Students may concentrate in one genre such as poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or screenwriting, or they may have a dual concentration in two of these genres. Since it is felt that working in more than one genre can benefit the writer’s development, students are encouraged to work outside their main genre for a workshop or even an entire semester. Dual-genre concentrations will produce a final book-length thesis that includes work in both chosen genres.
In fiction, students may pursue writing that is literary or they may write in any of the other sub-genres of fiction such as YA, historical, or “popular,” as long as the writing is well crafted, with complex characters, original prose, and avoids plot clichés. Writing in any genre is intended to be polished and nuanced. Students wishing to gain real-world, vocational training in publishing/editing will need to have a dual concentration in Publishing/Editing as well as a creative genre (see below). A student wishing to pursue a concentration in Spiritual Writing (see below) may do so in any of the three genres of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction, or in combination.
In addition to situating their study of writing within the writer’s chosen genre of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or scriptwriting/playing, Fairfield MFA students are also invited to concentrate their studies within the area of Publishing and Editing. Fairfield University is home to two national literary magazines Dogwood (print) and Mason’s Road (online), and the English internship coordinator has extensive connections within New York trade publishing. In addition to opportunities to take leadership roles at these journals, several faculty of the program direct literary presses, so students may avail themselves of practical editorial training at a wide variety of publishing venues while attending the program. Such professional training benefits the writer’s work while at the same time developing skills that lend themselves to employment in the field after graduation. Fairfield students will thus be able to take full advantage of the many skills and experience our faculty has to offer in regards to the publishing field; they will graduate the MFA program not only skilled in their genre of creative writing but will be able to apply their publishing/editing experience to enhance their ability to attain employment in publishing.
Students in all genres can pursue the topics of illness, recovery, providing or receiving healthcare, or another topic having to do with mental and physical health. Our faculty in this concentration include authors who have published literary work in all genres that explores the body and mind at various stages of health in both narrative and lyric modes. Our concentration is informed by literature's long-standing focus on the intersecting challenges of the body and the mind as well as by a growing interest in healthcare toward narrative medicine and the use of stories, poetry, essays, and other forms to share perspectives about healthcare and specific conditions. We see writing about health and illness as a complex literary act intended for a wide range of potential audiences, from fellow patients or caregivers to health providers to society at large. Our concentration is also strengthened by an Integrative Nursing & Health Sciences Initiative at Fairfield University and strong relationships between the MFA program and the School of Nursing at Fairfield University.
Fairfield University is uniquely qualified to offer an MFA concentration in “Spiritual Writing.” Our MFA faculty are widely published and well versed in the varieties of spiritual writing, having published books of poetry, memoir and fiction that relate to issues of spirituality in the broadest sense. Additionally, Fairfield has a wealth of full-time faculty on the Fairfield campus whose expertise and background we are able to draw upon to offer our students timely lectures at the residency on various aspects of spirituality and writing; such lectures underpin the requirements for the concentration and strengthen it. Furthermore, our Inspired Writer author series as well as in our broad range of spiritual, philosophical, and theological lectures on campus would prove to be a wonderful supplement for our students’ educational development as writers on spiritual issues.
In addition to situating their study of writing within the writer’s chosen genre of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, Fairfield M.F.A. students are also invited to concentrate their studies within the area of Spiritual Writing. The faculty teaching in this part of the program broadly defines the term spiritual writing to include organized religion alongside faith traditions and spiritual practices that thread themselves throughout many literary traditions and throughout the whole of human experience. Students may study spiritual writing thematically, or examine the writing process as spiritual practice, or discover, through workshops, what aspects of spiritual writing inform their own work. One of several concentration choices designed to enhance students’ experience of writing within their chosen genre, the spiritual writing concentration aims to deepen students’ own participation in framing important, age-old questions in ways that mirror the reflective and meditative practices that underpin their own writing life.
Workshops will be offered each residency that allow students to explore various aspects of this topic whilst continuing to work in their genre. Such workshops include but are not limited to “Writing as Spiritual Practice,” “The Spirit in Nature,” “Revelation and Post-Revelation across Genre,” “Writing about Loss,” “The Spirit and the Body,” and “Nature and Spiritual Writing.” The student’s semester reading will be developed around the theme of spiritual reading. The third semester project and a substantial portion of the thesis should be engaged on some level with spiritual writing, and the introduction to the student’s thesis will address the way in which spirituality informs the work completed. Below is a sample reading list for the student interested in pursuing a concentration in spiritual writing.
Spiritual Writing: Partial Reading List (poetry):
Selections from John Donne, George Herbert, G.M. Hopkins, Thomas Merton, George Oppen, W. S. Merwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Li-Young Li, Emily Dickinson, Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Ranier Maria Rilke. Duino Elegies
John Berryman. 77 Dream Songs
Anne Carson. Plainwater
Dara Wier. Reverse Rapture
John Ashbery. Flow Chart
Prose (about process or craft):
Lewis Hyde. The Gift.
James Lord. A Giacometti Portrait.
Ranier Maria Rilke. Letters to a Young Poet.
Wallace Stevens. The Necessary Angel.
Basho. Narrow Road to the Deep North.
Dillard, Annie. The Writing Life.
Short Story Collections:
Atwood, Margaret. Moral Disorder.
Some of Chekhov’s stories, such as “The Bishop” and “The Student.”
Joyce, James. Dubliners, including “The Dead.”
Hawthorn. The Scarlet Letter.
Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop.
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse.
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible.
Morrison, Tony. Beloved.
Melville, Herman. Moby Dick.
Patchett, Anne. Bel Canto.
Banks, Russell. The Sweet Hereafter.
Harrison, Ron. Mariette in Ecstasy.
Erdich, Louise. Love Medicine.
Erdich, Louise. The Round House.
Enright, Anne. The Gathering.
Martin, Valerie. Trespass.
Martin, Valerie. Property.
Lightman, Alan. Einstein’s Dreams.
Obreht, Ta. The Tiger’s Wife.
White, Michael. The Garden of Martyrs.
Robinson, Marilynn. Gilead.
Robinson, Marilynn. Home.
Schlink, Bernhard. The Reader.
Strout, Elizabeth. Abide with Me.
Giardina, Denise. Saints and Villains.
Osborn, Karen. Centerville.
Basch, Rachel. The Passion of Reverend Nash.
Pamuk, Orhan. Snow.
Saramago, Jose. The Stone Raft.
Homer. The Odyssey.
Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things.
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist.
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha.
C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters.
Martel, Yann. Life of Pi.
Bunyan, John. Pilgrim’s Progress.
Diamant, Anita. The Red Tent.