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umass76


Mar 4, 2010, 4:40 PM

Post #1601 of 2090 (17142 views)
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Re: [unsaid78] Where Did You Apply? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, US78. And just to paint a picture of how much folks need to think these things through: I gave a reading with three other poets in downtown Madison a couple weeks back. Notable point #1: The reading drew 60-70 people, though it came just a day after another downtown reading that drew about 50-60. And to be clear this has nothing to do with me personally: This is just how interested people are here in poetry. I'm not sure the same thing would happen in Baltimore or even Ithaca. Notable point #2: After the reading a guy introduced himself to me as the co-organizer of Madison's fourth -- fourth -- major poetry reading series (in addition to all the other readings that are always happening; I'm speaking only of reading series established to be long-term cultural phenomena). Notable point #3: This guy told me who his wife was, and he did so because she's a poet who's also in the UW Ph.D. program who has a Master's in creative writing. At another school this would be a monumental event, as most of the top traditional Ph.D. programs (excepting maybe Berkeley) rarely if ever have, at one time, even two people who hold Master's degrees in creative writing attending the pre-dissertation portion of the program at the same time. And this man's wife is just one such person -- in another Ph.D. class there are three MFAs: me, someone else (a different person) with a past MFA, and then a current UW MFA taking a Ph.D. course. Notable point #4: The guy starting the reading series then told me that he was a poet himself, and he'd been in the MFA program at (an unnamed top 10 MFA) and had for various reasons just left early. What was his plan for being in Madison, I asked, i.e. what was he up to? Well, he'd just been admitted to the UW traditional Ph.D., of course! Again, this sort of community, and this sort of Ph.D. program, just doesn't exist elsewhere -- especially for poets. The commitment to poetry here is so high that not only is the English Department Head a Poetry Studies scholar, not only was the program's major hire right before I started a Poetry Studies scholar (and a poet, too!), but I ultimately found out that the UW admissions committee had accepted me without even speaking to the English Department Head who was one of the people I might be dissertating with -- they simply knew that theirs was a traditional Ph.D. program where poets, and aspiring Poetry Studies scholars, were welcome and would find a home and a mentor. Elsehwere, accepting a contemporary Poetry Studies person would be so momentous and perhaps even rare -- because it takes a spot away from, say, a Medievalist, or a post-colonialist, etc. -- that I imagine the department's (usually one!) Poetry Studies scholar would be contacted, as there'd be no other option but for that professor and that admittee to be joined at the hip for six years. --S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Mar 4, 2010, 4:42 PM)


betp


Mar 4, 2010, 8:06 PM

Post #1602 of 2090 (17046 views)
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Re: [umass76] Where Did You Apply? [In reply to] Can't Post

Madison's a good program (I got my BA from WI) but I think it's a misnomer to say it's the only program of its kind? I think a lot of PhDs are doing similar things, though perhaps labeled slightly differently.

At Missouri, folks receive a dual PhD in lit and creative writing, meaning students do the same critical work as lit students, in classes and comprehensive exams, except they add workshops. Even for dissertation, you're required to have both a critical and creative body of work. I think a lot of places do dual programs like this, meaning that CW students come out with the same training as lit students but the added creative writing manuscript/book(s).


umass76


Mar 4, 2010, 8:30 PM

Post #1603 of 2090 (17029 views)
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Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

BETP,

I think we may be inadvertently talking past each other -- the difference between a critical dissertation and a creative dissertation with an introduction is profound (employers do not treat the critical introduction to a creative collection of poems/stories as anything like a critical dissertation; folks should understand this). Likewise, the difference between a doctorate in English (with an Internal Minor that is not a part of the degree materials and need not be disclosed by the graduate when s/he is a job applicant if they don't wish to) and a doctorate in Creative Writing, or "Literature and Creative Writing," even English With Creative Dissertation (all of which are generally treated as degrees in Creative Writing, one reason for the Madison-vs-CW PhD universities-at-top-50-schools stat I gave above) is significant. One is an academic credential in the traditional sense, the other is a credential in the same way an MFA is a credential -- e.g., a critical-dissertation Ph.D. is an academic credential in the same way an M.A. in English is and an MFA is something different, even if the MFA graduate has attended an academically rigorous program like Columbia and therefore has much of the same training as the MA graduate. In other words:

1
TRADITIONAL PHD: NO creative portfolio allowed for app + (3 years REGULAR PHD training + NO workshops) + 5-6 years CRITICAL dissertation period

2
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: YES creative portfolio allowed for app + (3 years REGULAR PHD training + CW PHD-LIKE workshop option) + 5-6 years CRITICAL dissertation period

3
CW PHD: YES creative portfolio required for app + (3 years REGULAR PHD training + CW PHD-LIKE workshop curriculum) + 2-3 years MFA-LIKE dissertation period

