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Why has the workshop format not been seriously amended or augmented in the century-plus since it was invented?Is it that invulnerable to perfection, improvement, cooption, or replacement?
And because in 2018 there are sizeable applicant communities congregating on Facebook and elsewhere, more than ever before a graduate-school creative writing applicant needn’t go through the arduous process of applying to creative writing MFA or Ph. Finally, because innovative multi-genre low-residency programs and “specialized” full-residency programs—programs with a theme or curricular emphasis—are now rapidly growing in number, applicants unable to leave their jobs or who have either a very broad or very narrow focus as writers are better able than before to find a program that meets their idiosyncratic needs.
Yet for all the good news above, there’s also a dark cloud over creative writing in 2018—and it’s not clear yet whether it will be temporary or permanent.
Why are students ostensibly encouraged to workshop writing that is unpolished and adventurous, but implicitly pushed—by the tone, tenor, and format of conventional workshopping—to impress their classmates with already publishable work?
Are we really comfortable with the often gendered master-trainee relationships that tend to dominate contemporary creative writing instruction?
The explosion in popularity of the low-residency graduate creative writing program may be the most dramatic story of curricular invention in the history of the discipline.
More than half the new graduate creative writing programs founded this century have been low-residency programs; this is a startling statistic that calls into question the durability of full-residency instruction in the discipline.
It’s the best of times because there are more such programs than ever before—so there’s likely a quality program nearby, wherever you live—and because more MFA and Ph. programs in creative writing are fully funded for all students than ever before.
programs in creative writing, 2018 is at once the best of times and the worst of times.
But I also wrote it because applicants deserve to know that creative writing is a discipline in transition, and the contours of this transitional phase suggest that—at least for the time being—an MFA or Ph. in creative writing may not be the right choice for a large number of aspiring poets and prose-writers.
These latter truths are the ones you won’t often hear from creative writing institutions, as they doesn’t advance their agendas or worldview to offer them to those who most need to hear them.