Feb 17, 2011, 12:44 PM
Post #2048 of 2090
Re: [spypop22] NEW! The Creative Writing PhD Blog!
Is it a professional degree? Does it prepare the candidate for teaching? Does it help get teaching jobs? All good questions. How does the PhD-granting institution benefit? An even better question, I think. Why do people choose to pursue CW PhDs? To stall, buy time, avoid daily grinds while shopping a manuscript?
Some of us old timers have already engaged in this song-and-dance with Seth--look through the thread.
I'm telling you all that you're wasting your time on this one: Seth believes that the CW PhD is an extended Studio-Academic MFA, *except* for his super duper special program at Wisconsin that he shills whenever he gets a chance--the one that is so unique, and so different from most other CW PhD's!
I'll be happy to answer your questions, since--unlike Seth--I'm a student at a CW PhD program (he's gone out of his way to distinguish his program from those of ours, so I'm sure he'll understand):
"Is it a professional degree?"
A: Yes, though not "professional" like a business or law degree. I think "professionalization" is a better word to describe the process of earning a PhD in the humanities. Taking and passing qualifying exams is an example of such professionalization. There is not an MFA program in the country that offers doctoral level qualifying exams, and anyone who has actually prepared for and taken qualifying exams will tell you without any reservation that exams prepare one to teach literature. How could it not? You are required to survey an entire literary period (for each area, most programs test you in 2-3 total), the pertinent scholarship of that period, and contextualize that knowledge into an exam answer. One could carve several syllabi from my exam notes and I plan to use them for future course preps. One's comp areas are routinely brought up at job interviews, and it can only help a CW'er if he can tell the committee that he passed exams in American II and Romantic Literature and is able to teach undergrad courses in those areas. In academia, qualifying exams are considered a "professional qualification" to teach generalist and undergrad lit on a sustained basis, which is why some job postings say that "ABD's will be considered." One is "ABD" after passing his or her exams.
"Does it prepare the candidate for teaching?"
A: Yes. See above. It prepares CW'ers to teach undergrad lit and/or generalist surveys. Many CW PhD'ers are able to teach and even design their own lit courses under the direction of faculty; some programs even offer mentorships with lit faculty and teaching practicums (I base this on knowledge of my own program, and anecdotal evidence from friends at other programs). I'll leave my program with teaching experience in CW and lit, as well as comp experience from my MFA program. Having teaching experience in all three areas is common among CW PhD students, esp. since many enter PhD programs with teaching experience from their MFA programs and/or adjuncting.
"Does it help get teaching jobs?"
A: It depends. One thing to consider is that "jobs" vary greatly by institution type:
1) There are MFA jobs teaching a 2/2 of grad creative writing at research universities to rising stars, along with supervision of their theses.
2) There are jobs at small teaching colleges and universities teaching a 4/4 of undergrad creative writing, comp, and lit to English majors.
3) There are jobs that fall in between these two categories.
I can't advise anyone to waste 4-5 years on a CW PhD if he or she isn't willing to take a job at 2), isn't interested in literature or theory, or just views the PhD as a four-year extension on his or her Studio-MFA academic program. I have many friends in CW PhD programs, and not one of them has ever said that their program was remotely similar to their MFA programs, and I know that in my program, a student who viewed the CW PhD program as a mere MFA extension wouldn't be looked at favorably, since we spend as much (if not more) time dealing with the lit faculty as the CW faculty. Also, why would anyone waste time studying for comp exams if he or she wasn't interested in lit or teaching lit? I've spent the past year going through three areas--a total of 150 texts--to prepare for my qualifying exams. This is a pretty serious investment in literature, as most CW PhD's test under the same or similar format as the lit students. And, no, you can't find a similar investment at any MFA program; comparing the exam process to taking 9-12 lit courses is stupid.
(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Feb 17, 2011, 12:48 PM)