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Donnelly, Dianne J.
Establishing creative writing studies as an academic discipline
h [electronic resource] /
by Dianne J. Donnelly.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 204 pages.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: The discipline of creative writing is charged "as the most untheorized, and in that respect, anachronistic area in the entire constellation of English studies (Haake What Our Speech Disrupts 49). We need only look at its historical precedents to understand these intimations. It is a discipline which is unaware of the histories that informs its practice. It relies on the tradition of the workshop model as its signature pedagogy, and it is part of a fractured community signaled by its long history of subordination to literary studies, its lack of status and sustaining lore, and its own resistance to reform. These factions keep creative writing from achieving any central core. I argue for the advancement of creative writing studies. As a scholarly academic discipline, creative writing studies explores and challenges the pedagogy of creative writing. It not only supports, but welcomes intellectual analyses that may reveal new theories.Such theories have important teaching implications and insights into the ways creative writers read, write, and respond. My study explores the history of creative writing, its workshop model as its primary practice, and the discipline's major pedagogical practices. Through its pedagogical and historical inquiry of the field, this study has important implications to the development of creative writing studies. Its research includes a workshop survey of undergraduate creative writing teachers as well as scholarship in the field. My argument envisions a more robust, variable, and intelligent workshop model. It considers how an understanding of our pedagogical practices might influence our teaching strategies and classroom dynamics and how we might provide more meaning to the academy, our profession, and our diverse student body.At a curricular level, my study offers course and program development, and it justifies the importance of including graduate level training for teacher preparation to further explore the field's history and pedagogy. Through my inquiries and research, I advance creative writing studies, define its academic home, and better position the discipline to stand alongside composition studies and literary studies as a separate-but-equal entity, fully prepared to claim it own identity and scholarship.
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Advisor: Joseph Moxley, Ph.D.
Creative writing studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Establishing Creative Writing Studi es as an Academic Discipline by Dianne J. Donnelly A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Jo seph Moxley, Ph.D. John Fleming, Ph.D. Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D. Patrick Bizzaro, Ph.D. Date of Approval: July 10, 2009 Keywords: creative writing studies, pe dagogy, workshop, theory, history Copyright 2009, Dianne J. Donnelly
i TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Introduction: The Emergence of Creative Writing Studies 1 The Disciplinary Status of Creative Writing Studies 5 The Emergence of Creative Writing Studies Â– Where to Begin? 8 Establishing Creative Writing Studies as an Academic Discipline 13 Section One: A Taxonomy of Creative Writing Pedagogies 15 Where Meaning Lies Â– A Multi-faceted Approach 21 Orientation of Critical Theories 26 The Objective Theory as New Criticism 27 Historical Antecedents 27 Pedagogical Practice 29 Pedagogical Practices: Te xt as Verbal Icon 30 Pedagogical Practices: The Ease of Teaching the New Critical Approach 35 Pedagogical Practices: Evaluation 37 Pedagogical Practices: Evaluating the Text as Final Authority 38 Pedagogical Practices: Teacher as Fina l Authority, as Exemplary Reader 43 Social Relations: Through a Lacanian Lens 46 New Criticism Theory: Final Arguments 52
ii The Expressivist Theory 54 Historical Antecedents 54 Pedagogical Practice 60 Pedagogical Practices: Disc overy and Inspiration 61 Pedagogical Practices: The Expressivist Workshop 63 Pedagogical Practices: What to do About the Romantic Myth 64 Social Relations: Through a Lacanian Lens 67 Expressivist Theory: Final Arguments 75 The Mimetic Theory as Imitable Functions 77 Historical Antecedents 77 Pedagogical Practice 77 Social Relations: Through a Lacanian Lens 80 Mimetic Theory: Final Arguments 81 The Pragmatic Theory as Reader-Response 82 Historical Antecedents 82 Pedagogical Practice 82 The Complexities of Reader-Response Theory 84 How to Bring Reader-Response Th eory into the Creative Writing 85 Classroom Teaching Reader-Response Awareness 87 Teaching Reader-Response Strategies 90 Social Relations: Through a Lacanian Lens 92 Reader-Response Theory: Final Arguments 93
iii Section Two: The Writing Workshop Model 95 A Workshop Survey 97 Defining the Workshop Model 100 A Study of the Workshop Model 102 How Our Workshop History Informs Our Praxes 109 Perceptions and Practice 118 Our Students 118 Our Critics 126 Our Teachers 127 Our Workshop Pedagogy 129 Flexing the Workshop Space or Opening the Space to Alternatives 133 Our Lore 141 Developing Markers of Pr ofessional Difference 147 The Case for Reading and its Distinguishing Markers 148 The Case for Writing and its Distinguishing Markers 153 The Case for Responding and its Distinguishing Markers 156 The Case for Theory 164 The Workshop Model: Final Arguments 166 Section Three: The Academic Home for Creative Writing Studies 167 Control of Space, Domain, and Power 170 The Academic Home of Creative Writing Studies 171 Creative Writing Studies and Literary Studies 172 Creative Writing Studies and Cultural Studies 175
iv Independent Writing Programs 177 Creative Writing Studies and Composition Studies 179 The Academic Home for Creative Writing Studies 186 Conclusion: The Legitimacy of Creative Writing Studies 188 Bibliography 194 About the Author End page
v LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Artistic Comm unication Transaction 126 Figure 2. AbramsÂ’ Taxonomy of Theories 127 Figure 3. My Taxonomy of Theories 127
vi ESTABLISHING CREATIVE WRITING STUDIES AS AN ACADEMIC DISCIPLINE DIANNE DONNELLY ABSTRACT The discipline of creative writing is char ged Â“as the most untheorized, and in that respect, anachronistic area in the entire constellation of English studies (Haake What Our Speech Disrupts 49). We need only look at its histor ical precedents to understand these intimations. It is a discipline which is unaware of the histories that in forms its practice. It relies on the tradition of the workshop model as its signature pedagogy, and it is part of a fractured community signaled by its long history of subordinati on to literary studies, its lack of status and sustaining lore, and its ow n resistance to reform. These factions keep creative writing from achie ving any central core. I argue for the advancement of creative writing studies As a scholarly academic discipline, creative writing studies explores and challenges the pedagogy of creative writing. It not only supports, but welcomes in tellectual analyses that may reveal new theories. Such theories have important teac hing implications and insights into the ways creative writers read, write, and respond. My study explores the history of creative writing, its workshop model as its primar y practice, and the disciplineÂ’s major pedagogical practices. Through its pedagogical a nd historical inquiry of the field, this
vii study has important implications to the development of creative writing studies Its research includes a workshop survey of underg raduate creative writing teachers as well as scholarship in the field. My argument envisions a more robust, variable, and intelligent workshop model. It considers how an unders tanding of our pedagogical practices might influence our teaching strategies and clas sroom dynamics and how we might provide more meaning to the academy, our profession, and our diverse student body. At a curricular level, my study offers course and program development, and it justifies the importance of including graduate level training for teacher preparation to further explore the fieldÂ’s history and pe dagogy. Through my inquiries and research, I advance creative writing studies define its academic home, and better position the discipline to stand alongside composition studies and literary studies as a separate-butequal entity, fully prepared to claim it own identity and scholarship.
1 INTRODUCTION: THE EMERGENCE OF CREATIVE WRITING STUDIES Creative writing stands once again at a cr ossroads. On one side of the road is creative writing, a discipline whic h is unaware of the historie s and theories that informs its practice. As such, its Â“cr eative writing teachers are, of necessity, implicated in questions of theory and pract iceÂ” (Bishop Â“On the Same BoatÂ” para. 2). In fact, creative writing is charged Â“as the most untheorized, and in that respec t, anachronistic area in the entire constellation of English studies (Haake What Our Speech Disrupts 49). We need only look at its historical precedents to understand these intimations. It might be said that creative writing ha s stood at a crossroads many times in its history. Consider, for example, its years of pr omoting literature for its own sake until its intersection with postwar program expansi on and rising enrollment. As patrons of university subsidies and recipients of Na tional Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding, this point of juncture led to hiring opportunities that triple wh at is available in todayÂ’s job market. In the eighties, the road traveled by creative writing promoted the production of writers and teachers until the 1990s when once again, creative writing posed at a byroad; this one no longer in sync with a favorable marketplace. Creative writing has been a field that avoids scholarship. It maintains the mysterious element of creativity and hires su ccessful writers on the assumption that they make the best teachers. It re lies on the tradition of the wo rkshop model as its signature pedagogy. Even though student numbers might s uggest creative writi ngÂ’s equal status
2 with other disciplines in Eng lish studies, and in spite of Allan TateÂ’s assurance that Â“Creative writing is here to st ay, at least for a long timeÂ” (181), the discipline stands yet again at a crossroads. It does so, in part, because it is Â“an academic anomalyÂ” (Tate 182). As a discipline, it is part of a fractured community signa led by its long history of subordination to literary studi es, its lack of status and sustaining lore, and its own resistance to reform. These factions keep creative writing from achieving any central core in the academy. Standing also on the byroad is creative writing studies an emerging field of scholarly inquiry and research. As an academic discipline, it explores and challenges the pedagogy of creative writing. It not only supports but welcomes intellectual analyses that may reveal new theories. Such theories have important teaching implications and insights into the ways creative writers read, write, and respond. In fa ct, as a necessary step in embracing its own identity and scholarship, creative writing studies considers its Â“markers of professional differenceÂ” (R itter Â“Professional WritersÂ” 208), those identifying features which distinguish its field from composition studies and literary studies. Finally, and this is a significan t difference between the two enterprises, creative writing studies does not support the exclusivity of crea tive writers as teachers of its students. Creative writing and creative writing studies are two distinct enterprises. Although both entities overlay in some ways the primary differences between the two relate to inquiry and research. Whereas the curricular design of cr eative writing programs continues (and plans to continue ) to offer value-added writin g and reading strategies for students who want to develop their writing/reading skills and improve their works-in-
3 progress, the ascending field of c reative writing studies Â—as a separate program trackÂ— rethinks its pedagogy and scholarsh ip and shifts its educational goals. Still in its nascent phase, creative writing studies must undergo necessary inquir ies and research into its field in order to fully develop and be measur ed as an academic discipline. It must also establish markers of professional difference and training for its new teachers so as to continue its inquiry and research and to te ach new skills to its students. The academic goal of creative writing studies is to stand alongside co mposition studies and literary studies as a separate-b ut-equal discipline. I argue for the ascendancy of creative writing studies as an academic discipline. My study explores the history of creative wr iting, its workshop model as its primary practice, and the disciplineÂ’s major peda gogical practices. Through its pedagogical and historical inquiry of the field, this study has important implications to the development of creative writing studies Its research includes a workshop survey of undergraduate creative writing teachers based mostly in th e United States, scholarship in the field, and my own teaching experience. My argument envisions a more robust, variable, and intelligent workshop model. It considers how an understanding of our pedagogical practices might influence our teaching stra tegies and classroom dynamics and how we might provide more meaning to the academy, our profession, and our diverse student body. At a curricular level, my study offers course and program development to meet the needs of creative writing students at all levels, and it justifies the importance of including graduate level training for teacher preparation to further explore the fieldÂ’s
4 history and pedagogy. The intent of my argument is to pilot creative writing studies into the future and to define its academic home. This study is organized into three part s. The first explores the pedagogical practices in creative writing. Building on M. H. AbramsÂ’ Â“tri angleÂ” of author, work, and reader, I characterize the four major pe dagogical theories in the creative writing classroom as New Critical, Expressive, Mimetic, and Reader-Response. The various theories all concern where teachers privilege meaning in the composing process. As part of my inquiry, I consider historical anteceden ts that impact the disciplineÂ’s practices (and in some cases its isolationist posture in th e English department). Additionally, I explore the scope of teaching strategies and their implications. In addition to examining the historical antecedents and pedagogical practices of each theory, I find it useful to apply Lacanian theory as a means of comprehendi ng the relationships between teachers and students and in understanding studentsÂ’ iden tities and their responses to writing instruction. My concern in this section is that teachers often fail to recognize the theories that underpin their practices or they resist changing th e routine of their teaching instruction. Moreover, they might unintentiona lly confuse their students by practicing one pedagogical model in the classroom and a nother to evaluate studentsÂ’ work and performance. What I propose, then, is a four-part taxonomy of pedagogical practices so that, as appropriate, teachers may reconsider or modify their strategi es and be clearer to students as to their expectations. With a goal to ascend creative writing studies as an academic discipline, the second part of my argument explores the history and curr ent practices of the workshop model. The workshop now an interchangeable signifi er for the practice of creative
5 writing, is often cast negatively by critics who condemn its lack of rigor and intelligence. The function of the workshop model raises questions about its usefulness and about studentsÂ’ readiness, preparat ion and effort. My argument de monstrates that although the model continues to be creativ e writingÂ’s signature pedagogy, so me teachers are in fact changing and expanding the shape of the mode l and collaborating with other disciplines such as performative art, digital technol ogy, and film studies. This section outlines variable curricular and program designs at th e undergraduate and graduate levels as an important part of creating opportunities for th e teaching of new skills to creative writers. Additionally, this part advances creative writing studies as a distinct field through an identification of distinguishing markers in the ways creative writing students read, write, and respond in the workshop practice. My final section regards the academic home of creative writing studies weighing such factors as the current marginalization of creative writing in th e English department and the disciplineÂ’s possible mergence with l iterary studies, cultural studies, composition studies, or as one component in an independe nt writing program. In the end, I situate creative writing studies alongside composition studies and literary studies, as a pedagogically and programmatically sound entity fully empowered in its own identity and scholarship. The Disciplinary Status of Creative Writing Studies I want to lay some basic groundwork in te rms of defining what is meant when we talk about creative writing studies as a discipline, as a profe ssion, and as a field of study. While teaching is generally seen as a form of professional work, one that requires a great deal of specialized knowledge (Sykes et al 1985), the label Â“professionÂ” is thought to be
6 reserved for establishments of long standi ng such as law, medicine, and clergy. Other formations may develop and these are better known as Â“occupations,Â” which may aspire to be professions, but the initiation is appa rently long and arduous. There are educational policy references that address reformations for professionalizing teaching, but allegedly, as educators, we are not there yetÂ—teaching is an occupation. Still, many of us refer to teaching as a Â“profession.Â” Semantics and decades of general usage of the term around college campuses and conferences give us so me unofficial card-ca rrying right, I suppose. What this amounts to is that creative writing studies cannot be measured against any uniformed standard of profession. As a discipline or field of study, creativ e writing can already claim status in the English department through its specialized academic programs, its professional organization, conferences, and publications Most importantly, it can be argued that creative writing is a profe ssional body of knowledge. Creativ e writingÂ’s history is a hybrid of theories and practices drawn in part from composition studies and literary studies, of which, creative wr itingÂ’s practice today is st ill mostly affected. Although creative writing has drawn epistemologically fr om this base, it continues to constitute practices which are independe nt of those in composition studies and literary studies, praxes which are guided by write rly and readerly processes of creative writers. In many ways, then, creative writi ng is a thriving field. In other ways, however, the discipline falls short in terms of its graduate career training to include teacher preparation, its articulated research agenda and academic forums, and in ways in which its practitioners might claim it as a research area. Creative writingÂ’s practitioners are less aware of the history that informs their practice and less
7 certain how to theorize the principles that und ergird their practices. Scholars often rebuke creative writing on the premise that it is not really a field of in quiry and research. Professor Lee Shulman, Pres ident of Carnegie Founda tion for the Advancement of Teaching, tells us that the professions of law, medicine, engineering, and the clergy have what he calls Â“signature pedagogies Â” (Â“Signature PedagogiesÂ” 52), the salient, pervasive teaching practices that characterize a field. In law, we think of the Socratic-like questioning based on case study, and in medicine, clinical rounds are a standard. Creative writingÂ’s signature pedagogy is the writing workshop, and the model, given its personal nature, functions as a hybrid of New Cr iticism, social-expressivism, romanticism, mimesis, and social cognitivism. This is important to mention because the signature pedagogy of a profession often reflects the stability of that profession. In brief, as a signature pedagogy, the traditional workshop model, without a more rigorous and intellectual focus does not best represent the stability of creative writing as a discipline; or conversely, perhaps it better represents (aga in in its less-than -rigorous posture) as representative of creative writingÂ’ s instability as a discipline. Shulman notes that there are both advantag es and disadvantages associated with a fieldÂ’s signature pedagogy. These teaching pr actices are also Â“subject to change as conditions in the practice of the profession itself and in the institutions that provide professional service or care undergo larger societal changeÂ” (Â“Si gnature PedagogiesÂ” 52). Shulman provides another caveat to consider, one which he refers to as Â“pedagogical inertiaÂ” (Â“Pedagogies of Uncerta intyÂ” para. 16). This can oc cur when teaching practices are sustained within a field simply because those practices have been around for a very long time. A parallel might be made to Stephen NorthÂ’s concept of Â“loreÂ” and its
8 sustainable influence on pract ices and behavior. While Sc hulman might very well be addressing creative writingÂ’s workshop model in this case, there seems, inferential in his address other functions that, on ce investigated, might reveal creative writing studies Â’ potential for growth as an intellectual force. Bizzaro has long argued that Â“a discipline is characterized by what it constr ues as proof of evidence.Â”1 Creative writing studies is differentiated from creative writing by its emphasis on collecting, compiling, and presenting data. This new studies area with it s depth of inquiry, research, and scholarship will better define its profe ssional body of knowledge in an even more useful way. While history can shed insight into cr eative writingÂ’s classroom praxes, Bizzaro notes, Â“The history of the moment must be on training the next generation of writing teachers while encouraging them at the same time to be writers.Â”2 As a discipline centered on inquiry and research, creative writing studies is aligned with this twenty-first century goal. The Emergence of Creative Writing StudiesÂ—Where to Begin? As creative writing studies is still in its budding phase of development, the first step in its field of inquiry requires an explor ation of the nature of its existing scholarship and research. Bizzaro contends that once creativ e writers have assessed what studies have been completed, once they have explored th e nature of scholarship, they can then determine what remains to be completed in its field of inquiry. To be clear, efforts to establish creative writing studies as an academic discipline might include inquiries and research into the fieldÂ’s pedagogy and its history. Moreover, the advancement of creative 1 This comment results from my email communicatio ns with Patrick Bizzaro. I want to note my appreciation of these dynamic and resour ceful communications on the subject of creative writing studies Â— its history, its present state of affairs, and its future. 2 ibid
9 writing studies in the academy depends on institutiona l advocacies to include the support of creative writing faculty as we ll as public advocacies that might reconsider the lore of creative writing and the merits of creative writing studies as an academic discipline. Two examples of scholarship which expl ore creative writingÂ’s pedagogy include studies by Patrick Bizzaro and Kelly Ritter. Bo th inquire into current practices in an effort to establish epistemological differences and claims for academic development. Bizzaro and Ritter are explicit a bout the need to assert our distinctive methodology from other subjects in English studiesÂ—markers wh ich creative writing teac hers can then teach to their students through new course de velopment. RitterÂ’s own very important scholarship reflects her survey and interview results of cr eative writing programs as an inquiry into the extent of training provided to prepare graduate students for the teaching of creative writing. She presents her fi ndings in Â“Professional Writers/Writing Professional: Revamping Teacher Training in Creative Writing Ph.D. ProgramsÂ” (2001). Bizzaro demonstrates research in creativ e writing by differentiating some of our disciplinary practices in Â“Research and Refl ection in English Studies: The Special Case of Creative WritingÂ” (2004). Thes e published inquiries and res earch further advance what Mayers references, characteristica lly, as the pedagogical strand of creative writing studies Other scholarship that ques tions creative writing peda gogy and its relationship to English studies includes: MoxleyÂ’s edited collection Creative Writing in America: Theory and Pedagogy BishopÂ’s Released Into Language: Opti ons for Teaching Creative Writing Bishop and Hans OstromÂ’s edited collection Colors of a Different Horse: Rethinking Creative Wr iting Theory and Pedagogy Patrick BizzaroÂ’s Responding to
10 Student Poems the edited collections of Anna Leahy Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom: The Authority Project and Kelly Ritter and Stephanie VandersliceÂ’s Can it Really Be Taught?: Resisti ng Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy Tim Mayers (Re)Writing Craft: Composition, Creative Wri ting, and the Future of English Studies Katharine HaakeÂ’s What Our Speech Disrupts: Femi nism and Creative Writing Studies Michelene WandorÂ’s The Author is Not Dead, Merely Somewhere Else: Creative Writing Reconceived My own edited collection The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? (2010c) includes inquiries and studies of the workshop mode l as it relates to contact zones, hybrid models, epistemological differe nces, risks, vulnerab ilities, conflicts, experimentation, spaces for radical openness, master classes, and implications for our writers in the Net generation, among other topi cs. Moreover, there are a host of essays not included in this catalogue of scholarship that questions current practices and offers epistemological differences. The titles alone in this well-developed pedagogical strand of inquiry announce the kind of critical studies from whic h to consider in our future research. At the very least, such an inquiry into existing scholarship gene rates a sum of questions. For example, what can this strand of pedagogy tell us about crea tive writersÂ’ research methods and how they construct and construe data? How are thes e research methods different from other disciplines in English studies? What conclu sions might be drawn in terms of other professional differences? In what ways does th is breadth of scholarship reflect teaching practices and the ways creative writing stude nts read and write? In what venues will
11 creative writers publish their findings, pres ent their questions, and/or compare their modes of instruction? As it relates to programmatic change s, we might ask how what course development might creative writing teachers consider and offer so as to pass on new skills to their students. As it is critical to make important changes that reflect the unique nature of research and peda gogy in creative writingÂ’s curren t curricula, how might we reenvision and revise existing c oursework? Bizzaro, specifically, refers to courses that are often taught by nonspecialists in the English department such as Â“Bibliography and Methods of Literature Research,Â” and Â“Lite rature: the WriterÂ’s PerspectiveÂ” (Â“Research and Reflection 308). These courses should be designed to reflect creative writingÂ’s specificity, its own bibliographies, and they mu st be taught with crea tive writers in mind. Later, I argue for ways to apply more rigor and intelligence to the writing workshop and for ways to complement the model with course development and program trajectories at the undergradua te and graduate level. My study of the writing workshop provides important and necessary distinctions that detail how, in the model, creative writers read, write, and respond in ways that are markedly different than students of literary studies or composition stud ies. As such, this is one area that serves as an example of a pedagogical strand of i nquiry that advances rese arch and scholarship in creative writing studies In addition to the pedagogical strands of creative writing studies Mayers includes institutional and theoretical historical st rands as areas of inquiry, scholarship, and research. While D. G. Myers presents a macrocosmic overview of creative writingÂ’s history in The ElephantÂ’s TeachÂ— managing as well, Mayers tells us, Â“to produce a
12 foundational work in creative writing studies Â” (Â“One Simple WordÂ” 222)Â—there is still other work and approaches to take into account in this institu tional substrand. One approach I take considers creative writingÂ’s institutional history in a new light as it speculates the ways in which composition a nd literary theories have informed our pedagogy and how this information leads to new understandings for the field of creative writing studies Along the same lines, I study the pol arization of creative writing and literary studies to reconstitute this history as an opportunity for exerting our presence and space in the emerging field of creative writing studies Moreover, in surveying the major creative writing pedagogical practices, I link Lacanian theory to how we might view teacher-student relationships in the context of our pedagogi cal choices; thus, merging theory, inquiry, and prac tice in a new way. Advocacy within the institution is cr itical to the success of our emerging enterprise. I give evidence of ways in wh ich creative writing ha s Â“exhibited a powerful isolationist tendency, while existing nominally within En glish departmentsÂ” (Mayers Â“One Simple WordÂ” 224). To reverse this ma rginalization (no one can erase the history of creative writingÂ’s peripheral status) means positioning creative writers in a more visible and comfortable academic home. This situating requires an institutiona l advocacy measure that Â“would focus on examining and arguing for the prope r place of creative writing and creative writers w ithin existing academic structuresÂ” (Â“One Simple WordÂ” Mayers 224). To add to this dialogue, th ere are opportunities to rethink program development to better prepare creative writing students at variable degree and program levels. With this in mind, I outline sp ecific options for cr eative writing and creative writing studies at the undergraduate, MFA and Ph.D. levels.
13 Also at the academic advocacy level, Mayers offers opportunities for scholars in creative writing studies to intersect with compositionist s as a means of Â“explor[ing] the implications of new electronic forms of text di stributionÂ” (225). I a dd to this dialogue and surface and affirm a long overdue argument by Bishop that creative writing courses provide value-added relevance as part of a general education requirement. Many more collaboration possibilities exist for creative writing studies in the field of media design, the fine arts, and the creative business industr yÂ—areas I discuss at further length. Finally, understanding the public lore of creative writing and the extent that popular images of the writer and the writing process surround and impact the credib ility and effectiveness of creative writing as an academic discipline, and, thus, creative writing studies as a scholarly discipline, compel inquiries and resear ch in this area, scholarship written with a more general audience in mind, and intensive public advocacy intervention. Kelly Ritter and Stephanie Vanderslice, along with c ontributors in thei r edited collection Can It Really Be Taught?: Resisting Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy have begun such an inquiry. I continue this convers ation in my workshop scholarship. To diminish such lore would require not only considerable public attention but also considerate institutional advocacy. The acceptance of the emergence of creative writing studies depends on these advocacies. Establishing Creative Writing Stud ies as an Academic Discipline As a developing field of inqui ry, scholarship, and research, creative writing studies can bring more meaning to the academy, its profession, and its student body as it establishes distinguishing features of its practice and implements a more intelligent and practical curricula design that includes the transfer of new skills to our creative writing
14 students. Many questions remain as we pro ceed: What will our students draw from our classes? How will administrators view our developments? In what other ways might we claim our own identity through scholarship? As creative writing studies continues its valid inquiries into its practice and more formally establishes its body of professional knowledge, its goals, and its best direction, it does so with th e farsightedness of a larger project of reconfiguri ng English studies. Creative writing studies can participate in such a rest ructure, sophisticated in its understanding that the various di sciplines within the English de partment have been rivals at times, partners at times. As the new disc ipline emerges, it does so with intentions to intersect and comingle with other discipli nes, other departments, even community services. As the discipline matures and can refer to evidence of its own research methodology and collective data, creative writing studies will stand on equal ground with literary studies and composition studies b ecause its academic degrees will confer upon academically-trained candidates, because its rigorous programs exist within the academy, and because it can locate its authority in its own scholarship. My argument explores the pedagogical proble ms of the discipline, researches the fieldÂ’s history and teaching practices, and defi nes and distinguishes critical earmarks to differentiate the discipline from others. As a study of inquiry and research, my own scholarship justifies creative writing studies as an academic discipline.
