November 14, 2005

Read Mark McGurl's "The Program Era: Pluralisms of Postwar American Fiction" in recent issue of Critical Inquiry over breakfast today.

Interesting article to add to spare collection of articles about the impact of universities on creative writing. Will probably assign in future alongside Myers's The Elephants Teach. The article is written from the position of critic. (Also owes some obvious debts to work by Walter Benn Michaels on identity.) And mainly about the novel, especially the boy novel, that postmodern novel of Roth, Barth, Stephenson. Kept wondering what would happen if he was forced to look at writers like Acker as much as Roth. The article weakens when it moves off of the boy novel (although I kept thinking the real story about how universities have changed the way literature gets read has been the rise of the multicultural novel; McGurl acknowledges this but this is where the article slides into Michaels work a little and this part of the article doesn't feel as fleshed out; but this is super hard topic; not sure how to deal with it in any way without falling into traps of this discussion). While here is some messy slide between literature and creative writing in the article, most interesting thing about the article was reading his critic perspective. I think I would see the rise of ethnic novels, the Toni Morrison phenomenon, more a result of the literature parts of english departments and less the result of the creative writing parts of english departments (who tend to like to pretend as if that discussion around multicultural literatures never happened). And I probably would come down harder on MFA programs and the novel than he does in the end. I wanted to read the Morton and Zavarzadeh article that he sort of makes fun of in his footnote on how the fiction workshop keeps "intact the legitimacy of bourgeois values."

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