The Creative Writing Major

Our Undergraduate Creative Writing Program

The undergraduate Creative Writing major at the University of Illinois, formerly known as the Rhetoric major, is one of the oldest of its kind in the country. Now in its sixth decade, the major combines small workshops (poetry, fiction, nonfiction) and a variety of literature courses. The result is a strong but flexible program of study that develops students' analytical and creative skills and prepares them for work or graduate study in any number of fields.

Students in the undergraduate program edit and publish an annual journal, Montage Arts Journal, which features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and visual art by University of Illinois undergraduate student writers and artists. For more information about Montage, visit

Through our program, writers shape their literary voices, develop distinctive styles, and intensify their written, critical, and editorial skills. Students write about what matters most to them and learn about contemporary literary publishing through developing their imaginative, expressive, and dynamic writing.


Creative Writing Major Requirements

Foundational Literature Courses (6 credit hours)

  • CW 100: Introduction to Creative Writing
  • CW 200: Reading for Writers

Expository Writing (3 credit hours)

  • CW 243: Inter Expository Writing

Creative Writing Coursework (12 credit hours)

Creative Writing majors must complete at least one of the following 3-course (9-hour) sequences:

  • CW 106: Introductory Poetry Writing
  • CW 206: Intermediate Poetry Writing
  • CW 406: Advanced Poetry Writing


  • CW 104: Introductory Narrative Writing
  • CW 204: Intermediate Narrative Writing
  • CW 404: Advanced Narrative Writing

The remaining three hours of writing coursework can be satisfied by a fourth CW workshop outside of the mandatory sequence or any of the following writing courses: ENGL 401, 402, 403, and 481; BTW 250, 2661; CMN 310, 423, AND 432 and THEA 211

Shakespeare (3 credit hours)

Creative Writing majors must take at least one Shakespeare course offered by the English department:

  • ENGL 218: Introduction to Shakespeare
  • ENGL 418: Shakespeare

Literature Coursework (6 credit hours)

In addition to the Shakespeare course, students in this major must complete 6 hours of English or American literature coursework, at the 200-level or above, chosen from an approved list. 

History and Culture Coursework (6 credit hours)

To help students support their creative work, majors must complete a historical and/or cultural course sequence. 

  • CWL 241: Early Masterpieces of Western Culture
  • CWL 242: Modern Masterpieces of Western Culture


  • HIST 141: Western Civ to 1660 
  • HIST 142: Western Civ Since 1660


  • HIST 171: US History to 1877
  • HIST 172: US History Since 1877


  • HIST 255: British Isles to 1688
  • HIST 256: Britain and World Since 1688

The faculty of the Creative Writing Program represent a diverse range of writing and teaching styles and interests and are actively working in various genres and media, including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, theater, and film. Faculty members have received numerous awards and fellowships. A small selection of these includes the Yale Series of Younger Poets, the Native Writers' Circle Award of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction, the FC2 National Fiction Competition, a Whiting Award, the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, the Kate Tufts Discovery Prize, the William Peden Prize, the Academy of American Poets Award, the Bakeless Prize, Wallace Stegner fellowships, and fellowships from the NEA, Guggenheim Foundation, Yaddo, MacDowell, Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and many others.

Follow the links below to learn more about our undergraduate Creative Writing program's core faculty members:

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