“Such are the perfections of fiction...Everything it teaches is useless insofar as structuring your life: you can’t prop up anything with fiction. It, in fact, teaches you just that. That in order to attempt to employ its specific wisdom is a sign of madness...There is more profit in an hour’s talk with Billy Graham than in a reading of Joyce. Graham might conceivably make you sick, so that you might move, go somewhere to get well. But Joyce just sends you out into the street, where the world goes on, solid as a bus. If you met Joyce and said 'Help me,' he’d hand you a copy of Finnegans Wake. You could both cry.” – Gilbert Sorrentino, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Janette Turner Hospital's Creative Writing Emailgate

Although this story has been circulating for over a week, I just came across it a few days ago. Basically, here's the situation in brief: Janette Turner Hospital used to run the Creative Writing program at the University of South Carolina; this year she either left or retired from USC, and took up an adjunct position at Columbia University in New York City. In September, she sent an email to all of the USC students, informing them of 'opportunities' they could take advantage of in NYC. The email, however, spends a great deal of time discussing how great the Columbia program is, with the implicit suggestion that USC's program is second rate, leading Gawker to describe it as 'the world's haughtiest email'. You can read it for yourself and decide.

Since the email appeared, former students have also come out of the woodwork to complain about Hospital. Moreover, a Huffington Post article has also pointed out that many of the email's claims about the Columbia program are untrue (and that USC is arguably a better program).

I don't know Hospital and have never read her books--what interests me about this is that this emailgate could only occur in a 'prestige' system like the U.S., where rankings are hugely important to university programs, and particularly to Creative Writing. In the most recent issue of Kill Your Darlings, I discuss the differences between U.S. and Australian Creative Writing Programs, and why I prefer the latter. While there are, of course, distinctions between Universities here in Australia, they are much less rigid, and, personally, I'm quite thankful for that.

No comments:

Post a Comment