The only program I know of in the country that follows track #2 is UW-M. Even traditional doctoral programs that will allow a student to take a workshop a) don't allow a creative portfolio during the application process (meaning poets and writers are at a distinct disadvantage to even get in, in the first instance); b) Only allow 1 or 2 CW courses for credit maximum, not 5 or 6; c) Involve doctoral students workshopping with undergraduates (because the university has no MFA), not workshopping at a top 5 MFA program; d) are not considered academically strong in (e.g.) Poetry Studies, as UW-M is, or contemporary postwar literature generally, as UW-M is, and therefore are not likely to attract a student population with an appreciable number of (contemporary poetry/fiction-studying) MFAs in it; e) don't have a vibrant writing community within the university, both because of the lack of an MFA and also the lack of (as there is at UW-M) ancillary CW organs like the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, housed in the MFA program and the #2 post-MFA fellowship in the country (also, we could mention a huge CW undergrad program on the scale of UI, a sizable local poetry community outside the University replete with ex-pat MFAs, and so on; of course, other programs are in locales that have some of these things too, but the effect is cumulative, obviously, when all of these factors are present, as at UW-M).

But I want to emphasize that UW-M is not in competition with CW Ph.D. programs -- folks who attend those are going with eyes wide open, they know exactly what they want and are being quite smart about getting it -- no, the question, instead, is whether creative writers looking for a traditional English doctorate and critical dissertation are going to delve into a doctoral program at a university without an MFA (e.g., UCLA; Harvard; Yale; Princeton; Berkeley; Penn; Duke; Stanford; Rutgers-New Brunswick; UNC; all top 15-ish English doctorates with no MFA program) or find a different solution to how to continue to be a creative writer while simultaneously picking up other skills and a traditional English doctorate.

S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Mar 4, 2010, 8:34 PM)


betp


Mar 4, 2010, 8:42 PM

Post #1604 of 2090 (17011 views)
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Re: [umass76] [In reply to] Can't Post

I understand. But, at MO, you have the option to do a dual dissertation, and by a dual dissertation I don't mean a critical introduction to a creative dissertation. What I mean is doing a dissertation in cw and a separate dissertation in lit. (Which sounds an awful lot like what you're doing at Madison.) That said, I'm happy to hear you're happy at Madison and promoting WI. Not trying to say it's a bad choice, only that I do think more places are doing option #2 than you realize.


umass76


Mar 4, 2010, 8:53 PM

Post #1605 of 2090 (17001 views)
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Re: [betp] [In reply to] Can't Post

BETP,

I'm fascinated by the news about Missouri -- it sounds intriguing but I'm still not sure I understand it. Students at Missouri have the option to write two dissertations instead of one? Given that a critical dissertation takes years, how could Missouri possibly fund anyone long enough to spend the 2-3 years creative dissertators take plus the 5-6 years critical dissertators take (i.e. 7 to 9 years total)? And what would be the purpose of this, i.e. having to defend two theses? Why wouldn't one just write, instead, a critical dissertation and then write a book of poems on the side, i.e. not for credit, if just doing the one dissertation is enough to get a Ph.D.? I suspect it's not quite as I'm taking it -- it just can't be, because I can't imagine why anyone would choose that option, especially if the end result would just be confusing future employers into wrongly thinking a "straight" English doctorate had not been earned... It sounds like maybe Missouri is allowing a creative dissertation plus a critical dissertation as a way to "justify" allowing traditional Ph.D. students to take workshops with the "straight" creative writing Ph.D. students -- but if so, they're just unfairly heaping a second dissertation onto students simply for the privilege of taking the 5-6 workshops UW-M students can take with no such penalty. Correct me if I'm missing something, I may be...

S.


umass76


Mar 4, 2010, 8:57 PM

Post #1606 of 2090 (16995 views)
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Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I was fascinated enough I went to the Mizzou website...

It says students (among their four dissertation options) can choose "...a combined Scholarly and Creative Dissertation, which includes significant contributions in each area. Of course, candidates may also choose to write two independent disserations, one creative and one scholarly." [Emphasis added].

The "combined" would not be received as a true critical dissertation, so I'm assuming you're referring to the fourth option. And I'm still flummoxed -- what would be the benefit in doing this? In that instance the creative dissertation becomes an afterthought and unnecessary, and something the student could have done separately and not in a way that muddied the waters re: their degree status/type...


gcsumfa


Mar 4, 2010, 9:36 PM

Post #1607 of 2090 (16970 views)
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Re: [umass76] [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
BETP,

