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Marking Creative Writing


Students as well as academic staff, at Warwick and elsewhere, often ask the question as to how one marks creative writing. Indeed, they often wonder if it is even possible? Surely, they say, this is a subjective response, a matter of taste? After all, what mark would one give to The Divine Comedy?

We would attest that it is a matter, certainly, of experience and wide reading. And that we all, as readers and critics, "mark" creative writing every day in the act of reading and the act of criticism or writing reviews. That, even as we talk about books and authors in our seminars and in our daily lives, we are making judgements. We are placing a metaphorical "score" against our experience of reading. And, while it would be wonderful and humbling to have Dante sign up for the Masters in Writing, we are aware that writing of that level and focus is rare. Exceptionally rare.

The Warwick Writing Programme’s courses and modules are assessed by a portfolio of creative writing and an essay or commentary on the aims and processes involved in writing. Some modules also carry examination. Essays and examination materials will be assessed using the same criteria as those outlined in your student handbook.

Assessment of creative writing portfolios is related to the overall Aims and Objectives of the module and learning outcomes. Creative writing has traditionally been seen as individual and subjective. The academic world has been happy to teach methods of critical approach to established works and to assess the student’s critical responses. The trained critic has, however, been reluctant to judge creative works ‘in process’ and reluctant to define the criteria by which student performance in learning to write may be judged. At Warwick however, a wide variety of assessment methods are used within the creative writing modules. These include the setting and assessment of creative writing exercises, poems, short fiction and narrative experiments, critiques, logbooks and journals. The modules place great emphasis on the importance of drafting original writing, and student log-books and records of how and why they have changed their creative work are regarded as important aspects of the learning process. The modules also aim to enable students not only to write creatively within a context, and within a range of genres and media, but also to reflect critically upon texts (self-generated or not). The assessment strategy therefore seeks to combine a coherent and transparent response to both creative and critical work – to welcome and reward imaginative achievement as well as critical and analytical competence.

We are quite aware that this is not the same as marking a maths paper. We are aware that opinion and taste play some role in this process. We would argue that this way of approaching assessment sometimes applies across the range of the disciplines within Humanities and Social Stduies, and may even be similar to the way an expository paper in science is assessed. It is worth remembering that we are human beings, and that writers, despite appearances, are the same species. Including Dante.