Friday, February 01, 2008

Who's Your Daddy?

David writes in:

I was wondering if current MFA students notice a trend among their peers in terms of who their literary influences are. Do you hear mainly the same authors? (For example, if you poll a group of NBA players of who they patterned their game from, I'm probably safe to assume you'll undoubtedly hear the same names--Jordan, Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, etc. I highly doubt anyone of those players will toss out a name like Craig Hodges or Blue Edwards.) Is this the case in your MFA experience?

Thanks.


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I find that a few names do get brought up over and over again. If I had a dime for every time I've heard Richard Ford mentioned in the last six months! However, my hunch--and I think it's a good hunch--is that the names that are brought up with frequency will vary depending on the emphasis given, in a given program, to whatever "school" of writing. That in turn depends, to a large extent, on the interests and talents of the faculty.

You can make a case for MFA genealogies, for a lineage of stylistic influence in writing programs. A school like Iowa is known for its realism, while a school like Brown has a reputation as a place to experiment. Of course, even "experimental" programs have their patron saints--people like Robert Coover and Donald Barthelme, for instance. And there are the uber-mommas and -daddies of influential writers... How many well-known writers now count Flann O'Connor as one of their influences? How many consider themselves sons of sons of Faulkner? This paragraph is my way of jamming enough family-themed ruminations in this post that the post's title begins to make sense. Whether or not you feel at home in a program will, to a degree, depend on whether you have a common writerly lineage with the people who teach in the program, I think.

Any writers in particular that seem to have a lot of fans at your particular program, MFA gals and guys? David and I wonder...

7 comments:

Renee said...

I feel like I'm continually being influenced and shaped in my writing by other writers.. but I started off with Adrienne Rich, Charles Wright, Philip Levine, C.J. Stevens and Cathy Song, to name a few.

Godfrey said...

Flann O'Connor...? I know of Flannery O'Connor and Flann O'Brien...

Godfrey said...

Sorry, that may have seemed rude! I meant no rudeness.

dbmicheal said...

If only I had a nickel for each time the students in my program mentioned Jim Shepard or Dennis Johnson...

Lizzy said...

I used Flann as an endearing form of Flannery, godfrey. Good for you, that you've heard of both!

eLily said...

Munro, Updike and Larry Bird... for three!

go Cs

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