Feb 10, 2010, 2:52 AM
Post #1331 of 2090
Seth gives many good reasons for Wisconsin-Madison as a program, and I agree that the structure may well allow for students (in the internal creative minor) to be viewed as both writers and scholars, but I don't think it's the only place where that can happen. Certainly, in a CW PhD one might be labeled as a creative writer, but there are opportunities to transcend that label at more integrated programs where lots of lit. classes are required. At Tennessee, for example, creative writers take classes with PhD students in lit. and all graduate students, regardless of specialty, are encouraged to submit their written work for lit. classes to conferences and academic journals.
Conceivably, one could finish a CW PhD with at least two publishable academic articles, and several conference presentations, AND a book-length creative MS as a result of the dissertation. At UW-Madison, you would have a book-length critical piece that could be published in parts or as a whole, and several creative pieces that could be published individually. Since I don't have a book, I guess I'm more drawn to the creative dissertation as a chance to get a draft.
Agreed. Good post. While it's true that Wiscy's program is unique, I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that students in creative writing PhD programs can't find a way to be viewed as "scholars" or that it's even difficult, really. In my program, the literature professors are quite open to working with creative writers; people don't walk around the department with "Creative Writing" or "Literature" tattooed to their foreheads. Academia--esp. the humanities--tends to be a pretty flexible place, and PhD students in particular tend to chart their own paths.
Also, I think it's important to discuss these points in light of the job market. One should only devote 5-6 years of his life developing his scholarly side if he truly hopes to be a scholar beyond the program; I see little longterm gain in hacking away at a critical dissertation if one isn't going to pursue scholarship down the line, esp. when that time could be used writing fiction or poetry. And the truth is that for most CW jobs that advertise for PhD's, departments simply want a CW'er who can teach undergrad surveys; you don't need to write a dissertation on Chaucer or publish articles on Spencer to teach Great American Writers 101; all you need is a passing score on a few qualifying exams and the letters PhD beside your name, because most of the jobs that require a diverse course load are at small colleges or regional universities anyway. Professors in posh MFA programs with 2/2 loads aren't teaching literature courses.
So, outside of the obvious benefit of extended writing time, I view the decision to earn a PhD in two ways:
1) The writer wants to cover all of his bases, because many of the entry level jobs at smaller and/or less prestigious colleges and universities carry higher and more diverse teaching loads.
2) The writer is interested in scholarship as much as writing, and hopes to produce consistent and serious scholarship for the rest of his career, since writing scholarship over the long haul requires a genuine interest and passion for one's topic, or topics--a passion equal to one's passion for writing.
Some might assume that #2 will have a leg up on the market, but #2 will run the risk of spreading himself too thin, while #1 will still have the PhD and, probably, more publications (if he's writing fiction) than #2 (#2 seems to be an option that's better suited for poets, btw, than fiction writers who have to write 150+ page prose books at the same time they're writing a prose dissertation of the same or similar length).