Thursday, June 11, 2009

The CW Program Controversy

In his June 8 New Yorker article "Show or Tell:
Should creative writing be taught?
" Louis Menand takes on the creative writing program through a thorough response to Mark McGurl's The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing. Coming to the comment, "For, in spite of all the reasons that they shouldn’t, workshops work," how Menand gets there is worth the read.


Rich Murphy said...

Before discussion begins folks might read Paul Dawon’s Creative Writing and the New Humanities by Routledge and what composition folks in universities have written regarding the programs. Mark McGurl’s essay would have been richer had he done so. My question is where does the New Humanities fit into MFA programs?

Dave said...

Menand's article failed to point out the fact that even among those MFA-earners who don't go on to writing and/or teaching careers, the degree paves the way for many to get jobs in publishing, technical writing and public relations.

As far as the writing "composition folks" have done, my suggestion is to check out DG Meyers' book The Elephants Teach. It is a brilliant history of the development of creative writing as a discipline. While it doesn't dismiss the work of Comp/Rhet or Theory, it definitely shows the ways in which creative writing has democratized (for better or worse--I think for the better) the literary marketplace. The same cannot be said for Rhet/Comp and Theory, despite the fact that their collective, often overlapping project over the last 20-30 years has been to liberate the subject from its various linguistic prisons.

In other words, while the number of English majors nationwide dwindles, creative writing continues to attract students because it is praxis.