Though creative writing has always been present at Davidson College, its incorporation into the curriculum began much more recently than some may assume. The Philanthropic and Eumenean Literary Societies — established the same year as the college in 1837 — mark the earliest student literary activity on campus.  Over time, creative expression continues to evolve among students in extracurricular organizations and literary publications.
Not until 1914 is creative writing formally introduced into the curriculum through a course called “Advanced Composition.”  This course “gives the opportunity for the development of facility and power in various kinds of composition, and especially for the working out of original veins of thought and imagination."
With the first known English honors thesis in 1958 — “A Study of the Influence of James Joyce on Thomas Wolfe” by C. Grier Davis — we begin to see a shift towards a focus on original student thought reflected within the English major.  This critical honors thesis begins a decades-long tradition of English majors dedicating their senior year to researching and producing original theses — whether creative or critical.
1962 marks the first mention of English theses in the college catalog.  However, most student creative writing remains outside of the classroom until the 1990s when new courses and professors are introduced to the English department, providing more creative writing opportunities to students.
This timeline details the rise of creative writing in the classroom at Davidson College and the growth of creative theses produced between the 1970s and 2020s. We hope this project can serve as a reflection of Davidson’s culture around creative writing across many decades.
As a disclaimer, we’d like to acknowledge the vast amount of material we uncovered in exploring this topic — more than we could possibly parse through within the project’s time frame. Through this timeline, we aim to identify correlations rather than assume causations. Our contents accurately represent the materials we worked with, but we welcome additional material that would deepen our understanding of the development of creative activity in the classroom. Additionally, we’d like to thank all faculty members and alumni who’ve contributed to the expansion of creative writing at Davidson.
1. “Eumenean and Philanthropic Halls,” Davidson College, https://www.davidson.edu/about/campus-spaces/academic-facilities/eumenean-and-philanthropic-halls.
2. Davidson College. College Catalog Vol. 1913-1914. Davidson: Davidson College, 1914.
3. Davis, C. Grier. “A Study of the Influence of James Joyce on Thomas Wolfe.” May 1958. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
4. Davidson College. College Catalog Vol. 1962-1963. Davidson: Davidson College, 1962.