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MFA | Coursework

Graduate Seminars

Theory Courses

All MFA students must complete LTTH 250 Writing and Theory and LTTH 255 Modern Art Movements during the first two years of their program. The courses are offered in alternate years, usually during Fall quarter. Students should complete each course at the earliest opportunity. Both courses must be completed at UCSD.

Literature Department Seminars

The seminars in literature requirement can be fulfilled with graduate seminars in Literature outside of the Writing section or, with prior permission, upper-division undergraduate courses or guided independent study in Literature (more on this below). At least 4 units must be from a graduate seminar.

Seminars Outside of Literature

The outside-seminar requirement must be fulfilled with graduate seminars or guided independent study in an art practice or theory offered outside of Literature (such as Visual Arts), or graduate seminars offered by the Literature Department in a language other than English. Students may petition to use courses offered by Communication, Sociology and other departments if the topic fits with the student's primary research interests.

All graduate seminars taken outside of Literature must be petitioned, except the following pre-approved courses:

VIS 211. Fact and Fiction (4)
VIS 212. History and Memory (4)
VIS 213. Public Space (4)
VIS 215. Human Interface (4)
VIS 216. The Object (4)

To use an outside course for the MFA degree, download and complete the appropriate petition form (see Forms). Submit the petition and the course syllabus to the MFA Graduate Coordinator.

Upper-Division Courses

It is strongly recommended that graduate students enroll in graduate seminars whenever possible.

Graduate students who take upper-division undergraduate courses for seminar credit must arrange with the instructor to do additional work to make the course equivalent to a graduate seminar. The student must take the course for a letter grade and receive an A to maintain graduate status and eligibility for funding. Be aware that an unsatisfactory letter grade can have a disproportionate impact on GPA, academic standing and eligibility for funding. Read about grades in Academic Policies for more information.

The graduate student must petition the MFA Program to use upper-division courses for the degree. The student submits a petition, syllabus and rationale for each course to the MFA Graduate Coordinator, who will submit the packet to the MFA program director for approval (see Forms for the appropriate petition). In most instances the rationale is that the course fits with the student's research interests and a comparable graduate seminar is not available.

As an alternative to enrolling in an undergraduate course, the student may ask the instructor to supervise an independent study course that requires the student to audit the undergraduate lectures and do a graduate-level project.

Independent Study & Thesis

MFA students may propose an individualized independent study course when seminar offerings do not cover subjects, genres, or authors of interest. Enrollment in independent study is limited to 4 units per quarter; additional units must be preapproved. Contact the MFA Graduate Coordinator for advising about policy exceptions.

Independent study courses must include writing projects if the credit is to be used for the MFA degree.

The MFA Program offers two independent study courses: LTWR 298 Directed Studies (Writing Course) and LTWR 295 MFA Thesis. Credit for LTWR 298 courses may be applied toward the MFA's graduate seminar in literature requirement. Enrollment in LTWR 295 is restricted to second- and third-year students.

Students may also complete independent study in other departments and petition to use the credit for the MFA degree. The outside course must be numbered 298 or 299 (296/297 directed reading and research practicum courses are not eligible). Contact the MFA Graduate Coordinator if you need help to select course numbers.

How to Propose Independent Study

  1. Review bios on departmental websites of professors with Assistant, Associate, or Professor titles to identify someone with similar research interests (lecturers and adjuncts cannot supervise independent study).
  2. Create a short project description that includes a reading list, method of evaluation (description of the required writing project), and frequency of work submission and meetings with the instructor .
  3. Determine the course number and how many credit units the course should carry; a 4-unit course should require approximately 12 hours of work per week.
  4. Email the proposal to the professor and ask them to supervise the course; reach an agreement about important details before going to the next step.
  5. Request course set-up and clearance to enroll:
    • LTWR 295 or 298: submit an independent study request (electronic form).
    • Course outside of Literature: forward the course details and the professor's written permission to enroll to the graduate coordinator in the outside department.
  6. Allow 3-4 business days for processing; the department will email the section ID when the course has been set up.
  7. Check the details of the authorization to enroll (course number, units, assignment due dates, etc.).
  8. Login to WebReg and enroll.
  9. Petition to use the course for the MFA degree if applicable (see Forms).


Students must complete a minimumb of 20 units of LTWR 215 Cross-Genre Workshop. As of this writing there are no comparable UCSD courses that can be substituted.

Teaching Apprenticeship

Students must complete 4-12 units of guided teaching at UC San Diego. Those who do not want to teach may petition to substitute graduate seminar credit for teaching apprenticeship. Note that readerships do not offer academic credit and cannot be used for the teaching apprenticeship requirement.

TAships offer 2 units of credit if 25% time, 4 units if 50% time.

Teaching credit is not awarded automatically; the student must enroll in the appropriate course section and select the correct number of units. To identify the appropriate course section,

  1. Obtain the name of the course instructor from your TA appointment letter or the quarterly schedule of classes or the coordinator who offered you the appointment.
  2. Go to the deparment tab on the quarterly schedule of classes, select the department, check the box for courses numbered 500+, and click Search.
  3. Find the instructor in the search results and click their section ID.
  4. Enroll for 2-4 units of credit on an S/U basis.

Here is a list of the apprenticeship courses you are most likely to use:

Literature Department – LTWL 500
Sixth College/Culture, Art & Technology  – CAT 500 
Marshall College/Dimensions of Culture – DOC 500
Muir College Writing – MCWP 500
Roosevelt College Writing – MMW 501
Revelle College Humanities – REV 500
Warren College Writing – WCWP 500

Placeholder Course

Students may temporarily enroll in a course to attain fulltime status while waiting for authorization to enroll in independent study. If enrolling in a course you have no intention of taking please select a section of LTWL 500 taught by MFA faculty.