Major: English and Creative Writing

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#1 Ranked Undergraduate Creative Writing Program — College Magazine

Major in English and Creative Writing:  42 semester hours (approximately 14 courses) including a minimum of 6 literature courses and 7 writing courses. The last course may be an elective in literature or writing. Students may focus their writing in a genre such as fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, or playwriting. 

The English and Creative Writing major enables students to learn the historical and traditional aspects of English literature and its relation to the craft of writing. The major provides the transferable skills important for a liberal arts major, including the ability to think strategically, read complex texts with comprehension, and master writing and speaking skills at an advanced level.

The English and Creative Writing major introduces students to the wealth of resources associated with the University of Iowa and Iowa City writing communities.  For the past 75 years, the Department of English and the UI Writers’ Workshop have been leaders in the area of writing. The MFA offered by the Nonfiction Writing Program and administered bythe Department of English has been voted the top MFA program in creative nonfiction in the United States. Likewise, the MFA program in the Writers’ Workshop is annually noted as the   top graduate program in the country. The international reputation of writing at Iowa is boosted by synergy across colleges, with the International Writing Program hosting published writers each fall from countries around the world and each spring traveling to other countries, taking Iowa writing “on the road.” This synergy helps the University and Iowa City draw writers of all ages and nationalities to its writing community. This community is bolstered by the strong readings series offered by the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Writers’ Workshop, and Prairie Lights Books, with hundreds of readings archived by the Iowa Digital Library, creating a resource for future writers and scholars. The status of Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature has also enriched the writing community, with people from across the Midwest visiting the town during the annual Book Festival. The new MOOCs offered by the Department of English, “Every Atom: Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself,” and by the International Writing Program’s series called “How Writers Write” have enrolled thousands of students and adult learners, enhancing the reputation of Iowa as the Writing University. The Summer Writing Festival, Iowa Young Writers Studies, the Certificate in Writing, the Center for the Book, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and the Iowa Youth Writing Project all help to turn Iowa City into a destination for young writers, who are drawn to the city for its heritage and for its current community of writers.

Please note that "creative writing" encompasses CW courses (fiction and poetry), CNW (creative non-fiction) and some THTR (playwriting) and ENGL 37** and 47** (creative writing track courses in fiction, non-fiction, playwriting,translation, poetry).   Search accordingly when looking for coursework.


The Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing will require a minimum of 120 s.h., including at least 42 s.h. of work for the major. Students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.00 in all courses for the major and in all UI courses for the major. Transfer students must earn at  least 30 s.h. work for the major at the University of Iowa, with at least 15 s.h. of course work in English literary study and 15 s.h. of course work in creative writing taken in residence at the University of Iowa.

Students earning the major in English may not earn the major in English and Creative Writing and students completing the English and Creative Writing major may not earn a second major in English (either with or without the creative writing track).


Both of the following courses below are required.

ENGL: 2010 Foundations of the English Major                                                                       3 s.h.

ENGL: 2020 Foundations of Creative Writing                                                                         3 s.h.


The core in English courses helps students to learn and practice critical reading and analysis and to understand the relation of literature to history and culture, introducing students to the context and tradition of English literature.


A minimum of 3 s.h. must be completed from each of the following five areas of English literary study, for a minimum of a total of 15 s.h of courses selected from the list below.


American literature and culture

Literary theory and interdisciplinary studies

Medieval and early modern literature and culture

Modern British literature and culture

Transnational literature and postcolonial studies


A minimum of 3 s.h. must be completed from each of the following three historical periods in English literary study:

Early literatures through the 17th century

18th/19th-century literature

20th/21st-century literature

NOTEThe area and historical periods for English courses are identified in the course description on ISIS, in the MAUI course library, and in the General Catalog. Since most courses satisfy both an area of English literary study and historical period, most students complete these requirements with the same course.


Students must complete one class (a minimum of 3 s.h.) in multiethnic American literature and culture. A list of approved courses, drawn from appropriate courses in the above areas, is below the list of Creative Writing requirements. Students may complete this course by taking a course also counting for another requirement for the major.


The creative writing core ensures students have an in-depth class in one literary genre at the intermediate level, three specialized creative writing classes at the advanced level, and an opportunity to enroll in two electives at any level.

A minimum of 18 s.h. is required in creative writing courses in addition to the 3 s.h. introductory course above.


A minimum of 3 s.h. selected from the following the following intermediate courses:

ENGL 3721 Writers’ Seminar: Fiction                                                            3 s.h.

ENGL 3722 Writers’ Seminar: Poetry                                                            3 s.h.

ENGL 3723 Writers’ Seminar: Nonfiction                                                      3 s.h.

ENGL 3724 Writers’ Seminar: Literary Translation                                       3 s.h.

ENGL 3725 Writers’ Seminar: Playwriting                                                     3 s.h.



A minimum of 9 s.h. in advanced creative writing courses selected from the following options, all of which are reserved for staffing by tenured and tenure-track faculty, lecturers, and distinguished visitors. These courses are repeatable.

ENGL 4720 Creative Writing: Special Topics                                                 3 s.h.

ENGL 4020 Honors Thesis Workshop                                                              3 s.h.

