Iuea Admissions Essay
You have been writing poetry for long enough to know that it is as vital part of your life, and are looking for expert guidance and feedback in order to develop your writing practice further. One-off workshops and short courses are not enough, and you wish to work in a group that is of a consistently high level, and which offers rigorous feedback and intensive support. You are also committed to offering this in return.
You want a chance to put poetry at the forefront of your life, to be absorbed in writing and reading, and to discover more about your imaginative, artistic and intellectual capabilities. An academic context allows you to do this through learning more about poetry across time and place, about form and technique, concept and theory, cause and effect. It is a chance to read the kinds of poetry you’ve never come across and discover the potential of poetry beyond the forms and approaches you already know.
The MA in Creative Writing Poetry offers a year of intensive reading, writing, exploration and risk-taking during which you develop a body of work close in length to a first collection. We aim to support you in writing poetry of a publishable standard and to create a supportive but rigorous environment in which you feel encouraged to test, extend and refine your poetic technique – an experience that is often exciting and sometimes uncomfortable but always rewarding. With this in mind, we also give you the chance to learn more about publishing procedures and opportunities, readings, literary awards and more. You will benefit from the ways in which the study of poetry enhances analytical, conceptual and verbal skills, as well as refine your powers of precision, argument and logic.
As part of UEA’s Creative Writing community, you will have the opportunity to meet some of the UK’s leading poets and poetry editors, and to benefit from their insight and expertise. Our annual anthology is professionally published and distributed to a key list of poetry houses and other contacts. The UEA literary festival attracts some of our leading poets, such as Carol Ann Duffy, Don Paterson, Simon Armitage and Robin Robertson. UEA also hosts an annual Poetry Festival, part of which is an event showcasing the MA poets’ work. You will have the opportunity to attend a masterclass and to discuss your writing one-to-one with the Poetry Festival Fellow, who will be resident at UEA for a fortnight in the Spring semester. UEA is also part of a thriving network of regional poetry activity which offers plenty of opportunity to gain performance experience and to get involved in publication.
The core element of the course is the weekly three-hour workshop in a group of around 12 students. The workshop structure varies but generally consists of close critical discussion of the work of three students plus a session on some aspect of poetry. Work is circulated a week in advance and annotated in detail before being returned to its author. The tutor may also circulate texts for discussion.
In addition to the weekly workshop, the MA includes a course on describing poetry as well as a number of optional modules ranging from publishing to translation. You will receive regular individual tutorials and extensive written feedback on your coursework.
There is no workshop in the summer semester (May to June), during which time you have one-to-one sessions with your dissertation tutor. In July and August you work independently, although you may, with your peers, continue the workshop in some form. Over this period you will write your dissertation, which is a body of poetry and a critical commentary on it.
There are two coursework submissions for the Poetry Workshop, in January and May respectively, each of 12 poems and a critical commentary. The dissertation consists of approximately 15 poems plus a critical commentary and is submitted in September. The assessment for the Describing Poetry module is a 3,000-word essay, or a 2,000-word essay plus a 1,000-word poetry review. Assessments for option modules vary, but are typically a 3,000-word essay or an equivalent portfolio of creative and/or critical work.
Course tutors and research interests
In 2018/19 the two main tutors for this course are Professor Tiffany Atkinson and Dr Sophie Robinson, both of whom are published poets with extensive experience in their field.
Staff in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing are writers as well as teachers. Many write novels, short stories, poems and plays, contribute articles to newspapers and appear on television and radio arts programmes. Our body of teaching staff includes tutors such as Peter Womack, Stephen Benson, Rebecca Stott, Steve Waters, Rachel Potter and Jeremy Noel-Tod. Expect to be inspired by leading figures in the literary world such as Kathryn Hughes, writer of the biographies of Mrs Beeton and George Eliot, Giles Foden, whose novel The Last King of Scotland was made into an Oscar-winning Hollywood movie, and the internationally renowned novelist, poet, essayist, Booker Prize judge and musician Amit Chaudhuri.
Our poetry graduates go on to enjoy all kinds of careers, especially in the literary arts. Several have received scholarships for further work at PhD level; many work in publishing (at Granta and the London Review of Books, for example); and many publish their poetry to acclaim: most recently, for example, Mona Arshi (MA Poetry 2010) won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2015, Sam Buchan-Watts (MA Poetry 2014) was named a Faber & Faber New Poet in 2015, Sohini Basak (MA Poetry 2016) was winner of the Eyewear Publishing Beverly Series Poetry Prize, and Sean Wai Keung (MA Poetry 2016) was the winner of the inaugural Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition 2016.
