The resounding statement regarding the creative writing major at Sewanee is that it has been a long time coming. While students have enjoyed the opportunity to pursue a certificate in creative writing since 2011, the major has yet to be solidified.
“Change comes slowly to Sewanee,” said Dr. Elizabeth Grammer, Assistant Professor of English, but the University is now on the cusp of the full realization of a new creative writing major, set for the Fall of 2022.
Obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic have naturally delayed the process of bringing this major to fruition. Most notably, a hiring freeze has prevented the expansion of the creative writing department through the end of the year.
Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of the Certificate in Creative Writing Kevin Wilson, who has been deeply involved in the development of the major, emphasizes the unique aspects of studying creative writing at Sewanee.
“While many peer institutions may have creative writing as a concentration within an English major, this will be a major of its own,” Wilson said..
Wilson lists poetry, fiction, and playwriting as the genres that students will be able to pursue. These tracks were designed by faculty in the English department, and in the case of playwriting; the theatre department.
Providing a sense of what the coursework will entail, Wilson describes “form courses” in which students will critically examine form in other writings while, in conjunction, experimenting with it in their work.
Apart from the structure of the major, Sewanee also is distinctive from other programs in that it
boasts the presence of literary institutions such as The Sewanee Review, the School of Letters, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference (SYWC).
As Director of the SYWC, Grammer is excited to have more to offer young writers as they consider where to further their education.
“Since 1994, this has been a dream–being able to tell these extraordinarily talented young people that we want them, that they have a home here, and that they will be nurtured here, in a place known for its creative writing tradition”she explained.
Derby Carlson (C’23) can attest to the influence of the Sewanee Young Writers’ conference. As someone who attended as a high school student, she notes that her participation in the conference was instrumental in her choice to attend Sewanee.
Carlson, currently an English major intending to continue her involvement in the creative writing program, describes herself as “ecstatic” about the development of the major.
“I am someone who ultimately fell in love with Sewanee because of their creative writing program, so I am very excited about the possibility that I might get to major in it,” Carlson expressed, “I believe that this a great opportunity for Sewanee’s future.”
In anticipation of the major’s official inception, Wilson welcomes anyone interested in pursuing the major to speak with him.