The Programs in the writing of poetry and fiction lead to the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree in English. In addition to the workshops and seminars taught within the Writing Program by its faculty, instruction is offered by visiting writers. The curriculum is augmented by frequent readings on the Irvine campus.
The M.F.A. centers around the Graduate Writers' Workshop, a group which meets each quarter in poetry and fiction, in which faculty and students share in criticism and discussion of student writing. There are twelve MFA students in poetry and twelve in fiction, half in their first year and half in their second year in the Writing Program. About two-thirds of the Writing Program student's work consists of participation in the Workshop; the other third is devoted to graduate-level seminars offered by the MFA faculty and other faculty of the Department of English and Comparative Literature and other graduate programs. The aim of the Program in Writing is the training of accomplished writers who intend to make their writing their life. What we expect of our students is passionate precision, character, and stamina. What we want most for our students is that each will sooner or later write something that lasts. Successful writing, we think, is writing that succeeds itself each time it is read with interest and care by a succession of new readers. To facilitate such writing, the faculty has kept the Writing Program small in order to ensure the high quality of the students as well as to permit much teaching on a one-to-one basis. All students consult frequently with the staff for assistance with their work.
In recent years, visiting writers and lecturers have included: Ralph Angel, John Ashbery, Wilton Barnhardt, John Calvin Batchelor, Ethan Canin, Jennifer Clarvoe, Killarney Clary, Gwyneth Cravens, Stuart Dybek, Robert Farnsworth, Amy Gerstler, Louise Glück, Jay Gummerman, Ursula Hegi, Brenda Hillman, Rust Hills, T.R. Hummer, Cynthia Huntington, P.D. James, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Margot Livesey, Thomas Lux, Lynne McMahon, Heather McHugh, Maile Meloy, Jeredith Merrin, Josephine Miles, Wright Morris, Howard Moss, Carol Muske-Dukes, Robert Olmstead, Ann Patchett, Bette Pesetsky, Martha Rhodes, Mark Richard, Mary Robison, Thomas Sanchez, Sherod Santos, Christine Schutt, Lynn Sharon Schwartz, Alan Shapiro, Jim Shepard, Mona Simpson, Ted Solotaroff, Pamela Stewart, Robert Stone, Mark Strand, Melanie Thernstrom, Lawrence Thornton, Brad Watson, Joy Williams, and William Wiser.