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Ph.D. Creative Writing

Ph.d. in creative writing.

A rigorous program that combines creative writing and literary studies, the Ph.D. in Creative Writing prepares graduates for both scholarly and creative publication and teaching. With faculty guidance, students admitted to the Ph.D. program may tailor their programs to their goals and interests.

The creative writing faculty at KU has been widely published and anthologized, winning both critical and popular acclaim. Faculty awards include such distinctions as the Nebula Award, Hugo Award, Osborn Award, Shelley Memorial Award, Gertrude Stein Award, the Kenyon Review Prize, the Kentucky Center Gold Medallion, and the Pushcart Prize.

Regarding admission to both our doctoral and MFA creative writing programs, we will prioritize applicants who are interested in engaging with multiple faculty members to practice writing across genres and forms, from speculative fiction and realism to poetry and playwriting/screenwriting, etc.

The University of Kansas' Graduate Program in Creative Writing also offers an  M.F.A degree .


A GTA appointment includes a tuition waiver for ten semesters plus a competitive stipend. In the first year, GTA appointees teach English 101 (first year composition) and English 102 (a required reading and writing course). Creative Writing Ph.D. students may have the opportunity to teach an introductory course in creative writing after passing the doctoral examination, and opportunities are available for a limited number of advanced GTAs to teach in the summer.

Department Resources

Affiliated Programs

Degree Requirements

If the M.A. or M.F.A. was completed in KU’s Department of English, a doctoral student may petition the DGS to have up to 12 hours of the coursework taken in the English Department reduced toward the Ph.D.

For Doctoral students,  the university requires completion of a course in responsible scholarship . For the English department, this would be ENGL 800, 780, or the equivalent). In addition, the Department requires reading knowledge of one approved foreign language: Old English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Greek, Latin, or Hebrew. Upon successful petition, a candidate may substitute reading knowledge of another language or research skill that is studied at the University or is demonstrably appropriate to the candidate’s program of study.

Doctoral students must fulfill the requirement  before  they take their doctoral examination, or be enrolled in a reading course the same semester as the exam. Students are permitted three attempts at passing each foreign language or research skill. Three methods of demonstrating reading knowledge for all approved languages except Old English are acceptable:

To fulfill the language requirement using Old English, students must successfully complete ENGL 710 (Introduction to Old English) and ENGL 712 (Beowulf).

A doctoral student must fulfill the University residency requirement before taking the doctoral exam.

Post-Coursework Ph.D. students must submit, with their committee chair(s), an annual review form to the DGS and Graduate Committee.

Doctoral students must take their doctoral examination within three semesters (excluding summers) of the end of the semester in which they took their final required course. If a student has an Incomplete, the timeline is not postponed until the Incomplete is resolved. For example, a student completing doctoral course work in Spring 2018 will need to schedule their doctoral exam no later than the end of Fall semester 2019. Delays may be granted by petition to the Graduate Director in highly unusual circumstances. Failure to take the exam within this time limit without an approved delay will result in the student’s falling out of good standing. For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices.

A student may not take their doctoral exam until the university’s Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement is fulfilled (ENGL 800 or equivalent and reading knowledge of one foreign language or equivalent).

Requirements for Doctoral Exams

Reading Lists: 

All students are required to submit three reading lists, based on the requirements below, to their committee for approval. The doctoral exam will be scheduled a minimum of twelve weeks after approval from the whole committee is received. To facilitate quick committee approval, students may copy the graduate academic advisor on the email to the committee that contains the final version of the lists. Committee members may then respond to the email in lieu of signing a printed copy.

During the two-hour oral examination (plus an additional 15-30 minutes for a break and committee deliberation), a student will be tested on their comprehension of a literary period or movement, including multiple genres and groups of authors within that period or movement. In addition, the student will be tested on two of the following six areas of study:

No title from any field list may appear on either of the other two lists. See Best Practices section for more details on these six areas. See below for a description of the Review of the Dissertation Proposal (RDP), which the candidate takes the semester after passing the doctoral exam. 

While many students confer with the DGS as they begin the process of developing their lists, they are also required to submit a copy of their final exam list to the DGS. Most lists will be left intact, but the DGS might request that overly long lists be condensed, or extremely short lists be expanded.

Review of Literature

The purpose of the Review of Literature is to develop and demonstrate an advanced awareness of the critical landscape for each list. The student will write an overview of the defining attributes of the field, identifying two or three broad questions that animate scholarly discussion, while using specific noteworthy texts from their list ( but not all texts on the list ) as examples.

The review also must accomplish the following:

For example, for a literary period, the student might include an overview of primary formal and thematic elements, of the relationship between literary and social/historical developments, of prominent movements, (etc.), as well as of recent critical debates and topics.

