Does the MFA Rule Fiction?
Has American fiction become inseparable from its institutional context—the university—particularly embodied in the writing workshop? A new book examines the MFA's influence.
The writing program has long existed as an object of self-study for the people who actually attend such things, or teach in them, usually in the form of satire—David Foster Wallace's "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way," Francine Prose's Blue Angel, and on and on. But the program writer, even if he's been both student and professor, always wants to assume, and is to some extent granted, outsider status by the university; he's always lobbing his flaming bags of prose over the ivied gate late at night. Then in the morning he puts on a tie and walks through the gate and goes to his office. In the university, the fiction writer nevertheless managed not to think of himself as of the university.