The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Odd Diversions

Posted on: December 18, 2006

Well, if that don’t beat all. At the blog After the MFA (via Pinky Paperhause) Armand questioned the use and relevance of literary criticism courses for MFA students. He made a valid point about how professors are often so steeped in theory that any sort of “creative” question is met with rote academic jargon. Then he went all crazy on me.

Also for me personally and for other writers I know, it is far more advantageous to read contemporary works (the kind assigned as homework for your writing workshops) than to read anything written before, say, 1880 or so. Stuff written before Joyce, Chekhov and their ilk may be of general interest but you’re generally not going to be able to employ that writing style (except in ironic tones) and get published. In fact a lot of the stuff written before 1950 — especially in tone, length, word choice and voice — feels fairly archaic.

Ahem. What’s this now? Anything written before 1950–the mid-20th century–is “archaic”? Stories are only of relevance to contemporary writers if it is written in their decade? At any rate it is not as if they are reading the books, of whatever time period, in order to ape other authors’ writing styles so why would that be an issue? I can only imagine what sort of books would be published by a bunch of MFA grads who had not read or respected anything written before they were born. Gees louise.

This interview with Elizabeth Kantor who wrote a Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature is also good for a laugh or two (via Maud Newton). I did not attend university in America but apparently they don’t teach Shakespeare and Milton anymore. Instead the curriculum is filled with a bunch of women and coloured folk who only got in because they were victims. Also chivalry liberated women. (I have never read Chaucer so….)

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2 Responses to "Odd Diversions"

What an odd opinion. I can’t imagine that any sort of writing would not be useful!

That’s precisely what I thought Heather, and was really surprised that a MFA student, of all people, held such a view.

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