By Courtney Kratz, Staff Writer
As of spring 2015 the Furman English department has implemented a new set of requirements for the English major and is currently in the process of creating an entirely new creative writing track.
The discussion for changing the major began about two years ago. “The purpose was to make the major more manageable, slimmer and to free the major up a little so it would be easier for students to complete, particularly students who are double majors,” said English Department Chair David Bost.
After a year and a half of exhaustive development, chaired by English professor Melinda Menzer, the department created a proposal based on the information they had gathered from majors at other universities and the history of enrollment. The proposal was then approved by the Academic Policies Committee, a standing faculty committee, and ultimately implemented after the entire faculty voted to approve it last spring. Any students who have declared an English major since then will be a major under the new system.
The main changes to the major include changing the array from five categories to three and reducing the total number of courses from 10 to nine.
“It’s a smaller major and it’s simpler internally. The students have a lot more freedom to take elective courses,” Bost said.
While no new courses were added, their organization and ability to count towards the major have changed. The goal of these alterations is to hopefully gain new English majors and give them a more manageable experience. In particular, the major was designed to accommodate students who want to double major, maintain a part-time job, pursue an extracurricular or even study abroad.
“It’s still plenty big enough to be a good, solid, robust major,” Bost said.“They’re all doing more or less the same thing.” Bost said.
The department has also taken steps towards creating a new creative writing track within the major. Unlike a minor, the track will function more like a specialization within the existing English major array.
Discussion of the new track arose from writers within the English department, such as Dr. Morris, Dr. Tevis and Dr. Bhati. Responding to the rise of creative writing programs across the country, the department hopes to attract students to the department as well as the university. The track proposal reads, “This option will enable interested majors to employ a variety of strategies and techniques as they explore the craft of writing, to gain a deeper understanding of genres and to develop skill in critiquing their own and others’ work.”
This is welcome news for generations of students at Furman who have been interested in creative writing. Previous students such as Nicholas Holt, class of 2016, and others who are interested in writing even passed around a petition last year requesting a creative writing-focused program for students.
“The professors we spoke to were receptive. I started the petition because some friends and I wished the department would offer more writing courses, in addition to the courses already offered,” said Holt in an email. While Holt’s petition may have brought more attention to the track, he said that the department was already in the process of making changes to the major and creating the Creative Writing track when he began the petition.
The track itself includes two core courses from the Early Traditions, Cultural or Global Studies sections of the major, as well as three writing courses, two English courses numbered 200 or higher, and ENG-476, a senior seminar which focuses on developing a portfolio, possibly for MFA (Master of Fine Arts) admission. The track will also include the introduction of a new, multi-genre Introduction to Creative Writing (ENG-201).
“It’s been a long time coming,” Bost said. “There’s been a desire among a number of people, not only in the department but also in the university, that we do more with creative writing and get more students involved in it, and that we have an academic track for those students.”
The track would include special attention from professors in the English department who are also writers, who understand the process and its challenges.
“In a sense you’re working under someone who is your guide and mentor, but at the same time, you’re kind of working on the same level in that you’re also working as a creator, as a producer, as a writer. So there’s an interesting relationship at work there,” Bost said.
Students will be able to commit to the track once they declare an English major. In addition, the track itself will function alongside The Furman Advantage, giving students the possibility for participating in the literature scene in Greenville.
The Creative Writing track proposal was submitted to the Academic Policies Committee on Nov. 4. The department has signed off on it, and now it simply needs approval from the Academic Policies Committee to be revised or sent to one of the seven annual faculty meetings for a vote. The track could be in place as early as January of next year.
While changes to the original requirements represent a more flexible major, a new Creative Writing track could provide an even more specialized experience.