I asked my students to think of Hokusai's representations of Mt. Fuji as aesthetic models, or metaphors, for what they might try to do in their brief (2-3 pages) literary essays about Moscow Mountain. What I soon discovered was that many of my students, even students who have spent their entire lives in Moscow, either were not aware of Moscow Mountain at all or had never actually set foot on the mountain. So we spent half an hour during one class session, walking to a vantage point on the university campus, where I could point out where the mountain is and we could discuss how one might begin to write about such a landscape feature in a literary essay. Although I had thought of the essay describing the mountain as a way of encouraging the students to think about a familiar landscape as an orienting device, I quickly learned that this will be a rather challenging exercise for many of the students, as it will force them to think about an object or a place that is easily visible during their ordinary lives, but that they typically ignore. Paying attention to the mountain, the ridge, will compel them to reorient themselves in this city and think about a background landscape feature that they've been taking for granted until now. I think of this as an act of disorientation or being lost—a process of rethinking their own presence in this town that has a nearby mountain that most of them seldom think about. I believe Thoreau would consider this a good, healthy experience, a way of being present anew in a familiar place.
36 Views—Or, When You Invert Your Head
19 Another key aspect of Hokusai's visual project and Thoreau's literary project is the idea of changing perspective. One can view Mt. Fuji from 36 different points of views, or from thousands of different perspectives, and it is never quite the same place—every perspective is original, fresh, mind-expanding. The impulse to shift perspective in pursuit of mindfulness is also ever-present in Thoreau's work, particularly in his personal journal and in Walden . This idea is particularly evident, to me, in the chapter of Walden titled "The Ponds," where he writes:
Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, "the glassy surface of a lake." When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distinct pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another. (186)
20 Elsewhere in the chapter, Thoreau describes the view of the pond from the top of nearby hills and the shapes and colors of pebbles in the water when viewed from close up. He chances physical perspective again and again throughout the chapter, but it is in the act of looking upside down, actually suggesting that one might invert one's head, that he most vividly conveys the idea of looking at the world in different ways in order to be lost and awakened, just as the traveler to a distant land might feel lost and invigorated by such exposure to an unknown place.
21 After asking students to write their first essay about Moscow Mountain, I give them four additional short essays to write, each two to four pages long. We read short examples of place-based essays, some of them explicitly related to travel, and then the students work on their own essays on similar topics. The second short essay is about food—I call this the "Moscow Meal" essay. We read the final chapter of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006), "The Perfect Meal," and Anthony Bourdain's chapter "Where Cooks Come From" in the book A Cook's Tour (2001) are two of the works we study in preparation for the food essay. The three remaining short essays including a "Moscow People" essay (exploring local characters are important facets of the place), a more philosophical essay about "the concept of Moscow," and a final "Moscow Encounter" essay that tells the story of a dramatic moment of interaction with a person, an animal, a memorable thing to eat or drink, a sunset, or something else. Along the way, we read the work of Wendell Berry, Joan Didion, Barbara Kingsolver, Kim Stafford, Paul Theroux, and other authors. Before each small essay is due, we spend a class session holding small-group workshops, allowing the students to discuss their essays-in-progress with each other and share portions of their manuscripts. The idea is that they will learn about writing even by talking with each other about their essays. In addition to writing about Moscow from various angles, they will learn about additional points of view by considering the angles of insight developed by their fellow students. All of this is the writerly equivalent of "inverting [their] heads."
Beneath the Smooth Skin of Place
22 Aside from Thoreau's writing and Hokusai's images, perhaps the most important writer to provide inspiration for this class is Indiana-based essayist Scott Russell Sanders. Shortly after introducing the students to Thoreau's key ideas in Walden and to the richness of his descriptive writing in the journal, I ask them to read his essay "Buckeye," which first appeared in Sanders's Writing from the Center (1995). "Buckeye" demonstrates the elegant braiding together of descriptive, narrative, and expository/reflective prose, and it also offers a strong argument about the importance of creating literature and art about place—what he refers to as "shared lore" (5)—as a way of articulating the meaning of a place and potentially saving places that would otherwise be exploited for resources, flooded behind dams, or otherwise neglected or damaged. The essay uses many of the essential literary devices, ranging from dialogue to narrative scenes, that I hope my students will practice in their own essays, while also offering a vivid argument in support of the kind of place-based writing the students are working on.
