Saturday, July 21, 2007

Why English Departments ≠ Fiction



There's this woman I like. She'd be happy I wrote that. She's a writer and a baker. We talked about MFAWs connected to English departments. Her side amounts t'this: English departments're steeped in their own dogma with very little room for art. Their understanding of literature has happened; is not happening. Tying a writer in a noose of an English overlord, with fiction somewhere inside, squelches her into a box formed out of the discarded shell of a canon: somehow representing literature, but actually only representing the West.

I's astonished. She smiled, a little nod came. I didn't think she gaveacrap about fiction. What'd you expect, she said, I was an English professor before Post-Colonial Lit. Ah! And there it was. Post-Colonial lit. There: the marginalized few, the few I'd based my return argument upon.

She interrupted my gawk with Orientalism and Said. I shut up, 'nquickly.

Our conversation came to true lull later, somewhere around Judith Butler, when I realized I, like M. am a big lit snob. I realized, as well, th'academy w/couldn't/won't allow room for a writer to create art free of th'canon.

MFA programs attached to English are, then, not about fullness of art and reflection but imitation and more imitation of th'canon they tout.

Our answer: (after espresso) ART SCHOOLS. This's where text and story can turn into anything and everything th'canon w/couldn't/won't do. An MFAW from art school also introduces a writer to interactions with the rest of th'Art world. This comes in handy if you write Anything. For m'money, m'time, and my sanity, I'd go to Med School, I mean Art School, when pursuing an MFA in writing. You'll find all the 'heady' lit courses and theory you want, but you'll also be able to have supper with a successful painter, architect, etc..

She gave me the recipe for a good zucchini bread after awhile and I left.

44 comments:

Gabriel said...

As a writer interested in new media writing, this sounds like exactly what I realized just about ohhhhh three hours after you posted this entry. The two programs I've found thus far in my search that seem more concerned with form freedom rather than canon constriction (like that one? yeah) are School of the Art Institute of Chicago (hell yea) and University if Illinois Urbana-Champaign's MFA in "Narrative Media" within their Art and Design department.

Other than that I can't find any art school centric MFA progs yet. Any suggestions?

Conor said...

SAIC kicks butt. Very small. Lots of famous writers. Strong emphasis on new form/understanding form before it's broken.

Conor said...

famous writers don't really matter. you don't go there for them, you just find that they're there and you're like, oh, you're that person?

M. said...

i've been an artist in an art school that has an mfa writing program (california college of the arts) and i would say that there are skills one develops in an art school environment that one doesn't get in an english department. but my question is, how else can one write great literature except by reading and understanding great literature? i don't think one has to sacrifice or denigrate the academic for the purposes of promoting a sense of "pure" art. i don't think the two are mutually exclusive. also, mfa writing programs are *so* not academic... i'm probably at the most academic one and the environment here is still filled with artsy humanist talk...

another answer to why english departments and not art schools? well, i don't know of a fully-funded art school-based program...

Lincoln said...

In addition to programs at art schools and programs in regular universities attached to english departments, there are also programs at regular universities that are embedded in those universities art programs.

dll said...

It's quite exhausting being told what is "great literature," and that through it is the only path to greatness.
It gets all the more tiresome after you've been alive a couple or so decades and already know the "canon" inside and backwards and whatnot.
The most insulting thing to me - when some English department does not believe that it can trust a graduate student to have a developed enough intellect as to decide for themselves what they consider to be great literature.
m.,
I don't think Conor is setting up an either/or scenerio, either read great literature or don't read at all, but a scenerio more akin to either read what they tell you or read what you decide is great literature-a freedom to choose outside of a tiny box.

M. said...

re: dll's comment, i think that every community is going to have some sort of a bias and you either buy into or go against it or something in between. so i don't think it makes sense to view the mfa field in terms of art school v. english department, just because art school communities have their own set of biases and expectations. while i completely agree that so many of those stodgy academics are fartheads, i also think there's something to be said for having a sense of literary history, if only to stick in those cool ulysses references in your prose and make yourself look way smart.

Vince said...

One can be just as creative in an Art school program as in a University program. There are no "creative police" maintaining standards in English Departments--to my knowledge. Maybe, you are prejudice?

Bolivia Red said...

