A minor in creative writing at Stony Brook’s Southampton campus offers a new way for students to engage subjects in their major field of study, and because the rigors of literary expression necessitate a shift in perspective from that of conservationist, marine biologist, activist or curator, their engagement is likely to be productive. It’s no surprise that the literary tradition is rife with poets who, like John Keats or William Carlos Williams, were trained as doctors. It’s likewise no surprise that the field of medicine is rife with doctors who, like Atul Gawande or Oliver Sacks, have distinguished themselves as writers. Undergraduates may not yet know where their talents best lie, as, for example, a science writer or a scientist who writes, but they are ready to explore the connections between these disciplines.
The program’s interdisciplinary aspects and project-driven structure promote creative thinking in several ways. Since the minor is not housed in a traditional English Department, but rather finds its home in the student’s own interests and burgeoning competences, students learn to write compellingly about the issues at the “deep heart’s core” of their – and our – time and place. Through workshops in the practice of craft, minors develop their capacity for creative thinking, a capacity they can apply to their other endeavors. Through required literature courses, students learn to read rigorously and creatively, with the insight of a fellow practitioner. Through the capstone project, students learn to apply their skills and carry a creative endeavor through to completion.