23 Another vital aspect of our work together in this class is the effort to capture the wonderful idiosyncrasies of this place, akin to the idiosyncrasies of any place that we examine closely enough to reveal its unique personality. Sanders's essay "Beneath the Smooth Skin of America," which we study together in Week 9 of the course, addresses this topic poignantly. The author challenges readers to learn the "durable realities" of the places where they live, the details of "watershed, biome, habitat, food-chain, climate, topography, ecosystem and the areas defined by these natural features they call bioregions" (17). "The earth," he writes, "needs fewer tourists and more inhabitants" (16). By Week 9 of the semester, the students have written about Moscow Mountain, about local food, and about local characters, and they are ready at this point to reflect on some of the more philosophical dimensions of living in a small academic village surrounded by farmland and beyond that surrounded by the Cascade mountain range to the West and the Rockies to the East. "We need a richer vocabulary of place" (18), urges Sanders. By this point in the semester, by reading various examples of place-based writing and by practicing their own powers of observation and expression, my students will, I hope, have developed a somewhat richer vocabulary to describe their own experiences in this specific place, a place they've been trying to explore with "open minds and notebooks." Sanders argues that
if we pay attention, we begin to notice patterns in the local landscape. Perceiving those patterns, acquiring names and theories and stories for them, we cease to be tourists and become inhabitants. The bioregional consciousness I am talking about means bearing your place in mind, keeping track of its condition and needs, committing yourself to its care. (18)
24 Many of my students will spend only four or five years in Moscow, long enough to earn a degree before moving back to their hometowns or journeying out into the world in pursuit of jobs or further education. Moscow will be a waystation for some of these student writers, not a permanent home. Yet I am hoping that this semester-long experiment in Thoreauvian attentiveness and place-based writing will infect these young people with both the bioregional consciousness Sanders describes and a broader fascination with place, including the cultural (yes, the human ) dimensions of this and any other place. I feel such a mindfulness will enrich the lives of my students, whether they remain here or move to any other location on the planet or many such locations in succession.
25 Toward the end of "Beneath the Smooth Skin of America," Sanders tells the story of encountering a father with two young daughters near a city park in Bloomington, Indiana, where he lives. Sanders is "grazing" on wild mulberries from a neighborhood tree, and the girls are keen to join him in savoring the local fruit. But their father pulls them away, stating, "Thank you very much, but we never eat anything that grows wild. Never ever." To this Sanders responds: "If you hold by that rule, you will not get sick from eating poison berries, but neither will you be nourished from eating sweet ones. Why not learn to distinguish one from the other? Why feed belly and mind only from packages?" (19-20). By looking at Moscow Mountain—and at Moscow, Idaho, more broadly—from numerous points of view, my students, I hope, will nourish their own bellies and minds with the wild fruit and ideas of this place. I say this while chewing a tart, juicy, and, yes, slightly sweet plum that I pulled from a feral tree in my own Moscow neighborhood yesterday, an emblem of engagement, of being here.
BUELL, Lawrence, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture , Harvard University Press, 1995.
DAVIDSON, Cathy, 36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan , Duke University Press, 2006.
DUBKIN, Leonard, "I Climb a Tree and Become Dissatisfied with My Lot." Enchanted Streets: The Unlikely Adventures of an Urban Nature Lover , Little, Brown and Company, 1947, 34-42.
GESSNER, David, Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond , Beacon, 2007.
ISAKSON, Elizabeth, "Journals." Assignment for 36 Views of Moscow Mountain (English 208), University of Idaho, Fall 2018.
SANDERS, Scott Russell, "Buckeye" and "Beneath the Smooth Skin of America." Writing from the Center , Indiana University Press, 1995, pp. 1-8, 9-21.