For a genre list, the Review of Literature might include major theories of its constitution and significance, while outlining the evolution of these theories over time.

For a Rhetoric and Composition list, the review would give an overview of major historical developments, research, theories, methods, debates, and trends of scholarship in the field.

For an English Language Studies (ELS) list, the review would give an overview of the subfields that make up ELS, the various methodological approaches to language study, the type of sources used, and major aims and goals of ELS. The review also usually involves a focus on one subfield of particular interest to the student (such as stylistics, sociolinguistics, or World/Postcolonial Englishes).

Students are encouraged to divide reviews into smaller sections that enhance clarity and organization. Students are not expected to interact with every text on their lists.

The review of literature might be used to prepare students for identifying the most important texts in the field, along with why those texts are important to the field, for the oral exam. It is recommended for students to have completed reading the bulk of (if not all) texts on their lists before writing the ROL.

The Reviews of Literature will not be produced in an exam context, but in the manner of papers that are researched and developed in consultation with all advisors/committee members,  with final drafts being distributed within a reasonable time for all members to review and approve in advance of the 3-week deadline . While the Review of Literature generally is not the focus of the oral examination, it is frequently used as a point of departure for questions and discussion during the oral examination.

Doctoral Exam Committee

Exam committees typically consist of 4 faculty members from the department—one of whom serves as the Committee Chair—plus a Graduate Studies Representative.  University policy dictates the composition of exam committees . Students may petition for an exception for several committee member situations, with the exception of  the Graduate Studies Representative .

If a student wants to have as a committee member a person outside the university, or a person who is not in a full-time tenure-track professorship at KU, the student must contact the Graduate Secretary as early as possible. Applications for special graduate faculty status must be reviewed by the College and Graduate Studies. Requests for exam/defense approval will not be approved unless all committee members currently hold either regular or special graduate faculty status

Remote participation of committee members via technology

Students with committee members who plan to attend the defense via remote technology must be aware of  college policy on teleconferencing/remote participation of committee members .

A majority of committee members must be physically present for an examination to commence; for doctoral oral examinations this requirement is 3 of the 5 members, for master’s oral examinations the requirement is 2 of the 3 members. In addition, it is required that the student being examined, the chair of the committee, and the Graduate Studies Representative all be physically present at the examination or defense. Mediated attendance by the student, chair and Grad Studies Rep is prohibited.

The recommended time between completion of coursework and the doctoral examination is two semesters.

Final exam lists need to be approved and signed by the committee at least 12 weeks prior to the prospective exam date. This includes summers/summer semesters. The lists should then be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Reviews of Literature need to be approved and signed by the committee at least 3 weeks prior to the exam date. Failure to meet this deadline will result in rescheduling the exam. No further changes to lists or Reviews of Literature will be allowed after official approval. The three-week deadline is the faculty deadline--the last date for them to confirm receipt of the ROLs and confer approval--not necessarily the student deadline for submitting the documents to the faculty. Please keep that timing in mind and allow your committee adequate time to review the materials and provide feedback.

Students taking the Doctoral Exam are allowed to bring their text lists, the approved Reviews of Literature, scratch paper, a writing utensil, and notes/writing for an approximately 5-minute introductory statement to the exam. (This statement does not need to lay out ideas or any aspect of the dissertation project.)

Each portion of the oral examination must be deemed passing before the student can proceed to the Review of the Dissertation Proposal. If a majority of the committee judges that the student has not answered adequately on one of the three areas of the exam, the student must repeat that portion in a separate oral exam of one hour, to be taken as expeditiously as possible.  Failure in two areas constitutes failure of the exam and requires a retake of the whole.  The doctoral examining committee will render a judgment of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory on the entire examination. A student who fails the exam twice may, upon successful petition to the Graduate Committee, take it a third and final time.

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to the exam. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student exams but not others.

The doctoral oral examination has the following purposes:

In consultation with the Graduate Director, a student will ask a member of the Department’s graduate faculty (preferably their advisor) to be the chairperson of the examining committee. The choice of examination committee chair is very important, for that person’s role is to assist the candidate in designing the examination structure, preparing the Review of Literature (see below), negotiating reading lists and clarifying their purposes, and generally following procedures here outlined. The other three English Department members of the committee will be chosen in consultation with the committee chair. (At some point an additional examiner from outside the Department, who serves as the Graduate School representative, will be invited to join the committee). Any unresolved problems in negotiation between a candidate and their committee should be brought to the attention of the Graduate Director, who may choose to involve the Graduate Committee. A student may request a substitution in, or a faculty member may ask to be dismissed from, the membership of the examining committee. Such requests must be approved, in writing, by the faculty member leaving the committee and by the Graduate Director.

