PDA

View Full Version : Differences in grad school degrees



JL_Benet
06-05-2007, 01:39 AM
This article (and a recent discussion on Shocklines regarding the creative writing PhD at Wisconsin-Madison) got me thinking about the best route for a creative writing teacher to get a position.
http://ask.metafilter.com/35402/Phd-with-creative-dissertation-vs-MFA
An MFA is technically a terminal degree; but if a hiring team has a bunch of MFAs and a PhD, won't the PhD get the leg up every time (everything else being equal). Is publication really the biggest key? Is it better to just get an MA and get a bunch of books published? That proves you're a professional in the field, but full-time staff are often called on to teach many different classes in the department. Is that department going to trust you to teach Freshman Comp., "What is Lit?", or Intro Poetry classes if you have an MA in creative writing? Do you think having a secondary ed. certification makes any difference in the minds of the hiring committees? It should mean that you can teach those classes previously mentioned, but will the committee really think that? How does being a genre writer affect this? Will it make it harder to get into departments which look down upon genre fiction as shlock, or will it work to your advantage as it might bring in more students and make for more interesting classes? It might also show that you are a real working professional in the field, while many applicants have only published in barely read literary journals and published a few books of poetry with a local micro-publisher.
More thoughts on the matter:
http://home.southernct.edu/~ritterk1/professional/RitterCE.pdf
http://www.princetonreview.com/grad/research/programProfiles/basicinfo.asp?programID=49
http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/2006/08/ma-vs-mfa.html
http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/2006/04/teaching-background-mfa-vs-phd-and.html
http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/2006/06/how-did-phds-come-about.html
http://www2.wilmington.edu/english/GraduateSchoolInformation.cfm
http://www.english.heacademy.ac.uk/explore/publications/newsletters/newsissue5/harper.htm

ColoradoGuy
06-05-2007, 02:31 AM
Very fascinating list of links. It does look as if many get the MFA and then wonder why they did it. I would think for a writing teacher a publication record of some sort would matter more than the letters after the name, but hiring committees can be fickle beasts.

I'll be interested to hear from others with war stories of their own to tell.

veinglory
06-05-2007, 03:56 AM
My impression is that you need to be very selective about where you get an MFA from, and the degree of actual mentoring provided.

But for any degree they issue the disillusionment with the parchment and the funny hat.

Medievalist
06-05-2007, 05:36 AM
I've been on the hiring committee for "creative writing" positions at UCLA, where I'm a Ph.D. candidate.

The most important thing is what the applicant has published, and secondly, his or her ability to teach, thirdly, the degree.

I'm biased as an English Ph.D. person, but honestly, if you're thinking of academic employment as a career while you write, I'd go for a MFA in writing, and a strict English Ph.D. in Comp and Rhetoric and/or literature.

You're far more employable, in and out, of the academy.

And English departments are still, very very much, snobs about genre writing when it comes to tenure track jobs -- and you want a tenure track job.

Magdalen
06-10-2007, 07:14 AM
I don't belong here, so I won't stay long. But I just had to say hi to Medi. Thanks for responding to my Beowulf thread.

I just wanted to comment on your statement

And English departments are still, very very much, snobs about genre writing . . .

I find that so intriguing. Do you mean that if you seek a position in an English Dept. of a major univerisity and have the MFA and/or PhD and had written a work of fiction that was not Lit or gen'l Fic but a genre, (like Scifi or mystery,etc) they might think less of your writing abilities?

Just tell me to leave, now. I won't mind. I found the academic experience to be so unfulfilling and essentially meaningless that I stopped going to classes. And that was a decade ago. Have things in academia improved since then?

Medievalist
06-10-2007, 07:40 AM
I don't belong here, so I won't stay long. But I just had to say hi to Medi. Thanks for responding to my Beowulf thread.

Hi back atcha, and you belong here, as long as you want to be here. No worries; you're welcome.


I just wanted to comment on your statement

And English departments are still, very very much, snobs about genre writing . . .

I find that so intriguing. Do you mean that if you seek a position in an English Dept. of a major university and have the MFA and/or PhD and had written a work of fiction that was not Lit or gen'l Fic but a genre, (like Scifi or mystery,etc) they might think less of your writing abilities? [/quote]

Gah. I should have a very large caveat here.

I am an embittered and cynical grad student, at the end of a Ph.D. program. Your mileage may vary -- that said, I've attended, and worked at a fair number of schools, and, well, yeah, there's a lot of snobbery.

There's the thing where it's cool to take a genre, like SF and do post modern critical theory things to the books -- but it's very much not cool to write them. Joe Haldeman is a rara avis; he writes SF, and teaches in an English department and has had his career advanced because of his genre fiction. Mostly genre fiction is not going to count towards tenure and merit pay. It just isn't.

Most of the SF writers I know of who are academics are not in English departments; Delany is sort of in one.


Just tell me to leave, now. I won't mind. I found the academic experience to be so unfulfilling and essentially meaningless that I stopped going to classes. And that was a decade ago. Have things in academia improved since then?

That's actually very much my take for much of my grad school experience, and no, I'd say they're worse.

But I am cynical and more n'somewhat tired.

dahosek
06-13-2007, 05:48 AM
I'd add that getting an academic job to support you while you write is something that's about as realistic plan as writing novels to support you while you act. Those tenure-track jobs are few and far between. Hell, they're hard to come by for people in the in-demand fields like Math and Science. Far too many grad programs are really just a means of scoring cheap labor to teach the 100-level classes.