Since I didn’t attend AWP 2014, Facebook friends clued me in to MFA vs NYC, a collection that “brings together established writers, MFA professors and students, and New York editors, publicists, and agents to talk about these overlapping worlds, and the ways writers make (or fail to make) a living within them.”
I read the book’s description, a chapter on Gordon Lish’s workshop of seduction, online discussions about it, and more recently a rejoinder entitled “Stop blaming Iowa! MFA vs. NYC is a phony debate”. Through all of it, I can’t help but think that it’s a ridiculously narrow viewpoint to be debating the role of creative writing in the academy and the nature of publishing in the 21st century. Two essays are dedicated to Mark McGurl’s The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, but that seems to be it for thinking about how and why creative writing came to its current place in the academy.
My question: where are the PhDs in creative writing in this discussion? Why is the PhD in creative writing scarcely mentioned in MFA vs NYC? My suspicion is that there are far more MFAs than CW PhDs in the US and they’re the ones carrying the conversation. While I’m leery about saying too much about the MFA experience (because I didn’t attend an MFA program), I feel on safe ground saying that the MFA programs I’m familiar with are more about reproducing traditional literary print culture whereas PhD programs inject a not insignificant amount of literary theory and writing pedagogy into the curriculum. The chapter on Lish’s preposterous pedagogy–reprinted in the New Yorker, no less–was enough to suggest to me that there was too little of either for me to take this book or its conclusions seriously.
Instead I’ve been reading both The Creativity Market: Creative Writing in the 21st Century and Creative Writing and the New Humanities, both of which I’m enjoying quite a bit. A chapter by Jeff Sparrow entitled “Creative Writing, Neo-Liberalism, and the Literary Paradigm” is just one example from the former that frames the issue in much more relevant terms.
Stephanie Vanderslice has a good review of MFA vs NYC on HuffPo that confirms my suspicions that I should spend my time reading something else.
I’m very excited to announce the table of contents for CREATIVE WRITING IN THE DIGITAL AGE: THEORY, PRACTICE AND PEDAGOGY edited by Michael Dean Clark, Trent Hergenrader and Joe Rein.
The book is being published by Bloomsbury’s Literary Studies division and will be available in late 2014/early 2015.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction – Creative Writing in the Digital Age (Mike Clark, Trent Hergenrader, Joe Rein)
SECTION ONE: Digital Influences on Creative Writing Studies
2. Creative Writing in the Age of Synapses (Graeme Harper, Oakland University)
3. Screening Subjects: Workshop Pedagogy, Media Ecologies, and (New) Student Subjectivities (Adam Koehler, Manhattan College)
4. Concentration, Form, and Ways of Seeing (Anna Leahy and Douglas Dechow, Chapman University)
5. Game Spaces: Videogames as Story-Generating Systems for Creative Writers (Trent Hergenrader, Rochester Institute of Technology)
6. “But What Can I Do with a Writing Degree?”: Using Technology to Leverage More from the Fiction Course (Michael Dean Clark, Azusa Pacific University)
7. Two Creative Writers Look Askance at Digital Composition (Crayon on Paper) (Joe Amato and Kass Fleisher, Illinois State University)
SECTION TWO: Using Digital Tools as Creative Practice
8. Lost in Digital Translation: Navigating the Online Creative Writing Classroom (Joseph Rein, University of Wisconsin-River Falls)
9. Giving an Account of Oneself: Teaching Identity Construction and Authorship in Creative Nonfiction and Social Media (Janelle Adsit, State University of New York-Albany)
10. Reconsidering the Online Writing Workshop with #25wordstory (Abigail Scheg, Elizabeth City State University)
11. Writing with Machines and Taroko Gorge (Jim Brown, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
12. Telling Stories with Maps and Rules: Using the Interactive Fiction Language “Inform 7” in a Creative Writing Workshop (Aaron Reed, University of California-Santa Cruz)
13. Acting Out: Netprov in the Classroom (Rob Wittig, University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Mark Marino, University of Southern California-Dornsife)
14. The Text is Where It’s At: The Power of Digital Storytelling in Teaching Creative Writing (Christina Clancy, Beloit College)
15. Creative Writing for New Media (Amy Letter, Drake University)
Just found out that my creative nonfiction piece “The Mouth of the Volga” is available online at the Post Road website. Here’s the link: http://www.postroadmag.com/21/nonfiction/hergenrader.phtml
Some narcissistic googling turned up an interesting little factoid: my story “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter” made Ellen Datlow’s list of honorable mentions in Best Horror of the Year #3.
Based on the post date, this news is about 10 months old. Great news nonetheless. Time to update the ol’ CV…