We're housed in the English Department here at Purdue, but fortunately the MFA program is accepted and (relatively) respected through the wider department. We're required to take those five lit classes, and so far all the lit professors I've had were more than willing to let the MFAs do the requisite term paper on elements of craft or some aspect of writing rather than the big nasty research paper/"support the professor's pet theoretical approach" paper. I see nothing wrong with sitting in on an academic lit class learning about a particular author or period; personally, I'm not going to figure it all out reading on my own, and even if the class discussion is focused on theory or historical context, I'm getting something from putting the reading into a context. (And, let's face it, how many of us are going to pick up those auldy mouldy loose baggy monsters of the nineteeth century on our own?) I can also apply all that craft and technique discussion that I'm getting through workshop and craft classes to the texts I read in lit classes.

At the same time, my program encourages us to take one class in another art form. While this can be another genre of writing (poetry, nonfiction, fiction), we're also allowed to take art, music, photography, or theatre (even foreign lit) to get that art perspective. It seemed like many programs encouraged this cross-pollination when I was going through the application process.

Finally, many MFA programs set in those big bad English Departments offer directed readings, where you choose a period or author or some-set-of-books-for-whatever-reason and focus the reading strictly from a craft/writing perspective rather than an "academic" perspective. This can be tailored in all kinds of ways that take you beyond the cannon. I realised when I got to the MFA how poorly read I am in contemporary American fiction and the directed readings have allowed me to catch up.

I think that this fear of the poisonous English department can be mitigated by the MFA program's approach. That's not to say there aren't the "stodgy academic fartheads" as M says, but there are often ways around suffering such indignities and getting something useful and non-canonised from an English Department-based program.

Conor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Conor said...

I have nothing against a university MFA. Art school's a better place to find what's happening Now in art. Maybe I'll shut up because people are really offended when I say the canon is a load of hogwash.(I feel like an ass for writing in this tone, but I'm hot on the topic) If you're looking for artists to write around and work with maybe you should consider a school full of them instead of a school where 90% of funds is poured into medical and scientific research.

Well funded by what standard? I haven't paid a lick, and if i need a studio all to myself; just me, a typewriter, and a 15X15 canvas to map out my novel, poem or houseplans, i can get that, easily. My voice may come across in a mean way, but I'm all for separating Art from the canon, because though the canon is well written and well monied, it also ignores most of south america, africa and china(where Confucius has a better one anyway).

Mike Valente said...

I learned recently that "art" comes from "artifact", basically something representing a historical time period. Really had no clue on the connection. Anyway, that's why novels like Jane Austen and Dickens, The Jungle, Uncle Toms Cabin are considered classics, they're timeless and remain embedded in the eras in which they came. They tell a fictional story, yet they narrate a slice of history and help us understand it.

In my fiction writing class at Stanford, the text that we studied from was the best short stories of the century edited by John Updike. In the forward, he explains why he picked the stories that he did. He plucked a few from each decade because they resonated with the history and feeling of that time.

Anyway, that might be why MFA programs do encourage (or force) students to take Lit classes. As we study Dickens and Austen, we are studying art as well as artifacts, as as we work on our craft or art form, we are creating artifacts that will be ensconsed in English Lit.

In 100 years, if students want to take a course on 20th century Literature, who do you think they will be reading? Updike, Irving, Chabon? Probably.

Conor said...

right, a bunch of white dudes. Come On.

Conor said...

ps i love dickens and austen, but shouldn't you be reading your fellow student's work more than theirs at this point?

Gabriel said...

Mike - While I recognize the value in looking at a book within its historical context, it's a total misunderstanding to think that reading the elite intelligent writers of a period is a window into the world of the time in which it was written. The fact of the matter is that, just like now, the majority of people in every time period since at least the enlightenment (probably even before) enjoyed the same kinds of trite crap we malign today.

Just like we mistakenly assume that history is all about the actions of kings and generals, we mistakenly assume that the best crafted art of a period is reflective of the people from the time it was made. Instead, it should only be viewed as one piece of a larger puzzle. I mean, just look at today's culture - what tells you more about the climate we're living in today: Michael Chabon or Britney Spears?

Conor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Conor said...

one of the most intriguing pieces I've read in the last six years was written by a ten year old with multiple personality/bipolar disorders. I asked him where he got the idea to write his piece and he said he just thought about how his mom and dad speak. Cool. I'm on that page. If I asked a kid where he got the idea for his mentally impaired character from and he said, Bengy, I'd be SO let down. I'm just saying, for my money, the canon, the university way, the presses, all seems to lack a vitality, a spring, which I find bouncing all over the place in Art schools

Vince said...

