About the PhD Creative/Critical Writing Concentration


UC Santa Cruz offers a concentration in Creative/Critical Writing for Literature Ph.D. students. This is an individualized course of study in which students can write a creative dissertation with a critical introduction or a cross-genre creative/critical project. Our students have completed speculative novels, collections of poems and personal essays, experimental memoirs, biographies, cross-genre work and translations of works of poetry and prose. Descriptions of previous qualifying exam and dissertation topics can be found with student bios here.  

In addition to taking critical literature courses, entering students take four graduate creative/critical writing classes (two “Creative Writing Studio” courses and two “Methods and Materials” courses taught by creative writing faculty). The “Creative Writing Studio” is a mixed-genre class that moves beyond the classic workshop mode to give students time to focus on their creative work in a supportive community. The “Methods and Materials” class is a seminar that examines one form, topic, and/or theme. Students can respond creatively, critically or creative/critically. Past classes have focused on autobiographical experiments, race and the lyric essay, the artist’s statement, and James Baldwin’s sentences. 

The concentration works to create community while at the same time gives our students opportunities to join with creative and critical colleagues within and beyond the department and division. There are opportunities for internships, fellowships, and graduate students often introduce and meet with writers through the Living Writers Series. Graduate students can also pursue designated emphases in programs and departments such as Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Education, Feminist Studies, History of Consciousness, Latin American and Latino Studies, Philosophy, Politics, Sociology, and the History of Art and Visual Culture. (A full listing of programs and departments offering a Designated Emphasis can be found here.) 

The program also offers opportunities for pedagogical training. Graduate students in the Creative/Critical Writing Concentration have the opportunity to teach undergraduate introductory and intermediate creative writing courses annually. 

Although our program is fairly new, UCSC has a rich history of Creative/Critical writers and teachers, such as George Hitchcock, bell hooks, Harriet Mullen, Gloria Anzaldua, Nathaniel Mackey, Angela Davis, Karen Tei Yamashita, and Peter Gizzi. 

Graduate Students Describe the Program: 

  • "The Creative/Critical Program facilitates a deep exploration of the critical and intellectual apparatuses involved in the creative process. Prospective students should prepare to excavate their creative practice and process to see how their work speaks to broader critical conversations and how to deepen the questions their work asks and the questions they ask of their work and process. We interrogate connections between ourselves, our work, and the world around us.”
  • What I love about the C/C program, and the UCSC literature department more broadly, is the way it works to break down barriers between the creative and the critical--not just bringing the critical into the creative, but the creative into the critical. It has both helped me to bring a more personal approach--a personality--to my critical writing and more complex ideas to my creative writing.”
  • We practice thinking both creatively and critically and those are often two siloed modes of thinking that we bring together.”
  • In the Graduate Creative/Critical Writing Concentration I've gained mentors, colleagues, and friends who are committed to innovation and pushing the limits of critical and creative writing as we know it. The community has welcomed me with open arms and emboldened me to develop my craft beyond what I thought was possible in literature. Joining this program out of an M.F.A. was the best thing I could have done for my creative practice and my personal and professional development.”

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