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MFA English Program
University of Mississippi

Why Our Program?

The University of Mississippi is a public, comprehensive, research institution that exists to enhance the educational, economic, healthcare, social and cultural foundations of the state, region, and nation. As the oldest public institution of higher learning in the state and as a Carnegie Research University (high research activity), the institution’s primary functions are the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge through a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs and public service activities. The University’s main campus at Oxford emphasizes a traditional, residential educational experience, with a central College of Liberal Arts. The University educates students to assume leadership roles in the state, nation, and world through its nationally recognized programs of undergraduate, graduate, and professional study. Its teaching, research, and service missions are characterized by equal access and equal opportunity to all who qualify.

Oxford is a literary town that likes its writers, from William Faulkner to John Grisham, and at the University of Mississippi, we try to create more of them. Encouragement is key: we have a small faculty and staff, and each incoming class is limited to about a handful of students who receive a lot of individual attention. We boast a solid program that provides a grounding in both writing and reading, the cornerstones of an author’s craft.

The Center for the Study of Southern Culture is situated in the restored Barnard Observatory on campus and offers one of the few programs in the nation to focus exclusively on Southern culture, from the origin of the blues to the nature of grits. The Center is home to the Southern Foodways Alliance, which holds the Southern Foodways Symposium each October.

The Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, now past its 30th year, attracts scholars from all over the globe for a week of Faulkner appreciation around the end of July. Topics range from scholarly criticism on the Bard of Yoknapatawph a County to the Faux Faulkner Write-Alike Contest.

The Yalobusha Review, the university’s annual literary journal, is a joint project of the English and Art departments. At over 120 pages in plus-size format, it’s run by MFA graduate students but draws on material nationwide, featuring fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, interviews, artwork, and photography.

The Yokshop is a three-day event near the end of June, featuring fiction and poetry workshops, panels, readings, lectures, and a catfish dinner.

The Marshall County Correctional Facility Writing Project is a volunteer on-site creative writing class for inmates, sponsored by The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. The MCCFWP is usually taught by MFA students.

The M.F.A. Reading Seriesis called Broken English, a student-organized series featuring writers from within the MFA program here. Once a month, two writers from the M.F.A. program give a reading at a night spot on the Square. This is an opportunity for the featured writers to feel the rush of reading in front of an big audience–some, for the first time—in a supportive, fun atmosphere—complete with drink specials!

Here are images from the first reading of the year:

The Outreach Series is a student-initiated program in which graduate students in creative writing volunteer time and talent, through various community-service activities, to bring about positive social change beyond the university setting. Outreach activities are coordinated by the Outreach director (a voluntary position that changes each semester) and are carried out by students. Activities may include teaching community writing workshops, visiting and reading at retirement homes, donating and delivering books for libraries, and judging writing contests.

The Oxford Conference for the Book is an annual event that pulls in authors, editors, agents, and publishers for three days every Spring. Designed for both readers and writers, it can put you in touch with an author you admire or give you help on marketing your poetry collection.

Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference and Workshop Held every other year on campus, this conference gathers the top creative nonfiction writers and instructors in America to discuss memoir, personal essay, immersion journalism, and the writing life.

Southern Writers, Southern Writing is a three-day conference hosted by the university’s graduate students every July.

Former student Caroline Williams visits with Ann Fisher-Wirth, Tom Franklin, and Beth Ann Fennelly at the last reading series event of the season, a reading by poet Dave Smith.

 

Why Oxford, Mississippi?

Why come to the University of Mississippi for your M.F.A.? We do have an outstanding faculty and staff, and each incoming class is limited to a handful of students who receive intense individual attention, but there’s no better place to read and write than in William Faulkner’s hometown—Oxford, Mississippi, which was ranked one of America’s Best Small Towns by Money Magazine, a Top Small Town by CNN, and A Top Ten College Town by USA Today.

Outside of the classroom, Oxford offers many opportunities for learning and inspiration. We’re home to many literary conferences, an abundance of author readings, and the South’s best independent bookstore. Here are a few samples:

 

The Double Decker Arts Festival, a weekend extravaganza that spills out from the Square every June, has two live music stages, food stalls and crafts fairs, and free rides on a British double-decker bus.


The Oxford Film Festival is a cinematic feast in February, offering everything from children’s shorts to documentaries and full-length features.


Rowan Oak, the living museum of Faulkner’s home, is a restored house featuring Faulkner’s books, typewriter, bedroom, and even an outline for one of his novels that he drew on his study wall. Or take an interactive virtual tour.


Square Books is an independently owned bookstore owned by Richard Howorth, a former president of the American Booksellers Association. Having grown from its humble origins as a one-flight walk-up over twenty-five years ago, it now boasts a main store with an upstairs café, a sales annex, and a children’s shop, as well as clerks who read a lot and know what they’re selling. The authors who have visited Square Books for readings make for an honor roll of literature, from the half-unknown to the extremely famous.


The Ten-Minute Play Contest is a locally run but nationally renowned competition that brings in short drama from all over, with the winning material performed in Oxford.


Thacker Mountain Radio Hour is broadcast live from Off Square Books on Thursday afternoons and combines music and commentary with literary readings. Besides the great live bands and hip announcer, authors on the air have ranged from Donna Tartt to Robert Stone.


The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council sponsors a wide range of arts in the county, from art in the schools to grants for performances.


The Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers’ Workshop is a three-day event near the end of June, featuring fiction and poetry workshops, panels, readings, lectures, and a catfish dinner.