23 October 2010


I stumbled across this article by Anis Shivani called Is The MFA System Corrupt and Undemocratic?

The main thesis seems to be that MFA's are very similar to medieval guild systems. Shivani sums it up thus:

Talent, in the modern writing guild, has been discounted; it is craft that counts.

Then concludes the piece:

The apprentice produces a "masterpiece"--a chief d'oevre--to pass muster and receive the license to teach--the ius docendi--upon conclusion of his period of training in the workshop. This signifies adherence to standards of production, and forever after, as a journeyman and perhaps as a master himself, he must not deviate from these standards. The master always retains the right of correction--the ius corrigendi of the medieval guilds--to guarantee quality; there is an infinitely intricate system of withholding rewards and recognition from deviants.

Basically, Shivani goes to great wordy lengths to say that MFA's tend to turn everyone into the same writer as their teacher and that everyone is afraid to veer from the 'norms'.

And I agree. To a point.

My experience in and out of the MFA world is that, as with all things, connections and nepotism matter the most. That you must play the game perfectly. I have never changed my writing to get published. The one time I was asked to I withdrew my poems instead of change anything.

Not that I'm above the idea.

I definitely feel the pressure to change or play a different way. The question I always run into is - what can I live with at the end of the day?

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