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sonshineslocs


Aug 9, 2004, 1:53 AM

Post #1 of 2090 (46028 views)
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creative writing ph.d. ? Can't Post

i've been collecting myself so that i can go about gathering materials for mfa applications. sitting at the computer i thought about creative writing ph.d.'s and whether or not there is such a thing.

lo and behold, according to google there are such programs in existence.

i've never heard of these... what do you think about them? any ph.d. in cw in pw cyberland?

**back to my research and procrastin--cough cough--exploration**


freeverses
James Hall
e-mail user

Aug 9, 2004, 2:05 AM

Post #2 of 2090 (45998 views)
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Re: [sonshineslocs] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Sonshine,

I'm a PhD student in creative writing (AND literature; it's a dual degree -- which is pretty standard) at the University of Houston.

These PhD thingies, they're shockingly real. I'm about to enter the fourth year, and I'll be taking doctoral exams this Fall and Spring.

I'm glad I applied to and came to Houston for the PhD. I did a low-residency MFA at Bennington, and the PhD has helped me hone my writing, allow me to expand my aesthetic, refine a critical background, and think and write about literature. It's also allowed me to explore my genre (poetry) more fully, and also helped me discover another (literary nonfiction) a bit more quickly. The PhD has allowed me to teach different classes in a university setting, and also given me the opportunity to take classes in other fields (in this case, women's studies). I think that it comes down to a matter of professionalization, in addition to the added time and focus on the craft.

I like this PhD thing. :) There are drawbacks to each program, I'm sure, and UH certainly has its share. But on the whole, I'm happy I decided to pursue the doctorate, even though the MFA is considered the terminal degree in the field.

I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you might have....


sonshineslocs


Aug 9, 2004, 2:19 AM

Post #3 of 2090 (45996 views)
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Re: [freeverses] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

woohooo! they do exist! UH came up on my search, as did ohio university and univ. of denver. the UH and Ohio sound really good/interesting.

i just feel a bit flighty right now. i just finished my master's in may (communication) and don't have a job lined up. i feel like a big loser ball :) but i know i want to write.

what led you to pursue a ph.d. as opposed to stopping at the MFA? i was considering the low res at spalding, but here i am with another bright idea. and my husband isn't helping, because he all "wants me to be happy, 'i'll support you in whatever'" and that kinda madness... i need ultimatums and reality checks here people!!!

i'm just shocked, energized, and dumbfounded that on a whim, the thing that i really believe i want/have wanted is tangible and feasible. wow.

not to mention i've gotten tired of having to explain to folks what an mfa is ;)

my real hang-up, is locating a creative writing ph.d. program in nonfiction...


(This post was edited by sonshineslocs on Aug 9, 2004, 3:03 AM)


freeverses
James Hall
e-mail user

Aug 9, 2004, 2:48 AM

Post #4 of 2090 (45993 views)
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Re: [sonshineslocs] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Sonshineslocs:

I'm sure there are PhD programs in creative writing/lit that will let you focus on literary non-fiction. I believe U.H. may be soon taking applicants for that genre (and at the MFA level too, I'd assume). Best to contact the program director.

Here's a site listing writing programs in the U.S.: http://www.awpwriter.org/membership/schools.htm

You can go through and find out which programs you're interested in; you may also want to search through the non-fiction and MFA threads as well.

As I said, I did the low-residency MFA. I think I wanted the other experience as well -- though I REALLY loved the low-residency program I went to (Bennington). I wanted to continue learning about writing; I felt as if I hadn't "terminated"; there was more to learn.

And I really wanted to work with some of the writers here at Houston. I took a year off between graduating from Bennington and coming to Houston, and I felt I made the right choice. My life, at the time, was malleable, and I wanted a change. And I wanted that change to emphasize writing and further immersion in literature and theory.

I'd say that the MFA is a good route to go -- it allows you to really focus on the craft, whereas the PhD is often a combination of a literature PhD with creative writing elements (5-6 workshops) on top of the requirements for the literature side. You write a creative dissertation instead of a critical one (though some programs require you to write a critical preface for your own creative dissertation).

