Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Medieval Guild System? Maybe.

I just love Anis Shivani's essay in the Fall 2010 issue of Boulevard, "The MFA/Creative Writing System is a Closed, Undemocratic, Medieval Guild System that Represses Good Writing." I don't entirely agree with it, but I do love the argument. What are your thoughts? "Well-told myths of internal solidarity and well-timed rituals to enhance fellow-feeling"--well, that sounds about right. Programs each have their "house style." He goes after all the big institutions: the schools, the artist colonies, the fellowships, the summer conferences, the magazines, even the annual "bacchanal" of the AWP gathering, with an almost gleeful hammer. Masters, journeymen, and the rest of us schlubs trying to get in.

The only thing missing from his argument is joy. Yes! The kind of joy that doesn't come from a dark outlook. Maybe this fellow-feeling isn't all that false. Just one girl's opinion.

As for the assertion of written output getting more "conservative," this is something many of us agree on, including the MFA-ers themselves. Part of the challenge of entering the guild is knowing which kool-aid to drink, not losing sight of the world outside the guild.

Anyway, I highly recommend this entertaining essay. Inflammatory in all the right places.

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