SLOVIC, Scott, "Teaching with Wolves", Western American Literature 52.3 (Fall 2017): 323-31.
THOREAU, Henry David, "October 1-20, 1853", Being in the World: An Environmental Reader for Writers , edited by Scott H. Slovic and Terrell F. Dixon, Macmillan, 1993, 371-75.
THOREAU, Henry David, Walden . 1854. Princeton University Press, 1971.
Scott Slovic , “ 36 Views of Moscow Mountain: Teaching Travel Writing and Mindfulness in the Tradition of Hokusai and Thoreau ” , Caliban , 59 | 2018, 41-54.
Scott Slovic , “ 36 Views of Moscow Mountain: Teaching Travel Writing and Mindfulness in the Tradition of Hokusai and Thoreau ” , Caliban [Online], 59 | 2018, Online since 01 June 2018 , connection on 16 October 2023 . URL : http://journals.openedition.org/caliban/3688; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/caliban.3688
About the author
University of Idaho Scott Slovic is University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Idaho, USA. The author and editor of many books and articles, he edited the journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment from 1995 to 2020. His latest coedited book is The Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication (2019).
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Ch. 9 The Development of Russia
Ivan i and the rise of moscow, learning objective.
- Outline the key points that helped Moscow become so powerful and how Ivan I accomplished these major victories
- Moscow was considered a small trading outpost under the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal into the 13th century.
- Power struggles and constant raids under the Mongol Empire’s Golden Horde caused once powerful cities, such as Kiev, to struggle financially and culturally.
- Ivan I utilized the relative calm and safety of the northern city of Moscow to entice a larger population and wealth to move there.
- Alliances between Golden Horde leaders and Ivan I saved Moscow from many of the raids and destruction of other centers, like Tver.
A rival city to Moscow that eventually lost favor under the Golden Horde.
Grand Prince of Vladimir
The title given to the ruler of this northern province, where Moscow was situated.
The Rise of Moscow
Moscow was only a small trading outpost in the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal in Kievan Rus’ before the invasion of Mongol forces during the 13th century. However, due to the unstable environment of the Golden Horde, and the deft leadership of Ivan I at a critical time during the 13th century, Moscow became a safe haven of prosperity during his reign. It also became the new seat of power of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Ivan I (also known as Ivan Kalita) was born around 1288 to the Prince of Moscow, Daniil Aleksandrovich. He was born during a time of devastation and upheaval in Rus’. Kiev had been overtaken by the invading Mongol forces in 1240, and most of the Rus’ principalities had been absorbed into the Golden Horde of the Mongol Empire by the time Ivan was born. He ascended to the seat of Prince of Moscow after the death of his father, and then the death of his older brother Yury.
Ivan I. He was born around 1288 and died in either 1340 or 1341, still holding the title of Grand Prince of Vladimir.
Ivan I stepped into a role that had already been expanded by his predecessors. Both his older brother and his father had captured nearby lands, including Kolomna and Mozhaisk. Yury had also made a successful alliance with the Mongol leader Uzbeg Khan and married his sister, securing more power and advantages within the hierarchy of the Golden Horde.
Ivan I continued the family tradition and petitioned the leaders of the Golden Horde to gain the seat of Grand Prince of Vladimir. His other three rivals, all princes of Tver, had previously been granted the title in prior years. However they were all subsequently deprived of the title and all three aspiring princes also eventually ended up murdered. Ivan I, on the other hand, garnered the title from Khan Muhammad Ozbeg in 1328. This new title, which he kept until his death around 1340, meant he could collect taxes from the Russian lands as a ruling prince and position his tiny city as a major player in the Vladimir region.
During this time of upheaval, the tiny outpost of Moscow had multiple advantages that repositioned this town and set it up for future prosperity under Ivan I. Three major contributing factors helped Ivan I relocate power to this area:
- It was situated in between other major principalities on the east and west so it was often protected from the more devastating invasions.
- This relative safety, compared to Tver and Ryazan, for example, started to bring in tax-paying citizens who wanted a safe place to build a home and earn a livelihood.
