Friday, August 03, 2007
Diversity (the other kind) in the MFA
Daryll Lynne recently created a post on demographic diversity in MFA programs, which was very helpful and can be found here. That post got me thinking about the other kind of diversity that just might be more important in the context of a writing program: aesthetic diversity.
The most persistent knock on MFA programs I hear is that they all produce the same kind of work. The "MFA story," as they call it. Having worked on literary journals before, I can see where this criticism comes from, but I don't think it is true characterization for MFAs as a whole. I know that in my own workshops at Columbia I've seen a wide range of work, from experimental word-play to literary genre fiction, along with a similar diversity in professors.
I know that, for me, this kind of diversity is helpful and creates the kind of environment to make my work grow and change. But what do you all think about aesthetic diversity? Is it important to you? Or would a program filled with students more or less in line with your tastes be more helpful, help you streamline and focus your work? Certainly there are programs that are known for promoting certain styles (Brown with experimental fiction, Iowa with the domestic realism thing, etc.) but what programs are known for their aesthetic diversity?