15 SECTION ONE: A TAXONOMY OF CREATIVE WRITING PEDAGOGIES While the field of composition studie s yields many useful taxonomies and axiologies on the teaching of writing, the field of creative writing studies is just beginning to emerge in this area of res earch. CompositionÂ’s cogni tive approaches, in particular, which sought correspondences be tween writing and lear ning and between how writers make decisions and choices in the writing process, might have served as a platform for parallel research in creative writing practi ce. It might have bridged a discussion from the writing and learning practic es of creative writers to the ways in which we privilege certain teaching approach es and how these practices inform teaching planning, strategies and classr oom structure. Likewise, the field of literary studies has concerned itself with the research and study of literature from multiple (albeit, conflicting) perspectives; pr esenting for creative writing, at a minimum, alternative methodologies for perceiving a text as verbal icon and for challe nging master narratives. What I discover when I survey the cr eative writing landscape for studies in teaching theories is limited. This is in sp ite of Wendy BishopÂ’s plea for creative writing research methodology, ethnographic studies, a nd teacher self-reports; and there is MoxleyÂ’s proposal for the in terrogation of crea tive writing practicesÂ—both published in the late eighties and both cite d often in current scholarshi p. Their work has moved the field forward only incrementally, perhaps, be cause, as Moxley notes in 1989, creative writing teachers have a Â“relativ e lack of interest in peda gogyÂ” (27). Creative writingÂ’s
16 isolationist posture is Â“centuries old,Â” wh ich leads Bizzaro to conclude a requisite of creative writersÂ’ skepticism Â“of anything academicÂ” (Â“Research and ReflectionsÂ” 296). A mirroring of this Â“view of science-as-devourer [is] put forth perhaps most emphatically and influentially in America by Edgar Allan PoeÂ” in his Â“In SonnetÂ—To ScienceÂ”: Â‘Why preyest thou thus upon the poetÂ’s heart, / Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?Â” (Bizzaro Â“Research and ReflectionsÂ” 296). In general, creative writers seem to talk around the subject of research and pedagogy. The discipline often does not produce outcome data. It has little tangible evidence that affirms that our teaching methods improve student writing. In fact, because creative writing has often been defined by its writing workshop model, some in the field wonder if there is a substantial discipline from which to draw data on its teaching theories and practices, and if so, Shirley Geok-lin Li m questions Â“How shoul d we begin to talk about such a discipline?Â” (151). It may come as no surprise that creative writing lags in the study and theorizing of its teaching practices when we appreciate that the majority of graduate creative writing programs do not include coursework on the pedagogy of creative writing, and only a handful of such programs provides training in teacher preparati on. Kelly Ritter, who surveyed Ph.D. creative writing programs in 2001, concludes Â“Most U.S. universities have no specific training in place that w ould prepare candidates to enter the creative writing classroom even remotely as well prepar ed as their rhetoric and composition Ph.D. counterpartsÂ” (Â“Professional WritersÂ” 213). In my own university, even literature students often complete a practicum in the teaching of l iterary studies at the university level. The point to be made here is twofold: The fi rst is that teacher training would assuredly
17 include topics and/or course s in the history of creative writing, the theories behind pedagogical approaches, research methodologies in creative writing, contemporary issues in creative writing, and, possi bly, curricula design. The second reason to champion teacher training is partly rolled into the first point in that an awareness of historical approaches lays the groundwork for important research studies that influence how we practice, how we teach our students, and wher e meaning lies in our classrooms. It stands to reason that an immersion in the fieldÂ’s hist ory and in teacher training will lead to more critical rethinking of our m odes of instruction and notions on how to communicate these approaches to our students. Tim Mayers calls for an inquiry in to the fieldÂ’s history beyond the contextualization of creative writing. There exis ts a few important hist orical inquires such as D.G. MyersÂ’ The Elephants Teach (1996), Stephen Wilbers The Iowa Writers Workshop (1980), Patrick BizzaroÂ’s Responding to Student Poems (1993), and Paul DawsonÂ’s Creative Writing and the New Humanities (2005). Of the books mentioned, only Bizzaro and Dawson suggest ways to learn from creative writingÂ’s history and offer new avenues to approach its practice. What Mayers has in mind is for creative writing teachers to go beyond this historical research, to discover different ways to consider our history, new paths to contextua lize its meaning, variable insigh ts so we might see history in a different light. I suggest that there is still much we can learn from the history of creative writing (from EmersonÂ’s naming of creative writing in his The American Scholar in 1837 to contemporary creative writing praxes in university programs that inform our teaching practices). There exists significant data from which we can form conclusions
18 related to our teac hing approaches and by which we might better integrate strategic program development in light of the new challe nges we face in the twenty-first century. In the eighties, Wendy Bishop lamented th at creative writing teachers knew little of the theory that informed their pedagogies, and as such, th ey could not voice the tenets behind their classroom practices because they la cked reference. More than a decade later, D. W. Fenza advances her concern when he says, Â“Few writers in the academy know the history of their own profession as teachers of writingÂ” (para. 16). In fact, Bizzaro suggests practitioners Â“view creative writing as something that has stumbled, by chance alone, into academeÂ” (Â“Research and Reflection 295Â”). What is more, because writers do not know their history, they miss opportunities to address the theoreti cal rationale of the practices in their classroom. As such, Fenza tells us that Â“they sometimes find it hard to defend their work against the scholars, the theorists and commentators who trivialize itÂ” (para. 16). If we are to bring the relevancy of history to current te aching practices, then we must include the view of English depart ment chairs such as Stephen Tatum of the University of Utah whose essay in the ADE Bulletin (1993) forewarns Â“The End of Creative Writing in the English Departme nt.Â” While TatumÂ’s discussion does not necessarily include the teachi ng of creative writing, he doe s regret the curricula of graduate programs which positions history (of ge nres, of literature) as an adversary to the creative writing candidate. His complaint has significance for the creative writing graduate who interviews for tenure-track posi tions today. This lack of history and its pertinence to a candidateÂ’s field and subse quently to her teaching opportunities is a reality we cannot ignore or resist in our re form. Given creative writingÂ’s changing goals, one which moves us from a generation of publ ishing writers to teachers performing in the
19 creative industries of educati on and business, it is time, as Bizzaro urges, Â“to reconsider the way we think of creative writing as a te achable subjectÂ” (Â“Research and ReflectionsÂ” 300). It becomes difficult, I suggest, to ground theoretical underpinnings to our teaching pedagogy without such historical reference. Moreover, the lack of empirical data and investigative studies into crea tive writingÂ’s teaching praxes leaves much of what goes on in the creative writing classroom unexa mined, untheorized. Consequently, creative writing continues to operate from a base of a ssumptions that is situ ated more on practice than on research. However, if creative writing practitioners can agree on the principle that what they teach in their creative writing classes filters down to how they teach their creative writing students, then it is possible to break th is hypothesis down further to conclude that methods of pedagogy are driven by a teacherÂ’s perception of where meaning lies in the context of the writing process. What a teacher privileges as it relates to text, writer, reader, and reality (as an implic it or explicit world-view) is tied directly to her pedagogies, to the structure of her clas sroom, to her course planning, selection of readings, choice of exercises and assignments reading practices, classroom management, workshop practice, social relations, and ev aluation, justification, and the grading of course requirements. As my research interest relies on history, pedagogical implications, and curricular design, what I propose is a fou r-part taxonomy of teaching appr oaches that converge, in part, on the principles underlying BerlinÂ’s analysis of teaching differences as those Â“located in the diverging definitions of the co mposing process itselfÂ” (256). Berlin insists that all pedagogy is ideologica l; any single approach supports an underlying set of values
20 while questioning others. These rhetorical elem ents are often represented as a triangle, and as such, the element placed within the tria ngle assumes the greatest teacher emphasis. Pedagogy, as John Trimbur reminds us, is exacted by ideology. Similarly, the operational pedagogy of crea tive writing teachers can be analyzed according to a set of interactions among th e elements of the composing process. Equivalently, teaching differences of creative writing teachers are located as disparate privileging (rather than Â“definitionsÂ”) of the composing process. While Berlin identifies four principal pe dagogical theories and concerns each with the way it interprets and associates writer reality, audience, and language Â“to form a distinct world construct with distinct rules for discovering and communicating knowledgeÂ” (Â“Contemporary CompositionÂ” 766), his classifications and purposes do not necessarily align optimally for the case of creative wr iting pedagogy. The Â“dominantÂ” composition teaching theories engage with, amon g other elements, principles of truth and its relationship with th e world and to language, reality as it exists to the writer, and inductive versus deductive processes. This is an oversimplification, of cour se, of the fieldÂ’s teaching constructs; however, there is more relevance in an anal ysis of creative writingÂ’s salient pedagogies and their strategies for communicating where m eaning lies in the composing processes, in M. H. AbramsÂ’ four overriding theories of artistic transaction as outlined in The Mirror and the Lamp (1953). I approach my taxonomy of cr eative writing pedagogies by using AbramsÂ’ classifications to explain his: (1) objective theory Â– which describes New Criticism a creative writing pedagog y that privileges meaning with the text, (2) expressivist theory Â– to detail expressivist functions of self-expression and Romanticism
21 that place meaning for the creative writing teach er with the writer, (3) mimetic theory Â– to discuss the imitable functions of the writerÂ’s world that emphasizes that meaning lies with the Â“universe,Â” and (4) prag matic theory Â– to characterize reader-response pedagogy that situates meaning with the reader. Moreover, a second major strand in an axiological study of teaching practices involves the complicated social relations w ithin the structure of our creative writing classrooms that are created, in part, by the constructs of our met hods and philosophies. As practitioners, we tend to oversimplify th e interactive and dialec tical nature of the teacher-student relationship. However, when teachers can view their classroom dynamics through a Lacanian lens, they can better understand the actua lities of studentsÂ’ behavior both in class and in their writing and how t eacher-student interaction influences such behavior. More specifically, psychoanalytic th eory (to the degree that it applies for my purposes) offers valuable and concrete assistance in explainingÂ—through Lacanian theories of the Real, Imaginary, and Symbolic Orders, and the dynami cs of transference and counter-transferenceÂ—what goes on ben eath the surface of our writing instruction and how we might decode it more construc tively for ourselves and for our students. Where Meaning Lies Â– A Multi-Faceted Approach In Professing Literature: An Institutional History (1987), Gerald Graff contends that Â“no text is an islandÂ” ( Professing Literature 10). Todd F. Davis and Kenneth Womack add that Â“no form of theory or act of critic ism is an island eitherÂ” (1). Graeme Harper cautions us not to moor our st udentsÂ’ learning to one specifi c island when he suggests in his introduction to Teaching Creative Writing that the Â“learning of creative writingÂ” by our students Â“gains nothing at all from bei ng considered the remit of only one type of
22 learner or one type of teacherÂ” (1). Fulk erson offers that Â“Even if you know where you want to go, a shrewd Cheshire Cat can point ou r more than one path to get you there, as well as some attractive ones that wonÂ’tÂ” (Fulkerson 424). MoreoverÂ—and this is an axiom borrowed from James BerlinÂ’s taxonomy of composition pedagogical approachesÂ—creative writing teachers must also be cognizant that through their determinable intent, they Â“are tacitly teaching a version of reality and the studentÂ’s place and mode of operation in itÂ” (Â“ Contemporary CompositionÂ” 766). My posture leans more toward not privileging any one element of the communication transaction, whether it is find ing meaning with the text, the writer, or the reader. Instead, we must conti nue to challenge and question the underlying set of values Berlin associates with each pedagogy so as to acknowledge the a ssorted and changing ideological forces at work. Teachers can avoi d such conflicts when they are aware of their own pedagogies, stay current with rese arch and scholarship, and make adjustments along the way to their approaches. Assessing our own pedagogy is critical to what and how we pass on writerly and readerly skills to our students. While there is expected overlap as Abrams suggestsÂ—Â“Although any reasonably adequate theory takes some account of all four elements, al most all theories . exhi bit a discernible orientation toward one onlyÂ” (6)Â—teachers should be c onscious of their pedagogical theories as much as this is possible. Perhaps, it is even time for creative writing teachers to ask what alternative methods they might conceive in their classrooms. For exam ple, creative writing teachers might begin with practices based in composition theory or literary studies theory and find new ways to apply such princi ples to the specifics of creative writing as they keep in
23 mind the unique ways that creative writers think, read, and write. Haake concurs that there is value in engaging in a Â“spirit of interdisciplinary curiosityÂ” as it Â“will help us reconstruct our own projects [pedagogies] in such a way as to respond not only to the needs of all our students but al so to our ownÂ” (Â“If the Shoe FitsÂ” 81). Stagnated as we may be on any one given practice, or wors e, not knowing the implications of our practices, limits the directi on of our teaching strategies, our course design, and our studentsÂ’ ability to broaden their knowledge and reading/writing skills. We must, as Haake notes, Â“reject as our purpose the unexa mined, single-minded pursuit of the literary artifact,Â” and once we can move beyond the ki nd of funneled teaching that contains us, we Â“must then ask how we might begin to re-envision and transform not just our expectations of our students and their wor k, but those also of ourselves and our own work, at least within the context of our di sciplineÂ” (If the Shoe FitsÂ” 81). Such reenvisioning and transforming might include varying classroom methodology, experimenting with different approaches, and opening the creative writing course to the emergence of new theories that might come a bout as a result of c onscious blurring of the lines between approaches. Studies an d practices such as these propel creative writing studies forward as a separate and distinct discip line with research and scholarship of its own making. As methods of pedagogy are driven by how we locate meaning in a text, one of my greatest concerns relates to model conf usion, a case where teachers apply meaning in one composing structure, but evaluate according to another. Our reading and writing processes are informed over years of pract ice, and as such, when we teach these processes to our students, we must be caref ul of conflicting theories. Bishop cautions
24 teachers that Â“it is possible to hold unexamined or conflicting theories and to be resistant to theoretical and practical changesÂ” ( Released 15). Too often teachers confuse their students when they apply differing motivating philosophies in the classroom, Â“guidance grounded in assumptions that simply do not square with each otherÂ” (Berlin Â“Contemporary CompositionÂ” 766). One approach may signify meaning in some element of practice (i.e. the reading of professional texts, the c hoice of writing prompts) and another as it relates to the evaluation emphasis (i.e. revi sion suggestions for student drafts, judgments of what constitutes Â“good writingÂ”). Model confusion comes about when teachers are unaware of their practices. Sharon Crowley shares why the teacher who is either unaware of his practices or does not examine his pedagogy, will tend to bewilder or mislead his students. Crowley hypothesizes how this might occur by noti ng Â“if a practitioner accepts recent lore concerning Â‘process pedagogy,Â’ but has not a ltogether rejected traditional composition theory, it will be difficult for him to discern wh ether his particular combination of the two pedagogies entails contradictions or confusionsÂ” (qtd. in Bishop Released 15). Bishop complicates this practice when she adds that Â“Not only may a teacher implement conflicting pedagogical practices, she may overa pply a model, which leads to classroom conditions that are just as restric tive as the ones she has abandonedÂ” ( Released 15). My aim in this four-part perspective is to deliver a clear and comprehensible view of what goes on in the creative writing cl assroom. This taxonomy of the four major creative writing pedagogies will help teachers examine and name their pedagogical practices and to root their methods and philosophies in one or more of the four pedagogies. I trace the histori cal antecedents of the four major teaching theories and
25 demonstrate their current classroom practice, and, in each case, I outline the location of the teacherÂ’s authority in the composing process and the implications of such privilege. As a result, this study helps practitione rs become aware of their pedagogies and the theories that underpin these practices. Such scholarship he lps teachers present clearer writer processes to their stude nts and adds to research wh ich is necessary to develop creative writing studies Ideologically based methods, values, and emphases influence current approaches to evaluate student writing. We must conti nue to examine these approaches. Whenever possible, creative writing teachers must be aware of how their hi story informs their pedagogy. They must define their practice and be aware of where they place meaning in the communication transaction and how thei r privileging affects their pedagogy and their students. It is important, also to consider the affecting student relations in the creative writing classroom; perhaps a Lacanian perspective would be helpful. At the very least, instru ctors can extend their pedagogi cal understandings by, as Gerald Graff suggests, Â“teaching the conf lictsÂ” (Â“Conflict PedagogyÂ” 277) in their courses, sharing with students how the shap es of their pedagogies are influenced by where they privilege meaning in the composing process, and in this dialogue, they should aim for clarity in terms of what they consid er and regard in their evaluative processes. My worry is that too many of us will become numb to the repetition in the organizing principles of our classroom, and if I can play with the pronouns of Katherine HaakeÂ’s words in Â“Dismantling Authority: Teaching Wh at we do not Know,Â” I would ask: How many of us Â“hear [ourselves] tell the same st ories, say the same thingsÂ—to teach, as it were, what [we] already knew?Â” (99). To continue her thought printed in What Our
26 Speech Disrupts Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that there is no longer any one way in creative writing teaching, and to begin to ask what are the many ways there are?Â”(3). This taxonomy begins such a dialogue. Orientation of Critical Theories The nature and value of a work of art, the workÂ’s relationship to other variables (the writer, the audience, the universe), and th e work as an autonomous whole, constitute, for Abrams, the principal categories for defini ng, classifying, and analyzing a work of art, as well as the major criteria by which the value of a work is judged. Like Berlin, AbramsÂ’ framework is best represented by a triangl e. Unlike Berlin, who opens the triangleÂ’s center space for insertion of the element wh ich receives the greatest emphasis, Abrams fixes the work of art as Â“the thing to be explainedÂ” (6) in the center of his triangle. The relationship between the work to the arti st, audience, and universe is indicated by directional arrows as noted below. UNIVERSE WORK ARTIST AUDIENCE Artistic Communication Transaction Figure One Abrams is careful to observe that the four elements whic h he defines as Â“the total situation of a work of artÂ” (6), vary Â“according to the theory in which they occurÂ” (7). For the purpose of my analysis, th e centrality of the work of art in AbramsÂ’ framework is seen in more fluid or positional terms as are the remaining composing elements. The important schema is the teacherÂ’s motivati onal philosophy to any of the core composing
27 processes: the work, the writer, the reader or the universeÂ—or in the language of AbramsÂ’ corresponding pedagogical theories: the Objective, the Expressive, the Mimetic, and the Pragmatic. In my theoretical framework, I refer to AbramsÂ’ Objective Theory as Â“New Criticism.Â” I maintain his Expressive Theory, but I split this theory into two strands: Self-Expressive and Romantic. The Mimetic Theory in the creative writing classroom remains predominantly the same as in AbramsÂ’ application although I also refer to it as an Â“Imitable Theory.Â” I get a bit more specific with AbramsÂ’ Pragmatic Theory and name it Reader-Response Theor y. The diagrams for AbramsÂ’ taxonomy of theories and my taxonomy of th eories are listed below: MIMETIC MIMETIC OBJECTIVE NEW CRITICISM EXPRESSIVE PRAGMATIC EXPRESSIVE READER RESPONSE AbramsÂ’ Taxonomy of Theories My Taxonomy of Theories Figure 2 Figure 3 The Objective Theory as New Criticism Historical Antecedents New Criticism functioned as a departure from the historical study of literature in the early 1920s to one in which the formalis t characteristics and st udy of literature would be viewed from a technical standpoint. The pa ssage of poet-critics into academia during the 1920s and 1930s coincided with, and was in part facilitated by, this practical criticism. The criticism for these young poet-crit ics grew out of their practical interest in writing poetry. In fact, it was through the tenets of the text s and the critical ways of
28 reading by poets working as critics that soon advanced New Criticism as the dominant literary ideology. The key figure in this theo ry was T. S. Eliot, whose performance as critic and poet so impressed the academy that it was possibl e for poetry to be thought of as a Â“wholly respectable undert akingÂ” (Weiss 152). This, in turn, helped to shape the American poets who came onto the academic scene in the 1940s, among them Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman (who would go on to teach at the Iowa Workshop), and Randall Jarrell (Myers The Elephants Teach 129), the latter who would go on to claim of New CriticismÂ’s overall eff ect: Â“I do not believe there has been another age in which so much extraordinarily good cr iticism of poetry has been written.Â” The new critical approach to poetr y during this period literally Â“swept the countryÂ” (Weiss 152). Once creative writing became Â“an institutiona l site for the literary authority of writersÂ” (Dawson 76), the practice of the work shop (which includes th e close reading of student manuscripts) became situated and grounded on the principles of practical criticism, and creative writing concerned itself with analytical and evaluative perspectives of the text as a finished produc t. Between World War II and the term of the Vietnam Era, New Criticism mobilized as a means for teachers to remain apolitical in the university system. Bizzaro explains: Well known is the theory that in the pos t World War II period, when university professors were anxious about having their political pref erences called into question, the New Criticism, by virtue of its elevation of the text as authority for meaning, made the study of literature a political and, as a result, safer than innocent membership in certain social clubs. ( Responding 236)
29 In addition to wartime civics sustaining New Criticism as a measure of political privacy, Bizzaro concludes that the number of Â“literary specialistÂ” graduates over the forty year span between World War II and the Vietnam Er a led to the teaching of New Criticism in the academy. As such, it is not surprising th at New Critical pedagogy and its privileging of the text persists as a major theoretical strand in our creative writing classrooms. We know that once New Criticism becam e established in the university, its practitioners turned their sc rutiny onto the internal structure of poems, applying the technique of close reading as a pedagogical tool. In this ma nner, New Criticism is linked to creative writing in that Â“i t devised an operational pedago gy Â– practical criticism Â– to promote its views of literatu reÂ” (Dawson 76). The New Critics did more than anyone to advance the cult of autonomy; consider first, the widespread promulgation of Understanding Poetry as the quintessential textbook, a nd secondly, as an attachment to the book, a Letter to the Teacher on which Brooks and Warren dictated: Â“though one may consider a poem as an instance of historical and ethical documentation, the poem in itself, if literature is to be studied as literature, remains finally the object of studyÂ” (qtd. in Myers The Elephants Teach 130). Despite the fact that many say New Criticism is no longer a viable approach to the study of literature, it remains steadfast over the sovereignty of the poem [and fiction] so that it prevails more unflinchingly in the creative writing classroom than anywhere else. Here, it not only Â“survi ves and is prospering,Â” as a pedagogical practice, but it also Â“seems to be powerless only because its power is so pervasive that we are ordinarily not even aware of itÂ” (Dawson 105). Pedagogical Practice
30 Some, like Jane Thomkins, suggest that we have not renounced New Critical methods of reading and evaluating as these are the principles that Â“ev eryone still carries around in their heads, whether theyÂ’ve been studying post-structura lism for twenty years or have only begun to study it todayÂ” (qtd. in Bizzaro Responding 39). For those who argue that creative writin g pedagogy does not emphasize evaluation of the finished product as a New Critics tenet, but rather measures instead, the Â“process, perhaps biographical, historical, developm ental, intentionalistÂ” variab les of student writing, Tilly Warnock offers that Â“Our practices in re sponding to texts still seem tied to New CriticismÂ’s concern for unity and intensity of words-on-the-pageÂ” (qtd. in Bizzaro Responding 39). We can pick up the stitches of New Criti cism, initiated by the early twentiethcentury partisans of criticism and locate their ti ght weave in the fabric of todayÂ’s creative writing pedagogy. In particular, the practice of privileging texts as verbal icons, the ease of teaching from a New Critical perspectiv e, and the standards of evaluationÂ—its interpretation of the text as finished produc t, the teacher as exemplary reader, and the issue of appropriation and text manipulation aloneÂ—are components of both interest and concern. Pedagogical Practices :Texts as verbal icons The teacher who places authority on the Â“w orkÂ” or Â“text,Â” regards the work in isolation from any external reference. She Â“analyzes it as a self-sufficient entity constituted by its parts in their internal relati ons, and sets out to judg e it solely by criteria intrinsic to its own mode of beingÂ” (Abrams 26). Her teach ing strategies extend to an Â“objective orientation,Â” which affect all aspect s of her teaching practic e. In the creative
31 writing classroom, where the object of criticism is the text, many teachers still depend on New Critical methods as a dominant pedagogy. Francine Prose, in her chapter entitled Â“Reading Like a Writer,Â” shares ways in wh ich she learned to write. Her process and lessons for new writers echo New Critical ideology when she shares how she reads Â“more analytically, conscious of style, of di ction, of how sentences were formed and information was being conveyed, how the writer was structuring a plot, creating characters, employing detail and dialogueÂ” (3). These elements, in their most basic forms, are the analytical and technical functions of a New Critical approach to a text. Prose suggests that Â“[a] good teacher can show [students] how to edit [their] work, how to appreciate as she does, Â“that writing, like reading, was done one word at a time, one punctuation mark at a time . Â‘putting ev ery word on trial for its lifeÂ’: changing an adjective, cutting a phrase, removing a comm a, and putting the comma back inÂ” (3). Following the tenets of New Criticism, Prose states she Â“read[s] closely, word by word, sentence by sentence, pondering each deceptive ly minor decision the writer has made,Â” Â“unpackingÂ” the story as it is sometimes re ferred. In this method, students read published stories and their peersÂ’ work, scouting for elements of craft, Â“tracing patterns,Â” Â“cracking a code,Â” beginning, as many of us do, as close readers. Once creative writing became Â“an institutiona l site for the literary authority of writers,Â” the practice of the workshop (whi ch includes the close reading of student manuscripts) as the fieldÂ’s Â“signatureÂ” pedagogy became situated and grounded on the principles of practical criticism, and the di scipline concerned itself with analytical and evaluative perspectives of the text as a finished product. Ostrom recognizes the New Critical perspective in the workshop setting and teacher materials. He suggests, this
32 objective theory persists Â“to a large extentÂ” as Â“it still dictates the terminologyÂ—and the view of the text as verbal iconÂ—in work shops, anthologies, reviews, and books on writingÂ” (xv). The practice of New Critics Â“to examine a poemÂ” as a means of Â“examin[ing[ its constructionÂ—wit h the ruthless skepticism of someone who might have constructed it differently,Â” is not unlike craft-based pe dagogy, a practice of reading stories for the models of craft presen t in todayÂ’s creative writing courses. Because of its focus on craft elements, on what Ostrom refers to as Â“durable Aristotelian aesthetic ideasÂ” (xv), New Critical methods can often lead, in the workshopping of student texts, to an editori al direction, to a Â“simple attention to technique,Â” and, as a result, is sues that go beyond the text as an isolated object are not addressed as students are to r ead only the words on the page Tim Mayers reiterates the influence of Â“[t]he technique-oriented Io wa workshop model,Â” which he stipulates worked well for many students in terms of Â“h elping them toward revisions that enabled them to publish their creative work and, in some cases, helping them ea rn credentials that landed them jobs as professors of creative writingÂ” ( (Re)Writing Craft 144). The latter, of course, perpetuated the recycling of New Critical pedagogical methods. In fact, Mark McGurl suggests that the influence of New Criticism is evident in all of Flannery OÂ’ ConnorÂ’s published wor k. OÂ’Connor had attended the Iowa Workshop for two years. She studied with Robert Penn Warren whose textbook/anthology he coauthored with Cleanth Brooks was publically endorsed by OÂ’Connor as her Â“bible.Â” Eileen Pollack, another Iowa Workshop gradua te, speaks generally of the Â“New Critical approachÂ” being Â“in the airÂ” (547) at the Iowa Works hop. As it relates to OÂ’Connor, Pollack claims Â“the tenets of the New Criticism shows itself in the care with which she
33 selects and arranges every concrete detail, ever y bit of dialogue, ever y gesture and larger action, whether to render the setting authentic or a character believable.Â” In fact, Pollack points to us, OÂ’Connor Â“gave the Misfit [in Â“A Good Man is Hard to FindÂ”] a black hat because that is what a man of his age and station would wearÂ” (Pollack 552). Pollack and Mayers both echo my positi on that New Critical approaches in the creative writing classroom need to be identifi ed as such; then re-evaluated as useful pedagogical tools among the many othe rs we offer to students. To further illustrate the extent of th e New Critic method in creative writing classrooms, Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet de fine Â“the techniques approachÂ” in their characterization of variable teaching strategies in creat ive writing classrooms. The authors include a 1913 definition of this met hod by Columbia professor George Krapp as a Â“tendency on the part of some college inst ructors to place a great stress on the teaching of practical technique in liter atureÂ” (qtd. in Blythe 312). This techniques approach sounds very much like the New Critical practice of em phasizing inherent quali ties in writing as a literal practice and pedagogical tool. Blythe and Sweet add to this description, noting the approach is one which emphasizes the illustrati on of technical components in readings so that students might internalize the technique and then offer their own version. Â“The underlying belief of this approac h,Â” the authors write, Â“is that the proper unde rstanding of and practice with poetic, dramatic, creativ e nonfiction, and fictiona l techniques produce the worksÂ” (313). While the technique, in its Â“practicalityÂ” can Â“demystify[y]Â” writing with its appeal Â“to the rational, democratic personÂ—you too can learn to be a writerÂ—the approach can also, the authors rightly note, Â“be abused by plot wheels, formulaic writing,
34 and how-to-books that taken to the nth degree su ggest that writing is pure craftÂ” (Blythe 313). In fact, a good deal of promotion for New CriticismÂ’s evaluative and taxonomic language of craft and technique still comes in the form of creative writing Â“how-tobooks,Â” guided textbooks not so far removed fr om the syllabic texts of the 1930s. This particularly holds true for Understanding Poetry its sections Â“punctu atedÂ” with Â“close readingsÂ” of the poem Â“as poem.Â” The text we nt through its fourth edition in 1976 (which bespeaks of the long-lastingness of New Critic ismÂ’s effects), and its companion volume Understanding Fiction (1943) followed the same clos e analysis of language and structure. Cleanth Brooks published Modern Poetry and the Tradition Â—sometimes cited as the best introduction to the Ne w CriticismÂ—in 1939. Two years later, New Criticism appeared as the name of John Crowe RansomÂ’s 1941 text (Graff Professing Literature 153), and the movement may have peaked in literary history, but its insidious practice remains dominant in the creative writing classroom. Pick up almost any creative writing handbook to find a table of contents neatly compartmentalized into Â“Elements of FictionÂ” (plot, characterization, setting, point of view, voice) or Â“Elements of PoetryÂ” (meter, metaphor, rhythm, rhyme, style) as the case may be, complete with a synopsis of each craf t element (best practices pitfalls, what to consider, define, describe, differentiate, explore)Â—a virtual Â“how-to,Â” followed by exemplary stories or poems that model the el ements of craft. As a graduate student, teaching her own undergraduate workshops, Po llack discovered as I had, that, not surprisingly, the dozens of te xtbooks and anthologies that were modeled along the lines of Understanding Fiction (1943). Pollack also notes that no matter how much she
35 encouraged students to ignore/ rebel/change up the covenants of New Critical techniques in her own creative writing classes, Â“the pr inciples that Brooks and Warren set forth in Understanding Fiction still exert a powerful influence on any writer who comes anywhere near the academyÂ” (547). I certainly do not dispute the importance of close reading or craft-based pedagogy as these rudiments work well for beginning st udents. Additionally, a case can be made that there is an element in relief for student s who workshop their peersÂ’ stories in that the attention is on the text rather than the author who sits just a desk or two away in the same circle as they do. My argument against the Ne w Critical approach is that there seems to be a tendency for many teachers to rely on this study of craft in its simplest form, and in doing so, there is an expecta tion that students will learn by osmosisÂ—hereÂ’s how it is doneÂ—hereÂ’s what it should look likeÂ—now itÂ’s your turnÂ—you try it. Janet BurrowaysÂ’ 2007 handbook, titled Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft A popular textbook for classroom usage, is a good example of this New Criticism prescriptive style. Pedagogical Practices: The Ease of Teaching the New Critic Approach Part of the dominance and popularity of New Criticism in the field of academic criticism in university English departments in this early to mid-twentieth century (and later) can be traced to its ease of teaching su ch that any need for prerequisite knowledge and/or course preparation was minimal. Kath arine Haake reports such an ease when she says, Â“What could it take, after all, to sit around in a circle and e xplain to my students how to make their stories bett erÂ” (Â“If the Shoe FitsÂ” 77). Christopher Clausen, author of Â“Reading Closely Again,Â” considers also th e ease in learning the New Critical method. He adds Â“any student with an in terest in literature, regardless of a presence or absence of
