The Neverending MFA Debate, Part XXVII.2
November 29, 2010 § 2 Comments
Writers love to write, and they love to write about what interests them most, so I suppose it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that writers end up writing about writing quite often, and that they occasionally write about writing programs. But that “occasionally” seems to have turned into “constantly” with the slew of recent Huffington Post and Slate articles examining the health, utility, validity, rankability, and alleged homogeneity of MFA writing programs.
The latest in the series, an essay by N+1 editor Chad Harbach, is a quite lucid examination of how being a writer in Iowa City or Tuscaloosa differs from being a writer in Brooklyn or midtown Manhattan, though some of the conclusions he draws seem false. I don’t agree, for instance, with his assertion that we have two separate literary cultures. Instead, I see the two worlds — 1) MFA programs/the associated literary mags, 2) the NY publishing world — as often very supportive of one another’s differing missions and targets. Healthy give and take.
If you ignore Harbach’s assumptions and just look at his facts and assertions, he is describing a well-functioning system, where art supports commerce and commerce supports art, and writers move fluidly in between. Like the dog in the photo, we in the writing community can balance multiple coffee cups (art, commerce, teaching, judging, editing, writing) and still get along with our lives quite well, thank you.
Julianna Baggott agrees: Baggott.
Michael Nye over at the Missouri Review checks in with some sensible commentary: Nye.
Here is Harbach’s original article. Harbach.
We won’t link to the Huffington Post articles, however, because they tend to be self-promotional and less nuanced.