Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Art School or University

Is it a different MFA?

Electives and classes in both worlds are very different. The approach to getting a degree is different, as well. University programs are entrenched in English departments, whereas art school programs are insular. Problems, concerns, debates, dilemmas?

At the school of the art institute, here in Chicago, we have critiques where the art world comes together and tells you something about your work. It's harrowing, but helpful. I've learned a lot about specificity and form. I didn't think a painter or architect would be able to read that critically, but they take what their experiences have taught them about critiquing in their areas and apply it to your piece.

Some critiques go off the deep end erupting in fisticuffs. Often writers will cry. Often cry. Some of this seems to go against what you want from a program. You don't want violence, right? Then again, I've heard of editors (Lish) destroying a writer. Maybe it's all preparatory.

Within our writing department there's a lot of firm support after critiques, and stepping out into the art world with your text is only so scary as it can be when you've a great set of writing faculty to fall back on. Anyway, that's my two cents on my side of the MFA, I wonder if Universities expose their writers interdepartmentally?


Vincent said...

Let’s face it. All good writers are artists. Unfortunately, not all artists are good writers. As someone who majored in English, the art classes I took forced me to see differently. I can describe people, places, and things with a more critical eye. My writing has benefited from my art training.

You’ll definitely leave your comfort zone if you go to an art school (without any previous artistic preparation) to get your Creative Writing M.F.A. If you’re not comfortable around artists or how they see the world, you certainly will be after one semester in a M.F.A. program at an art institute.

Conor said...

Working with other mediums is spectacular. Being reviewed by artists is great, too. but is it a different degree? It's not a program connected to an english department, it's on its own. I just wonder if English Department Writing programs have different sets of standards/expectations of the writing coming from their writers.

Vincent said...

Perhaps they’re fraternal twins. Based on my experience with English Department professors, they tend to be sticklers for the fundamental rules of writing: grammar, usage, punctuation, and sentence structure. Additionally, English professors are more familiar with the great writers of the past because of their literature background. This can be helpful for any young writer as your reviewing your work. We’re all inspired by the people who came before us and gained notoriety. Additionally, English courses—in general—involve tons of research.

Conor said...

vincent, most of the professors in my program won't read a piece if they run into mechanical writing errors. They're right not to. Strunk and White wrote a book everyone should read, reread, and read again as a beginning to reading it a few hundred more times, maybe excluding the area on style for the last thirty reads. I just figured writing programs connected to english departments would get their writers to write the cannon all over again.

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