Writing & Oral Traditions
Discover your authentic voice and create compelling written work.
Master of Arts: 36 Credits
For Teachers: Planned 30-Credit Program (Sixth-Year Equivalent)
The two-year Master of Arts in Writing and Oral Traditions program is for anyone interested in:
• Learning how stories influence the way we think, feel, act and behave
• Exploring the creative process and their own creativity
• Understanding the power and application of narrative storytelling
• Being part of a motivated and close-knit learning community
• Melding self-directed learning with invigorating classroom learning
• Publishing or otherwise bringing their stories to life
Meeting just 1-2 weekends a month (Friday 5-9 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), students in this groundbreaking program work with best-selling authors, award-winning oral storytellers, recognized playwrights, acclaimed literary critics and renowned scholars to examine the historical, cultural, sociological, anthropological, psychological and mythological foundations of storytelling. The origins of language, our society's evolution from an oral to written culture, and how stories--both from the ancient past and modern day--help us connect, understand, transform and survive are among the many topics tackled.
Rigorous cohort-based explorations of fiction, non-fiction and other forms of writing allow students to discover and explore their interests, while mentored, independent study lets them immerse themselves in their area of choice. Recognizing that successful writers need both independent creative space and a welcoming, supportive environment, the program provides a carefully monitored balance of autonomy and community, with each participant's creative goals always part of the mix.
At The Graduate Institute, we realize, respect and celebrate that each writer has a unique voice and view of the world.
Thus, throughout the program, you'll be encouraged to develop your own individual writing voice and style, as well as consider the impact a narrative can have on both author and audience. For all projects, you'll be mentored through each stage of the often-challenging creation and revision process.
Whether your goal is to become a confident, engaging oral storyteller, or to write a book or screenplay, the MA in Writing and Oral Traditions program will provide time-tested methods for bringing stories to life through the spoken and written word.
By taking the Master of Arts in Writing and Oral Traditions in combination with the Coaching With Spirit Coach Training program, you can specialize in Storytelling Coaching.
Course content in the Master of Arts Degree in Writing and Oral Traditions is delivered via four unique learning modules, each of which culminates with a retreat. Classes meet one weekend per month (Friday from 5 to 9 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm) and for one full week (Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm) in each of two summers. The degree is completed in 24 months.
Module 1: Orality Informs the Writer
Module 2: The Uniqueness of Voice
Module 3: Cultural Sources for Writing
Module 4: The Inner Life of Publishing
Courses and Descriptions (36 Credits):
OT 501: Oral Traditions: Medium and Inquiry - 3 credits
Throughout history, oral tradition has been the primary method for communicating information and transferring knowledge between individuals, across generations, and throughout cultures. This course introduces the emerging field of oral tradition and provides an examination of representative oral literature. Students assess the impact of oral traditions on the development of complex syntax and grammar structures and the emergence of written literature. Special attention is paid to the relationship between oral traditions and contemporary thought.
OT 502: Myth: Ancient and Modern - 3 credits
This course examines the influence of mythology on the evolution of culture. Students examine the mythical origins that have impacted the development and trajectory of diverse religious and scientific approaches, as well as their impact on evolving psychological and sociological frameworks. Students examine Greek, Roman, Norse, European, Native American, African, and Asian mythology in order to gain insight into the nature of human experience and the relationship between humankind and the forces that drive the universe. The mythologies of both past and present societies are explored.
OT 503: Folktales and Culture - 3 credits
In this course, students examine folktales as comparative literature. They analyze examples of various folktale forms, including fables, legends, fairy tales, allegories, and stories that are transmitted through sermons, ballads, and song. Throughout their analyses and interpretations of the works, students pay special attention to the function of the folktale within the culture and investigate its relationship to the customs and ceremonies of the time.
OT 505: Children’s Literature - 3 credits
Oral traditions not only promote the large-scale evolution of language and culture, they also influence the linguistic and social development of individual members of society – from birth through adolescence and adulthood. In this course, students explore the history and evolution of children’s literature from the 19th to 21st centuries. Recited rhymes, popular tales, and written texts are examined, with an emphasis on stories that support the development of individual identity and communication skills. Contemporary literature for children and young adults is also examined from the perspective of the writer’s art and craft.
