Fran Mulhern, a current creative writing MA student in a university in the northwestern parts of Ireland, recently wrote an article for the Irish Times about his impression (and reservations) of embarking upon the graduate school journey. His question: what’s the point of an MA/MFA?
After all, he is spending £6,000 for his degree.
The question arose from the doubts expressed by “current and past MA and MFA students (from different institutions at home and abroad).”
Mulhern argues that he is capable of independent study, and whatever publishing connections that could be made, he doubts would be no more important that the ones that he could make through his friendships.
So, what has he decided to do? Well, Mulhern has decided to try online courses with the New York-based Gotham Writers (£300 per course) before making a final decision about withdrawing from his MA program.
Maybe Mulhern is correct and MA/MFA programs may be unnecessary for the disciplined student, and that they “breed certain arrogance in favour of literary fiction.”
Although there may be some drawbacks to MA/MFA programs in creative writing, there are also some benefits. As noted here in previous posts, there are graduate programs in creative writing that offer full and partial scholarships.
Moreover, the MFA degree is considered a terminal degree that allows for its bearer to pursue a career within academia, which is something that Gotham Writers and other such offerings cannot provide.
Whether or not to pursue graduate studies is, of course, a personal choice. Whatever the decision made, there will always be both benefits and drawbacks–that is nature of the choices we make. However, Mulhern makes great points about literary fiction and place that it occupies in the world of academia, that that place ought to be shared with that of the academically disregarded mainstream fiction.
Diversity of all forms remains a challenge within academics, and especially so within literature. Mulhern speaks a world of truth when he says:
Literature is the ultimate democratic practice – you can write what you want without fear, and some people will like it and some won’t, and that’s ok.
Click on the link below to read the article.