Salon.com recently posted an article about the perennial debate concerning the value of MFA programs. (Click HERE to read the full story.)
Mark McGurl claims the creative writing programs have resulted in “a system-wide rise in the excellence of American literature,” while Elif Batuman argues “if you take ‘good writing’ as a matter of lucidity, striking word combinations, evocative descriptions, inventive metaphors, smooth transitions and avoidance of word repetition,” then good writing does not equal great books.
From my own experience in MFA classrooms (for poetry), I can say that I’ve benefited from a kind of structured discomfort. But I’ve also noticed how the aesthetic of the teacher can work as an almost unseen force on our writing. Students (myself included) begin to embrace some of the voice, tricks, jumps, and evasions employed by the teacher in their own work. Perhaps that is normal. When you’re apprenticed to a blacksmith, you’re probably going to make horseshoes the same way, right? The important thing, I suppose, is to guard against that influence when your gut is telling you something else.
What is your opinion in the MFA debate? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to comment in the section below.
-Chris R. at BookBaby