Indiana University

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Last modified: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

IUís new Creative Writing, African American and African Diaspora dual degree first in the nation

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Oct. 14, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington's Creative Writing Program recently announced a new, joint Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing and African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS), the first in the nation. Students pursuing this four-year MA/MFA degree will have access to the faculty and resources of a top creative writing program with the support of a dynamic, multidisciplinary department.

"The new degree is the result of strong interest shown by many of our students in combining their imaginative writing with traditional academic scholarship related to the African and African American experience," said Samrat Upadhyay, director of IU's Creative Writing Program. "The program allows students to synthesize critical studies of the African diaspora, especially in literature, with creative and original works of poetry and prose."

In a typical semester, for example, students in this program could take a fiction workshop along with a course on traditions in African American novels, a poetry workshop with a course of contemporary black poetry, or a course on Harlem Renaissance with a study of the theory and craft of writing.

Applicants to IU's Creative Writing program frequently cite the diversity of its faculty and student body as an important factor in their decision to seek admission. Currently, nearly two-thirds of the program's 36 MFA students are African American, Latino/a, Asian American or Native American. The program makes every effort to recruit the strongest and most diverse annual entering class of students possible and offers fellowships that include the Neal-Marshall Graduate Fellowships.

African American poet Ross Gay, who joined the faculty last year, came to IU from Philadelphia; his first poetry collection, Against Which, has received national attention for its originality. Don Belton, another important African American writer specializing in fiction and nonfiction, begins teaching at IU this fall.

John McCluskey, former chair of the AAADS Department and author of several novels and anthologies on black experience and black history, says the new degree will underscore the possibilities for a creative thesis long available in the master's degree program in AAADS.

"To date, two novels and two dramatic scripts -- one produced -- have been submitted successfully as MA theses in AAADS," McCluskey said. "The joint degree institutionalizes a rigorous synthesis of critical study and creative activity."

Upadhyay says that beyond the importance of the degree to IU is the increased skill sets it brings to graduates of the program.

"The joint degree's emphasis on interdisciplinary and cross-methodological study and training will, inevitably, increase choices in career paths for its graduates," said Upadhyay. "This is the triumphant realization of the mission of diversity shared by the Creative Writing Program, the Department of AAADS, and Indiana University."

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