The MFA, on the other hand, really puts the emphasis on honing your craft and thinking about generic considerations and histories and aesthetics. Your classes should be in addition to the creative work, not the other way around.

At least, that's how I see it....


sonshineslocs


Aug 9, 2004, 3:17 AM

Post #5 of 2090 (45991 views)
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Re: [freeverses] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks for the link. i will definitely put it to good use. i was an English major in college and would like to refocus on literature/criticism as well as sharpening my own writing skills. i've taken some time off from English the last couple of years. perhaps i am in search of a "scholarly-like" MFA program--meaning one that does its fair share of literary and critical study.

that causes me to wonder if i'm seeking a more traditional MFA program if i go the MFA route. either that or a very creatively oriented ph.d. program: one in which the "creative" aspect of the program isn't an afterthought, but an integral component of the program.

i am torn as far as locale, though. i've basically told my husband that we should be near family--which means KY or MI. now i feel as though i'm reneging on that. while it's just the two of us (plus the puppies) which would make relocating less that impossible, i'm sick of being without a familial support system here in NC.

oh well, thanks. let me go to bed--it's not like i have to make the decision tonight. i'll continue my researching tomorrow (er, later today).

ssl


wiswriter
Bob S.
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Aug 9, 2004, 8:48 AM

Post #6 of 2090 (45984 views)
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Re: [sonshineslocs] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

As a writer and former Ph.D. student - albeit not in creative writing - I just want to say: Be careful. The Ph.D. is for someone who is profoundly committed to academic study in the chosen field without a certainty of relevant employment afterward. This should not be a snap decision. It takes a long, long time and can be economically devastating if your aid and benefit package isn't solid. Some Ph.D. students graduate 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars in debt. Note that James said he's in his fourth year and about to take exams. The Ph.D. program I was in required an average of seven (7) years to complete, even though when you entered the department told you the standard was four to five. It can be academically grueling and often you have to navigate a intradepartmental political minefield as well. Most people who start a Ph.D. do not finish. In my Ph.D. "class" the completion rate was 10 percent. (I was in the 90.)

It's right for some people. If you're academically inclined, have the qualifications to compete for a top-rate teaching/aid package, and you love your field so much that you don't mind living on a shoestring for an extended period of study, go for it. One advantage of the Ph.D. over the MFA for a writer is that it offers a longer period of immersion and time away from the workaday grind. Another advantage is that the credential is much more desirable when competing for college teaching positions against other writers, most of whom have mere master's degrees, if any graduate degree at all. But you're still going to have to publish if you want any shot at a teaching job.

I think if your goal is simply to become a better writer, you go for the low-res MFA. If your goal is to become a better writer and get some time away from the rat race to write, you go for the traditional MFA. If your goal is to study literature as well as writing, qualify yourself for an academic career, and get lots of time away from the rat race, you go for the Ph.D. If you can afford it.


silkfx2004


Aug 9, 2004, 11:05 AM

Post #7 of 2090 (45979 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think if your goal is simply to become a better writer, you go for the low-res MFA. If your goal is to become a better writer and get some time away from the rat race to write, you go for the traditional MFA. If your goal is to study literature as well as writing, qualify yourself for an academic career, and get lots of time away from the rat race, you go for the Ph.D. If you can afford it.



This is probably the best advice I've heard on this topic. Thanks a lot. I'm nowhere near wanting to be a doctoral candidate...I just want to be a better writer. And I've been vacillating between escaping from Chicago for a traditional MFA, and putting down roots and getting a low-res MFA.

