Feb 22, 2006, 4:47 PM
Post #158 of 6282
I feel kind of self-conscious dishing on the Michener Center since I'm sure a couple of my classmates or professors are lurking around here occasionally! But here goes:
Re: [gussy] UT Michener Suggestion
The positives about the program: it's an incredibly warm, welcoming program that's fairly diverse in terms of writing styles. I really like & enjoy the company of most of my classmates, and personality-wise they seem pretty diverse, too: a wide range on the spectrum of quiet & sincere to loud & testosterone-heavy, all of whom seem to intermingle a fair amount. Because everyone's required to choose a secondary genre the occasional "beginners" in your classes bring interesting perspectives to the table & are usually quite competant if not completely at ease in their 2ndary. The academic requirements for graduation are extremely flexible, allowing you to take PhD-level, theory-heavy lit classes or lighter-weight "lit for writers" type survey courses. In their 2nd & 3rd years lots of people organize conference courses--small classes that meet one-on-one or in small groups with a professor and can be about nearly whatever you'd like (for example: one of my classmates is organizing an experimental playwriting course for Spring 07 that'll draw classmates from different areas of theater & writing departments with the intention of producing a few short, audience-immersive plays in time for a local theater festival). There are good school-sponsored reading series (Alice Notley & Jonathan Lethem coming this semester), and the undergrad honors program just opened a gorgeous & well-stocked reading room full of poetry & lit magazines. There's a writers-in-the-schools program (I've heard negative comments about how it's organized but I have no personal experience with it), & there's a new nationally-distributed literary magazine (the Bat City Review) that students are welcome to work on. Obviously the money's good, as is the abundance of free time and no teaching load...
The negatives: as I've said before, the Michener Center's 'gimmick' is to bring in visiting faculty, and as far as I know half the workshops every semester are taught by visitors. On one hand it's a great chance to work with interesting visiting writers (Naomi Shihab Nye was here last year, and I know Dean Young will be here for Spring/Fall 2007; I got to go to a three-hour masterclass with Salman Rushdie, also!). On the other, because writers don't stick around very long, there's less of an impetus for them to build lasting relationships with their students, and so though they may be fascinating, they don't seem to have much personal involvement with us. Of course this is a two-way street, & if I were at every professor's office hours each week I'd surely have a different perspective on the matter. That said, A. Van Jordan's just joined the English Department's permanent faculty and seems really engaging & a great poet.
I have some complaints about Austin as a city, but those are completely personal, and I'm sure I'm happier in Austin than I would be in, say, Houston or Iowa City! I also haven't lived here for very long, so I don't know the city's secret quirks as intimately as I'd like, & Austin isn't as forthcoming with its oddities as other places I've lived have been.