The Top 20 MFA Programs. Research Q: What is it like there?
There’s been a lot of talk lately about MFA programs and what they’re up to. Mostly this has to do with calls that MFA programs are doing two bad things:
1. They are dominated by a period style that Tony Hoagland describes as “skittery.” And that this is ruining things. Usually the critique also includes that poets aren’t given the history of poetry. Don't read dead poets. Only read each other, etc.
2. They are bad and should be done away with because they are ruining potential artists by taking them out of the real world and professionalizing them, creating a class of people with cleverness but nothing to be clever about.
Are those good summaries of the two major critiques? If not, feel free to rephrase. But all this talk has gotten me to realize that I really don’t know what’s going on. I know a little from travelling and having friends and all that, but I don’t know from the student perspective if either of these critiques has legs.
So here are my Friday research questions. If you go to one of the following “Top 20” (As they appear in this year’s Poets & Writers list) MFA programs:
1. Is there an reigning, asserted aesthetic where you feel forced or seduced into writing in a “camp”? Is there a two-camp model being talked about, and do you feel you are being indoctrinated into one side or the other? What are your reading lists like? Who is ignored?
2. Is there talk of the “real world” in your MFA program? Is there conversation about this notion of the “professional artist”? How does the faculty talk about this? How do students talk about this?
If you attend one of these universities I’d love to hear from you (if you go to one of the Non-Top 20, as I did, you can still respond, of course). Please respond anonymously in the comment stream here. I’d hate to get anyone in trouble. Please, though, name your institution, so we can start to make a purple map.
1. University of Iowa in Iowa City
2. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
3. University of Wisconsin in Madison
4. Brown University in Providence
5. Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
5. Syracuse University in New York
7. University of Virginia in Charlottesville
8. University of Texas in Austin (Michener Center)
9. Washington University in Saint Louis
10. University of Minnesota in Minneapolis
11. University of Oregon in Eugene
12. Indiana University in Bloomington
13. University of Massachusetts in Amherst
14. Vanderbilt University in Nashville
15. University of California in Irvine
16. New York University in New York City
17. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore
18. University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa
19. University of Houston in Texas
20. University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign
I wonder if anyone will respond. I really hope one or two people from each institution responds. I’d really like to hear.