36 a background in any other field of study, coul d become proficient in the New Critical method.Â” Correspondingly, Clausen reports, Â“no professor of literary studies was required to subtract from the study of literature in order to impart these backgrounds to his students.Â” Gerald Graff comments on what he has seen as the dependence of New Criticism as a necessary support for teachers. He cites his own teaching experience as an example, noting: It was perhaps the instructors who needed the New Criticism most . From my own experience . in a stepped up PhD progr am of the early sixt ies, I can testify that usually I was lucky to be one even ing ahead of my undergraduate classes. I remember the relief I experienced as a beginning assistant professor when I realized that by concentrating on the text itself I could get a good discussion going about almost any literary work without having to know anythi ng about its author, its circumstances of composition, or the hi story of its reception. Furthermore, as long as the teaching situation was reduced to a decontextualized encounter with a work, it made no difference that I did not know how much the students knew or what I could assume about their high sc hool or other college work Â– just as it made no difference that they had no more basis for inferring anything about me than I had about them. Given the vast unknowns on both sides of the lectern, Â“the work itselfÂ” was indeed our salvation. ( Professing Literature 178-9) Similar to GraffÂ’s discussion, William E. Cain claims that from day one of a creative writing course, Â“teach er and students can read a nd respond to poems, exchange views about tone, paradox, and imagery, and make discrimina tions about relative degrees of complex thought and feeling in textsÂ” (101). Cain admires the Â“democraticÂ”
37 functionality of this practice. He contends Â“teacher and students gather round a common object, and all strive to give the most deta iled and sensitive reading possible. Such a method quickly enables the student to feel accomplished as a Â“reader.Â” He or she is empowered to see the writersÂ’ t echniques or elements of craf t. Cain suggests this leads students to Â“experience[e] the pleasure of a new kind of expertiseÂ” (101). Pedagogical Practices: Evaluation J.E. Spingarn, who first provided the na me Â“New CriticismÂ” in 1910, posits that the central question of criticism (of any art fo rm) asks: Â“Has [the artist] or has he not created a work of art?Â” (Myers The Elephants Teach ). Allen Tate asks a similar question: Â“What as literary critics are we to judge?Â” (qtd. in Cain). For the New Critics, evaluative criterion for judging what is Â“good writingÂ” wa s not based on the s ubjectivity of taste. Rather, the determination of a Â“work of artÂ” was conduc ted according to a set of standards. Questions of whether an artist has crea ted a work of art are answered, by New Critics, through an analys is that considers if Â“the work has the same sort of stable and Â‘objectiveÂ’ status as a language, [which] exis t[s] in a Â‘collective ideology,Â’ governed by enduring Â‘normsÂ’Â” (Lynn 259). For example, a Â“close readingÂ” reveals Â“how the formal elements of the literary work, often thought of as a poem, create and resolve tension and ironyÂ” (Lynn 259). The valuated Â“norm,Â” in th is case, is that Â“[g]reat works control profound tensionsÂ” (Lynn 259). As such, these types of standards would be the ones upon which a poem would be measured. To add to this, the ultimate goal to ascer tain a textÂ’s meaning by offering a close analysis of the text is made possible by way of an exemplary reader. To take this one step further, not only is the text seen as the final authority of such determination, but its
38 exemplary reader, through his or her elicitation of the textÂ’s meaning, is viewed as the final authority as well. When a teacher pl aces meaning solely on the text in the composing process, she gives the text final authority in the evaluating practice, and she claims herself to be the final au thority as an exemplary reader. Pedagogical Practices: Evaluating th e Text as Final Authority The problem with a New Critical approach is one of perspective. The text exists in isolation, as Â“words on th e paper,Â” never as an incomplete work, but rather, according to Edward White, as a finished product Â“in ge neral in order to be criticizedÂ” (qtd. in Bizzaro Responding 236), particularly, Bizzaro tells us, Â“when held alongside what Nancy Sommers calls an Â“ideal textÂ” (Â“Rese arch and ReflectionsÂ” 236). Additionally, a New Critical approach becomes complicated beca use whenever a text is objectified or is perceived as final authority, the reading of student work and the workshop dialogue that follows, traditionally, silences the author. This silence is witnessed as a consequence of the overt discussion of studentsÂ’ poems and stories but also in the exclusion of any possible biographical coincidence the writer may have to the speaker of a poem or a fictional character in a story. In other words, no authorial intent or biographical nature let alone social or cultural contex tualization embraces or implicates the author. In this type of singularly focused reading of the student te xt does not Â“grant to the student possible intentions or insights not yet presen t on the pageÂ” (Edward White qtd. in Responding 53). While Mayers does not suggest that Â“a ll creative writing teachers bring New Critical sensibilities to their classroom,Â” he reports that: my experience in creative writing cla sses has been governed by the implicit understanding that the student text, though worthy of intense scrutiny and
39 criticism, should be conceived as occupyi ng a sphere all its own, largely outside the bounds of economic, social, and materi al realities, largely outside of any rhetorical relationship to the world in which it presumably must operate. ( (Re)Writing Craft 139) With this method, there is ease in avoidi ng social and political implications when the focus is Â“so sharply on the student text as to obscure any ques tions about whether, and how, the individual student text might fit into a la rger textual networkÂ” ( (Re)Writing Craft 139). Indeed, New Critic advocates might accuse those teachers who permit social/historical commentary in the classroom as authorities with th e Â“political clarityÂ” our students lack. In the effort to create pol itical citizenry, some teachers enforce their own theories and determinations as justifiabl e, and as evaluators of our studentsÂ’ work. Some teachers might ask what kind of vulnera ble posturing do we insist (consciously or not) for our students, but one th at acquiesces to our view? Prioritizing the text by giving the words on the page power proves limiting for groups of our students. For example, Nicole Cooley who works at an urban multi-cultural public university, finds the Ne w Critical reading strategy whic h excludes extrinsic factors to be Â“problematicÂ” for her class Â“because many of her students have been silenced outside of the classroom for too longÂ” (101) She sees the New Critical workshop practice as one that decenters her writers and prom pts an unhealthy silencing of her studentsÂ’ differences. The focus on the text as authority has cau sed poetry to become disengaged from a wider audience for those like Dana Gioia, because it perpetuates itself through academia. If what Gioia says is true in his essay Â“Does Poetry Ma tter?Â” then teachers should be
40 taking time outside of their workshop-cente red classrooms (a coveted place where many vehemently hold is the only place where time can be spent on student writing) to explore ways in which their studentsÂ’ texts address/represent aesthetic and political sensibilities? Chris Green suggests that, ind eed, creative writing practitioners should explore extrinsic influences when he proposes that Â“befor e asking how students can better write Â“goodÂ” poems,Â” we should Â“look beyond the gaze of the sublime reader and ask how students can write useful poemsÂ” (159). By Â“usefulÂ” Green means Â“a workshop where the class readership acts to represent the rhetorical circumstances of interpretive communities outside the universityÂ” (154). Creative writing teachers fost er this view of exclusion when they center their focus on the authority of the text. Rather than apply New Critical methods in her creative writing course, Cooley, for one, circumvents such bli nders to the outsid e world when she extends the boundaries of the canonized works as the primary reading choice for a creative writing course. In this manner, she advocates a textually-based cla ss Â“in which students read other texts as models for their own work.Â” As a result, the dialogue of th ese non-canonical literary texts (with Â“literaryÂ” defined as culturallyand/ or historically-valued) becomes a more appropriate location for which to Â“stage the issues and teach our ways of reading for workshopÂ” (191). David Radavich agrees with th is approach, insisting that in addition to teaching the Â“particulars of form and evo cative expression,Â” creative writing courses Â“worth their enrollmentÂ” should teach Â“read ing, critical thinki ng, and awareness of historical contextÂ” (111). For example, after a discussion of a stor yÂ’s architecture, its use of language, and the choices writers make related to point of view, scene constr uction, voice, dialogue,
41 characterization, setting, and plot structure as they apply, teachers might attempt to contextualize the story at other levels. A creative writing class might read Charlotte GilmanÂ’s Â“The Yellow WallpaperÂ” from a so ciological, political or psychological perspective, extending consider ations beyond the tale of female insanity and mayhem. Students could talk about the struggle agains t the wallpaperÂ’s Â“bars, Â” the women lost in its Â“torturingÂ” pattern, the challenge of ni neteenth-century patriarchal ideologies. By extension, a creative writing class coul d segue from professional stories to their own by letting the fiction they read reso nate with their personal stories. They might discuss how characters battle against their own hideous paper, their discontents, their insurgent revolts against that which impris ons them. One student might write about the atrocities of domesticity, he r story beginning with a protagon ist who considers the bruises she hides under the shawl she wears at her husbandÂ’s funeral. Another writer could construct a story about man against machine, writing about the crushing effects of its well-greased part, the ambiguity of the narratorÂ’s gender pu rposely intended. A creative writer can develop a character who makes it a point to avoid the year 2006 in his time travels because it is the real trigger of the war, because the seeds of annihilation are ignored by Americans who had more important th ings to worry about, such as the rising costs of prescription drugs and how their vice president had accidentally shot his friend on a hunting trip. One story might deal with a girlÂ’s separation, the first week away from family and friends, the longest sheÂ’s ever gone without sleep, the cr ack in the ceiling, the reason this is the cheapest dorm, the girl, w ho used to be her best friend, who now calls her Â“fatty.Â” To avoid reading the text as final authority, we might link stories with our
42 own, talk about their social impact, and the cultural and historical considerations that influence what and how we write. We might surpass a linear reading of professional stories by taking our discussions beyond the summary of the plot, the description of characters, and the elements of craft when we consider the works as a textual sphere, one which has a multiplicity of readings, cont exts, and relationships with the public world. We might choose some specific facet, some internal aspe ct, and compare it to other stories. The cosmetics of death, for example, its variance from culture to culture and from person to person are central in stories like Â“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is BuriedÂ” by Amy Hempel, TolstoyÂ’s Â“The Death Of Ivan Il ych,Â” Tim OÂ’BrienÂ’s Â“The Things They Carried,Â” or Â“Indignus,Â” a student story in which a girl decides on a trip Â“because maybe [sheÂ’s] become too comfortable,Â” b ecause itÂ’s been one year since he died. She thinks Â“how he must have shuddered on his bike, its metal frame, pedaling through the traffic towards the hospital. Alone.Â” St udents learn to develop rhetoric al perspectives when they write brief essays in which one story is viewed in light of another, and in this manner, we include the public realm, taking time for Â“ref lection on the very enterprise of creative writing as it relates to larger social, po litical, and rhetorical trendsÂ” (Mayers (Re)Writing Craft 48). When teachers and students challenge the ex clusivity of the text as final authority then more variable approaches to reading and writing can open spaces for more experimentation and direction. Such an inqui ring perspective leads us to question the view of the text as final authority. Cooley asks important questions, such as: Â“What can we learn from literary criticism and theory if we approach creative writing with a more
43 inclusive pedagogy?Â” We should also ask how might we challenge literary codes? Who decides what makes for good writing? Who deci des Â“what is a poem? What is a story? What is a play?Â” Instead of implanting Â“in our students a set of unexamined values for them to deploy in their own work,Â” CooleyÂ’s class, for instance, discusses what makes Â“good writingÂ” as they examine the confines of the canon. She encourages teachers to Â“break the rules,Â” Â“reconfigure generic catego ries,Â” Â“challenge litera ry codes.Â” Along the same lines, Katharine Haake comes to question the text as verbal icon. She admits that she thought she wanted her students to Â“view th eir texts as autonomous literary artifacts, separate from their real selv es and subject to analysisÂ”; and so she began, considering how Francois Camoin once began with her: Â“if you want to build a funhouse, a set of working blueprints would prove usefulÂ” (qtd. in Â“If Shoe FitsÂ” 78). But then she worried over Â“her students struggle to analyze thei r own textualityÂ” (Â“If Shoe FitsÂ” 78). In response to Scott Russell SandersÂ’ urging that we Â“concentrate on Â‘artistic criteriaÂ’ as the only aspect of writing over wh ich we have any Â‘control,Â” Ha ake justly questions Â“whose criteria are these? Where did they come from?Â” (Â“If Shoe FitsÂ” 85). Pedagogical Practices: Teacher as Final Authority, as Exemplary Reader In BizzaroÂ’s comprehensive view of the wa ys teachers respond to studentsÂ’ texts in his book Responding to Student Poems (1993), he notes his sense that teachers Â“have historically appropriated their studentsÂ’ writings,Â” and that part of this concern is secondary to the limited attention paid to Â“how we should comment on our studentsÂ’ workÂ” (Â“Wings on the InvisibleÂ” 85). In an e ffort to avoid the appropriation of studentsÂ’ textsÂ—Â“its values are the values expressed in most teachersÂ’ interpretations of their studentsÂ’ textsÂ”Â—Bizzaro applies theories Â“h eretofore employed only with Â‘sanctionedÂ’
44 literatureÂ” as a reading strategy when he r eads and evaluates studentsÂ’ poems (Â“Wings on the InvisibleÂ” 85). He references Alberta TurnerÂ’s findings in Poets Teaching (1980), a collection of student work and teacher respons es to show us that most poet commentaries advance a text-based approach to interpreting studentsÂ’ poems. One contributor offers: teachers tend to view the poem as an enti ty in isolation, Â“a little world of words,Â” which either engages the reader and is deemed a success or fails to engage the reader and, as a result need s to be revised [reminiscen t of SpingarnÂ’s inquiry: Â“Has (the artist) or has he not created a work of art?Â”] Second, teachers tend to assert the authority of the exemplary r eader when they model a teacher-centered method for teaching revision skills. (qtd. in Bizzaro Responding 42) An example of the latter form of teacher assertion is the instru ctor who Â“takes the student poem as his own and verbalizes cha nges he would make to the text if the poem were hisÂ” (qtd. in Bizzaro Responding 42). Another illustration is a teacher such as Paul Cook (not a contributor to Turn erÂ’s collection) who Â“takes a blue pencil [in an effort to transfer his copyediting skills to the student ] and escorts the student through his or her story in an attempt to cultivate, in that student the value of good ed itingÂ” (247). Richard HugoÂ’s defines the exemplary read er perspective when he says, Â“If I can, I talk as if IÂ’d written the poem myself and try to find out why and where it went wrongÂ” (qtd. in Bizzaro Responding 55). These illustrations demonstrate New Critical values: Â“the teacherÂ’s authority arises from reading a larg e number of other poems in a wide range of forms and stylesÂ” (Bizzaro Responding 42). What happens when New Critical values are put into practice with student writing? Bizzaro notes an Â“unwanted though mo stly unavoidable by-product of using the
45 text-based methodologyÂ” (Â“Research and Reflec tionsÂ” 23) occurs when Â“teachers do what seems most natural and instinctive in the tr aditional classroom: quickly provide students who have not had adequate reading experiences with the information they need to write poetryÂ” or fiction in the form of text appr opriation (Â“Research a nd ReflectionsÂ” 23). He refers to composition theorists Sommers, Br annon and Knoblauch, who Â“have argued that such appropriation is unwant ed since it takes the authority for writing away from students, subordinating them to the au thority of their master-teachersÂ” ( Responding 239). Sommers, he reminds us Â“found that teachers employ many of the same kinds of comments when responding to student writi ng from the New Critical perspective,Â” noting there was, in fact, Â“an accepted, albeit unw ritten canon for commen ting on student textsÂ” (qtd. in Responding 42). Bizzaro notes: These comments tend to perform two im portant tasks. First they respond primarily to textual matters. Second, they tend to encourage a view of revision as text manipulation. Naturally, if misused (o r used at the wrong place in the writing process), such comments can easily enable a teacher to appropriate a studentÂ’s text, since only one text exists, the on e the teacher reads and thus rewrites. ( Responding 42-43) In an effort to model for students the cr itical role he assumes when he asks questions of his own writing, Bizzaro demonstrates in his book what happens when he uses the New Critical approach in reading a nd evaluating his studentsÂ’ poems. What he discovers, in the end, is that the New Critici sm method of evaluation is limiting and less effective. The New Critical emphasis on the text requires him Â“to use [his] energies to make intertextual commentsÂ” ( Responding 53). What he finds is that his margin
46 comments Â“asked questions intended to rein force intertextual comments, and [his] summaries in turn reinforced those questionsÂ” ( Responding 53). The result of these kinds of comments, however, is that students can si mply make the adjustments [he] urges[s] and resubmit the poem as finishedÂ” ( Responding 54). He adds, that Â“This outcome might have been expected given the New CriticismÂ’s original goal: to interpret finished textsÂ”; how ever, he Â“tended to do much of the work for these students, perhaps in the hope that they would learn from making such changes and apply what they learned in the revision of other poemsÂ” ( Responding 54). Moreover, he notes that Â“In an ineffective adaptation of the New Criticism, a teacher might inadvertently require students to writ e in a narrow range of poetic stylesÂ” ( Responding 54). The downside to this is that teachers Â“thereby impos[e], as Petrosky (1989) says, Â“stylistic limits that act to seal off . studentsÂ’ writing, to keep it within the boundaries of academic expectationsÂ” (qtd. in Responding 54). Although this r eading theory proved limiting as a response to studentsÂ’ work, overa ll, the experience of reading texts from variable approaches gave Bizzaro a better sense of ways in which to return ownership of the poem back to the writer. Social Relations: Through a Lacanian Lens When a teacherÂ’s pedagogy pr ivileges meaning in the isol ation of the text, when she situates herself as exemplary reader and authority, and when she values and rewards student dialogue and written work based on he r New Critical practice, she influences the social dynamics of the creative writing classr oom, and in particul ar, the relationship between teacher and student. I propose that Jacques LacanÂ’s psychoanalytic theories of the Imaginary and Symbolic orders can assi st in explaining the complexities of the
47 teacher-student role in the New Critic cla ssroom. Briefly explained, before entrance into language and the Symbolic order, a child b ecomes fascinated by its own image in a mirror. The baby learns that th is image is its own, recognizi ng that it is a whole entity instead of fragmentary m ovements (the bits and pi eces) and undefined boundaries between self and Other (the mother, specifica lly). The child situates himself/herself in relation to the image and first knows itself as lacking. The infant forms an illusion of an ego, of a unified conscious self identified by the word Â“I.Â” To Lacan, ego, or self, is always on some level a fantas y, an identification with an external image, and not an internal sense of separate w hole identity. This stage marks the fundamental narcissism by which the human subject creates fantasy imag es of both itself an d its ideal object of desire. Once a child enters into language and acc epts the rules and dictates of society, he or she is able to deal with others. The Sy mbolic order is bound up with the superego and works in tension with the Real and Imaginary Orders. The forces and drives that underlie student sÂ’ writing, reading, and interactions are directly influenced by the realms of the Imag inary, and the Symbolic orders. It helps to understand LacanÂ’s theory of (mis)recognition, the split between the self and the mirrorimage, because we can apply his psychoanaly tic model to what happens when there are conflicting types of intentions in the classroom. More speci fically, the Imaginary and the Symbolic orders can be seen in the types of relationships that ex ist between teacher and student in the form of transference and c ounter-transference. For Lacan, transference is best understood: As a dynamic structure located partly with in a person and partly between people. On the one side is a Â“divided self,Â” a person . who does not understand some
48 part of her own action . .On the other si de is an authority figure, a person whom the Â“divided selfÂ” supposes to know how to interpret the behavior. The person who feels divided looks to the authority figur e for interpretation . .When the figure responds by asking questions or be ing silent (as analysts are largely supposed to), the divided person tries to respond/interpret the behavior as she thinks the authority fi gure would. (Brooke 681) The important relationship then Â“is largely within the divided person, since it involves a relationship between her consci ous self and her projection or current understanding of the knowledge and purpose of the knowing authorityÂ” (Brooke 681). To this end, transferring an image of the self onto the analyst, the Â“dividedÂ” person finds in the Symbolic Other (the Subject Supposed to Know ); an external means to express his or her inner dialogue. In this manner, accordi ng to Robert Brooke who authored Â“Lacan, Transference, and Writing Instruction, Â“the an alyst serves as a mi rror for the personÂ” (681). In student-teacher transference, the Â“b affling behavior involved is writingÂ” (Brooke 682) or responding to a written work. The student is Â“universally assumed not to understand what he has written . .The wr iting teacher is fancied . to understand writing, to know what writing should look like, how itÂ’s supposed to work, what the studentÂ’s errors Â“meanÂ” and how to fix themÂ” (Brooke 682). Comparable to a therapist, in this sense, the writing teach er Â“is institutionally a versio n of the Subject Supposed to KnowÂ” (682). It is the individual student w ho places Â“valueÂ” on the Â“importance of the Subject Supposed to KnowÂ” becau se Â“[s]omehow he or she mu st trust that this person really is what the role says she isÂ” (Brooke 683). A stude nt Â“can always choose not to
49 enter transference by refusing to trustÂ” the te acher, and the teacher can Â“be deceivedÂ” by the studentÂ’s Â“demandÂ” to know what he shou ld do. After all, how ma ny of our students ask us to just tell them what they should say, what they should do ? The biggest Â“threat,Â” then, according to Brooke and Lacan, is related to Â“trustÂ” (Brooke 683). Presumably, most transference relationshi ps allow students to trust the teacher, making learning possible because often a student has an unconscious need that he or she presumes a teacher can fulfill. And often, when a teacher has gained a studentÂ’s trust, or in Freudian and Lacanian terminology, has e licited a positive transferenceÂ—the student will look to the teacher as to a parent, someone who Â“knowsÂ” the truth and Â“knowsÂ” what is in the studentÂ’s best interests even more so than the student. In this manner, the teacher becomes the sole, inviolate authority. In the New Critic classroom, there is an unhealthy order of tr ansference as the teacher is truly the sole, inviolate authority to the point where her power of privilege [is] so totally unchecked by a sec ond or third partyÂ” (Bizzaro Responding 5). The fact that the teacher privileges meaning in the text bears import on her teaching strategies, including how she devises her plan for teaching to the ev aluation of student writing. As a result, the teacher exerts complete control, and, to paraphrase Sharon Crowley, Â“is not only doing most of the writing in the course, but is sett ing rigorous laws for students to abide byÂ” (qtd. in Bizzaro Responding 5). Crowley notes: Â…teachers do most of the writing in co mposition classes . Students, on the other hand, spend most of their time readin g: they read the teacher to determine what he Â“wantsÂ”; they read the textbooks or anthologies he has assigned to find out what he wants them to know; they read his assignments to determine what he
50 wants them to do. When they Â“writeÂ” in re sponse to his assignments, they tell him what they think he wants to see realized in their papers. Almost never do they envision themselves as having somethi ng to teach their teachers. (qtd. in Responding 6) While Crowley applies these concerns to the composition class, the New Critical pedagogy can also have immediat e concerns for students atte mpting to reconcile their Imaginary and Symbolic Orders. If we follo w Lancanian principles, the student never enters into a contest of trus t and the teacher does not question her role as the Subject Supposed to Know. The student cannot work through the writing process and process of learning because the New Critic teacher resists this permitting because she directs and appropriates what goes on in the classroom. It becomes difficult for students to thrive in a master-teacher-student-apprentice model, one in which many workshop models ar e based. Haake reminds us that the Â“Since the first classes were developed at Iowa, t eaching creative writing in America has largely conformed to the model of a text-centere d workshop where apprentice writers come together to craft poetry, prose, and drama and o ffer it to peers and the master writerÂ” (Â“If the Shoe FitsÂ” 80). In this workshop model, th e authority of the text meets the teacher as exemplary reader. Case in point: W. D. S nodgrass speaks of his master-teacher Robert Lowell at the Iowa workshop, a Â“powerfulÂ” mentor. When Lowell Â“didÂ” your poem, said one student: it was as if a muscle-bound octopus came and sat down on it. Then, deliberately, it would stretch out one tentacle and ha ul in mythology, a second for sociology, a third for classical literatu re, others for religion, history, psychology. Meantime,
51 you sat there thinking, Â“This man is as mad as they said: none of this has anything to do with my poor, little poem!Â” Then he began tying these disciplines, one by one, into your text; you saw that it did ha ve to do, had almost everything to do, with your poem. (qtd. in Snodgrass 127) Although somewhat theatrical in his dram atic sweep through his studentÂ’s poem (though this element certainly adds to the mentorÂ’s power and mystique), Lowell is perceived by his student(s) as final authority, certainly as master-teacher. Alberta Turner affirms this relationship between teacher as master and student as apprentice when she says, Â“To the student-poet as artificer the t eacher-poets give (or rather offer) advice from their own experience as artificersÂ” (qtd. in Bizzaro Â“Research and ReflectionsÂ” 237). BishopÂ’s scholarship has refere nced this dominant teaching model, which continues in undergraduate and graduate courses today, and Ostrom recognizes the perception of writer-teacher as one who Â“is important authoritative, powerfulÂ” (xiv). Although SnodgrassÂ’ account of Robert Lo well may not have been all that atypical for master-teacher-student-apprenti ce workshop scenarios at Iowa, Carol Bly suggests that as master-teachers, teachers ri sk becoming bullies. Beginning writers, Bly says: give their souls into their work. They are very vulnerable. They believe what teachers tell them. They shouldnÂ’t but they do. They honor our (teachersÂ’) seniority. Our judgments are probably wo rth a tenth of what students give us credit for. If we have the least weak ness of ego or the least career-climbing corruption or the least inabil ity to reject flattery from people around us, we are at
52 risk to bully. When we are tired we might even do a li ttle bullying without noticing. (143) If not by bullying, then perhaps as master-teachers we hold our apprenticestudents with a powerful hook. Richard Hugo, for example writes in The Triggering Town (1979) about the injurious repercussions of Theodore RoethkeÂ’s master-teaching on apprentice-poet David Wagoner in this way: Â“Roe thke, through his fierce love of kinds of verbal music could be overly influentia l. David Wagoner,Â” Hugo stipulates, Â“who was quite young when he studied under Roethke at Penn State, told me once of the long painful time he had breaking RoethkeÂ’s hold on himÂ” (29). New Criticism Theory: Final Arguments In the workshop model, Bizzaro worries th at the master-apprentice relationships can lead to Â“the teacher havi ng near dictatorial control over their studentsÂ’ texts,Â” to teachers deciding, even, a studentÂ’s failure if she did not make the comments suggested. More often the appropriation is more subtle, but still present, and can and does lead to a Â“generation of clonesÂ—students who sound amazingly like their teachersÂ” (Â“Wings on the InvisibleÂ” 86). While New Critical values are present in our appropriation of studentsÂ’ texts, in our craft-based pedagogy, in our workshop dialogue, many creative writing teachers, as exemplary readers, as final author ity, often see their images as far from this prescriptive description. The writing workshop class is not exactly the Â“banking system of educationÂ” in which Paulo FreireÂ’s descri ption of teacher as de positor and student as depository fits the cr eative writing classroom. The hopefu l poet or fiction writer Â“cannot simply sit and wait for the transfer of knowledge from teacher to studentÂ—Moses handing down tablets where the truth is etch ed in stoneÂ” (Elliott 113). Also, Â“Unlike
53 professors in any other discipline . We donÂ’t lecture or use the podium. We arrange our desks in a circle and tell our students they can call us by our first names . . many of us . would prefer we eliminate grades altogether or establish a pass/fail policy for creative writing classesÂ” (Cantrell 65). In fact, Â“w e are much more comfortable being the cheerleader, the midwife, the coach, or what ever than we are being the authority, the master-writer, the critic, or the judgeÂ” (Cantrell 70). Perhap s our New Critical tendencies are, in fact, so deeply fastened in our pedagogy that we do not recognize our role as teacher as final authority. Lad Tobin insists we must Â“shockÂ” New Critics in the way we Â“misread every student text in order to help students say what we think they really mean,Â” so that Â“when we read we create and recreate, decons truct and reconstruct.Â” Tobin suggests: this sort of generous and deliberate misreadingÂ—readings in which we go beyond the wordsÂ’ literal meaning to try and draw out possibilities in a text, to imagine what the text might be trying to becomeÂ—is at the basis of ShaughnessyÂ’s analysis of error, ElbowÂ’s believing game, and Bartholomae and PetroskyÂ’s plan to integrate reading and writing (Â“Readi ng Students, Reading OurselvesÂ” 79-80). We ask our students to Â“showÂ” us, rather th an Â“tellÂ” us when they write. We need to follow this practice as well in our teach ing. Bizzaro argues that teachers Â“must spend less time telling our students what they should do when they write and more time showing them who they can beÂ” (Â“Reading the Creative Writing Cour seÂ” 234). First, we must be aware of the way we respond to our studentsÂ’ poems and stories, and then Â“If our reliance on New Criticism shows a discrepanc y between what we know we should do and
54 what we do in actuality, then,Â” Bizzaro s uggests, Â“we need to explore new and more fruitful models for evaluating student writingÂ” ( Responding 40). The Expressivist Theory Historical Antecedents As a guiding principle of the expressivist theory, self-expression has its roots in the progressive education movement of the ear ly twentieth century, one which began as a Â“concrete representation of an idea about the best way to teach literatureÂ” (Myers The Elephants Teach 12), and one which, as a form of self-expression, presents in todayÂ’s creative writing pedagogy. Progressive educatio nÂ’s influence, according to James Berlin, Â“encompasses the best and the worst of the American experienceÂ” ( Writing Instruction 58). Because there was a dramatic increase in prosperity during the twenties, followed by Â“the economic catastropheÂ” of the depre ssion, writing instruction during these years responded in Â“curiousÂ” ways. Subjective-rh etoric, for instance, Â“celebrated the individual,Â” and transacti onal approaches Â“emphasized the social nature of human experience; both rivaled the current-traditiona l rhetoric present in the college classroom ( Writing Instruction 58). These studies and links of scie nce to human behavior shaped the curriculum of progressive education. As a result, psychology princi ples affected the shift fr om Â“subject-centered to a child-centered schoolÂ” ( Writing Instruction 59), while sociological maxims influenced perceptions of group behavior John Dewey attempted to re concile these two diametric approaches to educationÂ—Â“one psychological an d individualistic and the other social and communalÂ” (Berlin Writing Instruction 60). Hughes Mearns, guided by DeweyÂ’s goal toward a transactional rhetoric for a demo cracy and by his belief Â“that the aim of all
55 education [was] to combine self-devel opment, social harmony, and economic integrationÂ” (Berlin 47), shaped an expressivist curriculum, as head of the Lincoln School (also referred to as the Â“cradl e of progressive educationÂ”). At this laboratory school, under the aegi s of Teachers College at Columbia University, Mearns conducted a Â“deliberate experimentÂ” of replacing the subject of English for junior high school students with what he called Â“creative writing.Â” Rather than continue with the Â“over-emphasis on na ture poetryÂ” and its complex Romantic and Freudian poetics which looked to nature for metaphoric associations, Â“greater consideration would be given by teachers to themes more in harmony with the childÂ’s probable experienceÂ” (Berlin Writing Instruction 78). The Â“cry was that subjects should not be taught, students shouldÂ” (Hughes Mearns qtd. in Myers The Elephants Te ach 101). As a literary movement, progressive education s timulated transactional approaches, emphasizing the social nature of hum an experience, and this led to essays on expressionistic rhetoric. Periodi cals such as the 1922 volume of English Journal soon touted Â“all writing is art,Â” Â“w riting can be learned but not taught,Â” Â“the content of knowledge is a product of a private and pers onal vision,Â” and an emphasis of process over product in the composing transaction (Berlin Rhetoric and Reality 75-76). One such contributor, Allan H. Gilber t of Trinity College, argued that Â“all honest writingÂ—and no other sort is worth correcti ngÂ—is the expression of the natu re of the studentÂ” (Berlin Rhetoric and Reality 76). Like the practices of Mearns and other progre ssive educators, Gilbert encouraged a nondirectiv e method in the teacher as Â“g adfly rather than dictatorÂ” (Berlin Rhetoric and Reality 76). For instance, teachers c ould not appropria te studentsÂ’ writing Â“without bringing about a change to what was limited by their [studentsÂ’] mindsÂ”
56 (qtd. in Berlin Rhetoric and Reality 76). Primarily, students were to be encouraged to develop their Â“own genius.Â” The charge of instruction was to re move cultural impediments to creative expression. One educator claimed, Â“[I]n a cr eative writing class almost any writing is better than no writingÂ” (Myers The Elephants Teach 108). For Mearns, Â“the best literary education comes with the amplest self-realiza tion of the individual at whatever age he happens to beÂ” (2). This Â“set ting freeÂ” of the Â“creative spirit,Â” takes the form of poetry, a device students had difficulty with when the focus was on topics other than the self. Because each student was so fundamentally isolated, his only recourse when writing was to delve into himself. Â“Poetry, an outward expression of instinctive insight,Â” according to Mearns, Â“must be summoned from the vast deep of our mysterious selves. Therefore, it cannot be taugh t; indeed, it cannot even be summoned; it may only be permitted . The new education becomes simp ly, then, the wise guidance of enormously important native powersÂ” (28). Rather than teach students how a poem works, lessons on craft-based lexis or the cr itical study of literature a nd modeling approaches of professional writers, Mearns became concerned that an egalitarian relationship must exist between teacher and student. His pedagogical design employs a Â“theory of permitting,Â” and the teacher-artist as Â“an et hical exemplar,Â” a theory of education (28). This notion of the teacher as ethical exempl ar is on the opposite end of th e teaching spectrum as the New Critical teacher as exemplary reader. While it was important to Mearns that teachers of creative writing were artist s so that they might understa nd the creative process, the process of drawing out a studentÂ’s creativity required teacher sensitivity and taste.
