Mar 4, 2010, 11:46 PM
Post #1615 of 2090
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)