If I told you that both CWMFA degrees are the same, what would be your reaction? It all depends on who you're talking to on the subject. There are different ways in mathematics to come up with the solution to a problem. There are several different ways to make electricity.

Conor said...

buzzzzzzzzz....crank that amp, son!

Lincoln said...

Conor said...

ps i love dickens and austen, but shouldn't you be reading your fellow student's work more than theirs at this point?


Unless you just mean that you should be spending more time reading for your workshop than doing outside reading (which I don't agree with, but...) I can't say I see what you are getting at here.

Why would reading fellow student's work be better for you than important and great novels from the past? You learn much more from reading great literature than you do from reading mediocre to pretty good literature, and most of the time the workshop submissions you get aren't going to be stacking up to Dickens or Nabokov.

I don't think this has anything to do with art school versus academic schools though. Painters learn more from studying the old masters than from their classmates. Filmmaker students learn more from the greats than from their classmates projects. etc.


but my question is, how else can one write great literature except by reading and understanding great literature?

M:
As the above probably indicates, I agree with you.

However, FWIW, I personally find that most English departments have almost no interest in understanding great literature. English departments have been almost entirely overrun by people with specific political or ideological interests and the few professors who simply like literature who remain have still been strongarmed into taking this absurd approach to literature.

In two semesters of an MFA, where the english classes focus on craft instead of politics, I've learned vastly more about literature than I did in twenty years of writing english essays on why Ophelia is a victim of the sexist patriarchy of Shakespeare's plays, how One Hundred Years of Solitude can be read as a marxist parable or what would happen if we pretended a text was about homosexuals and we circled all the "phallic" images.

Blah.

I agree with Harold Bloom when he says that a feminist reading of Tolstoy might tell you a lot about feminism, but it almost never tells you anything about Tolstoy.

All that said, if you can find a teacher who wants to study the literature for what it is instead of advancing some ideological viewpoint, you can learn an incredible amount. Read to write.

Lincoln said...

I mean, just look at today's culture - what tells you more about the climate we're living in today: Michael Chabon or Britney Spears?

This doesn't quite strike me as the question at hand. Which tells you more about our culture, a marginal author or a pop celebrity figure?

I guess Britney Spears does, if by Spears you mean that an analysis of her place in our culture and so on would yield a more accurate perception of our society than a study on Chabon.

But weren't we talking about reading the literuatre of the past? A book on Britney Spears might tell someone in the future a hell of a lot about the US in 2007. But would listening to a Britney Spears record tell you much? I don't think so. You'd learn a lot more by reading a Michael Chabon novel than listening to a Spears CD.

Lincoln said...

Conor:

Could you elaborate a bit on why you think the MFAs place in an art school or traditional university changes much? It seems to me that you are attacking the idea of the canon and the idea of academics and english departements, etc. Okay, but an MFA program is an insular program. I don't really see what relevance funding towards math and science grads (something you point out) has to do with one's actual experience at an MFA program.

Your MFA program will be your fellow students and your teachers, not MBA students at some other building on campus.

What about existing in a University would make professors teach differently or writers write differently?

I've see you say a couple times on here that you think MFAs would just make people "write the cannon" over and over, but plenty of experimental or experimentally friendly programs (Brown, Columbia, etc.) exist in traditional universities.

Conor said...

One of my professors came out of Brown, and she got picked up by Robert Coover pretty quickly and was something of an innovator of form. You're correct on all fronts about the island-like quality of MFA's at a university. There're plenty of universities out there who pride themselves on non-canonical text analysis and a minority of them aren't complete wastes. All true. I'm just getting the conversation going; the one about MFA programs being Worlds different. And what I mean by this tends to break people's hearts and they get all defensive.
what i mean by this:
mfa programs differ widely across the board, and for your money it's best to go where you're happy. This all brought to the blog because i see there's a bunch of writers who can't stand neo-conservative canonists.

Conor said...

Lincoln,
Bolivia Red said...

We're housed in the English Department here at Purdue, but fortunately the MFA program is accepted and (relatively) respected through the wider department.

insular, huh. Housing a writing program in an english department should make alarms go off. Notice she exposed 'relatively' as an off word connoting dissonance between the writer and oh-so-mighty english department. Oh, and Brittany Spears' song writers are for the most part Norwegian and her sound engineers are some of the best 'golden ears' to have existed. I'm not partial to her latest Bassist.