CNW 4635 Advanced Creative Nonfiction Workshop                                    3 s.h.

CW 4870 Undergraduate Writers' Workshop: Fiction                                    3 s.h.

CW 4875 Undergraduate Writers' Workshop: Poetry                                    3 s.h.


The 6 s.h. of creative writing electives give students flexible choices, allowing a student to focus on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or other genres of writing or to sample multiple genres of writing. Many of the courses on this list are repeatable for credit, allowing students to focus on a single genre if they so choose. Some of these courses have prerequisites. The following courses are 3

  1. unless otherwise noted.


CINE: 2861                              Introduction to Screen Writing: Short

CINE: 2867                              Introduction to Screen Writing: Long

CNW 2680-2830                       Art and Craft of Nonfiction Writing: Various

CNW 2900                               The Essay Prize

CNW 3630                               Advanced Nonfiction Writing

CNW 3632                               Prose Style

CNW 3633                               Personal Writing

CNW 3660                               Multimedia Writing

CNW 3663                               Radio and Writing

CNW 3664                               Writing about Science

CNW 4631                               Undergraduate Essay Workshop

CNW 4635                               Advanced Creative Nonfiction Wkshp

CW 2100                                 Creative Writing

CW 2870                                 Fiction Writing

CW 2875                                  Poetry Writing

CW:3003                                   Writing and Reading Science Fiction

CW:3215                                   Creative Writing and Popular Culture

CW:3218                                   Creative Writing for New Media

CW 4870                                 Undergraduate Writers' Workshop: Fiction

CW 4875                                 Undergraduate Writers' Workshop: Poetry

ENGL 4020                               Honors Thesis Workshop

ENGL 4720                               Creative Writing Track: Special Topics

SPAN 4950                               Advanced Workshop on Creative Writing in Sp

THTR 2301                              Playwriting

THTR 3301                              Playwriting II

THTR 3300                              Advanced Playwriting

THTR 3310                              Undergraduate Playwriting

THTR 3320                              Writing for Film and Television

Approved courses for Diversity Requirement


ENGL:2460 (008:080) Black Literature and Politics: Controversies of National Allegiance

ENGL:2463 (008:083) Topics in African American Literature

ENGL:2465 (008:069) Selected African American Authors

 ENGL:2475 (008:086) Topics in Asian American Literature

 ENGL:3441 (008:153) Native American Literature

 ENGL:3444 (008:115) Literatures of the American Peoples

 ENGL:3455 (008:118) Jewish American Literature

 ENGL:3459 (008:116) African American Literature Before 1900

 ENGL:3460 (008:117) African American Literature After 1900

ENGL:3462 (008:186) African American Drama

ENGL:3465 (008:137) African American Autobiography

ENGL:4410 (008:162) Midwest African American Literature and Culture

The following courses will sometimes be designated as fulfilling the Multiethnic American Literature and Culture requirement depending on course content, which varies by semester. Consult ISIS for semester-specific information.

ENGL:2409 (008:087) Selected American Authors Before 1900                                                                  

ENGL:2410 (008:088) Selected American Authors After 1900                                                                      


Students majoring in English and Creative Writing may not count the following lower-level courses toward the major:

ENGL:1410 (008:003) Sex and Popular Culture in the Postwar U.S.; ENGL:1420 (008:006) Technologies and Literatures of the Future; CNW:1620 (08N:020) Introduction to Creative Nonfiction; CW:1800 (08C:001) Creative Writing Studio Workshop;

courses with the prefix ENNM; and

courses numbered ENGL:1200 (08G:001) through ENGL:1355 (08G:005).

These courses also do not count toward the English major or to the English and Creative Writing major.

Creative Writing Program Personnel:
Robyn Schiff, Director

Picture of Robyn Schiff, woman with long dark hair

Kate Torno, Academic Advisor


 Provost's Postgraduate Visiting Writer for Nonfiction

 Provost's Postgraduate Visiting Writer for Poetry

 Provost's Postgraduate Visiting Writer for Translation

, Provost's Postgraduate Visiting Writer for Fiction

Alum talk about writing:  Trent Reedy, author of 6 books, was at Iowa before the creative writing track existed, but speaks about his development as a writer.

Listen to alum Cade Scott interview authors about their writing craft and inspiration to give new writers insights into the career of writing. 

Extra-Curriculars for all English majors

English Society (student organization): English Society members are excited to introduce a variety of new initiatives, looking to increase fellowship among English majors and minors and provide service opportunities for literary-minded undergraduates.  In addition to holding monthly meetings and study breaks during finals, the student-run organization will be hosting tea parties where students and professors can enjoy tea and conversation outside the classroom.  This past Fall, the Society unveiled their first ever Gothic Lit Writing contest, allowing students an outlet for their creative efforts and a chance to win a gift card to Prairie Lights and participate in a public reading.  Due to its success, the Society held a Winter Writing contest as well.  Be sure to attend a general meeting on in Gerber Lounge, and keep an eye out on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr for more exciting programming from the English Society in the coming months.  They meet every other Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Gerber Lounge.

Common Questions about the new English and Creative Writing major answered in video format