Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Undergrads and creative writing

From an episode of To the Best of Our Knowledge, “Writing for a Living.” The writer and editor Chad Harbach is talking about the explosion of graduate and undergraduate creative-writing programs. He calls undergrads “the bottom of the pyramid, if you will,” and goes on to describe the University of Virginia undergrads he taught while working on his MFA:

“Some of them were there because they really wanted to do this thing, and some of them had just heard that creative-writing classes were the easiest classes you could possibly take.” [Laughter .]
N.B.: Harbach does not dispute what those students believed.

Pyramid (as in scheme ) is a metaphor often applied to creative-writing programs. David Foster Wallace made the point, minus the metaphor, in “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young” (1988):
Creative Writing Programs, while claiming in all good faith to train professional writers, in reality train more teachers of Creative Writing .
Who must of course have students.

[Harbach is the editor of MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction (2014). A 2010 piece in Slate gives a shorter version of his argument: “MFA vs. NYC.”]

comments: 2

Marzek said...

MFA programs -- less a pyramid than a pyramid scheme.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, that’s the implication. I'll revise a little to make that clear.