Conor said...

sorry, not norwegian, sweedish, and great, at that.

Lincoln said...

conor:

I'm frankly still having trouble seeing where you are coming from. Neo-conservative canonists? In MFA programs? In my experience, and from what I've seen with friends in MFA programs, "the western canon" has very little to do with anything in an MFA program.

MFA programs are notorious for focusing on short stories, a relatively new form, and also for focusing on contemporary fiction. Craft classes deal with modern short stories, by and large. I doubt there are many MFA programs teaching classes on Milton and Dickens. Most everyone I've read seems to agree that the western canon is only solidfied, in as much as it is ever solidified, up to about the 1930s. Few would call any contemporary author part of the canon.

But perhaps this how you are using the term?


And frankly, as I think one of my previous posts indicated, I find the idea of academic english departements (putting MFAs aside) as being devoted to the canon these days to be completely incorrect. In my experience, the prevailing mode in academia is to ATTACK the canon. Indeed, it seems easier to find an english class on "rock music" or "Bratz dolls" than it is to find a class on Goethe or Faulkner.

The canon is under constant assault by modern English Departments to the point that one could easily graduate with an English degree without every studying shakespeare or any of the Russians or any of the French or, really, anyone of note from the past at all.

So I don't really see how academic english departments are bastions of "neo-conservative canonists" and I certainly don't see how, even if they were, it would affect MFA programs which are insular and which focus almost entirely on modern and contemporary fiction, not the canon.

The knock on MFA students I always hear is that they rip-off Carver and Denis Johnson, not Chaucer and Samuel Johnson.

Lincoln said...

Conor said...

Lincoln,
Bolivia Red said...

We're housed in the English Department here at Purdue, but fortunately the MFA program is accepted and (relatively) respected through the wider department.

insular, huh.


I don't see how anything she said implies her program is or isn't insular.

What I meant by the term is that most MFA programs have their own teachers and their own classes. Their classes are normally "craft classes" and not "academic" classes. If I am taking classes that are part of the MFA program and all my classmates are MFA students and the professors are part of the MFA program... then the program is insular. And if that is the case, what does it matter if the program is technically part of the English department or technically part of the arts school? That is mostly a matter of bureaucracy, no?

Conor said...

relatively respected? Doesn't that chime of insolence? I can't stand that 'fitting' inside an english department. But yes, the whole ripping of Jesus's Son and Cathedral and all that, sure, sucks. What's more important is that there is a huge difference and no two degrees are the same. Vince's got it wrong. The two programs produce very different students. Actually a lot of writing students who enter art schools end up abandoning writing for other things. But back to the english department thing. It's bad. You shouldn't even think of housing a writing program near an english department even if there isn't any 'mixture' of professors, and even if the program seems 'insular'. should be down the block, should be in the painting department away from all those damn academics who wanna tear up Milton and Melville and make soup of Shakespeare's sonnets. Anyway, I'll settle for you being right because, after all, no two schools are alike: true. And I'm sick of defending art schools, which are art happening now, in the thicket, instead of constantly looking behind, wondering if we'll ever be as good as Margery Kemp.

Conor said...

nothing

L. said...

I think I would enjoy working on a writing MFA at an art school, if only because artists can be so much fun to be around. On the other hand, I think I'd miss being around people whose devotion to language superceded their interest in contemporary art. Though it's not a matter of ranking what's important in the art of writing, my feeling is that I'd likely find more people who shared the same concerns about language itself in an English Department, as opposed to an art school. But I could be wrong about that.

Conor said...

l. ,
Just for a little nip, most of my writing professors are sentence level writers. I don't think I have one who isn't a complete grammar nut. that's just how it is in chicago, home of one of the books that made it so, the manual of style.

Lincoln said...

conor:

I thought you wanted people to rip up Melville, Shakespare and the neo-conservative canonists who applaud them?

I guess this is the heart of the issue though:

The two programs produce very different students

What makes you think this? Do you feel that published authors with MFAs from art schools have significant differences from published authors from regular MFAs? What differences specifically are there?

I'm honestly very interested, as I've never looked into it myself.

FWIW, my program (Columbia) is housed in the School of the Arts and I definitly prefer it that way. It seems you and I share a similar distaste for Academic English departments, albeit for different reasons. However, while I like being surrounded by artists, I haven't gotten the feeling that my experience would be very different if the department was bureaucratically housed elsewhere.

