Why creative writing?
One simple word: storytelling.
It’s in our DNA. The compulsion to conjure and relay stories dates back as far as 30,000 years ago to cave walls, the original graphic novels. Hieroglyphics from roughly 5,000 years ago rank among the world’s earliest writing systems; in fact, in 2016 Penguin Classics published Writings from Ancient Egypt, the first literary English translation of some of the texts that cover thousands of square feet of monuments and tomb walls. West African griots, purveyors of an oral storytelling tradition, date back to the 13th century. The novel traces its roots to Pamela, Samuel Richardson's epistolary novel written in 1740, and further back still to Lady Murasaki Shikibu's Tale of Genji written in the early 11th century. Ten centuries later, Jennifer Egan penned (or perhaps "thumbed") the first relatively successful Twitter story, “Black Box,” first published as a series of tweets and then in The New Yorker magazine. Poet Mahogany L. Brown published tweet-length poems in her collection #Dear Twitter: Love Letters Hashed Out Online in 140 Characters or Less. Consider the leap across time from the earliest surviving work of literature the "Epic of Gilgamesh" discovered on fragments of clay to poems delivered electronically to your inbox every day by Poetry Daily.
Why a fine arts degree?
One serious word: craft.
Regardless of evolving platforms, one thing remains constant: we humans are innate storytellers precisely because we’re constantly trying to figure out what it means to be human. Therefore, by declaring a BFA in Creative Writing as your major, you are joining a time-honored tradition of story-making and story-sharing that is passed on by learning the craft. All BFA students are exposed to the three main genres – fiction, poetry, and nonfiction – before deciding on a concentration. They learn the rules – world-building, character development, effective pacing, compelling dialogue, how to manage subtly with grandeur – then are challenged to break them through experimentation and innovation. In addition to examining literature across the genres and understanding methods of research, students explore poetic form, diction, lineation, metaphor, and prosody to gain an appreciation of how the words you choose, the images you create, and the way your sentences sound serve your style.
Taught by highly acclaimed authors and poets who value the art of teaching as much as the art of writing, the BFA in Creative Writing is one of less than thirty such undergraduate programs in the country. As part of Mason’s literary community, students also have access to first-rate professional development opportunities with the program’s affiliated initiatives such as Fall for the Book, a premier literary festival; Stillhouse Press, a student-managed book publishing imprint; and Poetry Daily, a daily online poetry journal.
Finally, your storytelling skills are a highly desirable commodity in today’s marketplace. Journalists, editors, webmasters, marketers, social media experts, and public relations practioners remain in great demand. Corporations and nonprofits alike seek storytellers to advance their missions, tout their products and services, and convince donors to make charitable contributions. Employers also seek employees with "emotional intelligence," the kind of team member who demonstrates mindfulness and embraces empathy that grows directly from the art of storytelling, the curiosity to examine life, and the desire to grapple with the human condition. Mason English/BFA graduates have gone on to rewarding careers in the arts and art administration, education, media and design, management, business operations, legal occupations, and the healthcare and tech industries.
Speaking of tech, here’s the failsafe of being an English major in general and a BFA student in particular: new technologies won't make storytelling obsolete, no more than cave walls giving way to clay tablets giving way to papyrus scrolls giving way to smartphones diminished our essential narrative drive to create stories.
Write the next chapter of your story today in the BFA in Creative Writing program. Drop us a line at MasonCW@gmu.edu to ask how.