Graduate school Writing

The MFA experience

Apparently today is “talking about MFA programs” day in the blogosphere, and I’m happy to join in. I wrote up a post about my own MFA (MA, really) experience a few months ago, but the question of what participants in MFA programs actually get from their two years of journeyman study is always an interesting one.

Tayari Jones on Twitter pointed to one of these two posts by Danielle Evans about MFA programs. In order of posting: Stupid conversations about MFA programs, and Smart conversations about MFA programs. Both of them are very smart and well worth reading. I think I’ve talked here before about the issue of being a novelist in the short-story-centric world of MFA study, which Evans addresses sensibly. But I want to highlight this point in particular (from “Smart conversations”), which could be applied to so many cultural institutions, especially in the realm of education and academia:

MFA programs didn’t invent hegemony, but that doesn’t mean they’re not an important place to look for ways to stop reproducing it.

And on a lighter and snarkier note, from “Stupid conversations,” demolishing the frequent comment about how students in MFA programs ought to be out learning about the real world instead:

If you are 22 years old and it has never occurred to you that most of the world lives and thinks differently than you do, the problem is probably not your MFA program.

Indeed. This post explains neatly why MFA programs hardly allow you to escape the “real world,” and why signing up for a small stipend and time to write can be a safe and wise decision.

Here are a few other MFA-program-related links, in which the bloggers share their own MFA experiences: a post by Raquel Henry, and a roundup of opinions at Writers Digest.

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