Reading Lists

Copies of some approved reading lists and Reviews of Literature are available from the Graduate Secretary and can be found on the U: drive if you are using a computer on campus. Despite the goal of fairness and equity, some unavoidable unevenness and disparity will appear in the length of these lists. It remains, however, the responsibility of the examining committee, and especially the student’s chair, to aim toward consonance with the most rigorous standards and expectations and to insure that areas of study are not unduly narrow.

To facilitate quick committee approval, students may copy the graduate secretary on the email to the committee that contains the final version of the lists and reviews of literature. Committee members may then respond to the email in lieu of signing a printed copy.

Comprehension of a literary period (e.g., British literature of the 18th century; Romanticism; US literature of the 19th century; Modernism) entails sufficient intellectual grasp of both the important primary works of and secondary works on the period or movement to indicate a student’s ability to teach the period or movement and undertake respectable scholarship on it.

Comprehension of an author or group of related authors (e.g., Donne, the Brontës, the Bloomsbury Group, the Black Mountain Poets) entails knowledge, both primary and secondary, of a figure or figures whose writing has generated a significant body of interrelated biographical, historical, and critical scholarship.

Comprehension of one of several genres (the short story, the lyric poem, the epistolary novel). To demonstrate comprehension of a genre, a student should possess sufficient depth and breadth of knowledge, both primary and secondary, of the genre to explain its formal characteristics and account for its historical development.

Comprehension of criticism and literary theory entails a grasp of fundamental conceptual problems inherent in a major school of literary study (e.g., historicist, psychoanalytic, feminist, poststructuralist, etc.). To demonstrate comprehension of that school of criticism and literary theory, a student should be able to discuss changes in its conventions and standards of interpretation and evaluation of literature from its beginning to the present. Students will be expected to possess sufficient depth and breadth of theoretical knowledge to bring appropriate texts and issues to bear on questions of literary study.

Comprehension of composition theory entails an intellectual grasp of fundamental concepts, issues, and theories pertaining to the study of writing. To demonstrate comprehension of composition theory, students should be able to discuss traditional and current issues from a variety of perspectives, as well as the field’s historical development from classical rhetoric to the present.

Comprehension of the broad field of English language studies entails a grasp of the field’s theoretical concepts and current issues, as well as a familiarity with significant works within given subareas. Such subareas will normally involve formal structures (syntax, etc.) and history of the English language, along with other subareas such as social linguistics, discourse analysis, lexicography, etc. Areas of emphasis and specific sets of topics will be arranged through consultation with relevant faculty.

Ph.D. candidates must be continuously enrolled in Dissertation hours each Fall and Spring semester from the time they pass the doctoral examination until successful completion of the final oral examination (defense of dissertation).

Please also refer to  the COGA policy on post-exam enrollment  or the  Graduate School’s policy .

As soon as possible following successful completion of the doctoral exam, the candidate should establish their three-person core dissertation committee, and then expeditiously proceed to the preparation of a dissertation proposal.  Within the semester following completion of the doctoral exam , the student will present to their core dissertation committee a written narrative of approximately  10-15 pages , not including bibliography, of the dissertation proposal. Copies of this proposal must be submitted to the members of the dissertation committee and Graduate Program Coordinator no later than  three weeks prior  to the scheduled examination date.

In the proposal, students will be expected to define: the guiding question or set of questions; a basic thesis (or hypothesis); how the works to be studied or the creative writing produced relate to that (hypo)thesis; the theoretical/methodological model to be followed; the overall formal divisions of the dissertation; and how the study will be situated in the context of prior scholarship (i.e., its importance to the field). The narrative section should be followed by a bibliography demonstrating that the candidate is conversant with the basic theoretical and critical works pertinent to the study. For creative writing students, the proposal may serve as a draft of the critical introduction to the creative dissertation. Students are expected to consult with their projected dissertation committee concerning the preparation of the proposal.

The review will focus on the proposal, although it could also entail determining whether or not the candidate’s knowledge of the field is adequate to begin the composition process. The examination will be graded pass/fail. If it is failed, the committee will suggest areas of weakness to be addressed by the candidate, who will rewrite the proposal and retake the review  by the end of the following semester . If the candidate abandons the entire dissertation project for another, a new RDP will be taken. (For such a step to be taken, the change would need to be drastic, such as a move to a new field or topic. A change in thesis or the addition or subtraction of one or even several works to be examined would not necessitate a new proposal and defense.)  If the student fails to complete the Review of the Dissertation Proposal within a year of the completion of the doctoral exams, they will have fallen out of departmental good standing.  For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices.

