An article by Shira Engel ’14.
Upon first coming to Wesleyan, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. All I knew was that I wanted to continue writing. My first semester, I took three writing and reading intensive classes, but none of them under the English department or creative writing-based. I missed fiction. A lot.
So, second semester, I decide to be ambitious in employing my creativity in an academic setting. I signed up for an English class (Zora Neale Hurston and the Rise of Feminist Fiction) and a creative writing class (Amy Bloom’s Reading and Writing Fiction). Why two English classes? Actually, I soon discovered that I was not taking two English classes. I was taking one English class, which was cross-listed with a plethora of other departments, and one class that falls under what I have come to know as the Writing Certificate.
The Writing Certificate, while not a major itself, offers classes in creative writing or what I fondly refer to as the profession of writing. Under its title are classes in fiction, journalism, and even more esoteric subjects like television writing and science fiction. Some are taught by visiting writers/authors-in-residence. While the English major contains courses that are cross-listed with other departments, the Writing Certificate offers courses independent of other majors.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of overlap. On the contrary, students who pursue the Writing Certificate are required to take at least one course listed under the English department and the College of Letters that is an entry-level techniques course. In addition to that, three electives are required. There is such a wide range of these that students have the opportunity to use writing as a lens through which they can pursue their personal interests.
But there is still some confusion: Why are the Writing Certificate and the English major separate?
I asked Katherine Ann Eyster, Ford Writing Fellow, about the certificate. Here’s what she had to say:
I think that students pursue it partly as a sign of their skill and success in writing, and partly to gain access to writing courses and the senior capstone Certificate writing course, which is only for people pursuing the Writing Certificate. I don’t think that all of the classes under the Certificate umbrella should count towards English– the English department has its own rubric, and if writing classes fall outside of that it is understandable. The purpose of the Certificate is to help untangle “writing” from “English writing,” aka the false idea that writing only happens in the English major, so making all of the writing courses count towards English might be counter-intuitive.
Makes sense to me. This goes back to my initial discovery concerning writing within a liberal arts curriculum. No matter what field you are studying – be it Biology, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, or Economics, knowledge of writing – and more importantly, writing well – is absolutely necessary. The Writing Certificate blends those interests with courses that complement the ones required for a major. But, because it is not a major, students are given more freedom with which writing-related courses they pursue.