BTW: Is this the same sonshine from NP? This is LBell. :)


--------
Nobody but God gets it right the first time. Everybody else has to rewrite. --attributed to Stephen King


rooblue


Aug 9, 2004, 11:45 AM

Post #8 of 2090 (45975 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello, if you're interested in a low-res MFA program and you're in Chicago, there are quite a few of us Warren Wilson folk here. I know three other current fiction students and there are probably some poetry people too. I just started at Warren Wilson in July and I really really like it so far. Also, I've heard rumors that U of C might be starting a low-res MFA program. Too late for me, because I'm happy going to North Carolina, but it might be interesting. Good luck,


sonshineslocs


Aug 9, 2004, 12:27 PM

Post #9 of 2090 (45972 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

hey Lbell *waving* it is I :) (must sound writerly ;) )

after sleeping (rather unrestfully) on it, i do feel as though the Ph.D. is a bit much for what i want right now. i believe my true dilemma for the time being is traditional vs. low res. though i have wanted a ph.d. since i was six...

i'm looking for a rather intense/rigorous and critical MFA program, that offers creative nonfiction outright. i want the freedom/responsibility to write without being burdened with making my 9 o'clock on time. then again, that is the structure with which i am most familiar--and i suppose that's also a reason why i want to go the nontradtional, low residency route.

my mind is just dancing with all of the possibilities...


j9


Aug 9, 2004, 12:50 PM

Post #10 of 2090 (45965 views)
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Re: [sonshineslocs] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

If you're looking around Kentucky, have you thought about the University of Cincinnati? I believe they have a Creative Writing thesis option in their PHD program there, although I don't know if that extends to creative non-fiction...
Good luck! Love to hear more about this discussion. I am in a low-res MFA program right now, but would definitely like the further study option, as I too am interested in focusing on the critical side of things after this time of intense writing.
Take care, Jeannine


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Aug 9, 2004, 6:19 PM

Post #11 of 2090 (45944 views)
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Re: [catherinebrown] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Catherine - Well, my applications are out (except for Warren Wilson, which wants that crazy critical essay). But I sure would love to hear whatever else, if anything, you know about a possible low-res MFA at the University of Chicago. It would be ultra-convenient for me here in Milwaukee, just a short train ride away, and I know the U of C wouldn't do a new program unless it was top-rate. You could reply in the low-res topic, start a U of C thread, or use the e-mail button at left to send privately. Also I wouidn't mind hearing from or talking to any fiction students at WW in Chicago, where I visit frequently for work and play. I'm vacillating on applying there because of logistical concerns. Thanks...

(we now return you to the Ph.D. topic, already in progress)


sonshineslocs


Aug 9, 2004, 8:08 PM

Post #12 of 2090 (45937 views)
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Re: [j9] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

as a matter of fact, univ. of cincy is on my list of schools to look into further. yeah, the family's in louisville and cincy is only an hour or so away.


rooblue


Aug 9, 2004, 9:36 PM

Post #13 of 2090 (45928 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Alex, I tried to email you re: the U of C low-res MFA program, but when I clicked on the email button, I got put into AOL, where I no longer have an account. Here's the little bit I know about MFA programs in Chicago: at the AWP conference this spring, a woman from U of C was sort of canvassing people to see if there would be an interest in U of C starting a low res program. She was some kind of administrator with U of C's English department, but I didn't get her name. She was very nice. Also, this summer at Warren Wilson, Reginald Gibbons, who teaches poetry at Northwestern as well as WW, mentioned that Northwestern was thinking of it. Reg discouraged the administration at NU from trying to build a low-res program, since it takes a lot of time and money and the school probably wouldn't want to invest enough into it. BUt it has come up. Meanwhile, the Art Institute has an MFA program that is still pretty new, but I've heard some people like it alot. It's not low res so I didn't even consider it. There are 15 low-res programs in the US now, up from just four only a few years ago. And, you should not worry about the essay for Warren Wilson. I just thought of it as talking with a friend about some piece of writing that I really liked, and it wasn't a big deal. They're more interested in your creative writing anyway. And good luck, whatever you decide.


wiswriter
Bob S.
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Aug 10, 2004, 7:15 AM

Post #14 of 2090 (45914 views)
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Re: [catherinebrown] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, Catherine. I guess this mini-discussion does end up being relevant to the Ph.D. topic, because that critical essay reminds me chillingly of the academic hoop-jumping that turned me off so severely as a doctoral student. WW students and grads have said the same thing on the Speakeasy before: Don't worry about the critical essay, you're judged on the manuscript. And yet, there the essay is. I don't mind writing it, but it bugs me that I have to. Particularly when WW's deadline is half a month earlier than everyone else's. It's like they're hazing me before I even get there. Then you add in WW's reputation as being more "academic" than the other low-res programs, that WW grads have said the critical work in the program is a pain. And I can't discern a big difference between the success of WW grads in publishing and teaching versus Vermont College or Bennington. I just don't know.

