The old MFA-argument has reared its ugly head in the comments section of yesterday's post. One LROD regular, who calls herself E., has this to say about that:
"Jesus God, the MFA crap again. I am so fucking sick of this argument -- frighteningly similar to the anti-intellectualism of the outgoing neocon fearmongers -- that to actually study a subject is to somehow limit one's ability in that subject, to stifle one's worldview, and to fail to be a real, authentic, genuine "artist" (or American, if you like).
For the umpteenth time, people: MFA programs do not program writers to write in a certain way--to value or emulate particular elements or style or forms--any more than individuals not in MFA programs train themselves by reading what they admire and growing as a result of the exposure. I challenge anyone to try to sculpt another writer's voice by way of instruction, discussion, and critique; it is impossible. Sure, it's possible to imitate, but imitation is not sustainable.
Furthermore, who says the finalists in this contest are recent MFA grads? Could it be they graduated ten, twenty years ago? It could. Who says they earned their degrees when they were in their tender twenties? It may be that, like me and many of my fellow MFA classmates, they are in their thirties, forties, fifties, sixties. But even if they're not... Extrapolator Anon, you know *nothing* about these people, least of all the extent of their personal life experiences. Paint with a broad brush much?
As for being in debt: I'm not, because I have a full ride. Elitist luck? No; I worked to be admitted, and I'm working my ass off in the program as a writer and a TA. Most MFA programs offer at least partial funding; most students manage to sidestep this mythic mountain of debt I keep reading about. The fact that I'm lucky to be doing this doesn't make me a hack writer. I've carved out time at great personal sacrifice to devote myself to writing. After my three years are up, it's back to writing between the margins of a fulltime job, just like I did before.
There are a lot of reasons to whine about the state of publishing. People who dedicate themselves to studying the art are not one of those reasons.
If you're going to make an argument, make it original and cogent, will you please?"
She makes a good argument. I'm almost convinced. What do you think?