Frequently asked questions
What are we looking for?
We are not looking for a particular kind of poet, nor do we have a house style. Our students come from all kinds of backgrounds and write in very different ways. What we look for is an emerging poetic self, the beginnings of a voice unlike any other, a deep engagement with all kinds of poetry, an understanding of how a poem might work, and the analytical and imaginative capacity both to bring a poem to fruition, and to engage in rigorous discussion of poems and the craft of poetry.
Course Modules 2018/9
DisclaimerWhilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. In some cases optional modules can have limited places available and so you may be asked to make additional module choices in the event you do not gain a place on your first choice. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.
Students must study the following modules for 160 credits:
This 10-credit module consists of a day-long series of presentations and plenary discussions delivered by Creative Writing and Critical faculty of direct relevance to the practical aspects of researching and writing a major piece of creative work. It is intended for all students on the Prose Fiction, Poetry, Scriptwriting and Biography and Creative Non-Fiction MA courses. Attendance is compulsory.
Only students who are registered for the MA in Creative Writing: Poetry may enrol for this module.
Only students who are registered for Creative Writing: Poetry may enrol for this module. In the second workshop you will continue to hone your skills as a writer and reader of poetry. Each week you will engage in a rigorous feedback process on peers' poems, and discuss a key element of poetic technique with reference to the work of a significant published poet. Teaching will be responsive to the individual needs of group members, and will develop reading and writing practice suggestions from week to week. You will also be encouraged to bring your own independent discoveries as a reader and writer to the discussion, and to take part in the wider poetry community and poetry activities of UEA and Norwich, a UNESCO City of Literature. Group discussion of your work in seminar (twice a term) will be followed by a half-hour one-to-one tutorial at a time tbc.
We often think of poetry as a descriptive art, representing our experience of the world. One of the most important things it describes, however, is the experience of language. This module will consider some of the ways in which poetic language has been described in philosophy and literary criticism, and some of the poems in which it has described itself. It offers a historical survey of some of the major texts in Western poetics, from Plato to contemporary writers, to be read alongside a range of poems. You will be encouraged to contribute texts from their own reading for discussion. Short formative exercises will also be set in class, in preparation for the final 5,000-word coursework essay or portfolio coursework of 2,000-word book review and 3,000-word essay.
Students will select 20 credits from the following modules:
Students must select a Semester 2 module only.
Critical reading and creative writing collide when adapting a text for performance in another medium. The very process forces a string of questions: Is it possible to separate a story from its expression? What, if any, are the obligations owed to the source text? Must the adaptation always be 'secondary'? Can we define a 'good' adaptation? The questions only grow more interesting if we consider changes in reception and more complex when we alter era or cultural setting. This module focuses on key questions in dramatic adaptation, establishing a foundation in basic theory and then focusing on readings of source works and screenings or performances of adaptations. Seminar discussions probe the choices offered by original texts and explore the possibilities and limitations inherent in different forms. In the later sessions, you will have the opportunity to workshop an adaptation for a final project. Writers are expected to produce scripts, while theatre directors will have to option to produce a script or a performance. The module is a must for scriptwriters, but no prior scriptwriting experience is necessary as the seminars teach the basic techniques of dramatic writing. Class workshop will further develop skills in the specific dramatic forms.
Various attempts at (sub-)categorising contemporary fiction interpret it as a departure from previous aesthetics or a response to political or historical events or movements: post-modern; post-colonial; post-feminist; post-communist; post-9/11; post-millenial; post-national; even post-post-modern etc. As a prefix, "post-" suggests supersedence rather than novelty; at worst it is merely an aspirational syllable. Its proliferation co-exists with more conventional attempts at temporal taxonomy such as monographs and student guides dedicated to specific decades. One way of reading "post"-something-or-other is to think of it as an engagement with, and critical reassessment of, the past it so assiduously hyphenates: its literary conventions, cultural heritage, philosophical traditions, political ideologies, and - paradoxically - its long shadows way beyond the present moment. The manifestations of these engagements and reassessments can be rather contradictory. The memory boom of the 1990s put paid to claims about "the end of history" or skepticism over Grand Narratives. The renewed popularity of the (neo)historical novel and period drama also chafes against the recent turn towards trauma studies. The effects of new market forces, media and digital technology on the form of writing and the construction of the "author" could also be seen as one of the legacies of modernism. A focus on mindfulness, ethics and affect sits uneasily alongside the necessity for art to provoke and push boundaries. Expressions of the regional contend with an increasing awareness of transnational subjects, diasporic identities and global issues, and some of the most interesting writing today comes from 'the East' or writers with hybrid origins and hyphenated identities. Can fiction still be formally inventive and how might it enter into dialogue with other art forms (photography, sculpture, painting, cinema)? In the light of the critical and commercial success of 'creative non-fiction' we might also want to ask precisely how narrative can perforate disciplinary and generic categories. On this module we will attempt to construct a (naturally provisional, selective and incomplete) genealogy of the contemporary by examining some of the discernible trends and tensions of relatively recent. Much of this writing will be Anglophone but you should be prepared for adventures in reading translations. We will also have the opportunity to do some work in UEA's newly founded Archive of Contemporary Literature: what and who is being archived according to which criteria, and what do archivists, academics and critics consider archival about the contemporary?