- Finally, Moscow was set up perfectly along the trade route from Novgorod to the Volga River, giving it an economic advantage from the start.
Ivan I also spurred on the growth of Moscow by actively recruiting people to move to the region. In addition, he bought the freedom of people who had been captured by the extensive Mongol raids. These recruits further bolstered the population of Moscow. Finally, he focused his attention on establishing peace and routing out thieves and raiding parties in the region, making for a safe and calm metaphorical island in a storm of unsettled political and military upsets.
Kievan Rus’ 1220-1240. This map illustrates the power dynamics at play during the 13th century shortly before Ivan I was born. Sarai, the capital of the Golden Horde, sat to the southeast, while Moscow (not visible on this map) was tucked up in the northern forests of Vladimir-Suzdal.
Ivan I knew that the peace of his region depended upon keeping up an alliance with the Golden Horde, which he did faithfully. Moscow’s increased wealth during this era also allowed him to loan money to neighboring principalities. These regions then became indebted to Moscow, bolstering its political and financial position.
In addition, a few neighboring cities and villages were subsumed into Moscow during the 1320s and 1330s, including Uglich, Belozero, and Galich. These shifts slowly transformed the tiny trading outpost into a bustling city center in the northern forests of what was once Kievan Rus’.
Russian Orthodox Church and The Center of Moscow
Ivan I committed some of Moscow’s new wealth to building a splendid city center and creating an iconic religious setting. He built stone churches in the center of Moscow with his newly gained wealth. Ivan I also tempted one of the most important religious leaders in Rus’, the Orthodox Metropolitan Peter, to the city of Moscow. Before the rule of the Golden Horde the original Russian Orthodox Church was based in Kiev. After years of devastation, Metropolitan Peter transferred the seat of power to Moscow where a new Renaissance of culture was blossoming. This perfectly timed transformation of Moscow coincided with the decades of devastation in Kiev, effectively transferring power to the north once again.
Peter of Moscow and scenes from his life as depicted in a 15th-century icon. This religious leader helped bring cultural power to Moscow by moving the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church there during Ivan I’s reign.
One of the most lasting accomplishments of Ivan I was to petition the Khan based in Sarai to designate his son, who would become Simeon the Proud, as the heir to the title of Grand Prince of Vladimir. This agreement a line of succession that meant the ruling head of Moscow would almost always hold power over the principality of Vladimir, ensuring Moscow held a powerful position for decades to come.
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New in 2022! Explore the ways writing can drive social justice and environmental awareness. Create meaning through your writing and storytelling. You will take courses in speculative fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting and writing for the inclusive stage. You will develop a body of creative work that includes writing exercises, short ...
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Writing Sample; Please submit a sample of your writing that is no more than 15 pages in length. Ideally, the writing sample should be taken from the project you intend to work on in the program. If this is not possible, please submit a sample in the same form/genre (e.g., fiction if you intend to work on a novel).
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The University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA, Toronto, Ontario. 358 likes · 35 talking about this. The University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA was established in 2006 and is based at Guelph-Humber
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BUELL, Lawrence, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture, Harvard University Press, 1995. DAVIDSON, Cathy, 36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan, Duke University Press, 2006. DUBKIN, Leonard, "I Climb a Tree and Become Dissatisfied with My Lot." Enchanted Streets: The Unlikely Adventures of an Urban Nature Lover, Little, Brown ...
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Ivan I (also known as Ivan Kalita) was born around 1288 to the Prince of Moscow, Daniil Aleksandrovich. He was born during a time of devastation and upheaval in Rus'. Kiev had been overtaken by the invading Mongol forces in 1240, and most of the Rus' principalities had been absorbed into the Golden Horde of the Mongol Empire by the time ...
Since 2006, the University of Guelph has ofered an innovative Master of Fine Arts (M F A) Program in Creative Writing, housed in the University of Guelph-Humber building in Toronto. The program is structured to nurture and support diverse voices and wide imaginaries.
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