I think we may be inadvertently talking past each other -- the difference between a critical dissertation and a creative dissertation with an introduction is profound (employers do not treat the critical introduction to a creative collection of poems/stories as anything like a critical dissertation; folks should understand this). Likewise, the difference between a doctorate in English (with an Internal Minor that is not a part of the degree materials and need not be disclosed by the graduate when s/he is a job applicant if they don't wish to) and a doctorate in Creative Writing, or "Literature and Creative Writing," even English With Creative Dissertation (all of which are generally treated as degrees in Creative Writing, one reason for the Madison-vs-CW PhD universities-at-top-50-schools stat I gave above) is significant. One is an academic credential in the traditional sense, the other is a credential in the same way an MFA is a credential -- e.g., a critical-dissertation Ph.D. is an academic credential in the same way an M.A. in English is and an MFA is something different, even if the MFA graduate has attended an academically rigorous program like Columbia and therefore has much of the same training as the MA graduate. In other words:

1
TRADITIONAL PHD: NO creative portfolio allowed for app + (3 years REGULAR PHD training + NO workshops) + 5-6 years CRITICAL dissertation period

2
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: YES creative portfolio allowed for app + (3 years REGULAR PHD training + CW PHD-LIKE workshop option) + 5-6 years CRITICAL dissertation period

3
CW PHD: YES creative portfolio required for app + (3 years REGULAR PHD training + CW PHD-LIKE workshop curriculum) + 2-3 years MFA-LIKE dissertation period

The only program I know of in the country that follows track #2 is UW-M. Even traditional doctoral programs that will allow a student to take a workshop a) don't allow a creative portfolio during the application process (meaning poets and writers are at a distinct disadvantage to even get in, in the first instance); b) Only allow 1 or 2 CW courses for credit maximum, not 5 or 6; c) Involve doctoral students workshopping with undergraduates (because the university has no MFA), not workshopping at a top 5 MFA program; d) are not considered academically strong in (e.g.) Poetry Studies, as UW-M is, or contemporary postwar literature generally, as UW-M is, and therefore are not likely to attract a student population with an appreciable number of (contemporary poetry/fiction-studying) MFAs in it; e) don't have a vibrant writing community within the university, both because of the lack of an MFA and also the lack of (as there is at UW-M) ancillary CW organs like the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, housed in the MFA program and the #2 post-MFA fellowship in the country (also, we could mention a huge CW undergrad program on the scale of UI, a sizable local poetry community outside the University replete with ex-pat MFAs, and so on; of course, other programs are in locales that have some of these things too, but the effect is cumulative, obviously, when all of these factors are present, as at UW-M).

But I want to emphasize that UW-M is not in competition with CW Ph.D. programs -- folks who attend those are going with eyes wide open, they know exactly what they want and are being quite smart about getting it -- no, the question, instead, is whether creative writers looking for a traditional English doctorate and critical dissertation are going to delve into a doctoral program at a university without an MFA (e.g., UCLA; Harvard; Yale; Princeton; Berkeley; Penn; Duke; Stanford; Rutgers-New Brunswick; UNC; all top 15-ish English doctorates with no MFA program) or find a different solution to how to continue to be a creative writer while simultaneously picking up other skills and a traditional English doctorate.

S.


In short, attending UW-M is a great option if you're a CW'er who cares as much about scholarship as his poetry or fiction, has the passion for scholarship to sustain study beyond the PhD and into one's career--which includes publishing actively in English studies areas and attending conferences--and would seriously consider applying for a job in literature that doesn't include creative writing duties; otherwise, writing a critical dissertation is pretty much a giant waste of time, because the CW PhD will qualify the poet or fiction writer to be a generalist; anyone who passes doctoral qualifying exams in literature is a generalist and can teach undergrad literature courses at a college or university.


umass76


Mar 4, 2010, 9:55 PM

Post #1608 of 2090 (16955 views)
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Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

GCSUMFA,

My only objection to what you've said is a minor one, and that is that it happens not to be true.

Not exactly sure how writing a critical dissertation on poetics doesn't help one's own poetry in the long run, push one to read more broadly, etcetera. Not exactly sure how Stephen Burt having a Ph.D., or Cole Swensen, or or or -- or any of the scores of poets who have traditional Ph.D. degrees -- has made them less, rather than more likely to be able to a) publish major reviews of new poets, b) edit major anthologies due to their perceived expertise re: contemporary poetics, c) be better teachers, d) command a higher salary even while teaching creative writing, e) have a better chance of getting a job (including in creative writing) in the first instance, and and and and. The pre-eminent poetry critics of our age frequently have doctorates in English, teach creative writing, and have wonderful careers publishing their own poetry. And their own poetry frequently aspires to Greatness -- because they've spent time reading others, including literary critics, rigorously as a dissertator rather than simply taking a handful of poetry courses, which reading is exactly what makes them better poets (because, as every poet knows, what you read and how much you read is more important than how much you write). You think Cole Swensen is busting her hump to publish books of scholarship? Or attending MLA? You have a rather cartoonish view of how poets with English doctorates live and work, really. And a very strange view of the marketability of the CW Ph.D. historically -- by way of seeming to have no understanding of it at all.

