Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Topic: Creative Writing Workshops

10-second review: A negative view of creative writing workshops on campus.

Title: “Show or Tell: Should Creative Writing Be Taught?” Louis Menand. The New Yorker (June 8 & 15, 2009), 106-112.

Quote: “Creative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem. The fruit of the theory is the writing workshop, a combination of ritual scarring and twelve-on-one group therapy where aspiring writers offer their views of the efforts of other aspiring writers.” p. 106.

Quote: “…but a workshop is not a course in the normal sense—a sense of instruction in which some body of knowledge is transmitted by means of a curricular script. The workshop is a process, an unscripted performance space, a regime for forcing people to do two things that are fundamentally contrary to human nature: actually write stuff (as opposed to planning to write stuff very, very soon), and then sit there while strangers tear it apart.” p. 106.

Quote: “There is one person in the room, the instructor, who has (usually) published a poem. But workshop protocol requires the instructor to shepherd the discussion, not to lead it, and in any case the instructor is either a product of the same process—a person with an academic degree in creative writing—or a successful writer who has had no training as a teacher of anything, and who is probably grimly or jovially skeptical of the premise on which the whole enterprise is based: that creative writing is something that can be taught.” p. 106.

Comment: And that’s from someone who actually approves of this process. RayS.

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