But WW has the history and the name. When I visited VC I lunched with two students who, when I asked why they picked VC, both started off their answers with "I didn't get into Warren Wilson." And I do acknowledge that my Ph.D. experience probably oversensitized me to the "academic" stuff. My doctoral program was in political science. I wound up working in politics for a number of years after, and the disconnect between the academic theory and the reality was breathtaking. Perhaps the theory has more relevance to the practice in the literary world.


ddl


Aug 10, 2004, 8:42 AM

Post #15 of 2090 (45912 views)
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Re: [sonshineslocs] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

i'm looking for a rather intense/rigorous and critical MFA program, that offers creative nonfiction outright. i want the freedom/responsibility to write without being burdened with making my 9 o'clock on time. then again, that is the structure with which i am most familiar--and i suppose that's also a reason why i want to go the nontradtional, low residency route.

Sonshine, you might take a look at the MFA program at Ohio State in Columbus. It's a three-year program, so it gives you a little more time to focus on writing than some of the others do, and it includes a track in creative nonfiction as well as fiction and poetry. (The nonfiction faculty are Lee Martin and Steve Kuusisto.) Further, every student admitted is funded for all three years, primarily through teaching, but also some fellowships.

The website is in transition right now and not as informative as it could be, but here's a URL: http://english.osu.edu/...graduate/mfaprog.htm

If you're torn between a Ph.D. and and MFA, a longer MFA program might be a good bet for you. I think Arkansas, Indiana, and the Michener Center also offer three-year programs, and I'm sure there are others.

Good luck with your search!
Danielle


sonshineslocs


Aug 10, 2004, 12:07 PM

Post #16 of 2090 (45904 views)
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Re: [ddl] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks danielle :)


freeverses
James Hall
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Aug 10, 2004, 1:19 PM

Post #17 of 2090 (45896 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Bob --

I do think that, while we're past "the golden age," theory is important and different in the literary world. This from a guy who almost double-majored in poli-sci but dropped it because the theory seemed, as you've said, incredibly disconnected from the reality of peoples' lives. I think that's partly true about literary theory as well. Part of the problem with queer theory, for example, is that it's hard for people to see themselves as being shaped as subjects, and as "performing" in roles. It shakes boundaries, refuses categories..... And, well, we Americans like our boundaries, thanks. But, ultimately, writing must operate from a theoretical place. It must engage some kind of worldview, analyze some aspect of culture. Literature can't happen in a vacuum.

I've worked with a few people who teach at Warren Wilson (again, poets), but they seem incredibly smart. I think the idea behind critical work is to help a student gain distance from creative work, to teach her or him to pick apart a work so that s/he can then bring that analytical acumen to more personal work. Where do I deploy emotion? How do I construct images? How does my piece's structure work? These are important things to ask oneself, but not easy things certainly.

Bennington, too, required a critical paper of some kind in the 3rd semester, as I recall. It wasn't a big deal at all. The program also requires a graduate lecture which happens at one's last residency. It was nerve-racking, but really helpful.

I'm not "defending" theory (if that was my job, I think I'd be fired). I just think its a useful tool for creating a writer's approach to subject matter.