When you graduate -- after a too-short doctorate you finished up in 4-5 years -- and are pulling a 5/5 as a composition adjunct with no healthcare benefits in Kearney, Nebraska, and I'm spending a solid five hours a day reading poetry by the greatest poets of the postwar era and criticism of that poetry that helps me understand both it and my own work better, and teaching a fully-funded, benefits-eligible 1/1, it will definitely be the case that, as I said above, one could say what you said only if one had no fear of being absolutely, irreparably mistaken in public.

S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Mar 4, 2010, 10:04 PM)


gcsumfa


Mar 4, 2010, 10:35 PM

Post #1609 of 2090 (16908 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
When you graduate -- after a too-short doctorate you finished up in 4-5 years -- and are pulling a 5/5 as an adjunct with no healthcare benefits in Kearney, Nebraska, and I'm spending a solid five hours a day reading poetry by the greatest poets of the postwar era and criticism of that poetry that helps me understand both it and my own work better, and teaching a fully-funded, benefits-eligible 1/1, it will definitely be the case that, as I said above, one could say what you said if one had no fear of being absolutely, irreparably mistaken in public.

S.


Thanks.

You’ve convinced me to pursue a PhD in Fictionitics taught by Marxist and Cultural Studies scholars who have no clue about the aesthetics of the novel or short story.

That said, and in all seriousness, I didn’t realize that you were pursuing a PhD in “Poetics." Your situation is obviously unique, and it might help if, in the future, you framed your points about UW-M more clearly around a) your own unique situation and b) your genre, so that fiction writers looking to apply to PhD programs don’t assume that your track is an option for them, because it’s not.

Poetics is one of the few, if not the only, remaining areas in English Studies that emphasizes aesthetic approaches to literature. The only other area that I can think of that's remotely close is Narrative Theory, but it’s not practiced in enough departments to be a reliable track for most fiction writers, and in its contemporary form, is aligned more closely with areas of Cultural Studies that wouldn’t be receptive to the kinds of aesthetic approaches that most fiction writers I know would like to make.

I'm also not sure why you think 4-5 years is "too short," considering the fact that many literature PhD's complete their degrees in 4-5 years after entering with an MA. I think I will have read enough books during my program to write reviews and craft essays on my genre. Perhaps, though, there's something magical about another year or two of study that will make be an awesome book reviewer or writer of AWP Chronicle craft essays, I don't know.

And by the way, I’ve already taught full-time at a major RI, with retirement and healthcare benefits. I’m pretty sure I won’t be adjuncting a 5/5 in Kearney, NE. I'll have, gosh, 9 years of diverse college level teaching experience when I leave my program, and will have no problem finding--at worst--a VAP position or post-doc at an RI that provides healthcare and benefits.

(Despite what some say, it's not that difficult to find full-time, temporary work in English that offers healthcare and a full-time salary, which isn't a longterm solution, but certainly a million times better than adjuncting while trying to land one's first tt gig).


(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Mar 4, 2010, 10:36 PM)


gcsumfa


Mar 4, 2010, 10:44 PM

Post #1610 of 2090 (16892 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
GCSUMFA,

And a very strange view of the marketability of the CW Ph.D. historically -- by way of seeming to have no understanding of it at all.


Yeah, other than the fact that I have numerous friends and acquaintances with PhD's in CW who have TT jobs because, despite the "CW," they're still qualified to teach more than CW. A tt job at a decent liberal arts college isn't the same as adjuncting a 5/5 of developmental writing at Devry, just so you know.


riptide


Mar 4, 2010, 10:50 PM

Post #1611 of 2090 (16881 views)
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Re: [gcsumfa] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for that perspective. It really added to my understanding of the debate regarding how various writers pursuing their English or CW PhDs perceive their studies and eventual goals---and with such a calm, amusing tone!


gcsumfa


Mar 4, 2010, 10:58 PM

Post #1612 of 2090 (16869 views)
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Re: [riptide] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Thanks for that perspective. It really added to my understanding of the debate regarding how various writers pursuing their English or CW PhDs perceive their studies and eventual goals---and with such a calm, amusing tone!


No problem.

I'm not sure why Seth thinks I'm out-of-touch. I'm basically repeating what the director of Utah's program said at an AWP panel in 2006 (Austin).

I'll even repost her stance, which is on Utah's website:

"The Ph.D. is generally recognized as a writer's best preparation for a teaching career at the college or university level. Many colleges cannot afford to hire someone to teach only creative writing; the Ph.D. is strong evidence that the writer can also teach literature courses, and that he or she can take a full and active part in the academic community."

http://www.hum.utah.edu/index.php?pageId=725

Nothing there that's different from what I've maintained about the PhD in CW.