57 The underlying belief was that every stude nt was at the bottom a poet, is clear when he says, Â“each poet here has his own indi vidual songÂ” (Mearns 45). It was precisely this Â“individual song,Â” this in ternal unwritten work that permitted MearnsÂ’ egalitarian pedagogy and allowed him to sidestep the issu e of talent in his teaching. What then distinguished one poet from anot her was not innate, undemocratic talent, but a patience to uncover the poem within. To Mear ns and his students, then, the effort to bring these unwritten stories to light of day was not a ma tter of craft so much as a matter of waiting and attentiveness. It is not quite like waiting for Carolyn Chute. She finds the discovery of writing more like being in the dark wh en she admits Â“[Writing] is so rt of like when youÂ’ve got no electricity and youÂ’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to find the bathroom, feeling your way along the darkÂ” (qtd. in Donald Mu rray 112). In his attempt to yoke the individual and the democratic spirit im bued in the new progressive pedagogy, Elmer Edgar E. Stoll (1932) conveyed Â“art [as] a state of the s oul, communicated.Â” (296-297). Irving Babbitt would say in 1932 that katharsis has moved from the reader, where it properly belongs, to the writer. In the 1930s Faul kner would tell his interv iewers that it is Â“[t]he material itselfÂ” that Â“dictates how it should be writte nÂ” (qtd. in Donald Murray 112), or as William Stafford has it, Â“a book ha s always been something that grew and declared itselfÂ” (62). Even later, Joseph Moxl ey would suggest that Â“we need to treat all student writing as emerging texts,Â” as a process of discovery (40). The Â“selfÂ” was also promulgated in Â“how -toÂ” books in the expansionist climate after the Second World War. Subsequent decades tended, among other precepts, to discuss the concept of Â“self,Â” in particul ar Â“knowledge acquired outside the Â‘selfÂ’, a
58 questionable attitude to reading, and conti nuous stress on self-expres sionÂ” (Wandor 104). The view of writing as an expression of the self populated in the la te sixties and early seventies, with the focus on writing as a fo rm of discovery advocated by such process pedagogues as Donald Murray and Peter Elbow. As a second guiding principle of the expressivist theory, Romanticism has its roots in the nineteenth century as a movement away from the established social order. Even then, it promoted individualism and subj ectivism, feeling over reason, intuition over intellect. Dawson goes back a bit further in hi s search for the evol ution of Â“creativityÂ” and the Â“general usageÂ” of the term Â“creativ eÂ” to a mid-eighteenth century practice, and Â“the concept of manÂ’s crea tive power which motivated sp eculations about original genius, as opposed to imitative talentÂ” (27).Thi s led to a shift away from Â“the classical learning of poets to their capacity for originalityÂ” then on to Â“t he idea of creativity as an expression of individuality and th e twentieth century search for the Â‘genius withinÂ’Â” (27). There is a common link, Dawson decides, Â“b etween nineteenth century poetry and twentieth century education, fo r the idea of poetic imagination which infused Romantic sensibilities also informed the Creative Writing movement which developed within the American school system in the 1920sÂ” (50). It is here, at this junc ture where the selfexpressive theories of Â“self,Â” Â“subjectiv ism,Â” and Â“discoveryÂ” interface with the Romantic sentiments of Â“genius,Â” Â“imagina tion,Â” and Â“Divine power Â” under the broader theory of expressivism. The logic behind how these Romantic concepts find their way into the school system can be explained as means to an end. Consider MearnsÂ’ philosophy in Â“a belief in human creative pow er and its origins in the natural poetic abilities of the childÂ” (50-51) and link this to the poetic sensibilities addressed by
59 Wordsworth and Coleridge in Lyrical Ballads to Â“awaken a sense of wonder at the everyday by retaining and nurturing a ch ildhood enthusiasm for natural surroundingsÂ” (qtd. in Dawson 51). Dawson makes the connection for us when he says: If poetry was the means by which the special qualities of chil dhood were retained by the original genius, then poetry, or Â‘creative writingÂ’ was the means by which a childÂ’s creative potential c ould be developed before, in WordsworthÂ’s phrase Â‘Shades of the prison-house begin to close/Upon the grow ing BoyÂ’ (51). In addition to the Romantic concep tion of poetic genius and EmersonÂ’s democratization of creative power, modern psychology and the latent unconscious creativity believed to be inna te in all children, the devel opment of self-expression and romanticism as a creative writing outlet burgeoned in schools during the thirties. However, as an educational movement (its theory of permitting, writing to discover, selfexpression, the rousing of poetic sensibilities) progressive education lost its centrality in the 1940s and 1950s when school reforms called fo r the learning of more basic skills. The movement rebounded in the 1960s and 1970s as a more radical version, touting free school movement and nongraded classrooms. Present-day neo-progressivist s hope to draw more interest in the fundamental principles of progressive e ducation. While todayÂ’s school systems are not guided by the principles of expressivism, creative writing, as a field and as a prospering university entity, continues to be invested in principl es of self-expression and the sentiments of romanticism. What continues is the belief th at Â“writing ability is fundamentally a matter of individual psychology or se lfhood, something certain indi viduals are born with while others are notÂ” (Mayers (Re)Writing Craft 115). The central tendency for present-day
60 teachers in the expressivist camp is to enc ourage discovery, to help students find their true selves and unique voices. Pedagogical Practice The pedagogical design of expressivism a ssigns the highest aut hority to the writer and her imaginative, psychological, social and spiritual development and how that development influences indivi dual consciousness. Abrams summaries the expressivist process in this way: Â“A work of art is esse ntially the internal made external, resulting from a creative process operating under the impulse of feeling and embodying the combined product of the poetÂ’s perceptions, th oughts and feelingsÂ” (22). Therefore, the material and the scope of the story or poem are peculiarities/ singularities and the activities of the writerÂ’s mind. As such, expr essivist pedagogy places the artist as the critical element in the composing process w ith the belief that it is she who not only creates the work, but es tablishes the criteria by which it is to be judged. Thus, the teacher who privileges meaning on the writer (rather than on the te xt or reader or other imitable reality) is one who may neglect or discount any reductionist theories that contaminate the purity of writing. Expressionists believe Â“In its unintelligibility is [creativityÂ’s] splendorÂ” (Boden 14). In fact, Berlin tells us that Â“T hinking about how specifi c readers might react to a piece of writing, and trying to gear a piece of writing toward such readers, is folly for expressionists. They believe a truly great piece of writing will find its audience without conscious or specific intent by the writer (Â“Rhetoric and Ideolo gyÂ” 484-487). Moreover, the nature of expressivist teaching encourages originality (as manifested in the act of discovery) rather than imitation. AbramsÂ’ text The Mirror and the Lamp from which my taxonomy of pedagogical theories parallels, notes the switch in the nineteenth century
61 from the modeling of others to creating origin al work as a shifting from the mirror to the lamp. As a matter of fact, R. V. CassillÂ’s Writing Fiction compares literature as an imitation of life to literature as Â“an imitation or representation of the selfÂ” (qtd. in Wandor 104) and cautions writers to stay tr ue to their self-dis covery. He begins: as soon as we have learned something about our craft we are tempted to turn from concentration on our own experiences to the public world of great events Â– to write about spies and congressmen. But the first commandment is to go back stubbornly to our own field . In the long run the reward for this may only be that the writer will discover who he truly is (qtd. in Wandor 104). Pedagogical Practices: Discovery and Inspiration The teacher who favors the inspirational approach of Romanticism Â“sees creativity as essentially mysteriousÂ” (Bode n 14). Certainly, Plato, whose philosophical and interpretive challenges in cluded his scholarship on rhetoric and poetry, expresses this view when he defines an arti st. He claims Â“A poet is holy, and never able to compose until he has become inspired, and is beside hi mself and the reason is no longer in him . for not by art does he utter these, but by power divineÂ” (qtd. in Boden 14). Brent Royster, who has written a bit about the Romantic myth in the creative writing classroom (2005) and acknowledges he has been trained as a writer, admits: IÂ’ve come to relish time spent at the co mputer, especially when the work I do is impelled (Â“inspiredÂ”) rather than compe lled (Â“forcedÂ”). . If IÂ’m working on a poem when such a sensation arises, my judgment about word choices, sounds, connotations and structures seems finely tuned and natural. During such periods,
62 IÂ’ve drafted page after page of work, and have been driven to a frenzied state while pounding keys, pacing, and reading work aloud. 3 I do not think that I would be far off to s uggest that most of us have experienced these fluid writing moments, and we do not like ly question their source when they come. Inspiration for Wordsworth came in the fo rm of Â“an impulse from a vernal wood.Â” Whitman discovered he must Â“lean and loaf and invite his soul.Â” Others required Â“external stimulantsÂ” to rouse the muse. Fo r Poe it was drugs and alcohol. Coleridge insists Â“Â‘Kubla KahnÂ’ was the product of an opium dream.Â”4 Royster describes his personal account of Romantic inspiration as Â“palpable,Â” Â“almost addictive,Â” and Â“pleasurable;Â” he is not surprised that such Â“dramatic, even roman tic narratives of the writing process are prevalent.Â” Psychologist Mihaly Csikszen tmihalyi recognizes such a flow state, Â“in which a personÂ’s performance and mood have peaked,Â” and he refers to these periods as Â“autotelic experiences.Â” 5 While Royster goes on to discuss inspiration as a Â“dynamic set of forces coming togetherÂ” ( 32), he is here, as a writer, confirming a writerÂ’s moments of seemingly inspired words on the page, an axiom teachers in the expressivist camp affirm and in fuse into their pedagogies. Expressivists may believe that they have a primary responsibility as teachers to awaken their studentsÂ’ sleeping muse and to he lp them discover not on ly their potential as writers, but who their students are under all the artificial layers of socially-assigned 3 Brent Royster is a contributor to my edited collection: The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Lt d. 2010c. His comment here is from his essay Â“Facilitating Resistance in the Creative Writing Workshop.Â” 4 The Inspiration Approach to teaching is furthe r discussed in Â“New Model for the Creative Writing Classroom,Â” by Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet. 311-312. 5 RoysterÂ’s comment here is from his essay Â“Facilitating Resistance in the Creative Writing Workshop.Â” Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd. 2010c.
63 labeling. Such a cathartic pr ocess, through writing, through reading, through discussions, can feel rewarding for teachers and illumina ting for students. Cert ainly, the strategy of having students look within themselves for cr eative material, the perception of writing as a form of self-cultivation, is a property which transcends to the expressivist classroom. The inner processes at work in RoysterÂ’s example is a concept that Madison Smart Bell contends is neglected as a teachi ng approach in creative writing. Â“The great defect of craft-driven programs,Â” he insists, Â“is that they ignore the writerÂ’s inner process. Creativity, the inner process of imagination, is not discussedÂ” (qtd. in Blythe 311). Even the Iowa WriterÂ’s Workshop websiteÂ—which claims Â“Though we agree in part with the popular insistence that writing cannot be taught, we exist and proceed on the assumption that talent can be developed, and we see our possibilities and limitations as a school in that lightÂ”Â—privileges inspiration as a drivi ng force of creativity, talent as innate, and creative writing as an individual pursuit. Pedagogical Practices: The Expressivist Workshop One of MearnsÂ’ pedagogical terms for creative writingÂ’s league with progressive education, is that Â“the individual speaks out in his own voiceÂ” (qtd. in Dawson 56). This tenet would become a prominent expressivist underpinning in the contemporary writing workshops, a space where Myers reports most workshop-based classes Â“resort to Â‘subjective expressi onismÂ’Â” (qtd. in Bontley v). Royste r advances this concept when he concludes Â“the creative writing workshop can f acilitate the formati on of self and voiceÂ” through Â“multimodal, multivocal expl oration of text and craft,Â” not by Â“Romantic illusions of the writerÂ’s lifeÂ” (37).
64 Pedagogical Practices: What to do About the Romantic Myth Predominant Romantic and inspirational myths view the process of writing as enigmatic and seductive, Â“intrinsically unpr edictable,Â” and paradoxically difficult to define, for Â“how it happens is indeed puzzling,Â” and yet, Â“that it happens at all is deeply mysteriousÂ” Boden 11). The artist then, is seen as gifted, imbued with creativity; writing comes easilyÂ—needing just a measure of proddi ng or inspiration to come forth. Such myths that surround the creative process suggest to students that the writing process does not require much work, practice, or revi sion. Chad Davidson and Gregory Fraser who attempt to dispel the Romantic and inspira tional myths that surround, in this case, the writing of poetry, insist th at Â“Believing these myths a bout artistic creation means accepting the premise that some of us are mere ly Â‘hardwiredÂ’ for creativity and that it cannot be learnedÂ” (21). Burroway offers a version of the insp iration model when she encourages freewriting because Â“Many writers feel themse lves to be an instrument through which, rather than a creator of, and whether you think of this possibility as humble or holy, it is worth finding out what you say when you aren Â’t monitoring yourselfÂ” (qtd. in Leahy 65). When talent is considered natural, when inspiration is our source of creativity and meaning, and when recursive processes are in terrupted or ignored because the initial piece was Â“inspired,Â” and therefore not reduc ible in any re-envisioning process, the expressivist classroom is reduced to a Romantic model of permitting. A model that Â“doesnÂ’t risk the active self in the writing processÂ” engages the st udents who think they can already write or those w ho are Â“most concerned with self-esteemÂ” (Leahy 61).
65 David Galef claims the Â“aura of the isolat ed artistÂ” still Â“shines among the general populaceÂ” in our cynical age of spin, marketi ng, and audience (170). Even Â“[i]f much of this feeling is misguided,Â” Galef offers, Â“the enthusiasm of dilettantes [. .] nonetheless drives enrollments upÂ” (170). Royster also situ ates this Romantic portrayal of the writer Â“wholly dissociated from society,Â” as one, he suggests, who Â“invests the craft of writing with particular gift and purposeÂ” in the cont emporary classroom. Moreover, he sees this same phenomenon within popular crea tive writing jour nals such as The WriterÂ’s Chronicle and Poets and Writers He notes how these journals can mystify student writers because they imply creative writing cannot be taught, that talent is inherent, that student writers Â“need to be i ndividual, gifted, prolific,Â” which leads to Â“some writers [who] hope to be talented before being taught before developing discipline, even before becoming writersÂ” (27). These Romantic notions are proliferated by Â“anecdotes of extraworldly creative prowess,Â” such th e rumor that Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in a matter of weeks, Â“furiously typed on paper in geniously taped together to form one long scrollÂ” (27). Anna Leahy extends this Roman tic view to students who enter our creative writing classrooms with what Anne Lamott calls Â‘the fantasy of the uninitiatedÂ’ in which Â‘People tend to look at successful writers . and th ink they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, f eeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a gr eat story they have to tell.Â’ (56) Leahy notes that Â“Our students want to be those writers and seek a place where they can foster that desireÂ” (56). Adding to this minds et is Â“the Romantic model of inspiration,Â” which Leahy explains is one in which Â“the auth or is perceived to lack any real effort, or
66 any real responsibility for he r own poems or stories.Â” In other words, writing isnÂ’t considered Â“real workÂ” (61). Royster advan ces this concept when he proposes Â“the creative writing workshop can facilitate the formation of self and voiceÂ” through Â“multimodal, multivocal explor ation of text and craft,Â” not by Â“Romantic illusions of the writerÂ’s lifeÂ” (37). Romantic myths can also suggest that there are secrets to the wr iterÂ’s craft, secrets which if revealed Â“would most surely corrupt [the artistic] process beyond recognitionÂ” (Vanderslice 149). One of the questions I as ked creative writing teachers in my workshop model survey was in reference to how they kept the workshop alive and robust in their classrooms. One teacher resisted sharing he r workshop practices, noting, Â“IÂ’m not about to reveal my secrets.Â” As a whole, though, k eeping craft secrets s eems less of a problem in contemporary creative writing classes. W ith the process-based model and writers writing about writing, the writing process is exposed in ar ticles, collectio ns, interviews, and public addresses. Can then, the sensibilities of the Romantic myth ever be a positive influence in our studentsÂ’ writing? I propose that it can for at least two reasons: first, it values creativity and creative writing. This is enough to motivate stud ents, to give them courage to enter our Â“creativeÂ” writi ng classrooms. It lets us acknowledge Â“creativityÂ” as an important and serious business. Creativity re quires work, practice, readingÂ—its antithesis is an opposition to labor or the idea that words spring forward on the page as Museblessed. Chad Davidson and Gregory Fraser suggest students might find it helpful to think of poetry [and fiction] writing in terms of sports or dance analogies:
67 All the endless free kicks pay off during the game. All the formal dance moves, once internalized, come freely to the dan cer performing on stage. One learns in order to unlearn. One internalizes in or der to call forth oneÂ’s knowledge without having to think about it. One natu ralizes, embodies, enacts (21). The authors suggest that part of dispelling Romantic myths is Â“helping untrained writers to unlearn their preconceptions and biases re garding this very diffe rent use of languageÂ” (21). Additionally, to value creativity, as a positive Romantic myth, allows our students to take risks in their writing, to appreciate that the peers in their writing community are taking risks as well. Furthermore, the Roman tic myth connects writing to beauty, truth and originality. I took a graduate British literature course in which our professor had us discuss, among many other things the Â“beautyÂ” of the literar y works that we read over the course of the semester. Â“We donÂ’t take the time to appreciate the beauty in literature anymore,Â” my professor had said. Â“Our task is too focused on the deconstruction of its meaning.Â” Our charge becomes, in part, to validate the positive elements of the Romantic myth, whose theory strongly underpins creative writing. Such discussions on the origination of ideas are important in creativ e writing to weaken other myths such as Â“talent is inherent and essential, that crea tive writing is largely or even solely an individual pursuit, and that inspiration, not education drives creativityÂ” (Swander et al 15). Social Relations: Through a Lacanian Lens Some teachers embrace their authority as a means of working with students toward a therapeutic end. For example, Br ooke employs the responsive teaching of
68 expressivist Peter Elbow and Donald Murr ay by exploring a version of composition pedagogy as seen through the lens of LacanÂ’s theory. It becomes clear to Brooke Â“that these kinds of teaching strategies work b ecause they connect some basic psychodynamic processes: the interplay between self and Other, especially when the Other is understood by the writer as the Subject Who Is Supposed to KnowÂ” (680). BrookeÂ’s teaching strategy involves a Â“ non-directiveÂ” appro ach that Â“forces writers to Â‘figure it out themselves,Â’ to re spond to their own text Â” (680). I adopt this open-ended question approach with much success in my own writing classes, although my motive to date has been to give writing ownership back to st udents rather than recreate a text of my own ma king. Brooke likens his process of Â“projection and responseÂ” to LacanÂ’s theory of psychoanalytic transf erence. He facilitates the transference by remaining fairly silent, as an analyst might, pa tiently waiting for the student to anticipate what the teacher would say if she were answering BrookeÂ’s open-ended questions. For Brooke, then, the writer responds out of her developing sense of what authorities Â“who knowÂ” about texts are likely to say: she responds to her projected ideas of what she thinks the teacher wants. BrookeÂ’s te aching strategy also opens spac e for Real order writing as he introduces confessional and other pers onal narrative essays in his classroom. In the same vein as Brooke advocati ng Real-order expression, first-year composition teacher Carol Deletiner claims in her article Â“Crossing LinesÂ” that Â“her students are her comradesÂ” (209). In her class, they Â“spend a lot of time reading, writing, and talking about painÂ” (209). Furthermore, J udith Harris, referring to the same notion of Real order, believes Â“[p]sychoanalytic peda gogy supports the idea that writing can be
69 therapeutic and, therefor e, more meaningful for the student in the long term than other socio-epistemic pedagogies developed fo r undergraduate writing coursesÂ” (181). Likewise, Mark Bracher ( The Writing Cure 1999) points to th e opportunities for Real order expression in the writing cla ss through Â“self-reflective student diaries, experiments with confessional writing,Â” as well as [w]riting about literature and other cultural phenomenaÂ” (175). He believes these venues can Â“provide a space for these Realregister forces, if one has oneÂ’s students e xplore their own visceral responses. Feelings expressed in a safe a nd productive wayÂ” (175). The difficult task for most practitioners, one that Â“many teachers feel threatened by, is providing space for the realÂ—that is, fo r students to experience, express, and examine their feelings and passions; their de sires, revulsions, and enjoymentsÂ” (Bracher 175). Opponents of psychological pedagogy r ecognize this same difficulty and are concerned about the lack of training to ha ndle crises that may be perpetuated by our studentsÂ’ release of unconscious drives and about the constraints of a fifty-minute class, meeting several times a week for one semest er. Nancy Welch states Â“writing teachers have good reason for resisting a construction of the classroom as counseling session and accepting the psychoanalytic concepts of Â‘trans ferenceÂ’ and Â‘counter-t ransferenceÂ’ as an unquestioned pedagogical goodÂ” (46). She also refers to TobinÂ’s notion that Â“the dynamics of transference and countertransference between student and teacher ar e most destructive and inhibiting in the writing class when we fail to acknowledge a nd deal with them ( 33). She insists: itÂ’s also because of the destructive powers of transferenceÂ—the potential misreading, misunderstandings, resentment s, potential for abuse, and even
70 psychic violence that can come with identi fying oneÂ’s self in anotherÂ—that I canÂ’t join Tobin in saying, Â“In my writing courses, I want to meddle with my studentsÂ’ emotional life and I want their writing to meddle with mineÂ” (33). Similarly, while Ann Murphy admits that t eaching writing elicits some of the same powerful forces of transference and resistan ce that psychoanalysis does, she urges that: It may be both foolhardy and dangerous to insist . that a student probe his feelings about his father, his masculin ity, and his grandmotherÂ’s death, in the interest of provoking a more Â‘authentic Â’ voice. We have the psychological and institutional power to elicit this matter, but neither the training nor the context to handle it. (179) She reminds others that Â“we are serving as teacher/analysts, eliciting these unconscious forces and provoking this encounter with the enormities of language, in an institutional setting which aligns us as well with the less amiable third role in FreudÂ’s triad: government officialÂ” (175). In my own classroom, although I know that students draw from their personal experiences (we all do) for their fictional accounts, the difficulty for me arises when they tell me, without any prompting on my part, that their story is Â“true.Â” Sometimes, the personal experiences they choose to signify make me uncomfortable because I canÂ’t know for sure if they are prepar ed to deal with the sentimen ts that surface. For example, one of my students writes, Â“I was a lonely kid. My only true friends were the streaming water, rocks, and earth behind our house.Â” She tells of her invitation to a party given by the brother of her friend. Her text jumps ahead, noting that Â“itÂ’s a grue some thing to take something that isnÂ’t given . a horrible thi ng to take the purity fr om a child.Â” Without
71 any details, she concludes that Â“I never liked her brother . I trie d locking myself away inside, protecting what I coul d hide.Â” When her parents se nd her to a therapist, my student asks the doctor Â“if being with a girl instead of a boy is wrong.Â” Quite honestly, IÂ’m not sure how to delve in to a text like this without misreading the gaps: the reasons why she was a lonely chil d, the details of what was taken from her, the reason she later recants her question to the therapist when the doctor reacts to her exploration of sexual preferen ce. IÂ’m not sure how to pers onally respond to bits and fragments of a studentÂ’s life, or for another matter, if IÂ’m expected to manage, in some small measure, the guilt gnawing away at th e psyche of one young driver whose friend is killed in a car accident. There is a part of me that likes to be lieve that this type of writing is therapeutic, as Judith Harris concludes, but what am I to do once my studentsÂ’ egos are decentered? What are they to do with all of these residual and conflicted feelings that surface in my classroom? Though I recognize that we draw from lifeÂ’s experiences when we write and that the familiar Â“discourse of creative writing has been so thoroughly shot through with Romanticism,Â” ( (Re)Writing Craft 116), that some teachers readily acknowledge its influence in their pedagogy. The difficult task fo r others is the threat of Â“providing space for [FreudÂ’s symbolic] realÂ—that is, for stude nts to experience, express, and examine their feelings and passions; their desires, revulsions, and enjoym entsÂ” (Bracher 175). Opponents of a psychological pedagogy that dr aw on Romantic theory recognize this same difficulty and are concerned with the lack of training in handling crises that may be perpetuated by our studentsÂ’ re lease of unconscious drives (o r Â“inspirationsÂ” to continue the Romantic language) and about the constrai nts of a class that meets weekly over the
72 course of one semester. Nancy Welch st ates Â“writing teachers have good reason for resisting a construction of the classroom as counseling session and accepting the psychoanalytic concepts of Â‘t ransferenceÂ’ and Â‘counter-tra nsferenceÂ’ as an unquestioned pedagogical goodÂ” (46). I agree w ith her position, particular ly as statistics suggest a significant percentage of our student population suffers fr om depression and given the fairly recent physical threat in the form of school violence and shootings, it is hard enough, I think, to assume a sentinel role for our university campuses as gatekeepers of our studentsÂ’ writing lives. Louise Rosenblatt acknowledges that when students read and write personally, they often reveal some of their Â“conflict and obsessions,Â” thereby tempting teachers to deal directly with these ps ychological issues. Although she poi nts out some instances in which students have benefitted from this sort of interaction, she ends up warning teachers against Â“officious meddling with the emotional life of thei r studentsÂ” because Â“teachers cannot be trusted in this sort of relationshipÂ” (qtd in Tobin Reading Student Writing 342). Teachers present in their creative writi ng classrooms with their own personal concerns. Rosenblatt agrees that Â“teacher s are themselves la boring under emotional tensions and frustrationsÂ” (qtd in T obin 342), while Murphy reminds us that Â“composition teachers [and creative writing teac hers] themselves are often untenured, part-time facultyÂ—many of them womenÂ—who se relationship to their institution is fragile at bestÂ” (181). It is unfair for teachers to assume add itional responsibilities, to act as Â“Lacanian analysts, and potentially to endanger their jobs by deconstructing their classrooms, is either nave or insensitiv eÂ” (Murphy 181). And yet, Tobin and others believe that Â“the teaching of writing is about solving problems, personal and publicÂ”
73 ( Reading Student Writing 342). Tobin doesnÂ’t think Â“we can have it both ways: we cannot create interest and deny tension, celebrate the person al and deny the significance of the personalities involved (Â“ Reading Student WritingÂ” 342). To the end that I can strengthen my st udentsÂ’ identities, I do, by helping them learn how to use the power of language to discover, create, and communicate meaning. Unlike Tobin, however, I do not in tend to Â“meddleÂ” in my student sÂ’ lives, but I have no doubt that I have done so to some degree. It is hard not to be affected when a student asks if she can leave fifteen minutes early to pick up her birth control pi lls before the clinic closes, or tells me during office hours that sh e missed the last thre e classes because she had an abortion, or when another student writ es about his guilt because he should have known his best friend would commit suicide, or another shares the first time she knew she was gay. Recently, I judged an undergraduate wr iting competition. One well-written and painfully poignant memoir was about incest, the details very specific, the legalities of publishing such a powerful piece considerable as the case remains in litigation. The essay was eliminated from the contest because of this litigation issue, but the bottom line here is that our studentsÂ’ stories resonate with us whether we try to remain objective or whether we meddle or not. After all, we deve lop a sense of community in writing classes that only enroll twenty or so students; we place them in small group settings. We make it easy for students to open up. Whether teachers support self-expression in their classroom or avoid it altogether, the issue of transference a nd counter-transference cannot be disregarded. How a teacher responds to a student about his or her writing or his or her behavior in class is infused
74 with a teacherÂ’s own unconsci ous drives, desires, and identifications, no matter how hard the teacher insists she remains objective. In fact, it is fairly common practice for teachers to instruct students to write their university ID numbers rather than their names on their papers because they are concerned that they will be unduly influenced if they know the writer as they read. Adding to th is point, Kruhl wonders what we, as teachers of authority are to do Â“with a model that ties art to pers onal well-beingÂ” (11). As perhaps, an opposite to New CriticismÂ’s reading and evaluation no rms, when the writing is self-expression, Â“we must accept the re lativist notion that a ny creative work can be judged only with criteria specific to its makingÂ” (Kruhl 11) This model (not so uncommon in creative writing classrooms today and quite distanced from New Critical values), renders, by virtue of its relativism, Â“any classroom authority meaningless and may even eliminate the need for an instructor by eliminating all fixed criteria for judg mentÂ” (Kruhl 11). I agree with Tobin when he claims th at we cannot deny the significance of transference in teacher-student relationships. After all, it is impossible not to be affected by our students and impossible for them not to be affected by us. We cannot Â“focus on the writing process and product as if it ex isted in a decontextualized situation and relationshipÂ” ( Reading Student Writing 341). Yes, we ma y be uncomfortable acknowledging that we assume the role of th e Subject Supposed to Know within our studentsÂ’ lives because Â“unloc kingÂ” involves us in both tran sference and worries about counter-transference. However, since tran sference and counter-transference involves images of the self and of ot hers and student-teacher relati onships, we need to decode more constructively what goes on beneat h the surface of our writing instruction.