Maybe we should all switch to politics.


fattery
Victoria M. Chang
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Aug 10, 2004, 9:44 PM

Post #18 of 2090 (45871 views)
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Re: [freeverses] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm so glad someone started this thread. I feel like I have something to relate to each of you in this thread. I'm at Warren Wilson now and love it, but I too like James don't feel like it is a "terminal" degree for me, perse. I think I've always been the overly academic type that loves learning and I want to immerse myself more fully into the study of poetry and criticism. Warren Wilson is amazing, Alex. The critical essay is so not a big deal, but I know it is a pain if you don't do it much. By the time you get in the program, you're pumping those short essays out in a few hours each. If you get in, you should go...I can't say it's the "best" one out there in terms of low residencies, b/c that's the only one I've gone to, but I can say it is very very rigorous and my writing has grown more than I ever could have imagined. I'm really interested in what James has to say, you sound very happy at Houston-I almost went there for my MFA, but decided against moving from California, but would consider going there for my Ph.D., which I am applying for this fall. Thanks for your insightful comments. It'd be great if you could pro and con it in even more specifics (both Houston specifically, but also a Ph.D. program in general). I'm going to apply to USC and Houston and that's probably it. I might apply to Irvine straight lit, but I'm not sure that's the right program for me yet. Thoughts?


freeverses
James Hall
e-mail user

Aug 11, 2004, 4:43 AM

Post #19 of 2090 (45864 views)
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Re: [fattery] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Victoria (and everybody):

It does seem to me, more and more, that the MFA is not "really" terminal. I've heard quite a lot nowadays about the competitive job market, and it seems that PhD's have an easier time than MFA's. Especially without a book (which does not apply to you, Victoria).

I am happy at Houston, but it took a little while. The first year is hell. It's hard to adapt to the teaching and class loads, and I had 2 less-than-supportive instructors my first 2 semesters. I encountered some pretty severe homophobia, though nothing violent. It's gotten MUCH better, but it was indeed a culture shock. I come from South Florida, a mini gay mecca. I used to see drag queens go by on their rollerblades on South Beach, dressed in full regalia, and no one would bat an eyelash. Here, the only drag that seems acceptable is big hair for the ladies (a trend I can get on board with) and cowboy hats for the fellas (I really thought everyone was just being ironic for the longest time).

Pro's:

1. The faculty is amazing. In poetry: Mark Doty, Tony Hoagland, Nick Flynn, Claudia Rankine, Bob Phillips, and Adam Zagajewski. Kimiko Hahn will be joining the faculty in Fall 2005. In fiction: Antonya Nelson (whose writing I just LOVE), Robert Boswell, Bob Phillips, and Chitra Divakaruni. Colson Whitehead taught here for 2 semesters, and they're currently looking for another fiction person. In nonfiction: Ruben Martinez, who is one of the best souls around. Mark Doty also teaches a much-praised nonfiction workshop sometimes (I took a memoir class from him that was just life-changing).
I've worked with Adam, Mark, Tony, Ed Hirsch (who no longer teaches here, though he's still listed), and J. Allyn Rosser (who visited one semester). Each of them were instrumental in helping me to be a better poet. Indeed, that's the focus here: better poets, not better poems. I think that's right-on.
So, there's an interesting mix aesthetically. I think that fosters some very challenging, memorable, and provocative writing among students.

2. Students here are very serious about writing and literature. There are intense debates in classrooms about poetry and about aesthetics. No one brings a first draft of anything to the workshop. I think the workshop is less about being "praised," however, than learning how to push yourself beyond where you can push yourself. That said, the students can be a bit cliquish and competitive. But mostly they're generous and supportive of each other. Once, when one of our number needed to get home to see his dying father (and couldn't afford it), the program members took a collection and bought him a plane ticket. There's compassion and brilliance here among the students.

3. The students have worked hard to create a community. The women in the program have formed a Women's Dinner which meets once a week. It balances what can sometimes be a "boy's club" mentality in some of the workshops (and perhaps was formed to balance what turned out to be a boy's poker night). If you've any interest in feminism, you can complete a graduate certificate in women's studies (3 classes, 1 of which must be outside your field).

4. Rice is nearby, and you have access to classes there, as well as the Rice Library.

5. Montrose, which is where most people live in Houston, is a really cool, hippy-subversive place to live. Rent's higher there, but it's full of independent music stores, coffeehouses, and 24-hour Greek restaurants.

6. U.H. does a lot to help a student gain professionalization. There are seminars on preparing conference papers, publishing critical and creative work, etc. The professors are all very open and willing to help students achieve their goals.