After passing the Review of the Dissertation Proposal, the student should forward one signed copy of the proposal to the Graduate Secretary. The RDP may last no longer than 90 minutes.

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to the review. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student exams but not others.

The Graduate Catalog states that the doctoral candidate “must present a dissertation showing the planning, conduct and results of original research, and scholarly creativity.” While most Ph.D. candidates in the Department of English write dissertations of a traditional, research-oriented nature, a creative writing candidate may elect to do a creative-writing dissertation involving fiction, poetry, drama or nonfiction prose.  Such a dissertation must also contain a substantial section of scholarly research related to the creative writing.  The precise nature of the scholarly research component should be determined by the candidate in consultation with the dissertation committee and the Graduate Director. Candidates wishing to undertake such a dissertation must complete all Departmental requirements demanded for the research-oriented Ph.D. degree.

Scholarly Research Component (SRC)

The Scholarly Research Component (SRC) of the creative-writing dissertation is a separate section of the dissertation than the creative work. It involves substantial research and is written in the style of academic prose. It should be 15-20 pages and should cite at least 20 sources, some of which should be primary texts, and many of which should be from the peer-reviewed secondary literature. The topic must relate, in some way, to the topic, themes, ideas, or style of the creative portion of the dissertation; this relation should be stated in the Dissertation Proposal, which should include a section describing the student’s plans for the SRC. The SRC may be based on a seminar paper or other work the student has completed prior to the dissertation; but the research should be augmented, and the writing revised, per these guidelines. The SRC is a part of the dissertation, and as such will be included in the dissertation defense.

The SRC may take two general forms:

1.) An article, publishable in a peer-reviewed journal or collection, on a specific topic related to an author, movement, theoretical issue, taxonomic issue, etc. that has bearing on the creative portion. The quality of this article should be high enough that the manuscript could be submitted to a peer-reviewed publication, with a plausible chance of acceptance.

2.) A survey . This survey may take several different forms:

The dissertation committee will consist of at least five members—three “core” English faculty members, a fourth faculty member (usually from English), and one faculty member from a different department who serves as the Graduate Studies representative. The committee may include (with the Graduate Director’s approval) members from other departments and, with the approval of the University’s Graduate Council, members from outside the University. If a student wants to have a committee member from outside the university, or a person who is not in a full-time tenure-track professorship at KU, the student must contact the Graduate Secretary as early as possible. Applications for special graduate faculty status must be reviewed by the College and the Office of Graduate Studies. Requests for defense approval will not be approved unless all committee members currently hold either regular or special graduate faculty status.

The candidate’s preferences as to the membership of the dissertation committee will be carefully considered; the final decision, however, rests with the Department and with the Office of Graduate Studies. All dissertation committees must get approval from the Director of Graduate Studies before scheduling the final oral exam (defense). Furthermore, any changes in the make-up of the dissertation committee from the Review of the Dissertation Proposal committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Once the dissertation proposal has passed and the writing of the dissertation begins, membership of the dissertation committee should remain constant. However, under extraordinary circumstances, a student may request a substitution in, or a faculty member may ask to be dismissed from, the membership of the dissertation committee. Such requests must be approved, in writing, by the faculty member leaving the committee and by the Graduate Director.

If a student does not make progress during the dissertation-writing stage, and accumulates more than one “Limited Progress” and/or “No Progress” grade on their transcript, they will fall out of good standing in the department. For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices

Final Oral Exam (Dissertation Defense)

When the dissertation has been tentatively accepted by the dissertation committee (not including the Graduate Studies Representative), the final oral examination will be held, on the recommendation of the Department.

Although the dissertation committee is responsible for certification of the candidate, any member of the graduate faculty may be present at the examination and participate in the questioning, and one examiner—the Graduate Studies Representative—must be from outside the Department. The Graduate Secretary can help students locate an appropriate Grad Studies Rep. The examination normally lasts no more than two hours. It is the obligation of the candidate to advise the Graduate Director that they plan to take the oral examination; this must be done at least one month before the date proposed for the examination.

At least three calendar weeks prior to the defense date, the student will submit the final draft of the dissertation to all the committee members (including the GSR) and inform the Graduate Program Coordinator. Failure to meet this deadline will necessitate rescheduling the defense.  The final oral examination for the Ph.D. in English is, essentially, a defense of the dissertation. When it is passed, the dissertation itself is graded by the dissertation director, in consultation with the student’s committee; the student’s performance in the final examination (defense) is graded by the entire five-person committee

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to the defense. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student defenses but not others

These sets of attributes are adapted from the Graduate Learner Outcomes that are a part of our Assessment portfolio. “Honors” should only be given to dissertations that are rated “Outstanding” in all or most of the following categories:

After much discussion about whether the “honors” designation assigned after the dissertation defense should be for the written product only, for the defense/discussion only, for both together, weighted equally, or eradicated altogether, the department voted to accept the Graduate Committee recommendation that “honors” only apply to the written dissertation. "Honors" will be given to dissertations that are rated "Outstanding" in all or most of the categories on the dissertation rubric.