Too often, academic critical writing seems to bring pre-packaged language to bear on works whose whole essence and aim is to change the ways in which we see and describe our world. And too often such writing fails to acknowledge the ways in which it itself participates in the literary 'creativity' it is also about. How, then, to write criticism? Criticism which responds inventively to the literature which it analyses? Criticism which registers, in its own form, language, method and the ways in which it has been transformed by the work(s) of art it encounters? Criticism which recognises that it cannot rest on received concepts and categories? In this module you'll explore these questions. Over the course of the semester we'll read, ponder and experiment with a broad range of possible ways of practising creative-criticism, including the essay form, auto-commentary, conceptual writing, inventive 'theoretical' writing, and diaristic writing. Your assessed work for the module will be in two parts: a piece of creative-critical writing of your own and a critical reflection on a particular aspect of the theory and practice of creative criticism.
Throughout the medieval and Early-Modern periods Norwich was one of England's most important cities - probably second only to London - and East Anglia one of the country's culturally liveliest and richest areas. You will explore the literature of these periods in its material contexts (the region's prosperity and power may still be seen in its architecture and in the rich holdings of its libraries and museums) and ask whether there was a specifically East Anglian cultural tradition. You will explore East Anglia's rich dramatic traditions, its devotional literature and practices (in orthodox forms and in those that brush against the heterodox), and, insistently, the manner in which its literature participates in its broader social and cultural worlds.
Oscar Wilde wrote that 'The youth of America is their oldest tradition; it has been going on now for three hundred years'. Is this true? If so, why? This module aims to account for the preoccupation with youth in America, focusing particularly on the concept of 'innocence'. Drawing on a wide array of fictional and theoretical works, you'll consider the following questions: What is at stake in America's investment in innocence? What power interests and ideologies are maintained by repeatedly describing America as 'innocent'? How is this investment in innocence revised in different historical moments? How is it challenged? How is innocence (and loss of innocence) depicted differently for female, male, white and non-white protagonists? At the end of this module, you'll have had the opportunity to reflect on these questions in seminars, and pursued your own interests in assessed work (presentation and essay). You will also have developed your communication, writing and research skills.
The aim of this mixed creative-critical module is twofold: both to explore together some of the major works of playful or 'ludic' modern literature across various languages, and to develop our appreciation of style and form by practising various forms of writing that are themselves ludic: creative imitation, parody, transposition from one style and form to another, creative translation. In play, we will find, the boundary between the 'creative' and the 'critical' becomes unclear. The module is generally taken by a mix of students from the various critical and creative writing MAs, as well as by students in Literature and Philosophy. On the 'critical' side, the module traces the evolution of leading postmodernist styles and themes, especially ludic ones, back to their origins in Dostoevsky, Joyce, Kafka, Borges, and Nabokov. Using these enormously influential authors as a starting point, we read a range of ludic authors, passing back and forth between languages, nations, and genres. Each week we usually pair two authors. In previous years we have studied, for example, Dostoevsky against Nabokov, Kafka against Borges, Perec against Queneau and Calvino, Carter against Coover, Muldoon against Heaney, Pynchon against Barthelme, and Ashbery against Mallarme. There is also a strong philosophical element of the module, you will be encouraged to explore the philosophical theory of aesthetic play in Kant, Schiller, and Nietzsche, and later in Huizinga and Derrida. On the 'creative' side in previous years we have, for example, read Kafka's short tales against Borges's re-writings of them, tried to write like Kafka or Borges, turned a Kafka story into a Dostoevsky paragraph or a Nabokov poem, explored the various translations of these authors, and played with re-translating them. We have taken a story by Coover and re-written it as a sestina, two kinds of sonnet, and a villanelle. In doing all this, we are asking fundamental questions not only about play but also about style and form, how they shape meaning and make possible certain kinds of writing and thinking. We are also returning to the way in which literature was studied, and creative writing engendered, before the invention of professional literary criticism and creative writing courses in the twentieth century. All students will be encouraged to try their hand at parodying and imitating the texts we are studying, though this is not compulsory. Final assessment can take the form of a 5000 word critical essay or of a combination of a creative piece and a critical essay, to make up 5000 words.