7. There's a great network for teaching assistants. First-time teachers take a class their first semester about college teaching, and a bond really forms. You'll teach more than Comp -- it's just going to take at least 2 years, and maybe 3, before that happens. (That's a pro and a con). (I have a friend entering Western Michigan's PhD program this Fall: she's teaching beginning creative writing her FIRST semester).

8. Reading for Gulf Coast has helped me immensely. Gulf Coast provides a great opportunity for a lot of students to help produce a nationally recognized journal. Almost all of the editors right now are PhD students. (There are openings almost every Fall and Spring for Poetry and Fiction editors).

9. The creative writing administration works really hard to help students. You truly feel as if they're on your side.

10. Fellowships are given to every incoming student, of at least 5,000 (split between the first and penultimate semesters). Select students receive the bigger awards. Each year there are awards judged by an outside, unannounced creative writer for which everyone except first-year students are eligible. Amounts vary from 10,000 (the Michener award) to 2,500 (the Barthelme). There's even a contest for non-fiction, though not one awarded at the Michener level. U.H. has a great friend in Inprint, a non-profit organization that sponsors a reading series, as well as workshops and classes at its location in Montrose. Inprint was founded by U.H. faculty, but is now a separate entity. Still, they fund those incoming scholarships and the annual competitions.

11. A kick-ass reading series. This year, we'll be visited by poets like C.D. Wright, Harryette Mullen, Eavan Boland, and Paul Muldoon among others. Fiction writers coming this year include Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Franzen. Nonfiction writers Abraham Verghese and Richard Rodriguez will be reading too. The writers usually give a craft talk or an interview at U.H. in addition to the reading series. Always, some of the visitors give residencies with students. These are pretty open and easy to get, in my experience. (The con of the reading series: the after-party for the big writers are always at someone's mansion; and it's really strange to be in these rooms with Picasso and wine and French cheeses and mostly minority men and women serving us. It's a bit distasteful).

Here's the cons:
1. It's the South. Expect sexism, homophobia, and racism to some extent. U.H. is not a progressive institution, but it tries very hard. Same for the city of Houston -- it tries very hard to be diverse, and in some aspects it is. You can eat any kind of food in the world here. Street signs are in several different languages in different parts of the city. But, still, when I wanted to write a queer Dickinson paper, I encountered some resistance to those critical ideas from a professor. And some of the creative writers feel a bit uneasy with sexual minorities. But, on the whole, I think I've been treated with respect and dignity.

2. It's the South. It's freaking hot. I mean, really.

3. We're not paid enough. Most people have another job or take out loans. As a PhD student, expect to earn about 1,000-1100 a month (there's a slight raise after the first year) -- for nine months. People scramble for summer employment, though there are some opportunities.

4. The administration won't tell you this: you are only guaranteed funding for 3 years of the doctoral degree. Usually, the English department petitions the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for funding for doctoral students for the next 2 years of the degree, and usually that request is granted. It's been more questionable in the past 2 years. There is a possibility that your last 2 years (the years in which you'll be taking doctoral exams and writing the dissertation) you'll have to pay tuition. If you continue to teach for them, you'll be allowed to pay in-state tuition. If this happens, it will eat away 2/3 of your paycheck at the least.

5. Teach 2, take 3. Every semester. 1 workshop; 2 literature classes. It's really heavy on the lit. I like that, as do others, but some people find it really hampers their time to write. You have to be able to budget time and make borders between your identities as a writer, a student, and a teacher (and a person who likes tv or movies or golf or whatever else). The major complaint around here is that we don't have time enough to write. I think a background in a low-residency program can really prepare you for this challenge better than anything.

6. As a PhD student, you have to be very careful about your requirements and electives, and so your exam areas are a bit dependent upon what classes you've taken (and thus what's been offered). But there's a regular seminar on Dickinson, a regular Queer Theory class, a regular Feminist Theory class, and pre-seminars in most of the major movements. There's a Modernism class (this Fall, it's a seminar in Marianne Moore). Three classes can be a bit much, but I've been rewarded, I think, in being pushed so hard. There are regular complaints, though, about the dearth of good offerings.