Conor said...

lincoln,
what's at stake is a level of appreciation for others' work. in an art school setting you must consider yourself as a part of something I think of as more valuable than an academic setting. That or you're an outsider, which in either setting is rewarded with a little bit of awe. Maybe it's just the level of competition (albeit good, or bad) that drives artists to love each other that much more through strong criticism and healthy...spats. The work is a reflection, then, of the art surrounding the writer rather than the academy surrounding the writer. I think of my MFA as much more Chicago than anything to do with the art institute. I mean, my argument has more holes than i'd like to admit; one of them being the art museum across the street which houses all those old paintings we're all supposed to adore...sounds awfully like canonic worship to me. But, in academia there's a worship, now through trashing, analytical essays, ripping down the canon, but more or less orienting the canon to a level beyond its own value. That's what academia seems to be doing today...English department academia. I like the classics movement happening right now, and even SO/AN and all that. But think of the weight difference of being housed around all those analyzers, all those hounds who wanna sniff you out of their department if your being crazy with Their sacred texts. Dunno, just seems a little tight to expect a writer to enjoy being near all those noose throwers. Maybe you've seen my argument shift slightly. I realized, coming out of a really postcoloniallitB.A. that what we were really doing was reading the hell out of the classics in order to tear them down, but really we just began internalizing their stories and the ghosts of their voices. the writers among us began to read for enjoyment, and picked up Lorrie moore, munro and carver and found a more rewarding verse. But that's where it stopped. A few friends said, hey, what the hell. Why associate what I'm writing to what I'm reading, that's crazy! they don't live here, I don't live there! I'm not their voice! And so, for years now it's been all writing for writing and reading competitively, as if Nabokov wasn't someone to imitate, but to beat, to rival with something different, as if Carver were somewhat of a weakling for letting Lish get hold of him. and so, we all dropped the idea of publishing for money, books, and just vowed to make art for art's sake. the competitiveness will go away a little later when we're older and lose our egos. That seems to be what art school is turning out to be, right now.

M. said...

the gyst of connor's argument, it seems to me, is that he loves cai's program, which is great for him. i loved my time in art school, have an mfa in visual art myself. it seems odd to me that i'm being construed as defending english departments when i haven't done anything of the kind, and said specifically that both environments have their advantages and disadvantages.

in my observation, one of the primary ways that people mask their defensiveness is by claiming other people to be defensive.

dll said...

m.,
I agree with this, what you said:
"so i don't think it makes sense to view the mfa field in terms of art school v. english department, just because art school communities have their own set of biases and expectations. while i completely agree that so many of those stodgy academics are fartheads, i also think there's something to be said for having a sense of literary history, if only to stick in those cool ulysses references in your prose and make yourself look way smart."
There's different people viewing things differently, how they define art. I prefer a free-type environment or at least one that expresses a kind of "we agree to disagree-and respectfully" vibe.
Anyways, yeah, I'm into freedom of choice in a program and respect of differing opinions and that certainly can happen in either an art school or an english department-just depends on the school, I guess.
{I also guess that I shouldn't have tried to explain conor's POV as if it crystalized my own-or as if we shared a brain}

Lincoln said...

Conor:
Dunno, just seems a little tight to expect a writer to enjoy being near all those noose throwers.

I think we both have similar views on English Departments, so I agree and appreciate most of what you said. But at the end of hte day I'm still a little confused by quotes like the above. Unless English PhD candidate's have some kind of airborne infectious disease (metaphorically), what does it matter if the classes at the end of the hall are PhD classes or if they are sculpting classes?

You are still going to be in your classes with your fellow writers and your writing teachers, not taking the PhD or sculpting classes.

Mike Valente said...

Conor made a point about Art Schools teaching their students about art NOW, which I believe and agree. While I think that MFA's do train their writers in contemporary fiction, as in writing NOW, I can see how one would believe that the instruction in MFAs is influenced by faculty who crossover both the English dept and MFA program, and thus allow their instruction be influenced by older literature. Totally reasonable, like a "this is how's it's been, this is how it's changing, and this is how it's going to be" approach."

Lincoln said...

Mike:

It still stikes me that

a) at most good programs the majority of the faculty teaches in the creative writing program only, they aren't stretched between creative writing and literature.

b) As you say, MFAs, no matter where they are, focus on contemporary writing. MFA professors at art schools will probably have the same background as MFA professors elsewhere, so many of them will have taken many english classes in college and many gotten PhDs. So they would have teh same influence.

not that I can see what is bad about being influenced by the past, but that is a different debate.

