The latest issue of Atlantic magazine apparently has an article about the rise of MFA programs in this country and what it all means. Actually, it doesn’t tell us what it all means because nobody really knows what it all means. There seems to be much consternation around the idea that scads more people are getting MFAs, but fewer and fewer people are reading literature.
Well, duh. It’s because we’re all reading blogs.
No, honestly, I didn’t read the whole article, but I read the article about the article on the Atlantic website. The fact that we now read online articles about print magazine articles says something about the state of writing and reading in this country, doesn’t it? I’m not sure what, but something.
Having read the article about the article, I don’t feel compelled to read the actual article, so if that was their tactic, they failed. The article about the article made some good points about MFAs, though.
"Trying to assess graduate programs is like rating the top ten party schools," the author of the original article, Edward J. Delany says. (For the record, the online article is by Jessica Murphy. I just saw a post on plagarism on one of the fifty millon blogs I read yesterday and I don’t want to inadvertently engage in said practice.)
Delaney also says that 30 years ago there were 50 MFA programs, now there are somewhere around 300. (When I started the brief-residency MFA program at Spalding in 2001, there were, like, 7 brief-residency programs. Last time I counted, which was a while ago, there were well over 25.)
One of my favorite ideas in the article is voiced by D.W. Fenza, the director of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs (which used to be just Associated Writing Programs but apparently has broadened its scope;it has a kick-ass conference every year and next year it will be in New York City so everyone should go).
Fenza says that there are now so many MFA recepients that we are "part of a great democratic experiment in public access to higher education and the arts. [They] are part of a new plurality."
Damn! I always wanted to be part of a plurality and now I are. All kidding aside, it is fascinating to ponder what the droves of newly minted MFAs, mean for literature and the arts.
Anyway, the article is worth taking a look at, and you can do that here.
And thanks to my buddy Roy Burkhead for sending the article to me in the first place.