10 September 2006


Would you do the grad students here at CMU the kindness of checking out their work on Temenos, our literary magazine? The spring/summer online issue is now available, and there's access to online issues from the last three years.

The magazine's first print annual is now available, too--available for just the price of postage ($1.50) mailed to Temenos, English Department, CMU, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859. In it: Hal Jaffe, Lance Olsen, Cris Mazza, and many other most excellent writers.

Please also submit fiction, creative non, poetry, artwork, photography--whatever you'd like.

A related topic:

I pushed the students to produce a print annual of Temenos in part because it carries more weight with the powers-that-be. Said powers will be the ones making decisions about whether we can turn our MA into an MFA.

There's the topic, the MFA.

Part of me feels uncomfortable wanting to add to the world another terminal degree program in the humanities. Enough grad students now go wanting for successful careers. But part of me wants all the advantages for students and faculty such a program can bring to our school: the career opportunities an MFA at least makes possible, time (at least) for students to write--whatever the outcome, an energetic program, more interesting classes to take and teach, etc.

I'd love to know where other folks weigh in on (new) MFA programs.


david raphael israel said...

ah, that would be this. Nice.

jdeshell said...

Dear Matthew,
I just did this for CU. This being change from 2 year MA to 3 year MFA. Email me with questions, or mayeb we could have a phone conversation. I hope you are well. J

Kass Fleisher said...

actually, it's my humble opine that a PHD is a better bet for a writer *who wishes to join the academy*. that ** is the caveat. some folks want an MA or MFA for their own damn reasons, and that's fine. but it's brutal out there, baby. a PHD doesn't take much longer than an MFA, and in many cases provides the student with a far broader course of study (ie, enhanced education). i know this is a vicious point of contention at such institutions as AWP, where i saw people pounding tables and insisting that THEIR mfa's were RIGOROUS, DAMMIT!! while everyone in the room (a group of program directors from a specific region) conceded that quite often MFA programs are intellectually shabby, no one would cop to being the guy directing a shabby program.

by which i don't mean to imply that your program will be shabby. you rock, naturally. (present company is *always* excluded....)

there's a whole mess (mess) of institutional history here that is far too much to go into now, but generally, i want to say that when i have talented writers who want to become higher-education fodder, i steer them towards the PHD. but hey. that's just moi.


Lance Olsen said...

I oversaw the startup of a new MFA in the mid-90s, Matt, and my real failure was not to ask faculty to consider the following question beforehand and think with them about it:

How does our MFA program plan to be substantially different from the 350+ others in the country?

My sense is that the last thing we need in the U.S. is another run-of-the-mimetic assembly-line MFA program designed to do little more than bring in some extra cash and "prestige" to a department, but we desperately need a handful that are committed to reconceiving what an MFA is and can be.

To pick up on what Kass suggests, I pursued an MFA, MA, and Ph.D., not because they had anything to do in my mind with getting job, but because I really just wanted to roll around in language and literature and thought the way a poodle does in a bigger dog's droppings for a long time.

But the triple crown is the only way to go if someone is thinking about the possibility of the possibility of interesting employment in today's ragged market.

Lance Olsen said...

Oh, and (Lance cut Lance off before Lance was finished, the moron): prospective students should be made well aware of that last point before entering an MFA program.

Most students, I find, dive in with the delusion that MFA programs are somehow gateways to fame, riches, a New York book contract, and a good retirement package, rather than what they really are: an occasionally pretty piece of paper and an opportunity to write and think about writing and clarify one's aesthetics that will, with five bucks, buy you a latte at Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

an occasionally pretty piece of paper and an opportunity to write and think about writing and clarify one's aesthetics that will, with five bucks, buy you a latte at Starbucks.

As one who will be applying to MFA programs for next year (and, for what it's worth [not much, I assure you], I hold an MA in Japanese literature + 3/4 of an MA in East Asian Religious Studies, and have quickly gone from teaching English in Japan for two years to running an office for a dept. at a State-run college that has absolutely nothing to do with East Asian studies or with "Literature" whatsoever), I appreciate your perhaps-jaded/certainly-knowing/definitely-true assessment. The "triple crown" is my ultimate goal, though I know it won't get me any of those things listed above (riches? a New York book contract? more like empty pockets and a head full of literary theory/new perspectives on writing [hopefully]...). So, well, thanks for your sharp-tongued reminder (and also to Kass Fleisher for suggesting the importance of the Ph.D.).

P.S. Neither the Lance that cut off the Lance who was not yet finished, nor the Lance who was cut off before being finished by the first Lance, is a "moron," Lance! In fact, I'd assert that both really seem to know what they are talking about re: the MFA.


Anonymous said...

Ok this is Lucy Corin pre-blog-ID. My question on this topic is what does terminal mean now that there are cw phds and who decides what degrees are terminal anyway? We've got an MA here at Davis and I'm assured by colleagues that it's a terminal degree. But I think we lose out on lots of applicants b/c there is so much confusion about the meaning (let alone meaningfulness) of the various degrees. Job ads in MLA for instance seem not to consider an MA terminal or "as" terminal as MFA. Even though of course there is such variety w.in/ across the programs that I don't see how the degree could give you any sense of a person's education. Does this have to do with what AWP does and doesn't govern? Does AWP govern? Anyone w/ a lot of knowledge espec. backed by sources :) about this pls e-mail me! Yrs, Lucy lcorin@ucdavis.edu

PS and slightly more directly related to initial post I'll add that this question re meaning of degree has to do for me only with addressing the stage of thinking a potential applicant might be enduring. Degrees have never had anything to do with writing-- they just have to do with securing a place in the culture for writers. That's my main concern, is keeping this lonely space in existence (and attracting the right people to it) regardless of all my other concerns about cash cows and degree inflation...