Normally, the dissertation will present the results of the writer’s own research, carried on under the direction of the dissertation committee. This means that the candidate should be in regular contact with all members of the committee during the dissertation research and writing process, providing multiple drafts of chapters, or sections of chapters, according to the arrangements made between the student and each faculty member. Though accepted primarily for its scholarly merit rather than for its rhetorical qualities, the dissertation must be stylistically competent. The Department has accepted the MLA Handbook as the authority in matters of style. The writer may wish to consult also  the Chicago Manual of Style  and Kate L. Turabian’s  A Manual for Writers of Dissertations, Theses, and Term Papers .

Naturally, both the student and the dissertation committee have responsibilities and obligations to each other concerning the submitting and returning of materials. The student should plan on working steadily on the dissertation; if they do so, they should expect from the dissertation committee a reasonably quick reading and assessment of material submitted.

Students preparing their dissertation should be showing chapters to their committee members as they go along, for feedback and revision suggestions. They should also meet periodically with committee members to assess their progress. Prior to scheduling a defense, the student is encouraged to ask committee members whether they feel that the student is ready to defend the dissertation. Ideally, the student should hold the defense only when they have consulted with committee members sufficiently to feel confident that they have revised the dissertation successfully to meet the expectations of all committee members.

Students should expect that they will need to revise each chapter at least once. This means that all chapters (including introduction and conclusion) are shown to committee members once, revised, then shown to committee members again in revised form to assess whether further revisions are needed, prior to the submitting of the final dissertation as a whole. It is not unusual for further revisions to be required and necessary after the second draft of a chapter; students should not therefore simply assume that a second draft is necessarily “final” and passing work.

If a substantial amount of work still needs to be completed or revised at the point that the dissertation defense is scheduled, such a defense date should be regarded as tentative, pending the successful completion, revision, and receipt of feedback on all work. Several weeks prior to the defense, students should consult closely with their dissertation director and committee members about whether the dissertation as a whole is in a final and defensible stage. A project is ready for defense when it is coherent, cohesive, well researched, engages in sophisticated analysis (in its entirety or in the critical introduction of creative dissertations), and makes a significant contribution to the field. In other words, it passes each of the categories laid out in the Dissertation Rubric.

If the dissertation has not clearly reached a final stage, the student and dissertation director are advised to reschedule the defense.

Prior Publication of the Doctoral Dissertation

Portions of the material written by the doctoral candidate may appear in article form before completion of the dissertation. Prior publication does not ensure the acceptance of the dissertation by the dissertation committee. Final acceptance of the dissertation is subject to the approval of the dissertation committee. Previously published material by other authors included in the dissertation must be properly documented.

Each student beyond the master’s degree should confer regularly with the Graduate Director regarding their progress toward the doctoral examination and the doctorate.

Doctoral students may take graduate courses outside the English Department if, in their opinion and that of the Graduate Director, acting on behalf of the Graduate Committee, those courses will be of value to them. Their taking such courses will not, of course, absolve them of the responsibility for meeting all the normal departmental and Graduate School requirements.

Doctoral students in creative writing are strongly encouraged to take formal literature classes in addition to forms classes. Formal literature classes, by providing training in literary analysis, theory, and/or literary history, will help to prepare students for doctoral exams (and future teaching at the college level).

FALL SEMESTER            





Creative Writing Faculty

Darren Canady

Joseph Harrington

Megan Kaminski

Graduate Student Handbook

FAQ for Prospective Graduate Students

Fellowships and literary outreach.

The NYU Creative Writing Program

is among the most distinguished programs in the country and is a leading national center for the study of writing and literature.

Graduate Program

The graduate Creative Writing Program at NYU consists of a community of writers working together in a setting that is both challenging and supportive.

Low Residency MFA Workshop in Paris

The low-residency MFA Writers Workshop offers students the opportunity to develop their craft in one of the world's most inspiring literary capitals.

Undergraduate Program

The undergraduate program offers workshops, readings, internships, writing prizes, and events designed to cultivate and inspire.

Spring 2022 Reading Series

The lively public Reading Series hosts a wide array of writers, translators, and editors, and connects our program to the local community.

Creative Writing Program

Low-residency mfa writers workshop in paris, undergraduate, washington square review, literary journal, a sample residency calendar, write in paris, scholarships and grant opportunities, program of study, dates and deadlines, creative writing, recent highlights from the mfa community.

