Master of Fine Arts in Spanish Creative Writing

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Program Philosophy

The University of Iowa has a long tradition of welcoming writers in Spanish, as both professors and visitors, among them such figures as Jorge Luis Borges, Augusto Monterroso, Bárbara Jacobs, José Donoso, Juan Sánchez Peláez, Fernando del Paso, Carlos Germán Belli and Óscar Hahn. 

The idea of creating a program for creative writing in Spanish first appeared in the correspondence between Donoso and Paul Engle, the legendary director of the Writers’ Workshop for 24 years, and later the founder and director of the International Writing Program. The two writers shared thoughts about the advantages of such a program in the country’s second most widely spoken language at a university that, as early as 1922, began accepting creative work for academic degrees and, with the foundation of the Writers’ Workshop in 1936, had become a prominent center of creative writing. 

Created in 2012 by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the M.F.A. in Creative Writing in Spanish has benefited from a large number of excellent writers who have found success publishing books written while they were students in the program.

Our students participate in editing Iowa Literaria, the University’s magazine of literature in Spanish.

In addition, our students have the opportunity to be involved in a unique literary community, which has been home to hundreds of writers and has earned a designation as a UNESCO “City of Literature.” Students are able to participate in the many literary activities of the University of Iowa and Iowa City, including the Subtitulados and Anthology reading series, the readings of the International Writing Program, “Live from Prairie Lights,” and the Mission Creek and Iowa City Book Festivals. 

Jorge Luis Borges and Óscar Hahn, 1976


The Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing in Spanish is a fully-funded 2-year program of 48 credits, which culminates in the submission of a creative thesis (a book of poetry, a novel, a collection of stories, a non-fiction book, a hybrid book) and the awarding of a Master of Fine Arts Degree. 


The Department is committed to providing financial aid to the M.F.A. to support their graduate studies and to enhance their development as teachers and scholars. Our primary means of financial support is through teaching assistantships awarded competitively. The typical appointment is for a half-time teaching assistantship, for which the teaching responsibilities are two sections each semester of Elementary or Intermediate Spanish in the General Education Program in Spanish Language. 

For the academic year 2019-2020, the stipend for a half-time teaching assistantship is $19,644. The contract between the University and the teaching assistant union COGS also guarantees that TAs receive a full tuition scholarship for the typical full-time graduate student load (9 semester hours/semester) and that the University pay 50% of mandatory fees associates with full-time enrollment at the University. These salary rates and employment benefits are subject to change with each yearly contract.

Students who maintain good academic standing (GPA of at least 3.25), meet expectations in their progress toward degree, and maintain a good teaching record may normally expect two years of support while completing the M.F.A. degree. 

In addition, the Department will propose three students to receive an Iowa Arts Fellowship, providing M.F.A. students with a first year fellowship, and allowing them to focus on completing their scholarly activities and creative works.

This is a one-year award that includes an $18,500 academic year fellowship stipend plus full tuition and 50 percent of the mandatory fees. Students will be responsible for the remainder of their mandatory and course fees. Recipients of the Iowa Arts Fellowship may not hold other paid appointments (TA, RA, instructor) during fellowship years. The appointing program must provide the remaining years of support.

Course Offering 


SPAN 6210 Fiction Workshop (taken twice, once in each year in the program)

SPAN 6220 Poetry Workshop (taken twice, once in each year in the program)


Three additional workshops, chosen from the following list:

SPAN 6241 Creative Project Development 1

SPAN 6241 Creative Project Development 2

SPAN 6280 Non-Fiction Workshop 1

SPAN 6280 Non-Fiction Workshop 2                  

SPAN 6235 Film Script / Theater Workshop         


Other course work

4 graduate-level courses in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese

4 additional courses in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese or in related extra-departmental units



SPAN 6299 Thesis: Creative Writing

The candidate must satisfactory complete four semesters of graduate work, totaling at least 48 semester hours.


During the last semester of registration, students submit their creative writing thesis. Works of fiction, non-fiction, or hybrid must be of at least 80 pages in length, and poetry manuscripts or other brief forms at least 50 pages in length. In addition to the thesis project itself, it must be included an introduction about the poetics of the project itself, of at least 1500 words. 
The thesis committee is composed of a minimum of three members.

More specific information on the program requirements can be found in the Graduate Program Manual of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

How to Apply 

In order to receive full consideration for financial aid, applications should be received from October 1st, 2021 to January 15th, 2022.


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