(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Mar 4, 2010, 11:00 PM)


umass76


Mar 4, 2010, 11:02 PM

Post #1613 of 2090 (16863 views)
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Re: [gcsumfa] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Err...I think I mentioned Poetry Studies a number of times. I think every example I gave of the program's qualities involved poetry, &c &c. But that's neither here nor there, for two reasons, actually three:

1. Poetry Studies is not Poetics. Not that I'm saying you should have known that, but I'm just clarifying. There are only a handful of Poetics doctorates in the U.S. (SUNY-Buffalo and Notre Dame are two, and Notre Dame's just started up 1 year ago).

2. Fiction Studies does indeed exist -- it's called Genre Studies in Ph.D. parlance. As in, yes, it's entirely possible to spend your doctorate studying the contemporary novel and how it functions. And, um, yes, that would probably make one a better novelist.

3. Your view that the only way to approach poetry or fiction is "aesthetically" is quite an antique -- literally a relic of an earlier age of thought. Theory, certainly, but also the rhetorical structure-driven perspectives on poetry and fiction we find in English Literature doctorates now drive much of the most innovative poetry and fiction being written today. To say poetry or fiction is mere "aesthetics" is as good as conceding you're a Craftsman and not an Artist. I'm sure you're not saying that, of course, except when/as you are.

So yes: My track is very much an option for a fiction-writer. Do I think UW-M has a special capacity for aiding poets rather than novelists? Certainly. That's probably why I repeatedly noted its strength in Poetry Studies.

As to why 4 or 5 years is too short -- you misunderstood, though that was my fault. I should have more clearly said that a 4 or 5 year degree does not give one enough time to publish in one's field sufficiently to secure a TT position instead of a 5/5 composition adjunct with no healthcare in Kearney, Nebraska. That said, I wish you'd told me previously that "you've already taught full-time at a major R1, with retirement and healthcare benefits." Your situation is obviously unique, and it might help if, in the future, you framed your points about the value of a CW Ph.D. more clearly around a) your own unique situation and b) your prior employment in the very field you're now spending 4-5 years to find employment in, so that those without such experience looking to apply to Ph.D. programs don't assume that your track is an option for them, because it's not.

Given that your "many" friends with CW doctorates and TT jobs all -- by definition -- also have MFAs which would have been, alone, sufficient degree preparation for those jobs, and that therefore -- by definition -- it was the combination of those MFA degrees and their publications that landed them the jobs you're now, without proof of causation, attributing to the (dare I say not strictly speaking "terminal") CW Ph.D. -- well, you see where I'm going with that. But in any case, I already said that UW-M isn't competing with CW doctorates, but apparently you still felt attacked. So I'll say it clearly: If I wanted to extend my two-year MFA experience in Iowa City by an additional five years, and had no abiding interest in scholarship but was willing to suffer through three years of academic courses and comps and orals just to get three years of studio-MFA-like dissertation time, I would definitely choose to attend a CW Ph.D. program. So you're good there.


Cheers,
S.
P.S. I actually like CW Ph.D. programs -- you're forcing me to play devil's advocate by misstating the attractions of the type of program I am in right now.



(This post was edited by umass76 on Mar 4, 2010, 11:07 PM)


Forum Apps


Mar 4, 2010, 11:24 PM

Post #1614 of 2090 (16839 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Seth, the dichotomy you’ve created between the “craftsman” and the “artist” is quite antique.

In regards to this whole PhD debate: I do think some creative writing PhD programs are more interesting than others—Georgia, Ohio and Milwaukee stand out to me (Ohio, especially, since the creative writers are thrown right in with the rhetoric students). I can’t see why anyone serious about poetry would pick one of these over a place like SUNY-Buffalo, though.


(This post was edited by Forum Apps on Mar 4, 2010, 11:26 PM)


gcsumfa


Mar 4, 2010, 11:46 PM

Post #1615 of 2090 (16821 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

      

In Reply To
2. Fiction Studies does indeed exist -- it's called Genre Studies in Ph.D. parlance. As in, yes, it's entirely possible to spend your doctorate studying the contemporary novel and how it functions. And, um, yes, that would probably make one a better novelist.


Yeah, except for the not having time to write a novel part.

I'm sure I could find some way to "benefit" from any dissertation; the problem, though, is that there are only so many hours in the day, only so many years in one's life, that earning a PhD in "Genre Studies" that requires me to write a dissertation over 5-6 years when I could be writing a novel or story collection would indeed be a waste of time.

I bet future Genre Studies scholars would love to write a novel or story collection dissertation to better understand the primary texts they plan to teach. Not.

But I'll concede that it's probably easier for poets to balance the two than fiction writers. I can't really write a book that's 80 pages, with centered text on almost every other page and line breaks.



In Reply To
Your view that the only way to approach poetry or fiction is "aesthetically" is quite an antique -- literally a relic of an earlier age of thought. Theory, certainly, but also the rhetorical structure-driven perspectives on poetry and fiction we find in English Literature doctorates now drive much of the most innovative poetry and fiction being written today. To say poetry or fiction is mere "aesthetics" is as good as conceding you're a Craftsman and not an Artist. I'm sure you're not saying that, of course, except when/as you are.