75 Understanding LacanÂ’s theories of the Real Imaginary, and Symbolic Orders and the dynamics of transference and counter-t ransference is a good place to begin. Expressive Pedagogy: Final Arguments Royster tells us that romantic terms su ch as Â“creativeÂ” a nd Â“individual,Â” and Platonic aims of beauty and truth are sel dom questioned in the course of writing creatively. Certainly, it is ofte n ingrained in my studentsÂ’ consciousness. Like RoysterÂ’s students, writers in my introductory creative wr iting class are skeptical when the origin of work is called into question. They speak of in spiration originating fr om the heart or soul, especially with poetry writing. They want to write in abstractions, reflect in the Â“self,Â” and express vague emotions; sometime writi ng long expositions on how a character or persona feels. The problem with inspiration as a Romantic no tion is one of ownership. If the writer is merely a medium through which th e muse speaks, then who lays claim to the artistic work? Even professional authors are reluctant to deny that indefinite spiritual drive that allows each person to act. In an effort to investigate alternatives to studentsÂ’ roman tic consciousness, we should examine with our student s where ideas come from, what triggers an image, an emotion, a characterÂ’s actions. I try to ground my studentsÂ’ romantic abstractions in reality, in concrete vivid deta ils, in down-to-earth experi ences and research. Bishop does this as well when she asks students to list sources for their creativityÂ—Â“where they find their inspirationÂ” ( Released into Language 64). She tells her students that she gets writing ideas when she goes running, shopping or from reading other writers. Such an assignment forefronts the ways that thoughts enter our mi nds, the logic and inte rconnectivity between
76 germs of story/poem ideas and formation through metaphors and images, language in general. Students who enter creative writing classrooms often do so with popular images associated between writing and self-disc overy. Kruhl employs useful and variable teaching strategies to minimize this percep tion. Of particular interest, she Â“assign[s] readings by writers who discuss issues in question,Â” and along the same lines, she invite[s] local and faculty writers to class to discuss their writing processes and their reason for writingÂ” (9). Read ings and discussions such as these not only lend support to her claims that literary writing is a separate activity from wr iting, but they also shed light on the writing process as a comp licated, recursive practice. Two final points: first, in considering the degree to which Romantic theory persists, Dawson recollects the survey of 18th century theories that began my discussion. The emphasis he reminds us was on the artists as original genius and the creative power of the imagination. These theories led to how the phrase Â“creative writingÂ” (conceived by Emerson, named by Mearns), became Â“associated with a lack of nece ssity of learning of any kind, with an ease of composition reliant on natural ability rather than the study of precepts, and with a sense of self-expressionÂ” (29). He suggests that Â“This is why when a course of study labels itself creative writing there are going to be complaints that writing cannot be taught, and that a university, a pl ace of higher learning and of work, would seem antipathetical to the very concept of creative powerÂ” (29). Expressivist pedagogy advances this classification. Secondly, stude nts in the expressivist classroom miss opportunities to learn others narratives and approaches when the practice of selfexpression and Romanticism are the tw o dominant and current modes.
77 The Mimetic Theory as Imitable Functions Historical Antecedents Mimesis begins as an explanation of ar t with the Greek sophists of the fifth century, but even before then, Socrates inform s us that this primitive aesthetic theory is evident in Â“[t]he arts of painting, poetry, musi c, dancing, and sculptur eÂ” (qtd. in Abrams 8). Modes of imitation are expressed in AristotleÂ’s Poetics in Â“Epic poetry and Tragedy, as also Comedy, Dithyrambic poetryÂ” (qtd. in Abrams 9). The belief that art imitates the Â“universeÂ” continued lo ng after AristotleÂ’s Poetic s through the eighteenth century when its properties were more narrowly defined by English critics. It was most popular in sixteenth century Italy as cr itics in their definitions of Â“artÂ” often included the representation of another work in comparisonÂ—as imitation. However, in the eighteenth century, English critics refined the definition of art in relation to a more select and narrowed range of imitable sources. A lthough imitation pedagogy was interrupted by Romantic concepts of language and the self as original, it still functions today as a pedagogy. Pedagogical Practice The pedagogical design of mimetic or imita ble theory privileges the concept that Â“Art imitates the world of a ppearanceÂ” (Abrams 8). Abrams suggests that this image of art as imitation, while it reveled in Â“neo-classi c aesthetics,Â” did not play a dominant role in most theories. As such, it was more Â“i nstrumental toward producing effects upon an audienceÂ” (Abrams 11). One of the reasons why cognitive process theorists and social constructionists challenged the expressivist view in the ei ghties, was that cognitivists and social
78 constuctionists Â“saw writing as a cognitive act ivityÂ—that is, as a process of intellection students could learn how to do by imitating the behaviors of good or experienced writersÂ” (Bizzaro Â“Wings on the Invisi bleÂ” 81). Imitation or modeli ng, as a workshop practice is the subject of Nicholas DelbancoÂ’s book The Sincerest Form: Writing Fiction by Imitation (2004). While Delbanco does not attach the technique to the cognitive processes of the eightie s (in fact, he goes back as far as the cradle for evidence of our mimicry), he does note that Â“personal expressi veness,Â” in this case, Â“[m]ay even be a mistakeÂ” (xxii), and Â“[i]n our pursuit of se lf-expression, weÂ’ve forgotten the old adage that Â‘ThereÂ’s nothing new under the sunÂ’Â” (xxiii). While cognivists compared the revision practices of beginning writers to those of more experienced ones, most would agree that our task as workshop teachers often include s pointing out ways in which other more experienced writers have used partic ular techniques and story lines, and as such, these antecedents function as guides or routes, De lbanco claims, Â“to authenticityÂ” (xxviii). Imitation is an invention strategy th at many creative writing teachers find effective in their classrooms today. It is eff ectual in the sense that students practice a particular style or learn t echniques by mimicry. The downside to such use is twofold: published writing on this basis can add to the homogeneity of literature (Raymond Carver minimalism, Hemingway code of simplicity, Sylvia Plath confessi onal lyricism), and trying to aspire to Â“greatnessÂ” may l ead students to feel inadequate. The writing prompts which foster creativity such as those from Anne Bernays and Pamela PainterÂ’s What If?: Writing Exer cises for Fiction Writers (1995) or The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets who Teach edited by Robin Behn are to some degree imitative approaches in our pedagogy. While mimetic practices are very useful for
79 studentsÂ’ practice of various styles and for helping the beginning students who ordinarily might have trouble getting started, as a singular focus, this approach is limiting. One way to supplement this practice is through stude nt and group research and presentations. For example, demonstrations on the different ki nds of submissions included in literary journals emphasize critical functions, explor e market preferences, and include creativity when exercises which imitate these variable stylesÂ—not for entry, but rather for stylistic and experimental pur posesÂ—are employed. Of particular interest to me is the im promptu assignment in which students write a poem (or story) appropriate fo r the literary journal. As noted by Tim Mayers, this assignment might lead to a workshop of these poems, Â“not in terms of any general or abstract aesthetic qualities, but rather in li ght of the specific things the class knows about the journal in question, ba sed on the group project.Â”6 This is not an exercise in publication practices, but one Maye rs finds Â“to be particularly helpful in getting students to think (even if only at a crude and basi c level) about how ed itors, as a potential audience, might be likely to view their work.Â”7 While this has important ReaderResponse implications, in its fundamental pr actice it is based on imitative theory. The premise behind mimetic pedagogy, the n, is that students can comprehend writing strategies if they are to copy them. To appreciate how teachers privilege imitation in the creative writing classroom and how this practice impacts teaching, reading, and writing, we might consider DerridaÂ’s practice of reading and rereading. He claims, Â“It is necessary to read and reread those in whose wake I write, the Â‘booksÂ’ in whose margins 6 Tim Mayers is a contributor to my edited collection: The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.,2010c. His comments are from his essay Â“Poetry, F(f)iction, and Drama: The Complex Dynamics of Au dience in the Writing Workshop.Â” 7 ibid
80 and between whose lines I mark out and read a text simultaneously almost identical and entirely other....Â” (qtd. in Minock). The t eacher using mimetic theory underscores the principle that Â“If you understand the way anotherÂ’s story has b een built you can set about building your own.Â” (Delbanco xv) Most creative writing teachers incorporate exercises in style into their peda gogical practice. Social Relations: Through a Lacanian Lens LacanÂ’s insights lead to a better understa nding of the importance and function of imitation in our pedagogy and in the social re lations of our creativ e writing classrooms. In particular, in any dialogue on imitation it is important to keep in mind that Â“language is not simply poured into listeners and read ers as empty vessels, but translated in a process of rhetorical negotiation with an existing internal language, becoming, in Bakhtinian terms, Â‘internally persuasiveÂ’Â” (Min ock para. 26). To what effect imitation is tied to LacanÂ’s theorization of the mirror stage can once again be explained in relation to a childÂ’s initial entrance into language and the Symbolic order and the concept of transference. In brief, Lacan s ees the self continuously develo ped in dialogue with others; conceptually, we nuance the langua ge of others while trying to sort our identities. These unconscious exchanges manifest in the mirror re lationship as the divide d self looks to the teacher in this case (the temporary embodiment of the unconscious/the mirrored self) for answers or for information. As such, the implications of LacanÂ’s theo ry to pedagogy and to imitation are tied to the paradoxes that play out in these excha nges. As teachers, we help students to understand, assimilate, and imitate when we de lay the expectation th at we are the ones who know. We also, if we accept the process of transference, resi st the traditional
81 academic response of filling up the empty vessels with consumable knowledge. The supplanting of our own authority Â“and textual au thority encourages st udents to engage in dialogues with texts, dialogues that are of ten based on unconscious desiresÂ” (Minock para. 23). In her essay, Â“Toward a Postm odern Pedagogy of Imitation,Â” Mary Minock refers to these unconscious dialogues as Â“pr operly irrational respons es,Â” and it is these responses that Â“inspire in students a great at tention to texts, a willingness to read and respond to them over and over again [in Derrida fashion],Â” and an unpredictably high incidence of imitationÂ” (para. 23). Mimetic Theory: Final Argument s Mimetic theory has its place in the creativ e writing classroom. We teach students to draw from the world and to practice the form s and techniques of othe rs so that they can first recognize what is possible before they imita te it as practice and then make it original in its alteration or new cons truction. We open doors for stude nts, let them look in the mirrors. In the Art of Attention Ronald Revel speaks of th e intimacy that comes from attention. He explains Â“It is the intimacy of poetry that ma kes our art such a beautiful recourse . A poem that begins to see and then continues seeing is not deceived, nor is it deceptiveÂ” (8). Rather, Â“it is an intimacy in which creativ e writing and creative reading (the poet reads the world with writing) shar e together continuous pr esentations of this work . : ones and onesÂ” (8). In this way, this is the advantage of mi metic theory, of seeing and continuing to see, as reading the world, as Walt Whitman shares: Â“you shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me/You shall lis ten to all sides and filter them from your selfÂ” (qtd. in Revel 9).
82 The Pragmatic Theory as Reader-Response Historical Antecedents Reader-Response theory has its roots in th e late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, before English literature became pa rt of the academyÂ’s curricula. Members of literary societies formed on college campuses measuring one anothe rÂ’s responses relative to a piece they had all prev iously read. Jane P. Tompki ns links contemporary readerresponse to classical commentar ies on literature when scholars such as Â“Plato, Aristotle, Horace, and Longinus all discuss[ed] literatur e primarily in terms of its effects upon an audienceÂ” (206). On a more formal basis, Te rry Eagleton addresses Â“reception aestheticsÂ” or Â“reception theoryÂ” as Â“a fairly novel deve lopmentÂ” (74). He incl udes Reader-Response theory as one of three stages that marks the pe riod of modern literatur e, citing the first as that of Romanticism and the nineteenth centu ry in which there was Â“a preoccupation with the authorÂ” (74). This was followed by Â“an exclusive concern with the text (New Criticism); and a marked shift of attention to the readerÂ” (74). With this description, Eagleton contextuali zes the history of modern literature in relationship to where meaning lies in the co mmunication transaction. His classification is similar to BerlinÂ’s rhetorical triangle repr esentation, AbramsÂ’ artist ic transaction, and my taxonomy of pedagogical theories. Reader-Respon se theory is not cl early defined as a theoryÂ” of literary criticism, but rather a theo ry of epistemology because it explains a way that a reader makes knowledge a bout a text (Anderson 144). Pedagogical Practice Pragmatic theory as Reader-Response is aimed at the audience, for as Terry Eagleton says, Â“for literature to happen, the re ader is quite as vita l as the authorÂ” (74).
83 This pragmatic theory considers, for Abrams, Â“the work of art chiefly as a means to an end, an instrument for getting something doneÂ” (15). Stanley Fish agrees when he says that meaning Â“is an experien ce; it occurs; it does somethi ng; it makes us do something.Â” In What a Poem Means written by John Ciardi, meaning for a reader may begin with intrinsic sensibilities, that resonance that moves us in some way that is very human. Ciardi suggests that in poetry Â“there is the step beyond: once one has learned to experience the poem as a poem, there inevitably arrives a sense that one is also experiencing himself as a human beingÂ” (667). Fish posits that meaning inheres not in th e text but in the reader, or rather the reading community, when he says, Â“In the proc edures I would urge th e readerÂ’s activities are at the center of attention, where they are regarded not as leading to meaning but to having meaning.Â” For Fish, there is no stable me aning in a text as its interpretation is variable from reader to reader and reading to reading. In its simplest form, the centrality of the Reader-Response pedagogy then is to teach students how Â“to conceive a poem [or story] as something made in order to affect requisite responses in its readersÂ” (Abrams 15). I would replace AbramsÂ’ use of the word Â“r equisiteÂ” (as in Â“requi redÂ”) to Â“deservedÂ” (as in Â“entitlementÂ”)Â—to accentuate a more pos itive attitude that the text welcomes a readerÂ’s perspective. In fact, Eagleton percei ves the text as Â“no more than a series of Â‘cuesÂ’ to the reader, invitati ons to construct a piece of la nguage into meaningÂ” (76). Likely, because it is the newest approach, it is also not the one most privileged in pedagogy. It does, however, remove the writ er from the lonely garret, recognizing instead, that she is Â“an agent within a social setting, and within an historical momentÂ”
84 (Royster).8 This paradigm shift opens a space so that meaning might be placed on the reader in the composing process. Simila rly, Stephanie Vanderslice acknowledges the solitariness of writing, and yet, sh e justly asserts, it is Â“essentia l to learning that craft is the transformative understanding that one writ es not only for self-e xpression but also to communicate to readerÂ” (Â“WorkshoppingÂ”147). Moreover, Stephen Earnshaw contends, Â“ it is not easy to na vigate through the demands of self,Â” and as suc h, writers prefer an audience for their material, a reader who has a Â“sophistication of his or her art, a sophistication that is obviously felt to be lacking when the art is understood biographicallyÂ” (76). Finally, when meaning no longer lies solely on the black marks on a page, accord ing to some preconceived concept of Â“good writing,Â” then the text becomes Â“inexhaustible, in finitely richer than any of its individual realizations because it is capable of different realiz ationsÂ” (Iser 280). It is the interplay of reading (which is a temporal process) of Â“sequential sentences which act upon each other without referring to an external realit y,Â” that offers meaning (Iser 280). The Complexities of Reader-Response Theory Reader-Response theory is a complex dynami c in the creative writing classroom for the process of reading is always in mo tion, always transposing. With this is mind, it can be claimed that Nancy SommersÂ’ argumen t against the linear model of learning in Â“Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers,Â” also applies to readingÂ—it is not a straig htforward linear process. It is, in fact, a revisionist cycle, what Eagleton calls Â“the hermeneutical circle,Â” a process of Â“moving from part to whole and 8 RoysterÂ’s comments here are from his essay Â“Fac ilitating Resistance in the Creative Writing Workshop.Â” The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2010c.
85 back to part,Â” and reading loops in this way (77). The reader brings to the work her own biases, beliefs, preconceptions, expectations and assumptions about uni versal truths (such as genre conventions). These influences interact with the reading of the work. In a sense, it might be said that students are reading themselves in the workÂ—reacting, adjusting, picking up clues, processing, and modifying th eir perspectives. As a student reads, she inserts herself into the reading, making infe rences, searching for what Roman Ingarden calls Â“a set of Â‘schematicaÂ’ or general directi ons, which the reader must actualizeÂ” (qtd. in Eagleton 77). As a result of th is process, the reader Â“fills in the gapsÂ” and Â“tests out hunches,Â” thus, Â“drawing on a tacit knowledge of the world in general and of literary conventionsÂ” (Eagleton 76). What our students read in class, whether it be professional stories or their peersÂ’ incomplete stories or poems, are full of what Eagleton refers to as Â“Â‘indeterminacies,Â’ elements which depend for their effect upon th e readerÂ’s interpreta tion, and which can be interpreted in a number of different, perhap s mutually conflicting waysÂ” (76-77). To require this kind of reading fo r our introductory creative writi ng students is not realistic. For one, the writing workshop model inadequately calls for students to know how to read as a writer and to prepare useful feedback to their peersÂ’ drafts. For another, teachers and students would need to make significant shifts from the reading stra tegies employed with New Critical and Expressivist pedagogy: the two prevailing tropes in the creative writing classroom today. How to Bring Reader-Response Theory into the Creative Writing Classroom IserÂ’s reception theory, based on a liberal humanist ideology, calls for a Â“flexible and open-mindedÂ” reading process. Although as reader s, we present with inferences, beliefs,
86 and expectations unique to ourse lves, Iser requires that we Â“s hould be prepared to put our beliefs into question, and allow them to be transformedÂ” (79). How might ReaderResponse pedagogy prepare our students for th is transformation? Iser speaks of the Â“strategies,Â” which texts put to work, and of the Â‘repertoiresÂ’ of familiar themes and allusions which they contain. Iser contends that Â“[t]o read at all, we need to be familiar with the literary techniques a nd conventions which a particular work deploys; we must have some grasp of its Â‘codesÂ’, by which is meant the rules which systematically govern the way it produces its meaningsÂ” (qtd. in Polkinghorne 97). For the creative writing class, which is not governed by interpretive criticism, IserÂ’s logic still has relevancy. Writers approach the reading of texts from a writerly perspective, and in doing so, recognize the techniques employed by a wr iter and its codifica tion in terms of how a story is told that may be said to help shape the way a text is put to work. Learning how to read as a writer, to recognize the choices a wr iter makes, to appreciat e the effects of these craft elements on the readability of the story, and to imagine what might be different, are all necessary and useful sk ills for beginning writers. Yet, our current reading practices and our pedagogies limit more varied and sophisticated readings that take into account our studentsÂ’ diversities. While the reading processes of creative writing are measures of our markers of professional difference as a discipline, how might we open spaces in our classrooms and add more depth to our workshops by varying our reading approaches? If different read ings are proof that the act of reading is one of creative and active participation rather than passive reception, what pedagogical practices can best help our students to broaden their reader-response awareness and how might they apply new a pproaches to the way they approach the
87 writing process? In addition, since creative wr iting scholarship is still emerging in the field of audience awareness, how might we integrate composition and literary studies theory into our pedagogical practice? To exte nd this further, how might we learn from these theoretical applications, refine them for our practices, integrate them with our theories of writerly reading, and form new reading theoriesÂ—new course development? This dialogue begins to explore some of thes e questions by pointing to those practices in place. Teaching Reader-Response Awareness Students in introductory creative writing classes have limited to no experience reading as a writer. In fact, the data colle cted by Colin Irvine, a composition teacher who questions why it is that despite strong pe dagogical practices, students remain as poor readers, suggests that perhaps there are underlying physiological and cognitive reasons for our studentsÂ’ reading performance. Our beginning writing stude nts demonstrate some cognitive dysfunction when they cannot follow te achersÂ’ instructions to read their peersÂ’ work holistically. Despite these instructions students still tend to comment on more surface issues; they become as Irvine says, Â“error hunters.Â”9 Irvine reports the findings of a technologic study of student eye movement s conducted by Eric J. Paulson, Jonathan Alexander, and Sonya Armstrong, authors of Â“P eer Review Re-Viewed: Investigating the Juxtaposition of Composition StudentsÂ’ Eye Movements and Peer Review Processes.Â” 9 Colin Irvine is a contributor to my edited collection: The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Lt d., 2010c. His comment here is from his essay Â“WhatÂ’s Going on in the Workshop Model Now That Suggests itÂ’s Not Working?Â”
88 This inquiry and analysis demonstrates that Â“p articipants looked at th e errors in the essay far more often, and for far longer, than any other word in the essa yÂ” (qtd. in Irvine).10 To add to this information, Irvine discove rs from post-process theorists Thomas Kent and Donald Davidson that writing (in ad dition to other communi cation transactions) is Â“largely paralogic in nature rather than systematic.Â” This st udy affirms the cognitive reports by Fish and Iser that our students appr oach the text with prior theories of what it might mean, and as such, Â“reading involves a se ries of learned, sophisticated and highly contextual hermeneutic guessesÂ” (Irvine)11. What complicates this process, and this brings me to the point I want to make here, is that not only do our studentsÂ’ basic reading skills result from a long history of linear reading practices, but they bring to their reading methods certain assumptions, which for the most part, exist without their conscious awareness. With this is mind, teachers can c onstruct alternative pedagogies that consider and then challenge their student sÂ’ pre-existing reading skills to help students become more diversified and developed readers. One such challenge to our students read ing practices is to begin by exposing the assumptions, beliefs, and expectations that st udents bring to their readings. For instance, Larry Anderson begins by addressing two impor tant assumptions to a rhetorical approach to literature. He discusses these assumpti ons with his students when he introduces Reader-Response theory to his introductory literature class and as a way of setting the stage for a new way of reading. The first assump tion is that Â“there is no such thing as a context-free discourseÂ” (144). A nderson tells his students, Â“r hetoric has always viewed discourse as a social phenomenon; and literature can certainly be seen as suchÂ” (144). His 10 ibid 11 ibid
89 pedagogy follows a basic rhetorical princi ple: Â“To understand discourse one must understand its context,Â” and this presents Â“A variety of forces . always present: historical, sociopolitical cultural, and situationalÂ” (144) His second assumption suggests that there is Â“no such thing as random discourse,Â” as Â“[r]he toric takes all language to be purposiveÂ” (144). He uses the traditional communication triangle to outline the transaction of writer, reader, and language. Although AndersonÂ’s pedagogy presents to an introductory literature class, it can very easily be adapted to a creative writing classroom to gain the same results. He distributes a short story to the class (h e prefers Washington IrvingÂ’s Â“The Stout GentlemanÂ”) and requests that students read the story and write a reaction to it. He requires only two steps for this assignment: st udents are to interpret the assignment in writing and explain how certain craft elements (plot, characteriza tion, setting, and such) contribute to their reaction. A nderson shares the student re sponses with the class to demonstrate what kinds of a ssumptions, expectations, and biases they bring to their readings. It is from this platform that he advances the discussion so that students might see the assumptions underlying the surface of their responses. He asks his students Â“whether it is possible that th e Â‘pointÂ’ of the story is to have an effect Could we not say this about all stories: do not all texts have effects on their readers?Â” (143). Here is where Anderson comes close to merging what goes on in the creative writing class and what is possible with Reader-Response theory. Anderson comes closeÂ—but there is a diffe rence. Once the arch itecture of a story or poem is discussed (character ization, conflict, point of view, setting), creative writers do not wonder if the point of the story is to ha ve an effect; rather, because we are reading
90 as writers, we consider the wr itersÂ’ choices and how these c hoices have an effect on our reading. The effect might be related to suspense, credibility, character motivation, complications in plot, increasing stakes, and/or shifts in tone or direction to name a few. At this point, students might engage in que stions of Â“What if?Â” in their attempt to imagine how a story might be different or ca n be different at any point. What is missing from this creative writing discussion, that AndersonÂ’s pedagogy supp lies, is a readerresponse perspective. Such a reading strategy might intensif y studentsÂ’ engagement and open spaces for dialogue that links, layers, conf licts, interactsÂ—or any combination of the aboveÂ—the reading of a story as a writer and the implications of assumptions and biases that students bring to each text that they read. Additionally, there are opportunities to broaden the possibilities for a story construct when we consider the differing and often conflicting reader responses. AndersonÂ’s excellent pedagogy can be relevantly applied to the reading studies of creative writing. Teaching Reader-Response Strategies Making creative writing students mo re aware of reading respon se is a critical first step in introducing alternative r eading practices. Patrick BizzaroÂ’s book Responding to Student Poems provides, in addition to useful information on the theories of literary study and the roles of teacher and students, a re presentation of his reading, commenting, and evaluating of studentsÂ’ poems through several applications. Under the heading of Â“What Teachers Should Know,Â” Bizzaro addresses th e need to Â“view revision less as the application of certain rules and procedures to a nearly finished text and more as an effort to unfold meaning in a manner that someho w makes possible a similar unfolding for the readerÂ” ( Responding 68). Feedback shifts from the normative New Critical evaluation of
91 the text to one which Â“must thus be nonjudgmen tal and provide the writer with clues as to how the text might bett er create the envisi oned audienceÂ” (Bizzaro Responding 68). While the teacher privileges the reader in a Reader-Response clas sroom, Â“Interaction and shared authority are at th e center of any method of ev aluation and reading founded upon reader-response theoriesÂ” (Bizzaro Respondin g 69). Students approach revision differently than they would when the meaning and expression is privileged in the text. Bizzaro discovers that his studentsÂ’ revisions were more inclined to Â“the evolving relationship between the writer and reader as they determine what the text will beÂ” than the text itself ( Responding 69). He applies Reader-Response criticism to three student poems by emphasizing the reading and not the text as he makes parallel texts, which reflects his reader reactions alongside student poems. Bizzaro admits to the concerted effort in staying true to this method (not reverting back to traditional readings, assessing for audience, generating questions to the author as to how passages might be read). What he discovers in his reading practice, among other findings, is that though he has used a questioning rather than a directive approach, it is difficult to limit himself. On the premise that readers evoke or invoke a pa rticular audience in their writing (per composition theories that propose the author cr eates a reader as well as a text: Iser 1974, Ong 1975, and Ede and Lunsford 1988), he advise s the writer as to how well the audience has been invoked. As such, he performs Â“as a writerly reader in reconstructing the textÂ” ( Responding 71). What is equally appreciated in this pedagogical model ar e BizzaroÂ’s honest comments as he struggles with false starts, shifts in authority, and questions of teaching effectiveness. In the end, he comes to appr eciate the shared powe r and the legitimacy of
92 the reader response. Revisions tended to be more extensive and Bizzaro reports that this reading allowed him to provide the author with more commentar y. This Reader-Response model gives teachers the courage to make chan ges to the creative writing classroom so as to try new pedagogical practices. Finally, while Bizzaro stays true to a Reader-Response model as a single approach effort, there is benef it, I believe, to having students read variable approaches to reading (Feminist, New Criticism, Deconstruc tion and others) to best appreciate reading strategies as well as to decen ter other less useful strategies A course that teaches the reading and writing of these strategies would be productive for creative writing students. Social Relations: Through a Lacanian Lens When meaning lies with the reader in the communication transaction, the studentsÂ’ Symbolic order comes into play. If we follow the assumptions of the ReaderResponse theory then we see the reader as the one who projects her self-understanding, her culturally determined assumptions when she interacts with the text. She shapes the text, and as Stanley Fish clai ms, the text functions as a mirror that provides the readerÂ’s reflection. The hermeneutical circle creates for the reader a circuitous route in which the reader seeks constituted repres entations of herself as much as that is possible. When a teacherÂ’s pedagogy privileges meaning in the re ader she situates herself as a welcomed reader, one who shares authority with the writer and other model readers. This pedagogical approach is likely the most symbiotic of the practices discussed for several reasons. First, if we follow LacanÂ’s theory of transference, then the Â“divided selfÂ” which represents the stude nt on one side of the mirror lo oks to the teacher as the one who supposes to know The teacher represents, in Laca nian psychology, the other half of
93 the divided selfÂ—figuratively, a studentÂ’s mirro red reflection. In order for there to be a positive transference which enables learning to take place, the student waits for the teacher to provide her with the answers as th e student believes the teacher is Â“suppose[d] to know.Â” The instructor, to best facilitate th is positive transference, asks questions as a Â“model readerÂ” might, also as a therapist might be inclined to do. As a result, the student does not get the quick answer she expects, a nd thus, must search for answers on her own. Her search brings her to answ ers and learning takes place. In the end, the student Â“trustsÂ” the teacher, and transfer ence is positive. The important relationship then Â“is largely within the divided person, since it involves a relationship between her consci ous self and her projection or current understanding of the knowledge and purpose of the knowing authorityÂ” (Brooke 681). To this end, transferring an image of the self ont o the analyst, the Â“div idedÂ” person finds in the Symbolic Other (the Subject Supposed to Know ); an external means to express his or her inner dialogue. Moreover, it might be conject ured that since Fish perceives the text as a mirror for the reader, that th e text, in a sense, reflects th e readerÂ’s image. I am not certain what Lacan would make of this ar rangement, but it seems plausible that there would be implications of Â“d ivided selfÂ” and identity. Reader-Response Theory: Final Arguments Jane Tompkins presents an interestin g perspective which pos itions the ReaderResponse theory as one that parallels the fo rmalist reading of New Criticism in which the object of study is the text ( 201). She argues that Â“The esse ntial similarity between New Criticism and reader-response criticism is obscu red by the great issue that seems to divide them: whether meaning is to be located in the text or in the re aderÂ” (206). While both
94 critics locate meaning in different places ThompsonÂ’s argument rests on the impression (which she deems faulty) that Â“the specification of meaning is the aim of the critical actÂ” (206). As such, meaning, as the aim of the critical act, Â“binds [Reader-Response theory and New Criticism] together in opposition to a lo ng history of critical thought in which the specification of meaning is not a central concernÂ” (206). Her argument comes from a hierarchal assessment of what constitutes a justifiable aim in the critical act. More specifically, when the pref erred study of literature is interpretive, literary studiesÂ’ critics measure other approaches to the study of literature as having less value. In other words, determ ining where meaning lies (whether in New Criticism or Reader-Response theo ries) in the composing proce ss is not as significant as the interpretive decons truction of a text.