In a collaborative seminar or group-study format, you'll explore (together with the teacher) a range of topics in the philosophy of literature. Topics that you'll study will typically include: the definition and purpose of literature; the status of fictional characters; the relevance of author's intention and the role of interpretation in fixing meaning; aesthetic evaluation, taste, subjectivity and objectivity; the value of fakes and copies; the emotional effect of literature; whether literature can convey truth and knowledge, and the relationship between aesthetic judgement and ethics. You'll prepare a package of two essays relating to different parts of the course, preceded by formative drafts and essay tutorials.
Working from the assumption that the media are an integral part of modern political life, we will examine the way in which politics is represented in the media and reviews critically the argument about 'bias'. We will also explore the arguments around the ownership and control of media, the increasing use of the media by political parties and the changing relationship between citizens and politics engendered by new communication technologies.
Throughout this module you'll produce translations in conditions that encourage and facilitate reflection on the process and product of translation. You'll be encouraged to think experimentally, not only about the forms a finished translation might take, but also about the ways in which process might be incorporated into the translation. The module will have a workshop format and will culminate in a series of presentations of the projects on which you and your peers have chosen to work. In a series of sessions preceding the presentations you'll devote your time to the discussion and hands-on tackling of practical problems connected with translation and the projects ahead. You'll attend one class meeting at the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts and another at the Special Collections of the UEA Library. Throughout the semester you'll be encouraged to discuss a variety of texts, both critical and creative, that help illuminate the process and product of literary translation. You'll also be invited to circulate your own bibliographies (developed in relation to in-class presentations as well as the main project) to other members of the class, and to bring to our attention any text(s) you encounter that may be of particular relevance. Your final project will engage with the process of producing literary translation, and will comprise a scholarly discussion thereof illustrated by your own translations of a more or less experimental nature. The in-process project will be presented to the class for discussion and feedback in the second part of the semester.
Are you interested in how a book is selected for publication, in how to write for an online readership, or in learning how to edit? Whether you are a writer or a would-be publisher, this module will give you an introduction to the modern publishing industry and equip you with some of the practical skills involved in the successful publication of texts. As well as becoming acquainted with the structure and economics of the contemporary publishing world, the opportunities and challenges posed by digitalisation, you will examine the process whereby books are chosen by literary agents and publishers, review principles of text and jacket design, acquire basic copyediting and proofreading skills, learn tips for publicising books online, write jacket 'blurbs' and press releases. You will also engage with the principles and practice of blog-writing, with copyright law and aspects of publishing finance. In recent years speakers such as Chris Hamilton-Emery from Salt, Philip Gwyn Jones of Scribe, Rosie Sherwood of art-publisher Elbow Room and Eloise Wales of The Literary Platform have addressed the seminars. We have examined correspondence between authors and publishers in the UEA Archive of Contemporary Writing, visited the Jarrold's Print Museum in Norwich and the London International Book Fair. Towards the end of the module you will also have to opportunity to become involved in the editing of the annual MA Creative Writing anthologies. Assessment is by formal essay OR creative-critical assignment such as a literary blog.
'Hollywood' as an industry, cultural institution and maker of films has dominated the global cinematic imagination for decades. On this module, we investigate the history, production cultures and texts made by the US film industry from its classic period to contemporary filmmaking. This will include analysing Hollywood from a range of perspectives, which may include things like studio filmmaking, independent filmmaking, genre filmmaking and the blockbuster. In doing so we will discover the multiplicity of cinemas at work within the concept of Hollywood.
Some of the most exciting and innovative fiction of the moment is in fact a hybrid form of fiction, borrowing subject matter and techniques from traditionally non-fiction modes such as memoir, criticism, journalism, reportage and life-writing. These novels depart from the usual concerns with character, realistic dialogue and plot to focus on voice, place, time, employing strategies of literary craft to be formally innovative. You will look at original non-fiction and also at contemporary 'realist' novels which are pushing boundaries and gaining attention in the wider literary culture. You will study the forms, techniques and thematics of both non-fiction and fiction, with an aim to experimenting with and improving your writing in both forms. Some writing in class and between classes will be required.