Except that I'm not, more than I'm weighing how much time I should devote to English Studies in light of my primary area, Fiction writing, and that if I were to devote that time to a dissertation, would like to do so in a program that is genuinely open to inter-disciplinarity between theory and fiction. Without such an option available, I would like to remind you that it is still possible to connect theory to one's own work without writing a 200 page critical dissertation on Foucault and Faulkner that would take away from writing in one’s primary area—fiction writing. In fact, I actually got into it with Junior Mass many pages ago on the applicability of theory to fiction, and vice versa.



In Reply To
So yes: My track is very much an option for a fiction-writer.


How many fiction writers are currently enrolled in your program? How many of the Genre Studies scholars have backgrounds in fiction writing, like the professors you alluded to earlier that have backgrounds in poetry writing? In my experiences, there are a lot more scholars of poetry who are practicing poets than scholars of fiction who are practicing fiction writers.



In Reply To
That said, I wish you'd told me previously that "you've already taught full-time at a major R1, with retirement and healthcare benefits." Your situation is obviously unique, and it might help if, in the future, you framed your points about the value of a CW Ph.D. more clearly around a) your own unique situation and b) your prior employment in the very field you're now spending 4-5 years to find employment in, so that those without such experience looking to apply to Ph.D. programs don't assume that your track is an option for them, because it's not.


Well, I’m assuming that most applicants will have already completed an MFA and arrived with teaching experience, giving them 4-5 more years of teaching experience after they leave their PhD programs, giving them a total of 6-8 once they hit the market—1-2 short years of my 9 years. Not a significant enough difference, really. And many, many PhD CW'ers take time off between their MFA's and PhD's to adjunct, so I probably won't be untypical for having 9 years.



In Reply To
So I'll say it clearly: If I wanted to extend my two-year MFA experience in Iowa City by an additional five years, and had no abiding interest in scholarship but was willing to suffer through three years of academic courses and comps and orals just to get three years of studio-MFA-like dissertation time, I would definitely choose to attend a CW Ph.D. program. So you're good there.


Thanks. Thank God I don’t need to write a 200 page critical dissertation to have a deeper understanding of my writing!


(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Mar 4, 2010, 11:56 PM)


LesK
Les
e-mail user

Mar 5, 2010, 12:01 AM

Post #1616 of 2090 (16802 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Fiction Studies does indeed exist -- it's called Genre Studies in Ph.D. parlance. As in, yes, it's entirely possible to spend your doctorate studying the contemporary novel and how it functions. And, um, yes, that would probably make one a better novelist.


Uh....no. Fiction studies is not equivalent to Genre studies. Re-read your Bakhtin.


umass76


Mar 5, 2010, 12:03 AM

Post #1617 of 2090 (16797 views)
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Re: [gcsumfa] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

GCSUMFA,

As a fiction-writer you will spend nearly your entire life -- until you make your first million -- trying to write a novel while doing other things. The 36 months a CW Ph.D. will allow you to focus on your novel (while also teaching) is an exception, not a rule, so every time you reference the impossibility of writing a novel while doing other things (like researching for a dissertation) you are merely arguing that to be a novelist generally is impossible. You will probably reply that having more time to focus on one's first novel can only ever be a good thing, however brief an interlude that respite represents -- and you're right. Except that the cruel world will then intrude for the next six decades and you won't have developed the multi-tasking skills (and critical--no pun intended--years of experience with same) to help you get through the rest of your writing life. When I told Cole Swensen I was worried about doing a traditional Ph.D. because I thought it would take time away from my writing, she pointed out -- to my embarrassment -- that I'd been writing poetry for nearly a decade while studying and practicing law! And that studying poetry at the doctoral level is certainly much less of a departure from writing poetry at an advanced level than is doing trials by day and writing poems (non-centered, thank you) by night. I think the 95% of novelists who write novels only in their spare time would be bemused by your implication that to not be writing one's present novel full-time is a calamity only slightly shy of the Apocalypse.

As to the alleged craft-versus-Art dichotomy (which Aaron also mentioned), let's be clear on what I said: I said that anyone who implies, as the OP did, that writing poetry or fiction is purely a matter of "aesthetics" is not likely to be a long-term, capital-A Artist. Because any poetry or fiction that is merely "aesthetics" is not likely to survive or be designed to survive, and the difference between craft and art is that one is an artifact of technical mastery and the other is an attempt at phenomenon. So it's not "craft-versus-Art," but rather "craft-only versus (Art = craft + structure/theory)"--an equation of opposition I think most writers could readily select the right side of.