95 SECTION TWO: THE WRITING WORKSHOP MODEL Those of us in creative writing must, if we are to move beyond questions of whether the workshop model works or does not workÂ—or to ask instead more utilitarian questions such as the one Ma ry Ann Cain aptly interrogate s: Â“What makes it possible for those in the academe to keep asking, Â‘ Does it work?Â’ without any real challenge or inquiry to the question itselfÂ”12Â—come to better visualize what else is possible in this workshop space. Creative writers have answ ered the challenge generated by some (Ostrom, Ritter, Vanderslice, Bizzaro, Mayers) of whose interests are served by the replication of the workshop model. Many agree, as Tim Mayers suggests, that as teachers we are implicated in this answer. Such reproduction can be found in: Â“creative writingÂ’s investment in the notion that writers are born and not made [which] makes the whole issue of pedagogy suspect from the onset;Â” the identity of authors as wr iters first, teachers second; the replication of the model by traditi onÂ—the Â“basically unrevisedÂ” model as taught by our mentors; our Â“lack of explicit attention to peda gogy . creative writers [who]consider themselves writers who teach, rather than teachers who write;Â” and 12 Mary Ann Cain is a contributor to my edited collection: The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Ma tters Ltd., 2010c. Her comment is from her essay Â“Â‘A Space of Radical OpennessÂ’: Re-V isioning the Creative Writing Workshop.Â”
96 our embracing of the Associated Writi ng ProgramÂ’s (AWP) version of our identity (Â“Figuring the FutureÂ” 8-9). Randall Albers (Columbia College Chicago)13 validates a couple of these points when he proposes that Â“teachers must totally rethink the way they approach the teaching of writing.Â” He addresses the time and effort this would take, and suggests Â“many, many writing teachers are content to do what they were themselves taught.Â” He submits faculty Â“would rather spend that time writing their own work than taking on the extra reading, thinking, experimentation, and training that new models would take.Â” Rationales for reproducing the workshop from program to pr ogram and laying claim to its workability often edify or rouse those in the field, usually without much constructive forward movement or change. Rather than idle over the question of why cr eative writing teachers continue to hold fast to the traditional workshop model or wh ether creative wr iting can be taught, we need to ask: What might be gained by flexing the elastic ity of the workshop model? How might we add textur e and rigor to its applaudabl e merits? In what ways can markers of professionalism in the workshop m odel set us apart in our scholarship from composition studies and literary studies? My inquiry and research of the writi ng workshop along with my proposal for a more robust and intelligent model are pa rt of an overarching goal to ascend creative writing studies This study suggests that although the model remains dominant in the disciplineÂ’s field of practice, there is little agreement as to what constitutes the workshop practice in creative writing classrooms across the nation. My research also reveals that 13 Included in my text are comments/quotes by crea tive writing teachers who res ponded to my survey on the workshop model. To best distinguish these responses from other cited scholarship, I have identified the feedback from surveyed creative writing teachers with in-text parentheses that note respondersÂ’ names and universities.
97 more and more teachers are in fact exploring new spaces for the workshop model. I propose that there is significan t interest in more radical openness and re-envisioning of the workshop model (to frame Mary Ann CainÂ’s essay title) to warrant a call for further pedagogical inquiry. A study such as this one and those that follow would be helpful to the field of creative writing studies the profession, and our creative writing students A Workshop Survey While there exists some MFA and Ph.D. stude nts who may turn a Â“t in earÂ” to peer responses after too many workshops taken at the undergraduate a nd graduate level and while the same students may tend to create st ories and/or poems that are workshop-ready (too polished) or suited for workshop approva l (too safe) or customized for a teacherÂ’s preference (too similar in styl e), the writing workshop model for the most part, especially at the undergraduate level as problematic as it may be, is still the heart of the creative writing program and the favorite part of the course. My recent survey of undergraduate cr eative writing teachers at programs predominantly across the U.S., my own persona l experience as a creative writing teacher, and much scholarship in creativ e writing pedagogy inform the ba sis of my analysis of the workshop. Of the survey, my driving questions prompted responses (to name a few) on the utility of the workshop, its effectiveness and value, and its best practices. Respondents considered student motivations preparedness, and readiness for the workshop model. Creative writing teachers o ffered ways to keep the workshop fresh and alive or they lamented at such futileness. St ill others shared exciting corollaries to the model in the classroom. One hundred and sixtyseven creative writing teachers replied to my inquiry (five more participated in an initial test collection) from a base of 174
98 undergraduate creative writing prog rams (identified for the most part from the Associated Writing ProgramÂ’s database). While teacher response could be anonymous, 105 did identify their comments, and this 62% represents a total of 70 colleges and universities. According to the survey results, nearly 51% of the teachers use a model that is similar to the basic workshop (very broadly sketched here as a forum for sharing and commenting on stories and poems by teacher a nd student readers; with varying rules of operation, the most prominent being the silen ce of the author during the peer review process) while 39.2% practice a variation of th e mode of instruction, and only 10% define their model to be markedly different than the traditional workshop. The model serves as the primary focus or a major component in 80% of creative writing classes. Students can take the workshop-based course as a creative writing requirement (84.9%), as an elective (86.1%), as a writing intensive requirement (35.5%), or for other reasons (enjoyment, outlet for self-expression, gene ral education requir ement, and such 32.5%), and in some cases, students can participate in a workshop co urse to satisfy more than one requirement at the same time. A majority of instituti ons (60%) do not require prerequisites or a writing sample/portfolio prior to course enrollment, and 24% of programs call for students to complete a previous semester or two of composition. For the most part, creative writing majors take fifteen or more workshop hours in the course of their study. Overall, creative writing programs still re ly on the tradition of the workshop; surveys by Edward Delaney, David Starke y and Wendy Bishop, and my own survey demonstrate this to be the case. It remain s, as Delaney says, Â“the hub of the wheel.Â” Nancy McCabe (University of Virginia) w ho has been teaching writing for the past twenty-three years claims what we all know to be true: Â“students always say on
99 evaluations that the workshop portion of the class was the most enjoyable part.Â” Karl Elder (Lakeland College) concur s, that his class is Â“almost universally motivatedÂ” by the workshop encounter, and this observation has been my experience as well. Perhaps the basis for why the model retains its place at th e center of the creative writing classroom is as Phillip Gross says, Â“a works hop is a very human situation.Â”14 Or maybe, when all the spark plugs are firing in sync (or synapses, as the case may be), there is nowhere else in academia where students can Â“find a rigorous program of study that is also directly personal for themÂ” (Lisa Roney/Univ ersity of Central Florida). It might hold true that some of us will fo llow the logic of polemics put forward in Michelene WandorÂ’s The Author is Not Dead Merely Somewhere Else (2008), Dana GioiaÂ’s Atlantic Monthly essay, Â“Can Poetry Matter? (1991 ), Donald HallÂ’s Â“Poetry and AmbitionÂ” (1988) or its short story counterpart written by John Aldridge Â“The AssemblyLine FictionÂ” (1990), and John BarrÂ’s Â“Ameri can Poetry in the New CultureÂ” published in Poetry 2006. In these argumentations, the workshop is either stripped of any rational or purposeful function or the type of writing ge nerated from workshops reportedly has no readership outside the academia. The complain t is that creative writ ing programs have yet to produce another Mark Twai n, Walt Whitman, or Emily Dickinson. What is more, we might find disheartening, the renouncements by t hose in the field such as poet and critic Allen Tate, who also ran the creative writing program at Princeton. Tate complains about the sameness of teaching modalities, the worksh op implied in his argument, noting that Â“the academically certified Creative Writer goes out to teach Creative Writing, and 14 Phillip Gross is a contributor to my edited collection: The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd., 2010c. His comments are from his essay Â“Small Worlds: What Works in Workshops If And When They Do.Â”
100 produces other Creative Writers who are not writers, but who produce still other Creative Writers who are not writersÂ” (181). Simila rly, Kay Boyle, though a teacher for sixteen years at San Francisco State creative writi ng programs, suggests Â“All creative-writing programs ought to be abolished by lawÂ” (qt d. in Menand). Some may be familiar with R.V. CassillÂ’s response at a Boston conventi on, ironically, on the fifteenth anniversary of the Associated Writers Program to disband the very organization he founded in 1967. In this address, Cassill derided the complacency of writers, the corruptness of the academic system, and the poisoning by departments and institutions. It was time for writers, he insisted, to get out of the university. It is hard to dismiss, offhandedly, su ch cancellations of support by those with respectable histories as Cass illÂ’s. He is writer, critic, author of the popular textbook Writing Fiction teacher at Brown Univ ersity, and editor of The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction Still, despite apologias that shake th e workshop at its core, some of us may murmur from a position sans theory, sans standards, sans empirical data, Â“like Galileo at his inquisition,Â” like Philip Gro ss of Glamorgan University: Â“ Eppur si Muove And yet it moves.Â” Defining the Workshop Model When one speaks of the pedagogy or th e discipline of creative writing, the workshop is implied in the address. The model might be defined as Â“competent but uncompellingÂ” (Myers The Elephants Teach 118) or as a place where we Â“teach craft and discourage self-indulgent junkÂ” (Toni Graham OK State). Philip Roth contends the workshop serves three objectives: Â“to give young writers an audience, a sense of community, and an acceptable social categoryÂ—s tudentsÂ” (qtd. in Grimes 4-5). Our goals
101 for our undergraduates may be lofty as we wi sh to Â“enhance student sÂ’ understanding of the meaning of art in their livesÂ” (Karl El der/Lakeland College) or far-reaching as we strive to create deeper, closer, more res ponsible and creative thinkers, readers, and writersÂ” (Linda Russ Spaar, University of Vi rginia). Michelene Wa ndor likens what we do in the workshop model to the Â“academic pr actice of peer-reviewing (in journals and publishing)Â” (124). Peter Harris (Colby Co llege) finds the space Â“a wonderful place where peopleÂ’s lives open up,Â” where they Â“begin to own their own voices.Â” The pedagogy introduces vocabulary necessary for the discussion of texts. It also foregrounds writing as process. For most, the operation of the model ofte n depends on course level and teacher design. I can report that some teachers appro ach the workshop with a heavy reading list such as the instructor whose workshop sy llabus requires students to read ten books over the course of the semester or the one who assigns long, difficult novels. There are those who view the workshop as a course in craft, a study in how to read poetry, how to identify elements of fiction, how to apprecia te the choices writers make, how to imagine ways in which these choices might have been different; how to, as Martin Cockroft of Waynesburg University suggests Â“r eform student ideas about what is poetry, what is possible in the form, and how it can/ought to be written.Â” In stil l other classes, the studentsÂ’ work is the center of the course; the workshop f unctions as the single pedagogy. Some teachers support the practice of free-writing, others prefer invention strategies such as exercises and writing prompt s to generate story and poem s eeds. For the instructors at Columbia Chicago College, the model differs fr om the traditional one in that theirs is a process-based story workshop, one that uses Â“c lassic, storytelling forms, along with skills
102 of conceptualizing, abstracti ng, critical thinking, and imaginative problem-solvingÂ” to supplement basic skills (Randall Albers). Mo st would agree with Sue Roe who claims Â“Workshops are fundamental Â– launch pads rather than flights, rehearsal strategies rather than the exigencies of polished and finessed performance.Â”15 We might also agree with Maurice Guevara that its design can be Â“sin of all sinsÂ—unimaginative.Â” A Study of the Workshop Model Before undertaking a defense of the writi ng workshop it is important to outline a more global assertion on behalf of creative writing as an academic discipline. Briefly restated, in order for creative writing to a dvance as an academic discipline in its own right, it must undergo an inquiry into its fi eld, much like composition studies did in the middle to late twentieth century. This field of inquir y, a factor critical to the development of creative writing studies necessarily explores the pedagogical problems and paradoxes of the discipline. Such internal complexiti es are typically the impetus that sets a Â“programmatic revolutionÂ” (Mayers Â“One Simple WordÂ”) in motion, of which creative writing studies is situated in its early phase. Kelly Ritter and Stephanie Vanderslice remind us that Â“a field whose teaching practi ces and theories are relatively unexamined runs the risk of being dominated by an ever more unwieldy body of knowledge and practices, some of which have likely outgrown thei r usefulness or been misappliedÂ” (Â“IntroductionÂ” xv). The workshop, as the default model of pedagogy in creative writing classrooms, has been, Bizzaro says, our Â“model of instruc tion [for] over a hundred yearsÂ” (Â“Research 15 Sue Roe is a contributor to my edited collection: The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Lt d., 2010c. Her comments are from her essay Â“Introducing Masterclasses.Â”
103 and ReflectionsÂ” 296), and as Peter Vandenbe rg infers, our practice Â“is ripe for annexationÂ” (Â“IntegratedÂ” 7) Consider that AWPÂ’s 2008 Guide to Writing Programs points to a significant rise in creative writing programs. The 79 undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs recorded in 1975 pales to the re ported present figure of 822. Of this number, more than 300 are at the graduate level (37 award the Ph.D.), and thousands of students are enro lled nationally (Healey, Mena nd). Consider that every program, according to VirginiaÂ’s Christopher Tilghman, Â“devotes 50 percent of its time to the workshopÂ” (qtd. in Delaney). Given these staggering statistics, the workshopÂ’s universality, its application at all levels to vitally diverse populations, its differing teacher foci, and its reportedly mixed results, in th e words of Ostrom, Â“all of us could probably benefit from taking a hard look at precis ely how Â‘the workshopÂ’ functions in our classroomsÂ” (xix-xx). Such an inquiry asks us to consider at a microcosmic level: What are our guidelines, and what assumptions underlie them? How explicitly do we probe the criteria for assessing wo rk-in-progress? What is our role in workshops and group work, and how producti ve has this role been? What other roles might we experiment with? What else should go on in a workshop besides the workshop? To what extent are we Â“p laying the old tapesÂ” of workshops we took? What do we know about group dyna mics, and what should we know? Who gets silenced in our workshops and w hy? How often do we/should we revise our workshop methods? When are the conve rsations in our workshops most productive and why? What might be gained by dismantling the workshop model altogether and starting from scratch?Â” (Ostrom xix-xx)
104 On a more macrocosmic grade, if creative writing studies is to operate as a more distinct academic discipline, then scholars hip at a curricular leve l should as Katherine Haake suggests Â“seek to move beyond our preoccupa tion with the writer or the text to the role of creative writing as an academic discip line inside a profession that includes, but is not limited to, the production and teaching of imaginative writingÂ” (qtd. in Mayers Â“One Simple WordÂ” 218). This begins with establis hing Â“markers of professional differenceÂ” (Ritter Â“Professional WritersÂ” 208) to include wa ys in which the field of creative writing is set apart in its scholarship from com position studies and literary studies. These are significant undertakings, and yet, as Bizzar o Â“envisions there may be a great many teachers of creative writing like himselfÂ” interested in discussing and debating pedagogy (Â“Should I Write this Essay? 287). I wish to join that discussion a nd debate by continuing the fieldÂ’s inquiry and offering not a dismantli ng of the workshop model or even a simple re-tooling (which would not addr ess more systemic issues), but rather a more enlightened view of the model as an in telligent and robust pedagogy, one we might advance with our emergent field of creative writing studies DawsonÂ’s question: Â“Is the pedagogical process merely guided by idiosyncrasies of each teacher, the practicing writer able to pass on knowle dge by virtue of his or her innate talent and secret k nowledge of the craft? (qt d. in Ritter and Vanderslice Â“IntroductionÂ” xiii) is more than rhetorical, and it has mer it when we consider that the workshop model offers no real standards of measurement. Bizzaro reminds us that we have practiced this Â“basica lly unrevisedÂ” century-old method Â“without giving it proper scrutinyÂ” (Â“Research and ReflectingÂ” 295). Sharing stories and poems, reading from a writerly perspective, providing helpful feedb ack, re-envisioning works-in-progress, are at
105 least some of the functions of the traditiona l workshop model. Its practice has become so deeply-ingrained in our pedagogy that it continues without question. Or if it is questioned, in the sense that many of us are uneasy with varying de grees of a workshopÂ’s artificiality, ethical disparities, multiver sity, idleness, singularity, program design, authority, evaluation, absence of theory, a nd/or its range of student readiness, preparedness, and motivation; we are at a loss as to how to fix it. If what seems to be a melting pot approach to the model boils down to a little of this and a lot of that, a community crock pot of flavors, it is no w onder that, at times, we are unsure of just what it is we taste in this covered dishÂ—this workshop. And we wonder, how might it sustain us? For instance, we may suggest that as untrained creativ e writers, we are teaching Â“by the seat of our pants,Â” our workshops presumably Â“uns tructured and friendlyÂ” (Leahy 20). This relaxedweÂ’re-just-chatting c onsciousness surfaces regardless of how much planning goes into the class. Others coul d suggest we operate our workshops in a vacuum, with a separatist view that defers outside reference; certainly, AWPÂ’s mission statement supports this position. The majority opinion is that we practice the workshop model as our primary pedagogy, sometimes emul ating our own mentors because these are the methods from which we have learned. Or perhaps, the workshop Â“has remained,Â” as Haake says, Â“as close to a home as we ar e ever going to come in the academy.Â”16 Even 16 Katherine Haake is a contributor to my edited collection: The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? Ed. Dianne Donnelly. Clevedon: Multilingual Ma tters Ltd.,2010c. Her comments are from her essay Â“Re-envisioning the Workshop: Hybrid Classrooms, Hybrid Texts.Â”
106 with this thought, the one th ing Haake and many of us can say with any certainty about the workshop remains, Â“thatÂ’s not it, thatÂ’s still not it.Â”17 To illustrate this patchw ork of practices, we could consider some workshop praxes and teacher perspectives. For example, if one teacher supports, encourages even, personal self-discovery (and recovery?) and another endorses the objectification of the text, excluding all outsid e factors; and the instructor in the neighboring academy focuses mostly on writerly techniques found within the current Best American Short Stories with the last fifteen minutes dedica ted to writing activities, and if a creative writing teacher in Boise, Idaho sanctions the bulk of classroom time to the critique of studentsÂ’ texts, and if the instructor who teaches inner city students refuses to abide by the author gag rule of the traditional workshop because her studentsÂ’ voices have been silenced long enough, then how can the writing workshop be contai ned within the same pedagogical model? How in fact can it not be paradoxical in natu re or contradictory in its aims? Michelene Wandor addresses such antipathe tic purposes when she says: If creative writing is training profes sional writers (those who already have Â‘talentÂ’), then the great-writers approach privileges the text over the writer; if students are taught that creat ive writing expresses the se lf (writing as therapy), then the person is privileged over the writing. The first overv alues the art, the second overvalues the person, and together they confuse the object of the work and its objectives. (128) 17 Katherine Haake, Â“Re-envisioning the Work shop: Hybrid Classrooms, Hybrid Texts.Â”
107 To add to this, there are inconsistent issu es related to an egalitarian relationship when both teacher and student assume the ro le of Â“writer.Â” For instance, Tim Mayers references the pronged Â“Elitist versus democra ticÂ” scenario: democratic in the sense that Â“newcomers might make significant contributions Â” to literature and elitist in Â“identifying in the end only a select few students who mi ght be worthy of the label Â‘real writerÂ’Â” (Â“Figuring the FutureÂ” 4). Additionally, the Â“the oretical egalitarian responses of the peer friendlyÂ” workshop create an addling for our st udents when the postscript to their default response of praise contradicts that of th e teacher (known as a Â“tutorÂ” in the United Kingdom) who has ultimate aut hority as evaluator of studentsÂ’ work upon completion of the course (Wandor 127). These Â“built-in te nsionsÂ” are reflected in Siobhan HollandÂ’s collective response of some of the delegates at the 2001 creati ve writing conference at the Bath Spa University. Holland argu es Â“It is not fair to studen ts to find their work praised in workshops and criticised in assessment feedbackÂ” (qtd. in Wandor 127). What is more, an ethical dilemma presents when we are faced with the decision to silence the author and her valued intentions and processes versus justifying this traditional silence as a necessary function of minimizing the writerÂ’ s defense and maximizing her processing of the workshop response. Complicating these pa radoxes are the ethics of exposing personal experience in the workshop and the standard of measurements for such writing reflection. Finally, though the list of ambiguities may go on, the traditional workshop may move along the Â“consensusÂ” principles of Kenneth BruffeeÂ’s collaborative learning theory. It may also butt against Â“dissensusÂ” as argued by those like John Trimbur. Granted, the workshop is a process and as such, its Â“plasticityÂ” conforms to individual manipulation, and its response depends to some degree on the dynamics and
108 preparedness of each particular class. Howeve r, if we continue to place such emphasis on the workshop process in our classrooms, if we name it our practice our signature pedagogy if we assign it curricular substance for fulfillment of a degree and usher our students out into the workforce and community with diploma in hand; then should we not consider how we manage that which defines the heart of our course? More importantly, given such varian ces within our pedagogy, how can the workshop be properly scrutinized? If we were in fact to examine it in such regard, how might we determine what happens in the workshop and why? To ask the enveloping question then: how are we to evaluate if the writing workshop model still works? By extension, as it is implicated in the work ability of the model, when many question whether creative writing can be taught, and if so how is it taught, and who can teach itÂ— questions, by the way, which have been asked long before the new compositionists embodied a constructivist view that Â“genius, Â” Â“imagination,Â” and Â“ powerÂ” were not given but obtainableÂ—is it enough, then, when so meone like Mark Winegardner of Florida State counters with Â“You canÂ’t teach every piano player to be Thelonious Monk, but no piano teacher seems tortured by the question of whether piano can be taught Â”? (qtd. in Healey). Is in enough to say as J ohn Barth did in a 1985 article in the Times Book Review titled Â“Writing: Can it Be Taught?,Â” that Â“em phatically it can, mainly on the ground that it so emphatically is Â”? (qtd. in Menand, my emphasis ). Where might one begin this ontological study? The answers to probing questi ons such as these are, as Shirley Geoklin Lim notes in her essay Â“The Strang eness of Creative Writing,Â” Â“so nuanced, constrained, interrogated, and indeterminable as to raise more questionsÂ” (157). Indeed, I say.