• Alumni Tess Gunty and John Keene each won a 2022 National Book Award in fiction and poetry , respectively

• Books by faculty members  Sharon  Olds  and  Meghan O'Rourke;  and alums  Tess Gunty, John Keene ,  and  Jenny Xie  were named finalists for the 2022 National Book Awards; books by alum  Rio Cortez and faculty member Leigh Newman were also longlisted

• Alum  Ada Limón   has been named the nation's 24th Poet Laureate  by the Library of Congress

• Alum  Amanda Larson 's debut poetry collection  GUT  was selected by Mark Bibbins as the winner of the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber Book Award

• Alum  Sasha Burshteyn  was named a 2022 winner of the 92Y Discovery Prize. Alums Jenna Lanzaro and JinJin Xu were also named semi-finalists for the prize.

• Alum Clare Sestanovich was selected as a  2022 5 under 35 Honoree  by the National Book Foundation

• Alum  Maaza Mengiste  was awarded a  2022 Guggenheim Fellowship

• Visiting graduate faculty member  Brandon Taylor 's collection  Filthy Animals  was named a 2021/22  finalist for The Story Prize  and was shortlisted for the  2022 Dylan Thomas Prize

• Alum  Raven Leilani  won the 2021 Clark Fiction Prize, Dylan Thomas prize, the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Fiction and the Center for Fiction 2020 First Novel Prize for her debut novel  Luster,  and was named a finalist for the 2021 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, the Gotham Book Prize, the 2021 PEN/Hemmingway Award for Debut Novel, the 2021 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award

• Alum Desiree C. Bailey 's debut poetry collection  What Noise Against the Cane  was longlisted for the 2022 Dylan Thomas Prize and was also named a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award in Poetry and the 2022 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and was published as the winner of the 2020 Yale Series of Younger Poets

• Senior faculty member  Sharon Olds  was named the 2022 recipient of the Poetry Society of America's Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry

You can read more MFA Community news here and find a list of forthcoming and recently published books by alumni here .   NYU CWP alumni include  Aria Aber, Amir Ahmadi Arian, Julie Buntin, Nick Flynn, Nell Freudenberger, Aracelis Girmay, Isabella Hammad, Ishion Hutchinson, Mitchell S. Jackson, Tyehimba Jess, John Keene, Raven Leilani, Robin Coste Lewis, Ada Limón, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, Maaza Mengiste, John Murillo, Gregory Pardlo, Morgan Parker, Nicole Sealey, Solmaz Sharif, Peng Shepherd, Ocean Vuong, Jenny Xie,  and  Javier Zamora. 


Ocean Vuong by Tom Hines

Ocean Vuong joins the NYU Creative Writing Program Faculty

Mary Gabriel by Mike Habermann

Mary Gabriel, Author of “Ninth Street Women”, Receives the NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize

Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine joins the NYU Creative Writing Program Faculty

Classic podcasts from the lillian vernon reading series.

Anne Carson

Anne Carson

phd creative writing programs

Zadie Smith and Jeffrey Eugenides

phd creative writing programs

Terrance Hayes

Where to find us.

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Faculty Spotlight

Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds is a previous director of the Creative Writing Program. Her 2012 collection Stags Leap was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize and a Pulitzer.

Jonathan Safran Foer

Foer was listed in Rolling Stone's "People of the Year," Esquire's "Best and Brightest," and The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list.

Ocean Vuong by Adrian Pope for The Guardian

Ocean Vuong is the author of the bestselling novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and the poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds.

Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides is the author of acclaimed novels The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and The Marriage Plot. His latest collection is Fresh Complaint. 

Katie Kitamura

Katie Kitamura’s most recent novel Intimacies was longlisted for the National Book Award and named a Best Book of 2021 by numerous publications.

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes’s most recent publications include American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin and To Float In The Space Between.

Darin Strauss by Linda Rosier

Darin Strauss is the author of several acclaimed novels, including the most recent The Queen of Tuesday: A Lucille Ball Story.

Claudia Rankine by Andrew Zuckerman/The Slowdown

Claudia Rankine is a recipient of the 2016 MacArthur Fellowship, and the author of six collections including Citizen and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely.

Hari Kunzru

Hari Kunzru is the author of six novels, including the most recent Red Pill, and White Tears, a finalist for the PEN Jean Stein Award.

College of Arts and Sciences

Helpful Links

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Poetry students with Visiting Writer Frank Bidart.

About the Program and Placement Record

Creative Writing M.A.

Creative Writing Ph.D.

One of the first universities in the country to offer a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, Ohio University continues as home to a thriving, widely respected graduate program with concentrations in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Small by design, our graduate program offers a comprehensive curriculum, an award-winning faculty and the intimacy of small classes.

