Found this article in Publishers Weekly and thought it interesting.  The decline in literature magazines, especially university edited magazines, is the subject of discussion.  Apparently people are wringing their hands and lamenting to the heavens about the demise of proper literature.


One pundit blames the rise of all the MFA schools in writing as partial blame.  And I can see where a case could be made for that.  So many writers contemplating about the meaning of Life as they gaze at the lent in their navels.  Read about lent in one navel and you just about read about lent in all navels, haven't you?


What do you think?

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So if I've been trained to read adversarially (there were four long years of it) but reject much of it within a few years of graduating, am I an anti-intellectual?

I think there's a middle ground between the two that's keeping the bulk of written works going. And that middle ground favors genre more and more. Heck, it's where I am right now.
I'm not sure that teaching literature means teaching to read adversarially. At least I hope it doesn't.
Depends how you teach it, which depends to a great extent on how and when you were trained to teach it. It was all the rage a decade or so ago, and still a big deal in a lot of English departments.
Let me put it this way. One of my literature requirements was "Gender Issues in Literature."
Yes, well, the PC thing sparked a lot of Ph.D. dissertations. A requirement? I would have thought that it would be one of a number of course options. A good one, really.
I think literary fiction is likely to go the way of poetry in this country, and will probably become more and more the province of small presses and, as those presses fail, the internet. This year is kind of remarkable in that sense because the Pulitzer winner in fiction was a pretty obscure book published by a small press.
I don't know.
Frankly I've always thought of MFA's as artificial constructs. Really designed by most colleges to garner in as much income as possible. Yes, a number of them have produced some fine writers. But then, equally so, have good Journalism schools.

As to the cause for the so-called death of literature I'm of a mind that it's far from dead. But it's not in the old places like college bound literature magazines. Go over to and see literature alive on a hourly basis. Go to my blog . . . or a place like and see what's going on. There's a hell of a lot of good writing going--but nobody is getting paid for it.
That I don't believe. There's no money in being a writer or a poet. Not too many people sign up for those courses if they hope to make a living and support a family some day. I can see the degree operating as an interim stage for someone who will move on up and who plans to teach.
I.J. I agree; there is no money to speak of in being a writer. But for a college, offering an MFA program can be a real money maker. Think of all the aspiring writers out there who think tacking on the letters MFA after their name is gonna make them golden.
I hope there aren't many MFA students out there who actually think that, B.R. Even the top programs like Iowa and UVa don't make any promises about jobs or publication, let alone something approaching literary stardom. It's also generally true that MFA programs are big money losers, because the class-sizes are small and the top professors often make more money than their lit-theory colleagues. But good MFA programs can lend prestige to their host departments, and can draw big donors like moths to a flame.

For what it's worth, my advice to reasonably talented students who are interested in getting an MFA is this:

1.If what you want is a couple of years to work on your writing with guidance from people whose work you admire, then you should give it a shot.

2.If you're a poet, you will most likely not be a strong candidate for a tenure-line job with an MFA and a published book alone. You'll look better if you go on to get a PhD, and/or if your first book wins a major prize. Preferably and. The odds against the latter happening are astronomical. Things aren't a whole lot better for fiction writers. Not saying it can't happen, but the academic job market is the worst it's ever been and you're competing for entry-level jobs with people who've published multiple books in multiple genres, won big prizes, and have BAs from Harvard and PhDs from Berkeley. Good luck.

3.You'd be goofy to go into debt for an MFA. A good program will pay you to study there. Don't go unless you get a full fee-waiver and a fellowship/stipend. Seriously. DO NOT GO INTO DEBT FOR AN MFA.
But surely that doesn't work. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn't get you an agent or a publisher, or readers. Only a pretty good book on a popular subject will do that.


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