OT 508: Therapeutic Processes of Orality - 3 credits
How we envision and interpret the unfolding narrative of our lives has a tremendous impact on our personal sense of well-being and our relationship to society at large. This course investigates the therapeutic applications of writing and oral traditions – from the management of physical and psychological health, to the resolution of conflict in professional and social relationships, to the alleviation of discord within whole societies. Students learn to harness the power of the spoken and written word through affirmative, expressive, and transformative language, metaphors, and imagery.
OT 509: Cultural Diversity and Unity - 3 credits
The rich culture and heritage of ethnic communities are reflected in the scope and diversity of world literature and oral traditions. In this course, students are encouraged to use writing and oral tradition as mechanisms for cross-cultural understanding. The oral traditions of various African, Asian, European, Hispanic, Jewish and Native American groups are explored, with a focus on the significance of such traditions in an emerging multicultural society. Students are introduced to oral traditions that have been used to preserve cultural knowledge, subvert dominant or oppressive groups, and cultivate intercultural problem-solving.
OT 511: Mentorship - 3 credits
The value of mentorship in the field of writing and oral tradition cannot be overemphasized – whether students are interested in developing specific skills and techniques in understanding the power of language and narrative, or in exploring another area of this vast field. The mentorship must fall within a pre-selected area of interest and need, and should demonstrate professional development and personal growth through disciplined inquiry. The mentorship is conducted with a leader in the field of writing and oral traditions, and requires a minimum of 90 hours of contact time. Systematic journal writing, a comprehensive written report, and an oral presentation are required to document the experience and provide an assessment of new learning derived as a result of the mentorship experience.
OT 512: Culminating Project - 3 credits
Each student is required to research, design, and present a culminating project in a specific area of interest in the field of writing and oral tradition. The project, which may include a documented performance, should demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the field and should reflect the insights gained during the Mentorship (OT 511) and Field Research (OT 513); integrating the skills, knowledge, and understanding accrued during the experiential components of the program. The project may include a performance or exhibition. All students are required to submit a comprehensive written report on the development and execution of the culminating project, and to effect an oral presentation to their cohort and a Juried Review Committee.
In addition, each student is required to submit a creative manuscript in a genre of choice. The manuscript should provide context or reflect a thematic element present in the culminating project, enabling a meaningful integration of academic research and creative writing.
OT 513: Field Research - 3 credits
This course provides an opportunity for personal, hands-on examination of contemporary applications of writing and the oral traditions and the issues surrounding the field. Through research, students learn to balance tradition and innovation in applied storytelling, and they discover the many ways that “performance arenas” function in everyday situations. An analytical research paper is required in which program participants describe the purpose of the research, delineate an extensive literature review, conduct an appropriate methodological procedure, collect and analyze data, and report all findings.
OT 515: Narrative Voice - 3 credits
This course explores the rich phenomenon of voice for its myriad functions in establishing point of view, revealing tone and theme, reflecting character, propelling narrative trajectory, and creating the overarching medium through which story is conveyed. By examining narrative voice in oral poetry and story, students will uncover many of the foundational structures and techniques that establish voice in its written context. The courses also focuses on the connection between narrative voice and the spoken word, with particular focus on oral processes for stimulating ideas as well as critique feedback. Emphasis is placed on processes that support revision and the strengthening of a written work through the construct of narrative voice.
OT 516: Narrative Structure: Cross-Genre Applications - 3 credits
Varied applications of narrative structure in written form are explored in-depth in this course. From poetry, non-fiction, screenwriting, playwriting, short story, the novel, and more, students study the function and form of narrative structure in diverse genres. Narrative is examined as an art, technique, and process that connects from the spoken to written word. Students are encouraged to engage in the construction of narrative in a wide variety of genres while simultaneously developing and structuring ideas in a specific genre of interest.
OT 517: Cultural Sources for Writing and Publishing - 3 credits
Writing and publishing technologies are examined for their role in transforming humankind’s relationship with language and the transmission of ideas and culture. The history and progress of writing and publishing are explored, with emphasis on their emergence from a tradition of the spoken word. The culture of writing and publishing are assessed as an industry, as well as a cultural phenomenon reflecting the changing mores, ideologies, and priorities of an evolving world. Both digital and traditional print media are also examined as vehicles for contracting, publishing, and distributing books.
The faculty for the Master of Arts Degree in Writing and Oral Traditions is comprised of award-winning writers, editors, oral specialists, and instructors from across the U.S.