Monday, July 23, 2007
Art Schools, English Departments, and such
Seems to me that it's time to write a new post addressing some of Conor's arguments regarding the seeming supremacy in his opinion of art school environments to English department environments in terms of getting an MFA in writing. Being in the unique position of having gone to both (I have a Visual Art MFA from California College of the Arts and am currently in the fiction program at Cornell), I can offer the following opinions:
* Art school is generally less constrained and forces people to think outside the box. However, it can also be less cognisant of historical precedent, so that artists find themselves doing things that are derivative without even knowing it. On the other hand, English departments can be less tolerant of students who break rules of form and style.
* Art school provides contact with other artists engaging in creative endeavors, while English departments provide contact with academics who think about literature in a larger historical and critical context. I find both perspectives valuable, which is why I hung out with all the curatorial practice kids in art school and all the MFA visual art kids here at Cornell.
* English Departments in large universities generally have better libraries in a more diverse range of fields.
* English Departments are generally better-funded. I got a tuition scholarship for my art school MFA, which is unusual in itself, but I still had to take out loans for living expenses. Most of my fellow students had to pay for their MFA's, and I understand this to be the case in most art schools. OTOH, a bunch of English Departments provide their students with tuition fellowships and a stipend.
* Art schools encourage interdisciplinary work and think of artmaking more holistically, while English Departments can be constrained in terms of what counts as worthwhile artistic endeavors.