I hope I've been thorough enough. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.


sonshineslocs


Aug 11, 2004, 5:44 AM

Post #20 of 2090 (45863 views)
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Re: [freeverses] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

very thorough, thanks :) hmmm. no questions just yet. give me time ;)


fattery
Victoria M. Chang
e-mail user

Aug 11, 2004, 10:26 AM

Post #21 of 2090 (45851 views)
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Re: [freeverses] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

James,
That's fantastic! I really appreciate your response. I admire a clean, clear, and logical mind, which you most obviously have. I will print out your response and save it in my files. What are your plans after you graduate? And where do you plan to live? I find California the most progressive place I've ever lived and also the most accepting place I've ever lived. A lot of my friends are mixed couples, I'm going to a gay ceremony of one of my good friends here in a few weeks, I don't get weird looks for being Asian, and people don't seem to have harmful attitudes towards people who are different. I've lived in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Berkeley, San Diego, Irvine, and LA, and each is different, but acceptance is what I find to be a universal quality in California. When I visit other places I feel like I'm stepping back in time in terms of progressiveness. There are certainly pockets in other cities, but overall, California is great.

I have a few more questions for you: 1) How might you compare a Ph.D. in straight lit to one in creative writing/lit?

2) When you say most people work, how many hours can they realistically work? I've been known to be a workaholic and can do a billion things at once, so if I attend, I'd like to keep my job, which is flexible and remote. I just don't know how unrealistic I'm being. I can easily work full-time and more, while going to Warren Wilson, and still have plenty of time to goof around. Is it like that? Your perspective will be helpful b/c you went to Bennington.

3) Is it a competitive environment or a supportive one amongst students? I like excellence in terms of academic environments but not competitiveness, if you know what I mean. I like supportive, giving, and helpful colleagues, but those who are truly talented, work hard, and push themselves, not those caddy, back-stabbing types.

4) Do you ever feel like an academic environment hinders your poetry or boxes you in? I was resistant to Warren Wilson, but have discovered it's exactly the opposite of what I feared. The critical work has really enriched my own writing.

5) How competitive are such programs to get into? And which ones are known as the stronger programs?

6) Is the GRE Lit test important? I have to take that still and what a pain in the A$$. Do they have a minimum cut-off point that I should aim for?

Okay, I was going to send you an email, but maybe others will benefit from my specific questions. You are a superstar for answering all our questions...

v


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Aug 11, 2004, 10:33 AM

Post #22 of 2090 (45851 views)
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Re: [freeverses] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post


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It does seem to me, more and more, that the MFA is not "really" terminal.


The Ph.D. is terminal, all right. It'll kill you.

James' lists say it all. High-investment, high-reward. You have to admire the ingenuity with which universities have been able to evade the minimum wage laws. And with the most qualified laborers, to boot.

Publication plus degree equals job. The bigger your publication is, the smaller your degree has to be, and vice versa. But I consider writing my job. That's the main reason I wouldn't consider a creative writing Ph.D. Teaching would be a way to augment my income without retreating to the soul-withering cubicle. I think I'd enjoy it. I think I'd be good at it. And I think it would help me as a writer. But I can't envision it as a career.

And in my mind that's the difference between the MFA and the Ph.D. as terminal degrees. The MFA is for writers who would write even if they weren't teaching. The Ph.D. is for writers who would teach even if they weren't writing. I think you have to love academics that much to cope with the Ph.D. con list.

Great post, James.


arielblue
Library Anne

Aug 11, 2004, 3:17 PM

Post #23 of 2090 (45836 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

  

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The MFA is for writers who would write even if they weren't teaching. The Ph.D. is for writers who would teach even if they weren't writing.

