Jan 20, 2011, 2:46 AM
Post #2009 of 2092
Re: [klondike] NEW! The Creative Writing PhD Blog!
On the contrary, I think it's really the only mature way to have a discussion on the topic. For instance, you implied, above, that a Ph.D. is a Ph.D. is a Ph.D. -- the degree simply is a professional degree, no matter what, at all times, whatever the field and whatever the history of the degree in that field. That (with respect) is naive. The history of the CW Ph.D. is not the history of the Ph.D. in Astrophysics -- and not just because one is a very new phenomenon. In fact, there's an ongoing debate as to whether the CW Ph.D. should even exist, and as to whether the very notion of a CW Ph.D. is a contradiction in terms, i.e. whether the introduction of preliminary exams to a degree which was (and is) intentionally structured as a two- to three-year MFA-like experience (plus a three-year fellowship) actually renders that degree a "professional" degree with the same expectations attached to it as, say, a law school degree or a medical school degree or even (yes) a traditional Literature Ph.D.
Does the CW Ph.D. prepare students to teach more than an MFA does, assuming a funded student in both instances? No. Does the CW Ph.D. prepare a student to do academic research in a way an MFA with academic requirements (which is basically all of them) does not? No, indeed at most MFA programs the MFA students take doctoral coursework -- alongside doctoral students -- for everything but their workshops (the IWW being a very unique and unusual exception, because of the animosity between the Workshop and the UI English Department). So again, your claim is that merely calling the degree a Ph.D. and requiring prelims renders the CW Ph.D. categorically identical -- in its status as a professional degree -- to, say, the Ph.D. in Astrophysics.
And that might be true, if an "MFA in Astrophysics" were considered a co-terminal degree with the Ph.D. in Astrophysics and equally qualified graduates to get tenure-track jobs, despite the fact that (as you and I agree) the MFA is not a professional degree.
In other words, your argument relies on your own personal expectations for a CW Ph.D. course of study, uninformed as those expectations are by the actual history of the degree and (FWIW) the very different expectations of others who pursue the degree. You may well do a CW Ph.D. and expect to be placed in a tenure-track job, but many CW Ph.D. students -- and many of those who pioneered the degree in the first instance, it's clear -- in fact see the experience as an extension of the MFA, born of a time when MFA programs rarely offered teaching experience (and certainly did not offer sufficient time to publish the ms. or mss. needed for a tenure-track job) so that the CW Ph.D. had a real void to fill. The point is this: The CW Ph.D. doesn't move the ball an inch: one still needs a book or two or three to get a full-time CW job and one needs teaching experience and one needs a terminal degree, which could be either an MFA or Ph.D. in the CW field.
How could you expect me, or anyone, to penalize -- say -- Ohio University because it fails to place a graduate who hasn't done the necessary work himself/herself to publish a book...? CW jobs don't open, as in other fields, for those who are merely in the midst of promising research -- with tenure secured later, after publication of a book based on that research -- instead, one has to have a published book (or two) in hand to get a CW job that's full-time, and so neither Ph.D. programs nor MFA programs can be held responsible for, or assessed on the basis of, job placement in the same way as the Physics program at Harvard.
I think your desire to refocus Ph.D. rankings in CW on job placement is born out of a fear of joblessness we all have -- and a desire to see programs do more to help recent graduates, a desire we all share -- and not the reality, which is that the CW Ph.D. as currently conceived and executed is not much different from the MFA in terms of its professional value. And the MFA is not a professional degree. You write, "if you poll current Ph.D. candidates, I think you'll find job placement is a top concern." Well, MFA students would say exactly the same thing. But like most CW Ph.D. candidates, they wouldn't think their degree is going to "place" them in a job in the way (I can tell you) a budding attorney expects from his/her law school, or a medical student from his/her medical school, or even (as I see in my own doctoral program in English Literature) a traditional-dissertation English graduate student expects from their course of study.
(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 20, 2011, 2:50 AM)