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Nov 25, 2004, 10:26 AM

Post #1 of 8 (4216 views)
MFA to PhD Can't Post


I am currently in the MFA program at the Ohio State University. Lately, I've been looking into Lit/Creative Writing doctoral programs with a creative dissertation option. I've pretty much decided that teaching creative writing is not necessarily the direction I want to go in, but I want to keep writing while I study Lit. From what I understand, a Literature and creative writing PhD would make me qualified to teach both creative writing and literature classes. Is this generally the case? Am I totally misinformed on this?

Also, I was wondering if my MFA would count as an MA when I apply for PhD programs. Many require that you come in with an MA in creative writing or Lit. to begin with-- so does my MFA count the same way an MA does?

Last question-- does anybody happen to be in a Lit/CW program right now? Do you find enough time to write?


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Nov 25, 2004, 3:05 PM

Post #2 of 8 (4208 views)
Re: [ltrent] MFA to PhD Can't Post

Yes, the MFA counts as a master's when applying for a PhD program. The MFA used to be a terminal degree, a couple of years ago, but not so much anymore.

But if you want to study literature, why not just take a degree in literature?

The real qualifications for teaching creative writing are publications. Selection committees won't be too concerned with whether you've got a workshop on your transcript.


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Nov 25, 2004, 5:53 PM

Post #3 of 8 (4206 views)
Re: [pongo] MFA to PhD Can't Post

Thanks for the quick reply!

I want to do the creative writing dissertation because I really have no interest in doing a long scholarly dissertation. I want to take lit. classes, but I'd rather spend the majority of my time doing my own writing. I feel I'd be consumed with critical work if I did the Lit. degree-- I'd never have time to write, I'd just be too consumed with doing as well as I possibly could.


James Hall

Nov 26, 2004, 1:49 AM

Post #4 of 8 (4197 views)
Re: [ltrent] MFA to PhD Can't Post

Dear LT,

I'm in the PhD program in CW/Lit at Houston. I find quite a lot of time to write (I'm a poet, but also write nonfiction) though it's not an easy negotiation at all. The program here asks you to teach 2 sections (mostly Comp, though after my 2nd year I've been fortunate enough to teach literature classes and 1 introductory workshop) each semester, while you are enrolled in 3 classes. It's REALLY difficult to write 2 critical studies each semester (of 20-30 pages), and to fully participate in workshop (writing a poem every week, or 2-4 stories each semester). Other students also have other jobs at local community colleges; I take out loans. I think that's how I have time to write (and, well, the fact that I'm done with coursework and in the 4th year -- this helps immensely). So, yes, one still has time to write (though it doesn't feel that way the first year). But one is writing so many different things, under very different identities (lesson plans, creative work, critical work, etc).

The best thing to do is to check out each PhD program to see how each school forms the relationship between the critical and the creative writing. Some schools (Western Michigan comes to mind) seem to think of critical work as a precursor, as a kind of inspiration, to the creative work. Other programs really feel that, since most creative writing graduate degree takers find academic employment as literature professors (instead of as creative writing professors), the critical work is really the professional preparation one needs.

Good luck with your search!



Nov 26, 2004, 1:21 PM

Post #5 of 8 (4189 views)
Re: [ltrent] MFA to PhD Can't Post

As you make your decisions I'd urge you, if you want to find yourself in a flexible position when you've finished your degree(s), to take a course or two in composition theory along the way. In the cc circuit, where many newly-minted academics find it necessary to look for employ as they also look for those all-too-elusive 4-year jobs, we accept a MFA or a Ph.D. in creative writing as "alternative acceptable degrees" AS LONG AS there is also evidence of graduate course work in comp. theory, AND at least a bit of comp. treaching experience. So, while I wouldn't argue with you for having an aversion to lit. crit, and for finding that work onerous and perhaps anathema, I'd advise: Get over aversions to comp. theory, if you want to have a fighting chance at accessible academic jobs, many of which demand some/considerable comp. experience/teaching load.

We just hired a Ph.D. in poetics-poetry-lit (some combination offered wherever Diane Wakoski is--brain fart about where; too much tryptophan from turkey yesterday). She'll get to teach one creative writing class. The other four will be composition. At least until we can build the program more, when she'll get more creative writing.




Nov 27, 2004, 7:17 PM

Post #6 of 8 (4166 views)
Re: [freeverses] MFA to PhD Can't Post

James, thanks very much for your input, it's encouraging to hear that someobdy can manage to juggle scholarship & writing.


Nov 27, 2004, 7:22 PM

Post #7 of 8 (4164 views)
Re: [libbyagain] MFA to PhD Can't Post

Hey Elizabeth, thanks for your comments.
I teach a basic freshman Rhet. Comp. class right now, which I'm thinking will be helpful once I graduate. I do plan to take some comp. theory and critical theory classes, though; I don't dislike those areas, I just don't want to dedicate myself to them. It is helpful to know that composition theory will be important. I'll keep that in mind.



Nov 28, 2004, 2:40 PM

Post #8 of 8 (4143 views)
Re: [ltrent] MFA to PhD Can't Post

You raise some interesting questions on this topic. I'm an MFA grad teaching comp full-time -basically a non-tenure track position, which means no research responsibilities, some committee service/prof development activities, and a heavy teaching load. My MFA program was very light on the comp theory stuff -- make that none, because we didn't teach -- so I basically got the job because I had a lot of adjunct experience after I graduated, and the department I'm in was very open to someone with other than a more traditional comp background (there are three other MFAs on our staff). So as a fiction writer I'm able to bring a lot of my own ideas about writing to the classroom, as much as you can with first year writers. That being said, though I think I'm fairly successful doing this stuff and have a lot of freedom in my job, my lack of formal theory background does certainly feel like a weakness sometimes -- sort of like doing something but not knowing why or how you got there, if that makes sense. So I guess I'd really encourage you to take as much of that stuff as you can, while you have the time now. I really feel like I should do it too, but I'm too busy teaching comp to study the theory of teaching comp, which feels completely backwards! And also take as much as you can now to broaden what you're able to teach later (lit, etc. -- something else I'd wish I'd done). And I too have thought about going the PhD. creative dissertation route, but logistically can't really work it out at this point, unless our local big 10 university English dept offers that option, which they're not planning to do. Perhaps the next thing on the horizon will be low res PhD. programs in creative writing - there may already be such a thing and I'm not aware of it. Anyone have any thoughts/info on that?

FWIW and good luck!


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