Placement Record

Over the past three years, seven of our nine graduating creative writing Ph.D. students have landed tenure-track jobs, post-doctorates, or prestigious visiting writer posts. Our MA graduates go on to study in the top MFA and Ph.D. programs.

Students in the Creative Writing M.A. and Ph.D. programs enjoy:

M.A. candidates complete two years of study and write a thesis of creative work in their genre. Doctoral candidates complete five years of study, comprehensive exams, a major critical essay, and a creative dissertation.

Literary Journals

The department and its students publish three literary journals:

Annual Events

The department hosts several annual events including an ambitious Spring Literary Festival that brings five nationally distinguished writers to campus for three-days of readings, craft talks, and student discussion. Recent visitors have included Tony Hoagland, Kathryn Harrison, Barry Lopez, Francine Prose, Peter Ho Davies, Kim Addonizio, David Shields, Robert Hass, Charles Simic, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Marilynne Robinson.

Visiting writers engage with our program year-round as well, appearing in both undergraduate and graduate classes, meeting one-on-one with select students, and offering evening readings in the intimate Galbreath Chapel.

In addition to a regular Dogwood Bloom reading series for our graduate students, the creative writing program hosts an annual Writers' Harvest benefit reading for the Southeastern Ohio Food Bank?s Second Harvest, a food distribution program serving Athens, Hocking, Perry, Vinton, Jackson, Gallia, Meigs, Morgan and Washington counties.

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Graduate creative writing.

The Department of English offers an M.A. and Ph.D. specialization in creative writing. Students accepted into the program can take creative writing workshops along with courses in literary studies and composition and rhetoric. The M.A. thesis consists of creative activity and scholarship; Ph.D. students complete a dissertation that includes a book-length work of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction, and a scholarly component.

Creative Writing Program Genres

Every year, the Creative Writing Program accepts applications to the M.A. or Ph.D. programs only in a specific genre. Admissions in "poetry" or "fiction/nonfiction" alternate in each subsequent year.

Graduate Admissions

Fall 2023 Admissions

Fiction / Nonfiction

Fall 2024 Admissions

Accomplished alumni.

Alumni of the Creative Writing Program have gone on to shape and influence the national literary voice, their work reviewed everywhere from the New York Times to People magazine , the Wall Street Journal to Vogue , the Washington Post to Vanity Fair . They’ve published their work in Harper’s , the Guardian , the Nation , the New York Times , and the New Yorker . They’ve received recognition from the Pulitzer Prize, the National Endowment for the Arts, National Public Radio, The Today Show, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, and Best American Stories, among others.

In 2017 alone, our alumni published more than three dozen books. Among recent successes:


Difficult Women

This short-story collection by Roxane Gay (who received her M.A. in creative writing from UNL in 2004) was #1 on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list; her New York Times bestselling memoir, HUNGER, was also released in 2017.

Cover of CARRY ON

The latest young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell (who studied creative writing as an undergraduate at UNL in the 1990s) was a #1 New York Times bestseller; Rowell is also the author of the YA classic, Eleanor & Park (also a #1 New York Times bestseller), and Fangirl , set partly in a creative writing class at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The film adaptation of emily m. danforth ’s debut novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post , won the 2018 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize (the event’s top honor). Danforth received her Ph.D. with an emphasis in creative writing from UNL in 2010.

This is just a taste of the fantastic writing and editing by our alumni and students. To learn more about our alumni’s accomplishments, visit our alumni page or browse our galleries of books by alumni and students .

Award-Winning Faculty

English graduate students have the opportunity to work closely with a devoted and accomplished faculty. Among the awards won by the Creative Writing faculty and their literary works: the Pulitzer Prize; Guggenheim fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts fellowships; PEN America prizes; International Latino Book Award; and the NAACP Image Award. Books by faculty have also been recognized and spotlighted by: the Man Booker Prize; the Oprah 2.0 Book Club; Barnes and Noble Discover series; and the New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

Faculty Directory

Information for Current Graduate Students

Most of the information you’ll need is available in the English M.A. and Ph.D. handbooks , which include the specifics of supervisory committees, thesis/dissertation readers, field and focus lists, comprehensive exams, thesis/dissertation defense, teaching assignments, etc.

Master’s and Ph.D. students must remain aware of deadlines and timelines for completion of the program. This involves forms that need to be completed, and signed by faculty, throughout the program of studies. When you are in your last year/semester of your program, you’ll want to be especially alert to dates, and to the intricacies and demands of required forms.