S.


umass76


Mar 5, 2010, 12:09 AM

Post #1618 of 2090 (16792 views)
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Re: [LesK] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi LesK,

I dislike Bakhtin, but that's neither here nor there. To avoid an over-long argument on this, we could just go to the WP definition of Genre Studies--

Genre studies are a structuralist approach to literary theory, film theory, and other cultural theories. When studying a genre in this way, one examines the structural elements that combine in the telling of a story and find patterns in collections of stories. When these elements (or codes) begin to carry inherent information, a genre is emerging.

--and say that if you find that to be wrong, that's fair, and you should edit that WP entry if you have time. But it's certainly not way outside the mainstream to say that the above publicly-arrived-at definition is roughly fair, and that a Genre Studies specialist focusing on the contemporary American novel will probably learn precisely the skills, and do precisely the sort of in-genre reading of source and critical materials, that I advised above. Rhetorical readings of genre most certainly do provide a perspective on the instant genre -- e.g., the novel -- that creative writing classes never will.

I think the reason we may be talking past one another is that I wasn't saying Fiction Studies = Genre Studies, but responding to the OP's specific claim that there was no way to do something like Fiction Studies in a Ph.D. My point was that one could structure a course of studies in a traditional doctorate (through one form/emphasis of Genre Studies) that would approximate what the OP seemed to be thinking of "Fiction Studies" looking/sounding like to him/her.

S.

P.S. Just for fun: WP on Bakhtin on The Novel: "According to Bakhtin, the novel as a genre is unique in that it is able to embrace, ingest, and devour other genres while still maintaining its status as a novel. Other genres, however, cannot emulate the novel without damaging their own distinct identity."


(This post was edited by umass76 on Mar 5, 2010, 12:17 AM)


LesK
Les
e-mail user

Mar 5, 2010, 12:38 AM

Post #1619 of 2090 (16768 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Seth,

No carnivalization for you? I'm actually trying to avoid going back into Bakhtin for an essay at the moment. I'm not sure I can. But, that's neither here nor there.

That WP def is fine for now (and I have neither the time nor expertise to edit it at the moment). My understanding is that genre studies is more about what constitutes a genre (and genre, generally speaking) and how it emerges. That's why Bakhtin's endless fascination with Mennipean Satire is important (and all should read at least one Mennipean Satire, at least once in their life). I just wanted to point out that there is absolutely not a 1-to-1 correlation between genre studies and the craft of fiction.

Can you learn about the craft of fiction from that? Sure...in the same way you can learn about the craft of fiction from Marxist studies, feminist studies, performance studies, cultural studies, narratology, etc., etc.

Les

PS: I've read that Bakhtin...can't remember from whence it comes. I think he's wrong though (sort of)....the novel can absorb well, everything (cf., Nabakov), but Bakhtin makes this weird...um...evolutionary move, suggesting that the novel is the penultimate expression of all genre. And so when he says, "Other genres, however, cannot emulate the novel without damaging their own distinct identity," we should be mindful of when he wrote & just which novels & poems he was not yet privy to....or the relatively recent resistance(s) to that "distinct identity." Think, for example, how much film can absorb...or an Ashbery poem...or hell, S/Z.


gcsumfa


Mar 5, 2010, 12:45 AM

Post #1620 of 2090 (16761 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
GCSUMFA,

As a fiction-writer you will spend nearly your entire life -- until you make your first million -- trying to write a novel while doing other things. The 36 months a CW Ph.D. will allow you to focus on your novel (while also teaching) is an exception, not a rule, so every time you reference the impossibility of writing a novel while doing other things (like researching for a dissertation) you are merely arguing that to be a novelist generally is impossible. You will probably reply that having more time to focus on one's first novel can only ever be a good thing, however brief an interlude that respite represents -- and you're right. Except that the cruel world will then intrude for the next six decades and you won't have developed the multi-tasking skills (and critical--no pun intended--years of experience with same) to help you get through the rest of your writing life. When I told Cole Swensen I was worried about doing a traditional Ph.D. because I thought it would take time away from my writing, she pointed out -- to my embarrassment -- that I'd been writing poetry for nearly a decade while studying and practicing law! And that studying poetry at the doctoral level is certainly much less of a departure from writing poetry at an advanced level than is doing trials by day and writing poems (non-centered, thank you) by night. I think the 95% of novelists who write novels only in their spare time would be bemused by your implication that to not be writing one's present novel full-time is a calamity only slightly shy of the Apocalypse.


And I think many scholars would be bemused that writing a critical dissertation is somehow akin to watering the chickens and milking the cows; it's not just some other "thing," like raking the yard or mowing the grass while writing the Great American Novel. To sustain a scholarly career, one better have a passion for scholarship that's similar to a writer's passion for his fiction or poetry.

I'm glad that you can devote THAT much of your heart and soul to two areas.