This module sets out to understand why and how humanism -- the advocacy of the study of the humanities, the Greek and Roman classics -- gave birth to the astonishing outpouring of literature that we call the Renaissance. We will situate English Renaissance literature within the wider context of the humanist literature of France, the Netherlands, and Italy. Questions we consider include: how did the rediscovery of classical texts generate new possibilities for literary writers? How did humanists understand the nature of poetic creation? How did their advocacy of rhetoric create new ways for writers to engage with public life? And what happened when humanists turned philological methods upon the most sacred text of their culture: the bible? Our work will focus on the writings of Thomas More, Desiderius Erasmus, and Michel de Montaigne, but there will be opportunities to read far more widely in the Renaissance literature of the period. Foreign language texts are all read in translation. The might be of interest to anyone who wishes to gain an in-depth understanding of one of the most dazzling periods of European literary history.
This module will allow you to explore innovative and experimental forms of place writing, from the critical and theoretical to the literary and artistic. You'll study critical and theoretical approaches such as (though this may be subject to small changes each year) psychogeography, ecocriticism, critical heritage studies, deep mapping, animal studies, and literary activism. At the same time, you'll consider a number of original works of literature from recent years, thinking carefully about the relationship between theory, method and form. Some of the authors that you'll consider (though this may be subject to small changes each year) are: Richard Mabey, Alice Oswald, W.G. Sebald, R.F. Langley, Italo Calvino, Kei Miller, Sue Clifford and Angela King, Tim Robinson, Paul Farley, Kathleen Jamie, Iain Sinclair, and J.A Baker. During the module, you'll explore some of the following questions: how have different ways of 'framing' place influenced the sense of cultural identity associated with that place? What role might literature play in this? How might recent developments in theory and practice inform your own methods of place writing? How might they encourage you to experiment with new methods? What surprising literary forms might this lead to? And finally, what new ideas might this prompt about publication, exhibition and public engagement? On this module, you'll not only gain a strong foundation in debates concerning literature's relationship to the environment, to heritage, and to ideas of community but you'll engage with these debates following your own line of inquiry, and/or through your own developing practice, in ways that will equip you to take on similar projects after the MA as well.
This module is designed to complement the prose fiction workshop but is open to students on related programmes. You'll be provided with creative and critical knowledge in a single experiential burst, by exploring as they are relevant to writing fiction such topics as time, place, dramatic structure, character and concinnity. We'll also give consideration to professional issues confronting novelists, from writer's block to editing, contracts and dealing with the media. The module presents the writer as both artist and supplier of intellectual property to a market, while examining that and other tensions critically. Reading, writing and analysis happen alongside each other. You'll examine fictional, critical and professional texts, and write exercises illuminating the issue at hand. Assessment is by creative writing coursework with a critical commentary and you'll also be expected to make presentations on topics of your choice.
Jul 31, 2017
Our 2017-18 Application Essay Questions
Posted in: Miscellaneous
We've gotten some questions about our essay prompts for the forthcoming cycle. There's no reason to start on them now, but some people like to begin thinking and planning ahead of time, which I respect and value (maybe the most underappreciated thing a good college applicant can do is make sure everything is done on time!).
As you may know, we have our own application, with 5 short-answer essay questions (I've blogged about the philosophy behind that here). Sometimes we change the prompts between cycles, but this year, we've kept them the same as last year, to wit:
- We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it. (100 words or fewer)
- Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words or fewer)
- At MIT, we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc. (200-250 words)
- Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250 words)
- Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)
I want to quote Mikey from his post announcing these prompts last year:
People often ask me, "How do I stand out in an essay?" or something to that effect. As MIT admissions officers, our primary goal in reading these essays is to get to know you, the applicant. It's not to be wowed, or feel like we need to read the most unique piece of writing we've ever seen. Over my ten years of working in admissions, I've probably read over 100,000 essays; after a certain point, there's just no such thing as a truly *unique* essay. So worry less about coming up with something we've never read before (because we most likely have anyways), and focus more on making sure your essays authentically convey who you are (or some aspect of who you are). If I, the reader, am able to learn something new about you, then you've written a great response and the essay has served its purpose.
Lots of bloggers have posted about their own approach to essays (see, e.g., this post by me, this one by Krystal, and this one by Chris S.). But mostly, as Mikey said, I'd advise you to be strategically nonstrategic in your own essays, and not try to get into our (or anyone else's) headspace for your essays. One tip for checking this: give your essays to a good friend and ask if they can recognize you in the words as written. If so, it's probably a good essay for these purposes; if not, then you might reconsider whether this essay is doing the work it is supposed to do.
Good luck, and happy writing!