A number of online resources can help you keep to deadlines and provide links to necessary forms. These include the following very useful pages of the Graduate Studies and English websites:

Degree Planning for M.A. Students

M.A. Deadlines

M.A. Timeline

Degree Planning for Ph.D. Students

Ph.D. Deadlines

Ph.D. Timeline

Creative Thesis and Dissertation

For m.a. students:.

Creative Writing Thesis. As early as possible in her or his program, but by the end of the second semester of study, the student chooses 3 graduate faculty members for the thesis committee (they need not all be members of the Creative Writing faculty) and then files the CW Thesis Committee Form with the English Graduate Office. The Thesis Committee will guide the student as to the format of the thesis, but a creative thesis will generally be based on an original work of substantive creative activity by the student: a collection of poetry, a collection of short stories, a novel, a novella, a creative nonfiction project, or a mixed-genre collection.

The M.A. thesis in Creative Writing will be based on a minimum number of pages (40 for poetry, 75 for prose), but these pages will not be submitted as the thesis. The thesis, therefore, will consist of:

The advisor will assist the student in selecting the prose or poetry for the sample. The Department of English requires that members of thesis committees have adequate time to read and offer suggestions on the final draft of any thesis. Therefore, the final draft of the thesis must be given to committee members at least one month before the deadline for approval of the manuscript.

For Ph.D. students:

Creative Dissertation. The dissertation is based on the student’s own book-length creative work completed while in the graduate program in consultation with a Supervisory Committee. The creative work, when completed, is submitted to the committee but does not serve as the dissertation.

The dissertation consists of:


The Creative Writing Program

About the cwp.

The PhD in English Literature with Creative Dissertation at the University of Georgia is for writers who wish to advance their expertise and sophistication as scholars. Our students are accomplished poets, fiction writers, essayists, translators, and interdisciplinary artists who are ready to move beyond the studio focus of the MFA to a more intensive program of literary study. Over the course of the five-year program our students develop research specialties that complement their writing practice and prepare them professionally for a teaching career at the university or college level.

Our creative writing faculty are nationally and internationally recognized writers and translators with academic specializations in a variety of literary and theoretical fields, including Genre Theory, Poetics, Global Literature, Native American Literature, African American Literature, Postcolonial Literature, and Translation Studies. Our program fosters serious conversations among our students about aesthetics and criticism, experience and culture, and politics and history—not only in the classroom but through public readings and lectures. Our faculty and students play an active role in the cultural life of Athens, both as artists and organizers.

Program Overview

During the first two years of study our Ph.D. candidates select from course offerings in the English Department, seminars that signal both our faculty’s recognition of intellectual and disciplinary change and our abiding commitment to traditional literary history. Each student takes at least one Creative Writing course a year in addition to courses in various literary specialties. A list of our department’s recent graduate course offerings can be found here .  Prior to beginning their third year, students prepare reading lists for comprehensive exams in three academic research fields of their choosing. Every CWP student chooses “Forms and Craft” as one of their exam areas. This reading list serves as a research field unique to each writer’s approach to their particular genre. Some of the “Forms and Craft” lists designed recently by CWP students include, “The Midwestern Novel”; “Occult and Visionary Poetics”; “History of Surrealism”; “Monstrosity in Epic Poetry”; and “Literary Translation: Theory and Practice.” The two other exam fields should complement and expand the student’s areas of expertise beyond craft in order to broaden their historical and theoretical understanding of literature. In recent years, CWP students have elected to take exams in fields such as, “A Global History of the Novel,” ”Modernism and the Historical Avant-Garde,” “Aesthetic Theory,” ”African American Literature,” “Latinx Literature,” “Ecopoetics,” “The Southern Novel,” “Lyric Theory,” and “Science Fiction.”

Typically the exam committee is headed by a member of the creative writing faculty and two other professors from the department at large, experts in the respective exam areas. During the third year students read in preparation for written and oral exams. Each written exam takes the form of a twenty-page written exhibit in which the student answers a directive question formulated in conjunction with the exam area’s director. This exhibit should demonstrate the student’s grasp of the field as a whole and serves as a demonstration of their ability to teach in this area at the undergraduate level. Once the student has passed written exams, they are admitted to an oral exam overseen by the exam committee as a whole. Once the student passes both oral and written exams, they are admitted officially to candidacy for the PhD and begin working on their dissertation.

During their fourth and fifth years CWP students complete a creative dissertation with a critical introduction. The dissertation typically is a full-length work in a single genre—a work of fiction, creative non-fiction, or poetry. The introduction is the author’s scholarly address to their audience. In the past students have used the introduction as a scholarly analysis of the state of the genre, a critical meditation on process informed by literary history, or a theoretical tracing of literary influence.

Creative Writing Program Director

Aruni Kashyap

Aruni Kashyap [email protected]

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