Conor said...

lincoln,
just to make the point,
most of my professors are authors, not having received too much formal academic training, but the ones that are trained are PhD's in semiotics or something to do with sentence level language; stuff like that. Most are writers who got B.A.s and went on to successful writing careers, but need to work with other writers and teach.

Vince said...

I would just like to cite the fact that Connor has admitted that he is biased and that there is a bitterness in the art based programs--to the best of his knowledge--since he is a student who is enrolled in an art school.

Gabriel said...

I don't think one needs to study the so-called "great" writers to learn writing. You can learn a lot by reading bad writers too. Or mediocre writers, or by watching a movie, or waiting at the bus stop, or whatever. As much as so many of us would like to think it is, writing isn't unique in its endeavors. It balances on the same critical foundations that any other art form does, and in fact any other it just regurgitates it in a different way. Conor has a really valid point here, which is that writers have more to learn from other artists than they do from "academics", and that creative writing really belongs in the same field as the fine arts.

Though I think it's possible to find a fair number of examples of non-art school MFA programs focused on the creative arts more than canonical digesting, it's a fair thing to bring up when people are considering which programs to attend.

And I still stand by my assertion that Britney Spears' "work" is a more illuminating historical artifact for modern America than Michael Chabon's. Even if those killer beats are Swedish.

Vince said...

Connor does make a valid (and admittedly biased) view point. In the creative process, an artist needs inspiration. This inspiration can come from any number of sources such as great writers, a painting by Degas, or even a postcard from a friend. Maybe one person gains inspiration from great writers. An equally creative person can gain inspiration from a spray-paint mosaic in Hell's Kitchen.

Nikkita said...

Hope it's okay to drop in on your debate. I am currently a BFA student with an emphasis in printmaking/book arts, but I also consider myself a writer. I spent last semester at SAIC in the creative writing department. My background is not "academic" so I may be a little biased, but there are some advantages to the art school setting that I'd like to mention for anyone interested. For me, my art and my writing have always informed one another, revealing issues I am concerned with and advancing my thought when I have felt stuck in one medium or the other. Last semester, focusing mostly on my writing, I was able to see how the creative process is the same regardless of medium, and that more than technique or craft, an environment that stimulates the creative process is incredibly important. I'm sure this can be found housed within an English department, but an advantage of taking writing classes within an art school is that the boundaries one might find in a school where every major is strictly delineated are very fluid in the art school setting. Crossovers and collaborations happen all the time; text is taken off of the page into new realms, be it hypertext, sound, performance, or something else entirely. Without the constraints of tradition, one can think about his or her work without comparing it to what's been done in the past, but exploring why it is relevant now . That is not to say one would not be made aware of those traditions at art school, but there is no expected response to that traditon. There is an open mindedness that is not necessarily unique to art schools, but perhaps more prevalent.

Whiffless Apprentice said...

While this discussion hit a rapid boil, I know it's mellowed to a simmer. Actually, since I can't tell the last time anyone posted, it might be solidifying, crust at the surface in the pot on the stove that we've glanced at, in passing, debated on cleaning, maybe a couple of times a day, etc., maybe later. Running with this conceit, ad infinitum (Hendecasyllabic this, Ovid) I'm late to the table, but I'm a poor grad student and I'm starving and this is looking good.

I think it's a worthwhile conversation. The actual English Department vs Art School debate is, of course, up to those choosing MFA programs to which to apply. to to to to grr. It's personal, and it can come down to what company you keep.

For those of us currently in programs, the discussion brings to light the subliminal tactics of narrative interpretation to (not just the workshop as we critique each other and ourselves) but to the writing community in which we live and breathe.

The realization allows us to call upon these tactics and pick and choose if we're going to throw some red flags (New Historicism and Deconstructionalism being pompously academic) or welcome it (c'mon psychoanalysis always wins). In this way, we can consciously shape the discussion, and perhaps, the program, itself, into a breeding ground for varying narrative and non-narrative interpretation. That is, Non-narrative of the, "I refuse to read, so I can cultivate my own art, but check out that 'Hells Kitchen graffiti'" variety.

This, of course, is fully believing CWMFA programs to be insular regardless if they're in English Departments or nestled in the influence of Art Schools. CWMFA programs are full of writers, who, by nature, are as insular and focused as race horses out of the gate.