Students admitted to the MFA program enroll in two years of course work. At the end of this, typically, fiction students will produce a substantial manuscript in the form of a novella, a novel excerpt, or a collection of fiction. Poetry students will submit a collection of poetry. The program requires two full years of residency in Baltimore. Students enroll each semester in two courses: a writing workshop in poetry or fiction and a second course in craft or literature taught within the department. Poets will study with John T. Irwin, Mary Jo Salter, David Yezzi, James Arthur, and Dora Malech. Fiction writers will take courses with Alice McDermott, Jean McGarry, Brad Leithauser, Eric Puchner, and Matthew Klam.
Students will be assigned a director of thesis at the beginning of study—a faculty member in the student’s genre who serves as his or her adviser for the two years. In the second year, a reader will be assigned to the student—a faculty member from a second genre—who serves as a voting member of the student’s thesis committee.
At the end of the first year, students will present a first-year portfolio, approximately half the length of the projected thesis, for faculty review. A conversation with faculty will follow, to give the student guidance on the portfolio and an evaluation of performance as a student and a teacher. Successful completion of the first year is, of course, assumed, but it is a requirement for continuation in the second year.
Students applying to the MFA program should have a reading knowledge of a foreign language at the second-year college level. It is our belief that having a second language allows a writer the syntactic flexibility to experiment with the first language and permits development of a literary voice through a deeper understanding of how language functions. Students may show foreign language proficiency in the first semester by passing a placement exam or a translation test. Those who do not pass in the first semester have the option of enrolling in a full year of college-level foreign language study, to be passed no later than the end of the first semester of the second year.