In Reply To
As to the alleged craft-versus-Art dichotomy (which Aaron also mentioned), let's be clear on what I said: I said that anyone who implies, as the OP did, that writing poetry or fiction is purely a matter of "aesthetics" is not likely to be a long-term, capital-A Artist. Because any poetry or fiction that is merely "aesthetics" is not likely to survive or be designed to survive, and the difference between craft and art is that one is an artifact of technical mastery and the other is an attempt at phenomenon. So it's not "craft-versus-Art," but rather "craft-only versus (Art = craft + structure/theory)"--an equation of opposition I think most writers could readily select the right side of.

S.


I'm not sure how you reached this implication that I think of literature purely in simplistic terms of aesthetics, like I'm some kind of 1930's New Critic, but whatever. I do feel confident, though, that I'm not the only who has sat through numerous English Lit classes where the entire discussion was oriented around politics, race, class, "representation," etc. etc. etc.

Yes, it's true that post-structuralist scholars are still interested in connecting rhetoric, form, discourses, etc. to ideas, but enough--enough to make me suspicious-- are a) either uninterested in how those theories could interact with creative writing and b) aren't that well read in contemporary fiction to fit my needs.


(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Mar 5, 2010, 12:46 AM)


Forum Apps


Mar 5, 2010, 12:47 AM

Post #1621 of 2090 (16758 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Just for fun:

Aesthetics is a word to be associated with the white, imperialist racists who coined it in an effort to reify their notion of beauty. “Style” and “affect” are nice words phenomenological-ly speaking. Sometimes the word aesthetics is used in a decent way, but when I read it I’m always like Wittgenstein already crushed this word—“ethics and aesthetics are one.” Which is to say that they both are false constructs in the analytical tradition, it is not to say that they are two philosophical concepts that can be conflated with one another. Their existence as induced categories is being challenged.

I like to think that craft gets at the phenomenon. I suppose there are traditional notions of craft (that one might associated with neo-formalism and the like) but I do like it in terms of something a friend once told me about her poems, “I started writing sonnets and I couldn’t do anything but write sonnets.” (Always-already from Heidegger not Althusser, pfft. Heh.) She was describing a sort of everyday familiarity with the thing so that it falls into the background and doesn’t become an ontic object to be mastered and manipulated (which I think is the way in which you are positing craft and it isn’t a definition of craft that I like although I am well aware that it is out there). If the phenomenon isn’t something objective (which is surely isn’t) it is something that needs to be bodied forth (again the style and affect stuff).

I don’t know how I feel about Art with a big 'A.' My first name starts with a big 'A.' Maybe it has something to do with art with a big 'A' implying subjectivity with a big 'I' that makes me distrustful of this. I prefer a more nuanced enunciation of being in the world (as an artist) that need not be capitalized. ARTIST (with all big letters as a source of self-definition) is very much a modern thing. We’re post or post post (or post-mortem?)—that isn’t to say that the coined terminology of the cultural epoch matters as much as all of the intricacies of the various theorists that go along with it. It’s just a convenience thing.


(This post was edited by Forum Apps on Mar 5, 2010, 12:49 AM)


__________



Mar 5, 2010, 12:58 AM

Post #1622 of 2090 (16740 views)
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Re: [Forum Apps] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I've never agreed with New Criticism, ever. Before I was a structuralist I never agreed with New Criticism. And when I started studying the history of New Criticism, I understood more and more why I didn't believe in New Criticism.

And as far as the Brooke Shields thing is, look. You gotta understand, Aaron, I really care about Brooke Shields. I-- I think here's a-- a-- a wonderful and talented woman. And-- I wanna see her do well. And I know that-- New Criticism is-- is a pseudo science.

You're being glib, Aaron. Aaron, you're being glib.


six five four three two one 0 ->


umass76


Mar 5, 2010, 1:10 AM

Post #1623 of 2090 (16719 views)
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Re: [Forum Apps] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I agree, Aaron. I don't usually do the big-A thing and not sure why I did here. I would have done better merely to say that I think part of being an ambitious writer is viewing craft (as I'm defining it here, not Heidegger) as just one piece of the thing. --S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Mar 5, 2010, 1:11 AM)


Forum Apps


Mar 5, 2010, 1:11 AM

Post #1624 of 2090 (16715 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

You’re whack and I’m whacktose intolerant.
(not you Seth, the post before)


(This post was edited by Forum Apps on Mar 5, 2010, 1:12 AM)


gcsumfa


Mar 5, 2010, 1:16 AM

Post #1625 of 2090 (16708 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Well, I agree, Aaron. I don't usually do the big-A thing and not sure why I did here. I would have done better merely to say that I think part of being an ambitious writer is viewing craft as just one piece of the thing. --S.


Oh, geeze. Can you be just a little more smug? I'm ambitious, and I don't view my craft in some sort of vacuum. I assumed that anyone posting on this thread would already view their craft in a complex manner. Thanks for pointing out to me though that craft isn't the only thing.


(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Mar 5, 2010, 1:20 AM)

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