This really hits the proverbial nail on its naily little head, for me. While I haven't (yet) gone after an MFA, I did finally find an alternative to the Ph.D. that -- for me -- has proved to be ideal: the MLS (Master of Library Science). This degree has enabled me to work full-time in an academic environment, with people who care passionately about books and learning, and with students who are actively engaged in study and research, without having to kill myself getting a Ph.D. and without having to jump through the hoops & entangle myself in the red tape of teaching. And while academic libraries do suffer from their own brand of departmental politics, in my experience librarians are less likely to wind up at each other's throats than teaching faculty. (Of course, experiences may differ.) And while in library school I got to do annotated bibliographies and bibliographic guides about such things as contemporary American poetry, creative writing pedagogy, and Adrienne Rich. I would want to be in an academic environment even if I weren't writing, but teaching isn't necessarily something I'm passionate about (at least, not teaching freshman comp!) -- so being in an academic library is perfect for me, and I've found it to be pretty good for my writing as well. If I didn't have to work to support myself, of course, I'd stay home and write full-time. But the 8-to-5 grind has to happen, so it may as well happen in a room full of books!


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Aug 11, 2004, 6:40 PM

Post #24 of 2090 (45823 views)
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Re: [arielblue] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post


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If I didn't have to work to support myself, of course, I'd stay home and write full-time. But the 8-to-5 grind has to happen, so it may as well happen in a room full of books!


It's great you've found a paying job that also nourishes you as a writer. That's so rare...it's the next best thing to quitting the day job altogether, and maybe even better for people who need something aside from writing to keep themselves fresh and sane (not to mention as a source of material).

I might've given the wrong impression when I said I considered writing my job. That doesn't mean I do it full-time - I write (creatively) 2 or 3 hours a day and spend another hour or two at night reading. But those hours have top priority. The "day job" (I'm self-employed) is structured around it. The point at which that happened is the point at which I began to have some success as a writer. I never had the discipline or energy to be a serious writer in my so-called spare time. Some people do but I think it's unusual, more unusual than the writing manuals and magazines would have you believe.

I also didn't mean to imply that creative writing Ph.D.s are less serious as writers or don't give their writing a high priority. But I think a Ph.D. marks someone as an academic professional in a way that an MFA doesn't. I don't think I could balance that with the writing. If nothing else, I'm too lazy. Someone who really takes to the academic life, though, as James obviously does from his long list of "pros," can be nourished by it as a writer the same way you're nourished by the MLA. It's not an either/or the way it would be for me. Good for both of you.


freeverses
James Hall
e-mail user

Aug 11, 2004, 11:52 PM

Post #25 of 2090 (45811 views)
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Re: [fattery] creative writing ph.d. ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Dear Victoria (and everyone, again):

If I've misled you to think I have a clear, organized, and logical mind, I'm quite sorry. How nice of you to say that, though. :) Actually, the structure is the last thing I put on a piece -- they're a red herring. Those numbers are QUITE arbitrary. Ask someone else, and you'd get a different list (obviously).

Your question about comparing PhD programs in literature and PhD programs in creative writing is a good one. Basically, it comes down to focus and dissertation. As a PhD in creative writing and literature, as opposed to just lit (for the PhD here at UH, and at most places, is a dual degree), you'll be expected to take a doctoral exam in your genre, and to produce a publishable manuscript in your genre. So, I'm taking PhD exams in Poetry genre this Fall, and will write a book of poems before I graduate. (I'm in a rough draft state now). As a poet, you might focus more of your classes on poetry seminars, rather than on "Movements." Lit students, I'd imagine, would be more interested in seeing how "Victorian literature," as a movement, might signify in a culture. Poets might be more interested in how Barrett-Browning crafts a long narrative poem....

And, there's the difference in electives as well. CW PhD's have 3 years of coursework because the workshops do not satisfy elective hours. Literature PhD's take 2 years of coursework, then have 3 years to complete the dissertation and tests.

So, you have to ask yourself what you want to focus on for five years of your life. If you want to study more intensely writing and craft, and also qualify yourself as an academic, the PhD in creative writing seems suited for those possibilities.

The GRE/Lit is not important. I know a student here who made below the "minimum" accepted by the College of Liberal Arts/Sciences, but was still accepted here (a case was made). I made something like a 480 on it. Nothing stellar.

I'll have to answer your other questions in another post. I promise I shall, though! -- James

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