Twenty seniors are currently working on creative theses—double the number of students who wrote them in 2013, according to the English department’s undergraduate program administrator, Lauren Bimmler.
While the application and prerequisites for a creative thesis have changed little, the addition of journalism and screenplay writing class offerings has created new opportunities for more varied theses in creative writing.
The creative writing thesis is an opportunity for students to work closely with professional writers to produce a substantial creative work, and in recent years, the number of students writing creative theses has been growing.
English concentrator and creative thesis writer Kelley Guinn McArtor ’16 credited the increased interest in writing a creative thesis both to these new offerings and to the incorporation of creative assignments in classes outside of the English department.
“I think it’s a result of an increase in creative workshops coupled with teachers encouraging students to pursue creative writing in other classes,” she said. “Each year, they seem to introduce more and more opportunities to write creatively.”
Faculty advisers in the program work closely with students starting in their junior year. Many students find the advising relationship both helpful and inspiring.
“It’s been interesting to hear directly from someone who has published works,” Dianisbeth M. Acquie ’16 said. “It makes me think about my own future.”
Advisers provide both feedback and support throughout the lengthy writing process. “As a thesis adviser, you are there to support their imagination, but the young writer needs to generate the work on their own,” Claire D. Messud, an English lecturer who teaches fiction, said.
English concentrators and joint-concentrators interested in writing theses must apply in the spring of their junior year by submitting a thesis proposal and writing samples for faculty review.
English lecturer and faculty adviser Sam W. Marks, commenting on the selection of thesis writers, said, “We chose primarily who we feel we can help the most and who is going to excel.”
Interested students must also have taken at least one creative writing course while at Harvard.
Some students said their experiences in creative workshops motivated their decision to write creative theses.
“I went through junior tutorial, and I thought I would write a critical thesis,” Acquie said. “But junior spring I took a creative writing class with Jamaica Kincaid, and I realized I wanted to do more storytelling.”
McArtor added that the number of opportunities to study creative writing at Harvard surprised her.
“I went into college thinking I would not have time to write my own poetry, let alone pursue a creative thesis,” McArtor said.
—Staff writer Brittany N. Ellis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @britt_ellis10.
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