109 Part of the difficulty in even defining the workshop, let alone reconceptualizing it as a rigorous and intelligent pedagogy, relates to the elasticity of th e modelÂ—its ability to morph into variable shapes, to stretch in so many ways, and as such, it is easy, like Saran wrap, to take it for granted. My goal is not to dismiss variances of the workshop model, but rather, I want to explore current practices of creative wr itingÂ’s signature pedagogy as part of an overarching in quiry into the field with a secondary goal to ascend creative writing studies as a distinct discipline inde pendent in its own scholarship. How Our Workshop History Informs Our Praxes Prior to the conception of the Iowa-b ased academic workshop model, writing colonies gathered outside of institutions in such places as Nashville, Iowa City, and Greenwich Village as a pre-war rebellion agai nst restrictive university curriculums. These writing clubs created spaces where studen ts and faculty could share their work and receive criticism. In addition, writers su ch as Â“Frost, Sandburg, Dreiser, Mencken, Stephen Crane, Sinclair Lewis, and Hemingway held jobs as cub reporters, learning about factual narrative and detailed observation, a training that in fluenced the form of the modern novelÂ” (Adams 90-1). These influences are worth mention because by the 1920s, much of this off-campus tradition moved onto campus and along with it, came its writers, who were given, more often than not, favorable positions that accounted for their first priority: their writing life. For example, historian Katherine Adams in A History of Professional Writing Instruction in American Colleges notes that a writer-in-residence position offered to playwright Percy MacKaye at Miami University of Ohio in 1920 also included Â“building him a much-publicized st udio and requiring him to perform few academic dutiesÂ” (93). The same relaxed instructional responsibilities held true for
110 Robert Frost as poet-in-reside nce at the University of Mi chigan during 1921-22 (Adams 93), and many more examples followed. Today, th e great writersÂ’ approa ch still occurs at many of the top programs. These writers Â“teach infrequently (one class in a year or year and a half seems typical) because their publ ished works are believed to do more than their teaching for the programÂ’s image. This is because writing programs must contend with the authorial Â‘star systemÂ’Â” (qtd. in Dela ney). Such hiring expenses and star system adulations, cycle the university perception (which then cycle such beliefs at the program, student, and community level) that only not able writers who are well-published with prestigious presses can t each creative writers. Even before the onset of postwar sec ond-generation teachers and the Â“elephant machineÂ” replication of the workshop pedagogyÂ—a metaphorical vehicle for the production of other writers and other workshops as referenced in MyersÂ’ The Elephants Teach Â—writers brought a less-than-academic fo cus to the creative writing classroom. Their emphasis was on student manuscripts not on required readings, or craft discussions, or creative exerci ses and assignments as they are in current conventions. Pulitzer Prize poets such as Robert Frost and Richard Wilbur would never have considered creative practice or writing prompts in their works hop settings. In fact Wilbur insists Â“I donÂ’t want to turn my students into clever executors of formal problems. I want them to start the way any kind of poet starts, w ith the matter, with the urge . .Â” (qtd. in Garrett 94). The preferred style of these writer-teachers was similar to critique sessions like those the Fugitives held in Nashville (Adams 93). Some continue this argument today when they say that the contemporary wo rkshop model has little value or basis for authentic learning. Grant Matthew Jenkins (Unive rsity of Tulsa), for instance, steers clear
111 of the artificiality of the workshop model. Inst ead, he attempts to recreate for his students the life and work of poets like hi mself and others. He states: I donÂ’t sit around with my poet friends and critique their work. Instead, we read seminal works about relevant issuesÂ…colla borate on projects, hos t readings, give each other poems (as gifts but sometime s for comment), buy each otherÂ’s books, solicit manuscripts, invite each other to r eadings, etc. This experiential mode gives students a much better view of the life of a poe t than the arbitrary and artificial workshop model. Similarly, one teacher, responding to my survey, agrees that Â“learningÂ” to Â“improve your writingÂ” cannot Â“be communicated in a classroom; or, for that matter, between two writers, no matter how well-inten tioned.Â” S/he urges that Â“l earning how to write in a voice thatÂ’s your own isnÂ’t found that way, and, despite the fo rests of rubbish written on the subject, there isnÂ’t a good writer alive w ho wonÂ’t tell you the same thing.Â” This instructor also advises, Â“ItÂ’s living you have to do more of not workshopping, in order to become a writer.Â” To return to the workshop history: prio r to the war, early orchestration of the academic workshop began in HarvardÂ’s advanced creative composition classes followed by a Verse Making course at Iowa in 1897 a nd a drama graduate workshop course at Harvard from 1906-1925. Norman Foerster, direct or of the Iowa School of Letters from 1930 to 1944, was successful in implementing the creative dissertat ion in the Ph.D. curricula, a program meant to include a creative and cri tical study for all Englishmajoring students. The Â“workshopÂ” launched in 1936 under the direction of William Schramm as did the awarding of the MFA degree in creative writing. In seceding
112 Schramm and Foerster, Paul Engle dropped the critical component of the creative writing study and focused instead on the studio-based workshop model in the 1940s and 1950s, the same model which would, in effect, b ecome the archetype for creative writing courses. In 1949, an undergraduate workshop-ba sed creative writing program was offered as an English major. Because the method was intended for the teaching of graduate students, it would soon prove troubling for instructors who imported it into their undergraduate classes. Creative writingÂ’s original goal to teach wr iting for its own sake changed with the universityÂ’s expansion of its role in society and its institutional sanctuary for the arts. It is here where creative writing essentially splits fr om literary studies in terms of its influence on a writerÂ’s education in cri ticism, and according to Myer s, creative writing becomes subject to patronage and growth within the institu tion. The postwar expansion encouraged an influx of returning veterans onto college campuses (Louis Menand in a recent New Yorker article reports this number to be greater than two million), and more specifically, into writing workshops by way of the G.I. Bill. The Bill stipulated that tuition assistance could only be applied to degree or certificate programs, and, this directive was the impetus for the development of degree-granting creative writing programs. This student demographic was less intere sted in studying the Classics or the British literary canon, demanding instead a more relevant study of literature (T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Faulkner, Fitzgerald). At this point, universities (a side from its purist literature professors) were more amenable to new courses and modern literature. The Iowa workshop took on a militaristic atmos phere, one that simulated the boot camp
113 environment familiar to this predominantly male population. As such, workshop critiques were brutal, derisive, gruff Â—delivered for the purpose of shaping the Â“talentedÂ” writer and his work for the hard-core reception of editors and publishers. Although I do not intend to be inclusive, for the most part, workshop atmospheres today range from this similar battleful modeÂ—that drive Â“our need for absolution,Â” and our students to Â“taste something fetid at the back of their mout hs which wonÂ’t dissolve no matter how many times they spitÂ” (Domina 27)Â—to a workshop ethos that is much more politeÂ—to an expressive theory of permitting which is analogous to those theories underpinning progressive education, to Romantic outlets for self-discovery and stalwarts for inspiration, to ignoring the aut hor in our objectifications of the text, to an audienceinvoked/evoked reception, to something entirely di fferent or a combination of the above. Creative writingÂ’s new postwar goal b ecame the production of teachers, an ambition clearly evidenced by the prolifer ation of workshop-based programs founded mostly by Iowa Workshop graduates in the sixties. Â“Between 1 960 and 1969, enrollments doubled,Â” Menand tells us, and Â“more professors were hired than had been hired in the entire previous three hundr ed and twenty-five years.Â” This coincides with Sharon OÂ’DairÂ’s account in Â“Stars, Tenure, and the Deat h of AmbitionÂ” that, in general, Â“life was far less rigorous and competitiveÂ” for graduate students and junior English department faculty during the fifties and sixties. George Levine points to hi s own hiring experience as an example by noting, Â“We were less trouble d . at the very moment when English and higher education were experiencing their mo st rapid and rich expansions everÂ” (45). It was not unusual, he continues, for most of his colleagues to receive Â“at least three job offersÂ” (45). Today, more that 2,000 graduate students compete for the approximately
114 100 tenure-track faculty jobs in creative writing (reported in Menand). In the sixties, colleges and universities became patrons of wr itersÂ’ careers, and the NEA, established in 1965, would add to this patronage, allocating funds to writers in the university, to literary publishers, and to venues for readings and residencies. As alumni of the workshop-based pr ograms received publication notoriety, universities, in turn, received endowments from their prestige, which, in turn, drew student interest, increase d enrollment and opportunities for further expansion. Professionalization through the AWP led to curriculum guidelines and support of the MFA degree as the appropriate credential for the teacher of creative writing. The workshop model was considered as the prefer red venue of study. Our twenty-first century scenario is quite different in that many hi ring colleges and univers ities, offering tenuretrack positions often sidestep the MFA graduate in their pr eference for the Ph.D.-degreed applicant. With the graduation of veterans in the early 1950s, there cam e a change, George Garret remarks, Â“from the hard experience of the veterans . to the younger students who lacked this same maturityÂ” (50). In a ddition, a shift Â“from c ontent, in terms of importance, to formÂ” occurred (50). Garret reports that students were now reading The Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies Garrett who experienced this transition firsthand, speaks of the mounti ng dissent between literary stud ies and creative writing as the Â“Beat Movement,Â” formed by Â“mildly disgr untled academics,Â” began to balk at theory and Â“fight over the canonÂ” (50). For the poets, literary study had Â“no point of contact with concerns of most working poets,Â” and the cr itics discarded the wo rkshopsÂ’ production of poems and stories as Â“pseudo-litÂ” (Garrett 50). This adds to the split between creative
115 writing and criticism and the isolationism a nd marginalization of creative writers and creative writing programs. In going forward from this point, I am not prepared to offer a full analysis of the variant views of writing proce sses that impact the workshop in our current practices, but what follows are some of the more significan t approaches and their consequential effects on todayÂ’s workshop praxes. In the sixties a nd seventies, expressivist views placed the writer at the center of the rhetorical triangle, promoting a sense of the writer, a presence of Â“voiceÂ” in student writing. This practice continues today as many creative writing teachers place the writer at the center of the workshop, fo stering the discovery of a studentÂ’s voice. Expressivists had no use for theorists or a nything that might divert the attention from students or te aching. We see this atheoreti cal stance in our contemporary workshop-based classrooms as creative wri ting teachers form the Â“disproportionate share of those who retreat from theoryÂ” (Ostrom xii). Cognitive process theorists and social constructionists challenged the expressivist view in the eighties, cognitivists first w ith their study of writing processes. Bizzaro reminds us that Â“Those who argue for the in fluence of culture on the development of individual identityÂ— social constructionists or social epistemics Â—argue that there is no such thing as an autonomous selfÂ” (Â“Wings on the InvisibleÂ” 81). Â“As a result,Â” he notes, Â“teaching that was intended to produce voice was off target, wrong in its assumptions about writers, who they are and what they doÂ” (Â“Wings on the I nvisibleÂ” 81). In the eighties, the teacher who supports expressivism in the classroom was felt to play a passive role, failing to provide structure, conventions, and strategies. Expressivist rhetoric, and this includes the rhetoric in poetry and fiction, accord ing to James Berlin,
116 leader of the anti-expressivi st campaign, hopes to promote Â“i ndividualism,Â” but it ignores economic, social, and political conditions, a nd can marginalize people who resistÂ—thus empowering them through isolation. Bizzaro sugg ests that Â“Creative writers and teachers of creative writing did not know (and many still do not know) that they were the ones being spoken to and aboutÂ” (Â“Wings on the InvisibleÂ” 81). While the workshop goal of helping studentsÂ’ find their own voice continues both in the tr aditional sense of selfexpression and in new ways as it relate s to challenging assumptions and master narratives, Greg Light offers an enlighteni ng Â“conception of learningÂ” as it relates to voice challenging the description of voice as coming from the personal self. Rather, he suggests that Â“ voice is better understood in terms of the writerÂ’s conception of the practice of writing.Â” In this context Â“voice is not Â‘authenticÂ’ or Â‘ina uthenticÂ’ so much as Â‘integratedÂ’ or Â‘detachedÂ’. As such it is not simply a func tion of the writer but of the socio-cultural situation in which the writer is writingÂ” (13). To continue, there are othe r historical markers that still affect the workshop model. Ostrom contends that those influen ced by postmodern theory Â“appear to cut the writer loose from all moorings, sanctioning an anything-goes classr oomÂ” (xv). He refers to these groupings as Â“elite guilds who rush ahead of the novice theorist, wagging fingers. Novices are sure they can never catch up, learn the code, and be acceptedÂ” (xv). Certainly, New Criticism, though not chronolo gically presented in this timeline, continues to enforce a principle of the Â“close readingÂ” of studentsÂ’ texts to determine the choices a writer has made, or as Phillip Roth contends Â“the executed result of the authorÂ’s intentionsÂ” (qtd. in Grimes 15). Roth deci des that Â“when a student enters a Workshop seminar room, any hope of being rescued by th e abstractions of th eory vanishes the
117 moment discussions beginÂ” (q td. in Grimes 15). He notes that the workshop leaders, having Â“jettisoned genius and ignored literary th eoryÂ” in the interest of Â“the nurture and love of literature are consequently reduced to the teaching of craft (qtd. in Grimes 15). And yet craft, the Â“[t]echniques or formal strategies of composition,Â” William Faulkner said at the University of Virginia in 1957, ar e the Â“Â‘toolsÂ’ in a write rÂ’s workshopÂ” (qtd. in Guevara). Today, some believe that the workshop has Â“shift[ed] in focus from the text as autonomous object to the text as a construc tion of the readerÂ” (R amjerdi 10). Centering the reader in a rhetorical ax iology (a social conception of writing), creates a whole new set of considerations, that Jan Ramjerdi reports Â“were suppressed in a formalist perspectiveÂ” (10). With the Â“elevation and rede finition of the role of the reader from a neutral observer to an active pa rticipant,Â” the workshop is said to take on a more dynamic atmosphere. (Ramjerdi 11). When the text is no longer isolated, Â“its boundaries are no longer clearly there;Â” therefore, Â“political a nd ideological issues . emergeÂ” (Ramjerdi 11). The argument here is that more is at stak e in this workshop setting as there are issues of audience to considerÂ—pers onal preferences, prejudices and suchÂ—or depending on the specifics of the classroom, Â“audienceÂ” may imply a discourse community which considers not personal priorities, but the exp ectations that compositionist Patricia Bizzell informs us, are Â“share[d] by the virtue of be longing to that particular communityÂ” (218). More is at stake, Ramjerdi concludes, because there is no longer an Â“object of study that filters, directs, constrains, and distances responseÂ” (14-15). This history does not suggest that work shop teachers overtly subscribe to one axiology over another or that there are not overlapping a pproaches. In fact, in many
118 cases, alternate workshop pract ices and approaches exist, some of which are discussed below. This historical acc ount does, however, shed some light on workshop approaches and attitudes as influenced by university needs, writersÂ’ practices, and cultural relativism, not to mention how what we do changes with each generation. The past events demonstrate to some extent, the ways in which literary study has dominated creative writing and how the theory of composition and rhetoric has of ten informed the theory of creative writing. Peter Vandenberg rightly includes the trai ning of creative writers as composition teachers in this intersection, a nd I might add that the number of creative writing teachers who also teach composition as pa rt of their course load has been rising since Joseph Moxley urged educators to Â“be ca reful not to confuse the single cell for the organismÂ” (27), and Wendy Bishop addre ssed her writer-teacher/teacher-writing perspective on blurring the boundaries between composition and creative writing in the late eighties. Although there is much more that is relevant to the history of the writing workshop, and by extension, the field of cr eative writing, reproaches regarding the workshopÂ’s practice-based pedagogy, its bureau cratization, its bred of sameness and questionable theoretical and in tellectual value, an d its suggested apat hetic interest in reform, are pressing concerns that make championing the workshop as the professionÂ’s signature pedagogy no small task. Perceptions and Practice Our Students If it were possible to constr uct our student profile, we would need to consider the vast diversity of all who enroll in our works hop classes, their values and traditions, their motivations, and their preferred method for learning. Not to consid er such variables
119 might generate stereotypes and assumptions. However, though as educators, we cannot assemble such a character sket ch; it is impossible really, outra geous even to envision, we can appraise the wide range of sociological a nd cultural research and studies that issue collective perspectives on forces that bear influence on the students we teach in higher education, factors that impact our studentsÂ’ interest in creative writing, their ability to learn and respond to our m odes of teaching. Teachers can assess their studentsÂ’ motivations for signing up for their work shops. They can and should draw on these conclusions and their usefulness as it rela tes to the (re)construction of their workshop design. Today, we teach the Google Generation. These Â“Tech-savvy Â‘Millennials,Â’Â” as Scott Carlson describes them in his The Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled Â“The Net Generation Goes to College,Â” Â“h ave lots of gadgets, like to multitask, and expect to control what, when, and how they learn.Â” Our students think differently; their attention is scattered, their concentration diffused. We are no longer of the mindset that Â“the 100 billion or so neurons inside our s kulls are largely fixed by the time we reach adulthoodÂ” (Carlson). Our student s have begun to take on the qua lities of Â“our intellectual technologiesÂ”Â—their brains are Â“adapting . at a biological level,Â” says writer Nicholas Carr In his 2008 The Atlantic article Â“Is Google Making Us Stupid?Â” Carr complains that Â“Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative . and IÂ’d sp end hours strolling through long stretches of prose.Â” No longer is that possible, Carr adm its. Â“Now my concentra tion often starts to drift after two or thre e pages,Â” he notes; Â“I get fidget y, lose a thread, begin looking for something else to do.Â” For Carr, Â“the deep reading that used to come naturally has
120 become a struggle.Â” These Â“troublesÂ” are not dissimilar to the experiences of his friends and acquaintances who are, mostly Â“literary types.Â” Kathryn Tyler, author of Â“The Tethered GenerationÂ” specifies that individuals born afte r 1978 tend to have difficulty thinking for themselves without the tethered advice from parents or significant others who are just a text or speed dial away. They struggle with patience, with detail-oriented tasks such as those required for writing and pr oofreading, and also with attention to social conventions and understanding what it m eans to focus and work hard. My students and I have talked about thei r digital generation and their Â“supposedÂ” self-absorption. One student, IÂ’ll call Jake, adds one word to the above descriptions that characterize his generationÂ— isolation He says, Â“The condition of humanity in which the digital generation exists is one of profound isolation.Â” Jake speaks of a Â“closed bubble,Â” an Â“impenetrable wall of loneliness,Â” one which Â“no light can pass through.Â”18 Another insists Â“The notion that any i ndividual whose entire existenc e can be uploaded and stored quite easily on a three inch ha rd drive could establish a mean ingful relationship with any human being is so absurd as to be laugha ble,Â” though he is serious. JakeÂ’s workshop partner adds that Â“the digital generation is not concerned with the world at large; their only concern is studying and analyzing their own personal existence.Â” She concludes that the loss of barriers, the loss of trials, the loss of ambition and curiosity (Â“after all, what is curiosity when all the answers are givenÂ”) have created a culture fueled by selfabsorption. 18 Student comments that refer to the Net generation were generated from my classroom discussions about how writers in the New Millennium read, write, an d learn; and how these students think teachers should/could vary teaching methodol ogies to reflect the Ne t generationÂ’s needs and special proclivities with new media and technology designs.
121 This perception runs parallel to the one which situates our students as selfgratifiers with inflated egos, liberated fr om oppressed influences, and immersed in an American culture of disposability and commodification. The emphasis on feelings, a fundamental absolute of progressive edu cation persists as a dominant postmodern philosophy in our educational system. As a result, some students come to us with Romantic notions of writing their poems and stories in one long, unint errupted stream of consciousness. They have ideations of tale ntÂ—theyÂ’ve been writing their whole life. Mark Wallace (CA State University, San Marc os), a respondent of my workshop survey, has seen some of these preconceptions play out in his classroom. He notes, Â“Students often come into my courses with high expect ations about their futu res as writers and are sometimes shocked to discover how much time and effort it takes to write well.Â” Additionally, Monica Berlin (Knox College) contends Â“students often misunderstand what our job there is.Â” She observes, Â“They often come into workshop expecting we will disregard all notions of gracious ness, and in doing so they often do not take the work on its own terms.Â” Problems created by lack of experience are sometimes compounded by a lack of motivation and a lack of talent. One instru ctor admits Â“I donÂ’t want to spend time workshopping sloppy, incomplete, last minute efforts.Â” Lorna Jackson (University of Victoria) asserts Â“students are still reluct ant to commit themselves to a schedule of practice,Â” and Martin Cockroft (Waynes burg University) adds Â“students tend to undervalue the 90% of the time spent readi ng and talking about OT HER studentsÂ’ poems and stories.Â” Because of this perception, he c ontends Â“a few students put very little effort into prepping for workshop (i.e. they write few comments, have lost the poems for that
122 day, or have little of substance to say) .Â” For Gaylene Perry (Deakin University, Melbourne, Au.), lack of effort translates to students Â“not r eading drafts in time for class or the workshopping student not supplying a draf t in time.Â” She considers this Â“to be a new problem for us, perhaps partly due to uni versity pressure to let more students enroll in our program. In the past,Â” she submits, Â“the classes were smaller, the skill levels higher, and the commitment and preparedness much greater.Â” While I am aware that these comments ma y generalize studentsÂ’ lack of effort, it is also clear (as some workshop survey res ponders specify) that a complicated history buttresses studentsÂ’ engagement with their cour sework. It is a histor y that significantly precedes the day students sign up for creative writing courses or the day they enter creative writing classrooms. C oncerns of program design a nd class size, open admission policies, and a long well-documented histor y by the NEA of poor reading skills and comprehension at the college-level coupled with fewer opportunities for the reading of literature in college shadow s our studentsÂ’ profile. A lthough there are many more influences, certainly the focus of this secti on on the Net Generation a nd all that it bears is a major contributing agent. What motivates students to seek out cr eative writing workshop classes may be because they want Â“freedom from an oppressive curriculum that demands too much rote critical thinking, dry textual analysis, and acad emic prose strangled by thesis statements and Strunk & White correctnessÂ” (Healey 32). Catherine Cole agrees, citing a panel of researchers who note that Â“s ocietyÂ’s emphasis on success, instant gratification, the retail/consumer model of educationÂ” as well as Â“student-centered ap proaches to learning, lead students to look for easy answers and to count on high grades, to avoid difficult
123 work and to develop inflated perceptions of their abilitiesÂ” (7 ). Edmund Hansen and James Stevens implicate our studentsÂ’ Â“low to lerance for challenge,Â” their Â“risk averseÂ” posture in our classrooms as products of Â“educational consumeris m and an institutional focus on assessmentÂ” (qtd. in C. Coles 7). Others sit in our workshop for reason s still valid in St ephen MinotÂ’s 1997 assessment of student motives, some which involve therapy and a childish love of language. They may enroll in our workshops, according to Gregory LightÂ’s study, for an opportunity to write in a stru cture that provides Â“an inter active writing environment with experts/tutors and peersÂ” (4). While they ma y find a place in the circles of desks creative writing teachers construct for community sake it may be because they assume their workshops will be fun, engaging, and easy. I would second the response of teachers who note how their students are surp rised by how much hard work goes into the practice of writing and how vigorous this coursework can be. But more often, students today recognize, as one of my stude nt writers says, Â“Adulation is earned through talent and ability; claims which could be made in the fu ture, but right now the digital generation has not earned that right.Â” These are my undergraduate writing stude ntsÂ—business majors, nursing students, marine biologists, those und ecided. A few may come unprepar ed to class; many come with little or no reading expe rience. How are creative writing educators to connect with students who are preoccupied with a virtual rather than a physical world, students who are more likely to skip lectures and less likel y to go to the library and check out a book? Are our writing students among the average colle ge graduates who have Â“spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to
124 mention 20,000 hours of watching TV),Â” as Marc Prensky claims in Â“Digital Natives, Digital ImmigrantsÂ”? We do know that our st udents are among the majority who want technology at the ready. Â“The more portable the better,Â” Carlson not es. After all, Â“they are able to juggle a conversation on Instan t Messenger, a Web-surfing session, and an iTunes playlist while reading Twelfth Night for homework.Â” Are cr eative writing teachers prepared to embrace and prepare for change s that suit these GooglersÂ—to construct workshops online, craft lectures on podcasts, which can then be downloaded to studentsÂ’ iPods, becoming portable, rewindable, even pauseable? Should they be? While this generation may depend on the Â“t etheringÂ” that Kathryn Tyler addresses in her article Â“The Tethered Generation,Â” to f eel secure in its deci sion-making, it is also a population which works well in group envir onments. Tyler contends Millennials are familiar with diversity. Perhaps the physicality of our small class size attracts students to our workshops. They are a creative bunch; e xperts at multitasking, at thinking out of the boxÂ—and their creativityÂ—the Â“buzzword of th e business worldÂ”Â—has real market value claims Steve Healey in his essay Â“The Ri se of Creative Writing & The New Value of Creativity.Â” Healey reports that business recruiters are presen tly visiting top arts graduate schools looking for candidates for their corpora tions. This is because, per Daniel H. Pink, author of Â“The MFA is the New MBA,Â” published in Harvard Business Review Â“the basic financial skills learned in the MBA pr ogram are quickly becoming obsolete . The tasks that remain . increasingly invol ve creativityÂ” (Pink qtd. in Healey 34). Businesses, looking to distinguish their produc ts and services Â“in todayÂ’s overstocked, materially abundant marketpla ceÂ” are seeking alternatives, cr eativity, ways Â“to make their
125 offerings transcendentÂ—physically and emo tionally compellingÂ” (Pink qtd. in Healey 34). Creative writing students are deeply immersed in the digital world and a part of a historical moment Thomas L. Frie dman, author of the bestseller, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Cent ury, coins Â“The New Age of Creativity.Â” Friedman connects communications technology and the occasion for people interested in Â“authoring their own content,Â” particularly, Healey adds Â“in easily manipulated digital formatÂ” (34). Creative writing students can ma ke this Â“leap,Â” Healy accurately suggests, from the new authors of the digital networks to the ne w authors of the Creative Writing workshopsÂ” (35) with better pedagogical planning in our workshop-based classrooms. Much has been written about the holis tic purpose of creative writing and the writing workshop and its noble ability to make our students more rounded citizens. These are echoes of the egalitarian principles of Deweyan education, which advance the Â“democratization of creative powerÂ” (reiterations of Em erson). Healey cites the Romantic mission statement of AWP, Jane CiabattariÂ’s Poets & Writers essay Â“Workshop: A Revolution of Sensibility,Â” and D. W. FenzaÂ’s defense of creative writing in the academy in Â“Creative Writing & its Di scontentsÂ” as proselytizing these views. AWP adopts the artist as Â“outsider, set ap art from the standard ized triteness of institutionsÂ” (Healey 32); Ciabattari refe rs to the Â“willed discipline through which students learn to shape and or der their perceptions of an ever more complicated world around themÂ” (para. 3); and Fenza strengthens creative writingÂ’s otherness when he says: Like other lessons of creative writin gÂ—creativity, empathy, persuasiveness, expression, and aesthetic discernmentÂ—th e artistic experience of the willÂ’s
126 efficacy may seem too rarefied a goal for a practical age that prefers to quantify success in patents, cures, sales units, and dollars. (para. 57). Healey thinks not, and I agree with him. Wh ile poems and stories are valued products of the workshop, there is more to be learned through the modelÂ’s process, more Â“front loadingÂ” as Henley calls it, pedagogy Â“with interventions in the writing process before it begins and while itÂ’s happening, instead of the more traditional back-loadingÂ—that is, intervening after a written pr oduct already existsÂ” (38). Creative writing teachers miss opportunities to design more vigor in their writing workshops, when they lag behind as a field, Heal ey suggests, a field which also falters in the Â“development of a reflexive theoretical framework that would make it more aware of its real social value and its re al social effects, and this la g has encouraged further lag in revisions of its teaching methodsÂ” (38). Cr eative writing students may be ahead of educators in the discipline in terms of Â“think ing out of the boxÂ” if teachers consider that as part of an institutionalized field, they generally continue to think of themselves as still Â“inside the box.Â” Our Critics As creative writing teachers we may be in sulated by our marginalized (sometimes self-imposed) home within English department s, but we are not cocooned to complaints about the modelÂ’s effectiveness by critics who do not sit in our workshop circles or at our tables of writers. Complaints about the lack of intelligence in the workshop design come by way of faculty tensions or exclusions from department decisions or overt or obscure charges in journal articles and/or editor ials, and possibly at professional conference sessions. Creative writers are not compliant with the departmentÂ’s mission or held to the
127 same scholarly standards that dominate the prof ession as a whole. In fact, creative writers often make further distinctions be tween the department profession and their profession. Their poems and stories, also known as th eir Â“hallmarks for successÂ” which may be published in respectable but not always nationa lly-recognized journals and presses, are treated like flimsy, onion-skinned tissue paper. Their conferences are sometimes tabled as artsy. Even their professional organization fails to re-env ision their discipline, its teachers, its mode of instructionÂ— its workshop This kind of criticism and divide ha s a long history despite the continued contribution that creative writing programs bri ng to the English department. My intent in laying out these interdepartmental issues is not meant to aggravate what Ben Siegel refers to as Â“bruised sensitivitiesÂ” between creativ e writing and literary studies; derisions which Â“appear most bitter and open Â” (Siegel 7). On the contrar y, I suggest that an emerging creative writing studies can stand alongside literary st udies and composition studies with its value-added scholarship, its renewed wo rkshop pedagogy (complete with markers of professional difference), and hybrid models that include more specialized course offerings. Our Teachers Creative writing teachers make efforts to monitor the pulse of the workshop as Karl Elder (Lakeland College) does, gaugi ng the needs of his students by offering Â“models of strong work that will appeal to their unique sensib ilities.Â” Likewise, my workshop survey indicates that creative writ ing teachers try to enga ge with students as individuals rather than abstractions. This in structor Â“finds their issues and challengesÂ” and in this pursuit, s/he discovers Â“who th ey are, their passions and go from there.Â”
128 Similarly, survey responder Robert Boswell (New Mexico State U) considers the individuality of his students by affirming Â“that every student is taught in every class, not just the student whose story is being discussed.Â” To pe rsonalize his workshop course, Keith Kumasen Abbott (Naropa) makes adjustme nts based on student responses to his first week survey, while Jane Hilberry (Colorado College) dismantles her workshop by teaching Â“on a model of improvisation, each course and each class different, depending on what the students bring to the course.Â” Some creative writing teachers are responding to the Â“shifti ng nature of studentsÂ’ readings in new media, film, and digitized images, music/textsÂ” (Cole 7) by adding digital writing workshops. The University of Massachusetts Amherst, for example, transitions students to write in the new di gital age by offering c ourses like Â“Telling it Straight, Telling it Slant, Telling it Digita l.Â” George Mason University offers an introduction to digital writing in the genres as part of its creative writing concentration program. Janet McCann (Texas A & M) ha s a Â“section on hypertext poetry and using computers in poetry,Â” and Valeri e Martinez (College at Santa Fe) includes in her course, Â“a study of cyberpoetics.Â” Judith Baumel (A delphi University) uses Â“wikis, blogs, and Moodle to teach the workshops,Â” and one teacher Â“encourages the use of graphics and the material nature of what they are makingÂ” wh en they construct and Â“distribute their own books.Â” What else is possible in the cr eative writing workshop-based classroom? How might we insert digitalized writ ing to a creative revision of say, Macbeth ? Most have witnessed comedic versions of ShakespeareÂ’s Romeo and Juliet ( Shakespeare in Love ) in the theater; how would a scene from Macbeth for example, play out in todayÂ’s techno lingo?
129 Our Workshop Pedagogy In the workshop chronicle above, I address ways in which creative writingÂ’s history confines and complicates its practice. The structure of creative writing in terms of its praxes and principles and of the wo rkshopÂ—to the degree that this method of instruction is for many teachers, the prim ary pedagogy of creative writingÂ—finds itself divaricated. Just what are creative writing teachers doing in the workshop model? Some workshop teachers advance the Romantic pe rceptions of student writers. Ostrom contends we might locate Â“some of the [curre nt] resistance to con ceptualizing teaching back to resilient Romantic theory (Bla ke, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Emerson, Whitman, Ginsberg)Â” where Â“Pedagogy and theo ry become incidental at best in the egotistically sublime pedagogy of the selfÂ” (xv). Here, defined in Romantic terms, the writer Â“has no particular use for teachers or workshops,Â” for Â“Â‘heÂ’ was born with authority, with authorizing ta lent, with genius, with a potency, with a Â‘repetition in the finite mindÂ’ (as Coleridge would have it) Â‘of the in finite I Am.Â’Â” Given this Romantic belief, Â“[h]e is godlikeÂ—Dionysian, Promethean, mercuria l. He is gifted and blessed; heÂ’s got what it takesÂ” (xv). The workshop teacher who advances these notions or who is unaware of their pitfalls faces cha llenges in the workshop dealing with authority and revision practices. Maurice Kilwein Guevara (Â“Out of the Ashtray: Revivifying Creative Writing ClassesÂ”) questions teaching practices rooted in such Romantic notions of the imagination as Â“sacredÂ” and Â“intangibleÂ” a nd to Â“tamper with it is taboo.Â” He laments workshop practices that do little to exercise wh at we as teachers desire to promote in our students: Â“originality, imaginat ion, and creativity.Â” Other in structors may be guided by
130 the sensibilities of humanistic practices of th e cultural and intellectual call for a renewal of academy and culture initiated by Irving Babbitt and Norman Foester. The humanistic workshop teacher promotes the early academic goals of writing for its own sake, for the overall improvement of studentsÂ’ writing in side and outside academia. These workshopbased classrooms are less interested in more complicated programmatic goals that might help establish writers for teaching, public ation, or other possible creative career development. Most often critiqued is the workshop practi ce that promotes expressivist practices that are based on principles of self-expre ssion and inspiration. Other workshop models include feminist pedagogies, which tend to d ecenter models of inspiration and traditional master-apprentice type workshop models. Femini st pedagogy influences such teachers as Mary Ann Cain, Nancy Welch, Katherine Haak eÂ—craft critics who promote less formal structures and more Â“dismantling [of] authority.Â” Reader-response theories in the workshop model are likely the least practiced approach, while New Criticism in its close reading practices of professional stories a nd student texts is a workshop praxis which informs the ways many of us come to unde rstand and interpret exemplary texts and student manuscripts. Despite the fact that many say New Criticism is no longer a viable approach to the study of literature, it remain s steadfast over the s overeignty of the poem [and fiction] so that it prevails more unflin chingly in the workshop than anywhere else. Here, it not only Â“survives and is prospering,Â” but it also Â“s eems to be powerless only because its power is so pervasive that we ar e ordinarily not even aware of itÂ” (Dawson 105). As an operational pedagogy in the worksh op model, it focuses too much on the text as final authority and the t eacher as exemplary reader.
