Whiter Creative Writing (8 pages)

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Y Multilingual Matters NW articles NW033 nw033 3d x Thursday 4th November 2004 15 20 29 Integrated Writing Programmes in American Universities Whither Creative Writing PR O O Over the last decade American scholars have produced books essay collections and articles utilising the disciplinary knowledge of rhetoric and composition to produce creative writing pedagogies Such theorising for example refigures belletristic composition as a social rather than personal enterprise and critiques and displaces the writing workshop the workhorse of conventional creative writing pedagogy with more collaborative approaches This article argues that despite the growth of this scholarly field the discourse has had no significant impact on the teaching or staffing of creative writing courses in American universities the deconstruction of the creative writing composition binary remains a largely theoretical rather than practical matter The author shows that this new discourse mostly fails to address let alone reconcile underlying material structural issues that continue to divide composition and creative writing in most institutional settings the radically different approaches to training MFAs versus PhDs differing standards for marketable expertise defined by most hiring institutions creative versus scholarly publications and bifurcated expectations for promotion and tenure Perhaps most important this discourse ignores the fierce desire for independence from scholarly community that ironically binds many who teach creative writing F Peter Vandenberg Department of English DePaul University McGaw Hall 802 W Belden Avenue Chicago IL 60614 USA TE D U N C O R R EC The evolution of rhetoric and composition the scholarly apparatus that grew up around the teaching of first year composition in the American university has been animated by the consistent push and pull of competing impulses 1 the desire to claim new intellectual territory typically grounded in an expansive definition of rhetoric and intended to subordinate multiple discursive domains under a master umbrella and 2 the tendency to separate into smaller specialised camps with more clearly defined objects of study The former impulse is largely a theoretical matter made possible by the remarkably free space of scholarly publication the academic equivalent of the computer game SimCity The latter tendency to separate is the perhaps inevitable result of the material demands of location administration training ambition and reward As those pursuing scholarly achievement in rhetoric and composition have been propelled further from the first year classroom by the discipline s emergent discourse they have rubbed up against critical theories of all sorts philosophy of the mind social science heuristics and empirical observation and design Where compositionists have found rich and productive bodies of scholarship already erected to explain and influence practical activities they have mostly borrowed for the purpose of enriching their own field 1479 0726 04 01 001 8 20 00 0 INT J FOR THE PRACTICE AND THEORY OF CREATIVE WRITING 1 2004 P Vandenberg Vol 1 No 1 2004 Y Multilingual Matters NW articles NW033 nw033 3d x Thursday 4th November 2004 15 20 29 International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing 2 U N C O R R EC TE D PR O As a product of the progressive education movement creative writing in America began in the early 20th century not as formation for the production of literary writers and certainly not as a locus for the production of scholarship but rather as a concrete representation of an idea about the best way to teach literature Myers 1996 12 Creative writing was initially designed to cultivate literary comprehension through mimicry the notion that for example writing a sonnet will lead to a deeper understanding of and appreciation for sonnets For the first 50 years of creative writing s history according to D G Myers creative writing was taught by literary scholars rather than practicing writers of fiction and poetry The same sort of division between master and novitiate that sublimated composition to literature in the pre war period suppressed the possibility that creative writing might be an epistemic activity or an object of study The period immediately after the second world war a time of rapid expansion in the American university offered the strongest possibility for linking creative writing with knowledge production but a number of factors conspired to isolate creative writing The roots of contemporary creative writing s separation from disciplinary activity can be traced to years immediately after the war the heyday of the New Criticism Myers accounts for the profound influence of the New Criticism on the writer teachers who were spawned by the Iowa programme and went on to institute creative writing programmes across the country The New Criticism however by insisting that meaning was a product of close reading an intensely individual encounter with a text effectively cut students off from scholarly discourse by consolidating expertise in the virtuosity of the critic The pedagogical approach that remains common in creative writing today learning by observation began in the isolation from scholarship fostered by the New Criticism Creative writing teachers modelled close reading strategies often on their own writing and encouraged students to perfect the practice on their own work So dominant did this pedagogy become that by the mid 1970s students in many MFA programmes could finish their degrees solely through completion of workshops and seminars that required no secondary reading materials at all Myers 1996 162 163 O Dividing Writing F Despite the deepest desires of rhetoric and composition scholars it can be argued that the field s scholarship has had no significant impact on work in other fields even those with whom they share an institutional home Where compositionists have found activities or practices unilluminated by significant scholarly activity they have tended to set up shop in an effort to interpret and inform Such has been the case with technical writing writing centres writing in the workplace and most recently creative writing The propensity to claim and explain has been greatest where there has been a vacuum an absence of theory or reflection to account for an object or practice 1 Creative writing an institutional space that owing to the benign neglect of literary studies and its own historical movement


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