Phorget the Phluff (gimme workshops!) in Philly writes in...
My question, based off this anonymous post on your
"I got burned in my undergrad lit classes, so I'd
rather choose programs with no or less lit course
requirements even though they look less attractive
funding-wise. So I have already removed from my list
programs like Cornell, the U of Texas, Indiana,
I'm not interested in lit classes. To be blunt, I want
a grad school to pay (fully fund) me to write and
improve my writing for 2-3 years. That's it. The
degree is just a nice bonus. A place with an
mentality: "The central emphasis of our program is the
act of writing, undertaken here in the context of a
community of committed practitioners."
What *good* programs do you (and your readers) know
that have minimal lit class requirements and focus
heavily on workshops and the craft of WRITING?
Phluff, before I answer your question, I want to give a long, drawn-out speech about the importance of literature and craft classes.
Scratch that. I'll be brief. And sincere.
I think workshop-only, or even workshop-mostly programs are problematic. Look, in these situations, you only have output. No input. In other words, you're only reading your own work and the work of your peers. You're not reading published work that can be discussed, praised, slammed, or best of all: looked at with a writer's eye and learned from.
Look, if I'd only taken workshops at UMass, my experience there would've been a disaster. I learned the most there in a single class: Stylistics, where we read Virginia Woolf, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, and a lot of other great writers. I don't particularly like DeLillo. But I learned a lot from him. And more importantly: I learned a lot during the discussions we had about the work in class.
I also learned from the Shakespeare, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Poetry, and even the Electronic Writing class I took. And they were a nice counter-balance to my workshops.
Bottom line: When you're only looking at (and discussing) your own work and your peers' work, things can get very stale very quickly. I think you run the risk of only making adjustments, rather than significant and large strides.
Okay, that wasn't short, but it was sincere.
That all said, we're all adults here, and we can make our own decisions. So, the low-literature programs that I can think of are: Brown, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington (MO), Texas (Michener), and Syracuse.
I'm sure there are others. Can anyone add to that list? PtPiP and I would appreciate it.
And two observations that hold true in many cases, but not all:
1. The lower the degree hour requirements (say, 36 instead of 72), the fewer the required literature courses.
2. MFA programs in the Southeast are generally very literature-heavy.