RARA-AVIS: MFA programs

From: Don Lee (donthepoet@yahoo.com)
Date: 06 Mar 2009

  • Next message: Ron Clinton: "RE: RARA-AVIS: Re: Gores missed the synedoche"

    If I feel anti-academic at times, it's because I toiled in those fields for years before giving up (I did get an M.A. out of the deal, but couldn't stomach the limitations enough to pursue a Ph.D) I simply feel it would be nice if a person could get an MFA degree, thus have a shot at a teaching job to pay the bills, based on writing regardless of "genre." I've never understood why that should be a problem, but my experiences w/ the MFA program here lead me to believe *they* definitely think it's a problem. The bias against category fiction was not imaginary and they were not subtle about it at all.

    It's true that straight-up lit programs (M.A. and PhD) do allow writing ABOUT genre, since essentially you can use the same critical tools whether you're talking about MOBY DICK or THE MALTESE FALCON, and the Literary Canon was exhausted years ago insofar as subject matter is concerned, but try turning in an SF story, crime, etc., into a workshop, and they just look at you like you put a dead squirrel on the table. It was frustrating.


    --- On Fri, 3/6/09, Mark D. Nevins <nevins_mark@yahoo.com> wrote:

    > From: Mark D. Nevins <nevins_mark@yahoo.com>
    > Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Gores missed the synedoche
    > To: rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com
    > Date: Friday, March 6, 2009, 5:09 PM
    > The recent banter about MFA programs strikes me as this
    > List's knee-jerk anti-academic contingent rearing its
    > head again. But don't let me stop you: bash away, and
    > please don't spare the sweeping generalizations.
    > It may be worth remembering that MFA programs are by their
    > nature highly hermetic. One pursues an MFA if one wants to
    > be an MFA-type writer; is this fact either a big secret or
    > nonsensical? Attending an MFA program if one wants to be a
    > popular or "genre" writer makes about as much
    > sense as attending a culinary institute if one wants to be a
    > fireman. (Note: the term "genre" is not one I
    > like, but I'm quoting at least one other Avian who's
    > used that term in this thread.)
    > I like to read all kinds of books, and I make my own
    > decisions about what's worth reading. I did my Ph.D. in
    > English Literature at an Ivy League university, but I can
    > also tell you the best comics shop in most major cities in
    > the world. Honestly, the frequent spastic responses to
    > academe or "high culture" on this List make me
    > wonder about some members' personal senses of security
    > or self-worth. Do we really need MFA programs to validate
    > writers of hard-boiled crime novels? Why?
    > Mark Nevins


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