Monday, December 27, 2010

Six More Myths About the Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts (@ The Huffington Post)

You can find the new article here. If you like it, I hope you'll share it with others via Facebook, Twitter, &c. Busting these myths is critical to a better understanding of why young poets and writers actually seek out an MFA degree -- and why it's so critical that programs and working artists get together to make the MFA experience better.

8 comments:

Ryan said...

Am I the only one who finds the absolute numeration of what is essentially, at base, an art form absolutely horrifying?

Write well. Nothing else matters. Not reductionist percentage opinions on faculty vs funding. Not whether applicants prefer rural locations to urban ones. Or whether rankings even matter. I went to two middling state universities. Does this make me a middling human being? Hope not.

Write your heart out and all of these numbers mean nothing.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Ryan,

I don't think the rankings seek to quantify anything having to do directly with Art -- in fact, they go out of their way not to quantify the teaching of art (by not slapping a number on faculty quality the way USNWR did in the 1990s), they go out of their way not to quantify the subjective experience of MFA students (by not polling them), they go out of their way not to put a numeric value on the artistic output of alumni (by not quantifying or considering alumni success)... heck, they don't even quantify things like location, as much as artists have for decades exhibited observable tendencies in terms of the sorts of communities they prefer to make art in and where they find the most inspiration.

What gets "absolute numeration" in the rankings are just the sorts of things adults quantify because doing so is responsible and necessary: like your finances, like your healthcare costs, like access to resources (as indicated by, say, student-to-faculty ratio). I'm wondering what is there in the rankings -- not your subjective reaction to what you think they mean for Art -- that makes you think they disagree with your premise that writing well is what produces success in the end, and that whatever and however one writes says nothing about one as a human being? Because, jeez, I created the rankings and I agree with you on those points 100%.

I think you're entitled to your opinion as to whether rankings would help you make a life decision or not -- whether they'd be partially relevant or wholly irrelevant (no one says they're dispositive of anyone's decisions, that's for sure) -- but I don't think you're entitled to imply that the rankings are trying to say something they have never, never, said Word One about.

Art is sacred. Deciding whether to move your family somewhere for three years and change your career and invest in a particular community and institution is something, yes, adults do decide partially with reference to hard data.

Best,
S.

EGS said...

Ryan, you can be a starving artist all you like. But I'd prefer to have some money to live off of - much easier to sit and write without your stomach growling.

jaime said...

Ryan, while I agree with you that rankings SHOULDN'T matter, in the real world, many times, they do. Seth is right; making the choice to move, or to go into any form of debt, however big or small, or simply investing 2 or 3 years of your life somewhere is a huge decision. Ranking programs based on funding, or faculty is a major decision factor for many people. And in the "real world", with teaching positions or even networking, I hate to say it, but in every field, where you went to school can make a difference in whether a door is opened - or whether you even KNOW about that door. Alumni networks can be a huge help or detriment, depending on how involved they are, etc.

NoisySilence said...

Starving trumps scribbled drivel any day.

Jane said...

Wonderful, informative article.

All of those points needed to be made.

And I couldn't possibly move my two children and ask my husband to (slightly) take a (temporary) career detour from a job which pays all of our bills

in order to attend a school that didn't have a ranking I could brag about to friends and family. ;)

Seriously, the rankings are meaningful, and I won't be applying to any but high-ranked schools with wonderful funding because we simply wouldn't be able to afford it.

Art and its processes and practices are magical, but artists need to eat and have a roof over their heads.

Jane said...

Wonderful, informative article.

All of those points needed to be made.

And I couldn't possibly move my two children and ask my husband to (slightly) take a (temporary) career detour from a job which pays all of our bills

in order to attend a school that didn't have a ranking I could brag about to friends and family. ;)

Seriously, the rankings are meaningful, and I won't be applying to any but high-ranked schools with wonderful funding because we simply wouldn't be able to afford it.

Art and its processes and practices are magical, but artists need to eat and have a roof over their heads.

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