Sunday, February 19, 2012

The MFA's Place in Publishing: An Opinion

By Ginny Padgett

I’ve been perusing the November/December, 2011 issue of Poets & Writers magazine. I am astonished to find the numerous ads for MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) programs displayed here – one on nearly every page. Before reading this widely regarded resource, I was aware of one of today’s trends, namely to become published in the traditional manner, an MFA is the way to go. It made me think.

• Is academia the force behind the publishing business these days?
• MFAs are very expensive. Is that making writing an elitist’s profession with an elitist attitude?
• What literature, innovative concepts, and unique points of view might we be missing from those writers who cannot afford to go to graduate school?
• Would William Shakespeare or Charles Dickens get published today without an MFA entrée? Both were men of the people – far from academia – who dealt in the drama of every-day life.
• William Faulkner considered himself a Mississippi farmer. In fact, in a 1956 interview in The Paris Review, he said, “There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error.”
• Flannery O’ Conner was a recluse from Milledgeville, Georgia (even though her bio says Savannah).
• Does this raise other points you’d share as a comment to this blog? I’d really like to hear other thoughts. Pardon me. My egalitarian sensibilities are showing.

Once again, I suppose the debate goes back to “art is in the eye of the beholder.” Unless we’re writing for monetary gain (in which case get an MFA), the reward from our creative pursuits may be the personal satisfaction in quelling the need for self expression.


Alex said...

Interesting article. You might add that there are many roads to Rome, one of which is an MFA. Alex

new york writing workshop said...

Interesting article. You might add that there are many roads to Rome, one of which is an MFA. Alex

Leigh said...

I have wondered the very same thing. It seems that your "credentials" are what speak for you. It's the old catch 22. It's hard to get published without them and you can't get them without being published. One of the many hurdles we face as writers. I want to get on with the business of writing.