131 As addressed earlier, presenting students with a multi-faceted approach to reading and writing offers them more writing op tions and practice. Patrick BizzaroÂ’s book Responding to Student Poems (1993) not only addresses various methods for teachers to read and evaluate studentsÂ’ poems, but he also considers how these methods mirror Â“the range of possible relationships between stude nt and teacherÂ” (xv) As such, we might become more aware of the authority dynami cs in the classroom, the dialectical relationships that exist in our workshops. Gayle Elliott asks us not to see our role in the workshop as Â“the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teach er,Â” but rather as teacher-student with students-teachers . a communalÂ” model where Â“the students generate the Â‘textsÂ’ fo r the course,Â” Â“engender the tenor a nd scope of the criticismÂ” (114). Peter Elbow Â“encourages instructors to surre nder the trappings of traditional teacherly authority and act as a member of the classÂ’ Â‘writing communityÂ’Â” (qtd. in Kuhl). Lad Tobin insists we must Â“shockÂ” New Critics in the way we Â“misread every student text in order to help students say what we think they really mean,Â” so that Â“when we read we create and recreate, deconstruc t and reconstruct.Â” Tobin sugge sts Â“this sort of generous and deliberate misreadingÂ—readings in whic h we go beyond the wordsÂ’ literal meaning to try and draw out possibilitie s in a text, to imagine what the text might be trying to becomeÂ—that is at the basis of ShaughnessyÂ’s analysis of error, ElbowÂ’s believing game, and Bartholomae and PetroskyÂ’s plan to integrate reading and writingÂ” (Â“Reading Students, Reading OurselvesÂ” 79-80). In workshops, teachers ask students to Â“showÂ” rather than Â“tellÂ” when they write. Perhaps workshop instructors need to follo w this practice as well in their teaching. Bizzaro argues that teachers Â“must spend less time telling our students what they should
132 do when they write and more time showi ng them who they can beÂ” (Â“Reading the Creative Writing CourseÂ” 234). Fi rst, we must be aware of the way we respond to our studentsÂ’ poems and stories, and then Â“If our reliance on New Criticism shows a discrepancy between what we know we shoul d do and what we do in actuality, then,Â” Bizzaro justly suggests, Â“we need to explore new and more fruitful models for evaluating student writingÂ” ( Responding 40). Finally, compositionÂ’s rhetorical strate gies bear a strong influence on our workshop model. Early scholarship presents the ways in which composition and creative writing might share writing strategies begi nning with Wendy Bishop, forged ahead by Joseph Moxley, and later, as supported by Tim Mayers. As a teacher of creative writing and composition studies, I admit to the ways in which compositionÂ’s rhetorical practices have influenced my workshop dynamics and how creative writing techniques have added depth to first-year composing and pers uasion. Writing teachers who are composition instructors and those who engage in crea tive writing scholarship through publications and/or conferences often talk about how writi ng out long passages of criticism helps to strengthen their creative works and how desc ription and imagery, for example in stories and poems, aids in adding mo re depth to scholarship. I welcome these intersecting influences for the discipline of creative writing. What the workshop model needs now is a rigo rous inquiry into its practices, a more thorough understanding of how its history impacts our pedagogies, a study on what motivates our students, how they learn, and how we might open the workshop space to other alternativesÂ—to more program designs We are prime, not for annexation, as
133 Vandenberg suggests, but for more i ndependence through the development of creative writing studies Flexing the Workshop Shape or Open ing the Space to Alternatives The success of the writing workshop and our studentsÂ’ Â“successÂ” in the workshop model are relative in terms of standards of measurement because of many contributing factors. In some cases, student publication is still the primar y institutional aim, and there is pressure to produce results to sustain progr am visibility and enrollment, even at the undergraduate level. This more global objective may be contrary for the teacher who uses the workshop as a platform for students to acquire and practice fundamentals, for more risk-taking activities and expe rimentation, and for opportunities to emphasize process and explore how a story or poem unfolds. On the other hand, department goals ma y disclaim a teacherÂ’s expertise and privilege a workshop space in which student feedback carries more weight than a teacherÂ’s technical knowledge. In many institut ions, program design is in the hands of administration and guided by bottom line cost s and profit margins. The success of the workshop is largely contingent on class size, particularly at th e introductory level. Ideally, a workshop class could be well-managed with ten students. Martin Cockroft (Waynesburg University) has seventeen student s in his introductory class; some have eighteen or more. Given the incr eased class size, Karen Holmbe rg (Oregon State) attests, Â“if we were to workshop all poems in the class, we would only ha ve time to write 3 poems a term.Â” Lorna Jackson (University of Vi ctoria) admits that Â“as a fiction teacher, at certain times of the semesterÂ” she is Â“unable to read the volume of work in a reasonable work week.Â” Furthermore, oversize classes can lead to students spending excessive
134 amounts of time Â“reading the works of stude nt writers rather than those of more accomplished writersÂ” (Deanna Kern Ludwin/Col orado State). Course workload and the mix of majors and non-majors in workshop co urses is another issue for teachers like Lex Runciman (Linfield College), who notes, Â“We struggle to meet student demand, and recent assessment feedback from our creative writing majors tells us they wish we had more Â‘majors onlyÂ’ courses.Â” Some suggest entry requirements for en rolling in a creative writing class, particularly an upper level class, would lead to more authentic learning opportunities and more serious student commitment. There are more colleges and institutions that offer creative writing classes without a major or minor than th ere are BFA or minor tracts or associate degree programs. Bishop and Star key suggest the Â“wor kshop has led to an unprecedented democratization of im aginative writing in AmericaÂ” ( Keywords in Creative Writing 198) In fact, they conclude, Â“now that nearly every American high school and community college offers at least one creative writing cl ass, access to basic instruction in the art is wide ly availableÂ” (198). Given the re cent expanse of the field that Kelly Ritter and Stephanie Vandersli ce address in their introduction to Can it Really Be Taught ?: Resisting Lore in Cr eative Writing Pedagogy such a proliferation of program development should give us pause to rethi nk creative writingÂ’s pedagogy to include the workshop model by Â“reassessing specific patt erns and practicesÂ” (xvii). Such rapid program development might also serve to fu rther dilute the significance of a creative writing degree. Imagine, some teachers ask, th at anyone can declare himself or herself a creative writing major or that anyone can take a creative writing course with little or no experience. The experience of such i ndiscrimination, according to one unnamed
135 instructor, leads to a class Â“filled with a lot of disinterested, unengaged, untalented students. Not just untalente d, s/he notes, but students who actually have significant writing problems; students who need to retake comp[osition], even.Â” In fact, the survey suggests that many stude nts can take creative writing to satisfy an elective, and/or to satisf y a creative writing program requirement and/or a writing intensive requirement. To this claim, Juliet Davis (University of Ta mpa) responds, Â“This should not be the case.Â” She gr ants that Â“one of our biggest challenges is the fact that students can take creative writ ing to satisfy both a writing intensive requirement and a humanities requirement.Â” For 60% of the progr ams surveyed, students are not required to take a pre-requisite to an intr oductory creative wr iting course. There are many influences that complicat e the workshop space that range from the teacherÂ’s appropriation of student work a nd/or the presumption of style to the more global call for us to attend to the poor reading and comprehens ion skills of our students as reported in the latest NEA report. We are now being asked to Â“foc us our attention and resources on an activity both fundamental a nd irreplaceable for democracyÂ” (Dana Gioia qtd. in Burriesci 2). My point in emphasizing factors that bear influence on the workshop model is twofold: first, as Minot suggests teachers should Â“draw on a full range of tastes and address particular student motives for co ming to the creative writing classroomÂ” (35), and second, teachers must reconsider their pr ogram design, addressing what one teachers in my survey calls Â“one of the narrowest educat ions . especially if most of its courses are run with the traditional workshop model.Â” StudentsÂ’ motives girdle my second point which begins with the advancement of two possible workshop trajectories at the underg raduate level. The first path functions as
136 a series of courses under the general education tract for th e appreciation of literature through writing and one that cent ers on a degree program situat ed for the advancement of writing (and reading) for its own sake (creative writingÂ’s ea rly pedagogical goal). Coursework at the general education level might include Â“The Craft of FictionÂ” (or poetry or drama), Â“The Writing Process,Â” Â“Reading as a Writer,Â” Â“Form and Technique,Â” Â“Narration and DescriptionÂ”; perhaps, genre wr iting to include fantasy, science-fiction, digital options, romance, writing to discove r; nonfiction studies in memoir, creative essays, nature and travel writing. A course th at addresses the lore of creative writing would be illuminating. Considering some of the courses noted above, I see the workshop setting for this track in any number of ways: as a pairing of partners, a small network, a larger writing community, a one-on-one student-teacher conference. The workshop would provide a place for students to experime nt, take risks, develop skills, share work, and advance creative and critical thinking. This program track might also incorpor ate more panoramic goals to include, among others, an outward attention to public sphe res. I see this offering as one open to all undergraduates; perhaps, even as a course option that is required of fi rst-year students as suggested decades ago by Wendy Bishop and advanced by Kevin Clark in Â“Study as Practice: On Creative Writi ng & the English CurriculumÂ” (1999) for the purpose of satisfying Â“rigorous standardsÂ” set by Eng lish departments. This option considers the popularity and growth of cr eative writing and the workshop model while understanding that the goals of this path are noble in their encompassing nature. The second baccalaureate program track cons iders the intermediate and advanced creative writer, one whose placement in the pr ogram is dependent on a sample of student
137 work. While not excluding some of the c oursework outlined above, the curriculum for this track should be more robust and inclusiv e. At this level students should understand and apply variable critical approaches to reading and writing. With a secondary goal toward flexing the elasticity of the workshop, students might be exposed to other performative arts in an effort to broaden th eir expanse of writing. I am not thinking of an appreciation of art (or music or drama) in this regard, or an approach that suggests less rigor, but rather one which introduces more outlets for expression, more venues for creativity, more activity and demonstration, and more synthesis, analysis, process, production. This might mean a sharing of workshops between the arts; perhaps, a dialogue that is acted by dram a students, action that is produced on stage, and/or poems expressed in music, painting, sculpture, danceÂ— more rigor Hans Ostrom, in his introduction to Colors of a Different Horse wonders how creative writing might be linked to Â“the street.Â” He asks, Â“Who among us is already inviting rap, hip-hop, performance poetry, and other so-called popul ar sources of compositional improvisation into our workshop?Â” (xxii). Although not all instructors agree with the kind of performative art that Ostrom addresses, nor are all teachers interested in employing technological techniques in their classrooms, but there are many creative writing teachers who have initiated some movement in other crea tive arts disciplines. For example, Gaylene Perry (Deakon U) speaks of Â“dance stud io sessions or visual arts life drawing classes,Â” where students can Â“practiceÂ” thei r work. Donald Platt (Purdue) has partnered with a visual arts class, Â“visiting their st udio for 1-2 class sessions and writing poems from their work. In turn,Â” he says, Â“we gave them poems that were not inspired by art, and the artists used them to gene rate drawings and paintings.Â”
138 Similarly, Lisa Russ Spaar (Univers ity of Virginia) team-teaches Â“a poetry/printmaking workshop in which studen ts collaborate (the printmakers write poems, the poets print, and they work t ogether to produce low and high-end books.Â” Mekeel McBride (University of New Hampshir e) asks students Â“to invent or make a musical instrument, then write a poem a nd accompany the poem with the instrument.Â” She notes, Â“People have used Volvo car engine s, crystal glasses filled with water, etc.Â” McBride claims this exercise Â“teaches [creat ive writers] to listen to sound in a whole different way.Â” In Martin CockroftÂ’s (Wayne sburg University) workshop class, students listen to recordings of poets reading. He ha s shown them Â“YouTube videos of slam poets and animated poems (i.e. Billy Collins and others).Â” Cockroft also introduces his class to useful websites such as Â“ Poetry Daily the Penn Sounds poetry archive, online journals, and writersÂ’ blogs.Â” Another teacher plans to establish a web page that she will Â“seedÂ” with an opening sentence. SheÂ’ll permits stude nts Â“to add or delete anything at any time and see what we have at semesterÂ’s end.Â” Film clips are used by Deanna Kern L udwin (Colorado State) to Â“illustrate dialogue and the use of metaphor.Â” She adds Â“ Il Postino is great for this.Â” At the threeyear MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Philip Gerard notes, that students Â“write dialogue, and th en see it performed by actors in a black-box theater on campus . They watch films to learn how to build scenes better.Â” Keith Kumasen Abbott (Naropa) also uses mediaÂ— Â“drama and documentaryÂ—usually in the opening 8 weeksÂ—but very sparingly in terms of length.Â” He never uses an entire film during a workshop, and will also introduce Â“artists and musicians and their art or music to discuss organizational princi ples.Â” I use film to dem onstrate dialogue techniquesÂ—
139 dramatic and comedic clips in films such as Before the Sunset to show how dialogue delves into relationship issues, or a snippet of Princess Bride as an example of a dialogue that takes a serious situation and deals with it in a comedic fashion, or a preview of Doubt to accentuate how dialogue can convey conflict, urgency, power. We always follow these clips with discussion and writingÂ—prompts that allow us (always I experi ment with my students) to practice our craft in new ways. Film as a venue can also illuminate scene development and the credibility of details, setting, and atmosphere. This program course might include mo re interdisciplinar y activityÂ—perhaps a literary studies course that embraces creative pr ojects or a theory course that experiments with the construction of writing. Creative atte ntion to workshop development should also include student and group research and pres entations. For example, demonstrations on the different kinds of submissions included in literary journals emphasize critical functions, explore market preferences, a nd include creativity when exercises which imitate these variable stylesÂ—not for entry, but rather for stylistic and experimental purposesÂ—are employed. At this level, working collaboratively in small groups, my creative writing students are empowered to c hoose stories, facilitate discussions, and design exercises to demonstrate and practice proc esses in such a way th at is different than what students do in literature and composition. We might inte rsect with ways in which social and cultural hierarchies and contrasting ideologies impact our roles as writer and reader. Deweyan principles of Â“doingÂ” are ad vanced here, not to mention a shifting of master-apprentice assumptions. Moreover, these are the type of activities which Haake refers to as linking with the world, and Argie Manolis refers to Â“outside of academia,Â” the engagement that occurs beyond the classroom de fined as Â“teacher, writers whose work is
140 studied, peers, and student authorÂ” (149). D eanna Kern Ludwin (Colorado State), for example, takes her class on field trips such as Â“campus art galleries to stimulate writing.Â” This concept is not unfamiliar to Julie Carr (University of Colorado Boulder) whose class writes Â“on location together.Â” Ca rr suggests that in her class, Â“ItÂ’s never just Â‘write a poem.Â’ There are always things to try.Â” A dditionally, a workshop course that includes what our students might do with a creative writing degree would be well-attendedÂ—one that offers multiple perspectives, visiting lecturersÂ—real practical exposure. In both baccalaureate tracks we should not forget Â“that our aim should be to foster more dedicated writersÂ” (65), a goal Brent Royster claims we often lose as we engage in other pursuits. Coordinated carefully, a program that in cludes a series of mini-lectures on relevant topics might interest a large number of students, coul d defray costs, and might be managed over shorter six to eight week se mesters. Workshop breakout sessions might follow these lectures to advance writing and discussion relevant to lecture topics. With such variability, rigor, and relativity, there would be no need to abolish the workshop for undergraduate students as Eve Shelnutt suggests. At the MFA level, the same course di rection might exist, with pedagogical differences. For example, splitting the MFA tr ack into two paths opens possibilities for the writer who is interested in advanci ng her writing. The other track might include writers who are also interested in th e pedagogy of creative writing, the pedagogy of creative writing studies the pedagogy of composition, the interdisciplinary approach to teaching creative composing practices. A complimentary or overlapping track might include a concentration on creativity in the marketplace. Think of the exciting
141 coursework, internships, and relevancy to such a program design with conscious departures from traditional models. Right now, creative writing certificates and concentrations are provided in some univers ities for the business major. Why not apply this practice as part of th e MFA career track, perhaps invi ting corporate recruiters to classes as well as creative writing staff team teaching with communications and business faculty? Craft critics Tim Mayers and David St arkey, in particular, advocate for splitting of the MFA into two directions. Finally, the workshop at the Ph.D. level might be more variable than the tired Â“shoppingÂ” of Â“worksÂ” to include more critical exigency, teacher training, relative coursework that considers Bi zzaroÂ’s suggestions: Â“R esearch in Creative Writing,Â” Â“Pedagogy of Creative Writing,Â” and Â“Professional Issues in Creative WritingÂ” as a means of Â“connect[ing] research skills typi cally stressed in Eng lish departments with skills stressed in creative-writ ing instructionÂ” (Â“Research and ReflectionsÂ” 301). Rather than pitching a one-stop workshop, or pitting creativity against criticism, or constructing a crustacean shell as Haake admits to doing around her practice, Â“stubbornly insist[ing] that we commit ourselves . to an examination of what happens in the writing moment to let writing take place,Â” we might get more creative and purposeful with our workshop design to better serve our students, our profession, and our field. Our Lore Perceptions of creative writing are perpetua ted by its loreÂ—a topic, which binds the essays in Kelly Ritter and Ste phanie VandersliceÂ’s edited collection Can it Really Be Taught?: Resisting Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy (2007). Lore is defined by Stephen North, as Â“the accumulated body of tr aditions, practices, and beliefs . that
142 influence how writing is done, learned and taughtÂ” (qtd. in Ritter and Vanderslice Â“IntroductionÂ” xiii). Moreover, North ascribes Â“an ythingÂ” to the component of lore, insisting that Â“Once somebody says [something] has worked or is working or might work, it is part of lore.Â” His more disquieti ng feature concerns our discussion about the questionable effectiveness of the workshop, in that Â“while anything can become a part of lore, nothing can be dropped from it either. Th ere is simply no mechanism for itÂ” (qtd. in Ritter and Vanderslice Â“Teaching LoreÂ” 107-108). Consequently, the century-old works hop model, a pedagogy which has been Â“basically unrevisedÂ” and sustained as Â“l ore,Â” has governed the workshop-based creative writing classroom, regardless of its usefulness or application. In fact, my survey results as well as DelaneyÂ’s report notes the range of variability of the workshopÂ’s appliance. Delaney notes, depending on whom one is asking, Â“workshops are always useful, sometimes useful, or never useful.Â” Regardless of the verdict, the workshop is critically a part of creative writingÂ’s lo re, and as such, North inform s, cannot be withdrawn or altered. While North claims we can Â“argue for th e valueÂ” of what others Â“hold in . low esteemÂ” (qtd. in Ritter and Vanderslice Â“T eaching LoreÂ” 108), this Â“stand requires that practitioners first reflect on, examine, and ch allenge their own institutionally inherited practices in the interest of rendering th em more robustÂ” (Ritter and Vanderslice Â“Teaching LoreÂ” 108). While I attempt to challe nge such practices, to vivify and render them more robust, it is nonetheless difficult to intercept and reve rse the lore of the workshop model and the commodification of popular images of writing and writers, which draw some of our students to our workshops.
143 Such lore manifests in popular magazi nes and inspirational guides such as The ArtistÂ’s Way The Vein of Gold and Simple Abundance or commercial handbooks that infer anyone can be a writer. For example, in a collection from The Washington Post Book World popular novelist Mary Hi ggins Clark in an essay, titled Â“Touched by an Angel,Â” addresses a question ofte n asked in interviews as to when she decided to become a writer. Her response perpetua tes the lore that writing cannot be taught but rather that talent is innate, blessed, in f act, by oneÂ’s fabled patroness. Cl ark claims, Â“I firmly believe that mythical godmothers make appearances at our cradles, and bestow their giftsÂ” (35). One envisions ClarkÂ’s godmother, wand in hand, standing at her crad le, bestowing such a gift, whispering, Â“You will be a storytellerÂ’Â” (35). Other authors suggest young writers might learn to write if only th ey listen to their muse. This same message is conveyed in films. The Muse for example, depicts a screenwriterÂ’s use of a real-life muse to inspire his creativity. Other movies sustain the lore of the write r in ways that roma nticize his lonely, troubled life in the garret ( Finding Forrester As Good as it G ets, Big Bad Love Bullets on Broadway ) or that display some manner of a once-prolific-but-now-writer-blocked teacher who is either infused or tortur ed by the genius of his/her student ( Alex & Emma Barton Fink Deathtrap Deconstructing Harry Starting Out in the Evening ) or that portray the deranged writer fan ( Misery ) or the alcoholic writer ( Barfly ). Francine ProseÂ’s novel Blue Angel continues the middle-aged, writer-blocked creative writing professor tale. This one trysts with his tale nted female student, who, coincidently writes, flaunts even, her life-as-art musings in his workshop. In the end, th e student gets a book deal, and the writer-teacher is told by his edit or to give up fiction and pen a memoir about
144 substance abuse. Popular images of the writer that count Carrie from Sex and the City and the industry of self-help writing books, includ ing OprahÂ’s role in advocating writing as self-discovery are the subject of Nancy Kruhl Â’s essay Â“Therapeutic vs. Literary Writing.Â” When students are Â“so heavily invested in th e popular mythologies dealing with writing and creativity,Â” Kruhl notes, she finds it challenging to ma ke Â“meaningfulÂ” connections with her students. As long as popular imaging continues to mystify a nd/or stereotype the writing and writing process, Â“ins tructors of creative writi ng workshops will increasingly face challenges to their authorityÂ”(Kruhl 61). When students are influenced by the lore of creative writing and the expect ed ease of the writing pro cess, Kruhl notes that, for students, there is little Â“value of any writing process that inco rporates criticism, revision, and audience expectationsÂ” (61). Lore is even visible in website advertis ements for creative writing programs, even for the notable top-ranked Â“rigorousÂ” program s. For example, to study creative writing at Columbia UniversityÂ’s School of Art mean s to Â“explore the deep artistic power of language,Â” at Florida State Un iversity, one can enjoy its Â“Southern charm, where the roads are lined with live oaks and the worl dÂ’s best oysters are shucked fresh from the Gulf.Â” At NYU, students attend workshops and Â“gather informall y, seeking out quiet corners in which to read and write;Â” Michener Center for Writers is located on a rolling landscape of limestone bluffs, springs, rivers and lakes.Â” Decidedly, the heart of the program at Chatham University lies in its nature, environmental and travel writing. Students travel to such places as Costa Ri ca, New Zealand, Greece, India and Â“generate creative work about the experience.Â”
145 They offer Â“rich opportunities for reflect ion and meditation.Â” At Iowa, teachers Â“work in large offices wher e their classes and workshops also meet, like one-room schoolhouses.Â” Students, like those in Christopher TilghmanÂ’s class in Virginia, meet in their teachersÂ’ living roomsÂ” (qtd. in Delaney). The advertisements cater to the artistic centering, the quiet serene se ttings, and the atmospheres which might inspire beauty, creativity, inspiration rather than rigor and hard work. Edward J. Delaney, in a 2007 Atlantic Monthly article titled Â“Where Great Writers are Made,Â” reports his assessment of AmericaÂ’s top graduate writing programsÂ—noti ng these are the places students who Â“are infected with the fever of the emerging arti stÂ” attend. Many students, he says, are Â“driven by the implied example of other notable writ ers who have emerged from one or another program.Â” The lore, Delaney suggests, is th at Â“A single faculty-member writer whoÂ’s having a notable success often seems to trump a legion of others quietly publishing work that is respected but no t widely celebrated.Â” Program design often plays into the lore of the easy workshop-based creative writing course. Leahy bemoans the perception of students who think he r class will be an easy Â“A,Â” and Michael Cunningham bolsters this mythos when he says that at Brooklyn, Â“unless you simply donÂ’t give a shit, youÂ’ll get an AÂ” (qtd. in Delaney). This anti-critical acumen is repeated elsewhere. In the mai n, Delaney reports, Â“professors and program directors characterize their programs as pl aces where writers can find some sanctuary from judgment,Â” or as ColumbiaÂ’s Ben Marcus suggests, at least a setting Â“without a lot of hostility to work around.Â” New York Univ ersityÂ’s program director, Chuck Wachtel sees it less as Â“teaching studentsÂ” as much as Â“helping them learn.Â” This sense of helping is forwarded by James Alan McPherson (IowaÂ’s eminence gris) who Â“likens [the
146 workshop] to the Midwestern co ncept of Â‘neighbori ng,Â’ of one crossing the road to help another with a crop.Â” Thes e non-threatening Â“neighboringÂ” methods of instruction support the lore that the workshop is an easy conversation, a Â“talk fe st,Â” one that lacks structure, such risks that James Wilkins on warns us are consequences of our open discussion formats (qtd. in Leahy 20). Adding to this lore is creative writingÂ’s absence from the history as a contributor to the ascendancy of English studies. Such invi sibility diminishes the concreteness of our discipline, advancing us instea d as mysterious, veiled tenant s of the English departments that house us. Creative writing is also excluded from the list of addresses for English in the PMLA Directory Lin reports that while such pr ograms as American Sign Language, Eurasian studies, classics and archaeology, ethic studies, women studies,Â” among others are listed in the directory, the program lis ting for creative writing is missing from the directory (153). Conversely, cr eative writing job postings are included in the MLA Job Information List Lin justly concludes that Â“by a strange contradiction, creative writing functions visibly as a significan t part of the employed profes sion but remains invisible as part of the disciplineÂ” (153). David Madden signals instructorsÂ’ culpabi lity in perpetuating lore when he claims he is Â“distressed to hear many teachers of writing cater to the romantic preconception of the public and of students when they deny that writing (a mysterious process) can be taught, then go on to claim to achieve far more impossible goalsÂ—such as changing a studentÂ’s lifeÂ” (qtd. in Ritter and Vandersli ce Â“IntroductionÂ” xvi). It is no wonder then that teachers like Susan Carol Hauser (Bemid ji State) observe that our Â“students start writing because they are called to it or driven to it,Â” and Â“They stay because they come to
147 understand and love it.Â” The first may be pe rpetuated by the lore of becoming a writer, the latter, we hope, is secondary to a rigor ous workshop environment that emphasizes the process of writing and the rewards of its practice. Perhaps more urgent than the lore that impacts our students and program or the criticsÂ’ complaints are the voices we find familiar. Perhaps they belong to our creative writing colleagues, or perhaps we hear our ow n sentiments echoed in a recent article, on a listserv, at a conference session, or in our thoughts as we s it before/among our expecting students, their works-in-progress in handÂ—the voice asks for something more from the workshopÂ—something elseÂ—something better than They come to usÂ—this is the best we can do. Developing Markers of Pr ofessional Difference Most creative writing teachers are decidedly tepid on the workshop as a traditional pedagogical tool. Yet, as Bizzaro co ncludes the model continues because of its tradition rather than any inqui ry or study which has proved it s effectiveness (Â“Research and RefelectionsÂ” 296). This is the lore of the workshop model, the reason why Guevara says so Â“many creative writing workshops s eem to drag on like a sled being pulled through a bog of wet snow by a team of faithful dogsÂ”Â— creative writing teachers are those sledgedogs and unless they want to continue their mushing they must actively discover their professional markers and wa ys in which their model can improve. If creative writers are to revolutionize their discipline then they must rethin k their workshop components, inquire as to the modelÂ’s effectiv eness, revise segments that constitute its rigor and purpose, define how the ways they teach their students to read, write, respond,
148 and revise are different than those functions in literary studies and composition studies. Finally, the workshop practice must embrace new theories. The Case for Reading and its Distinguishing Markers The 2008 NEA Report Â“To Read or Not to ReadÂ” results are even more dismal than the 2004 study which depicted Americans as reading fiction, poetry, and drama at a significant lower rate than they were ten or twenty years earlier. Our college students continue to perform poorly in the latest report, with si xty-five percent reading for pleasure less than an hour per week or not at all. Students readily argue against this charge, claiming there is little time for pleasur e reading given the co mpetitive nature of the school system. A corollary item reporte d in the NEA summary concerns studentsÂ’ distraction by technology. The results suggest Â“new media are displ acing the intellectual engagement of reading with mere entertainmen tÂ” (Burriesci 2). There is nothing new in this notation since students candidly admit their attentions are limited, they bore easily, and they have trouble narrowing their focus. They know how to twitter, wiki, and blogÂ— engage in virtual social activity on Facebook, sh ow emotions using symbols in text, snap Kodak moments on their cell phones, have YouTube bookmarked on their computers, and know all the sources from which to dow nload movies and songs on their laptops, on their iPods, and on their Apple iPhones. They do all of their research on the Internet, and while teachers would like to th ink they are using the librar yÂ’s virtual database, Googlers prefer toÂ— Google They cannot discern the credibil ity of their sources, and their circuitous route to unsubstan tiated knowledge takes them further and further through a deeply-potholed maze of opinions and nuances. The recently retired NEA Chairman Dana Gioia (the same Gioia who objects to what he calls creative writingÂ’s appropriation
149 of poetry from the public) an ticipates a defense for thos e who might conclude online reading has replaced the hard/softcopy book, wh en he says the NEA summary Â“is not an elegy for the bygone days of print culture, but instead a call to action . it has enormous consequences for literature and the ot her artsÂ” (qtd. in Burriesci 2). Some of this lack of read ing readiness for our workshop model can be attributed to a culture which seems to have, as one crea tive writing teacher reports, respect Â“for just about anything other than literary cultur e.Â” Given the new performative modes of literature, John Meredith Hill (University of Sc ranton) longs for the tactile pleasure of a book in oneÂ’s hands, noting that these performa tive modes Â“engage some of our students, in ways that curling up with a thin volume in a corner of the student union while smoking a French or English cigarette (or somethin g) and wearing an in tense look was popular among 60s/70s student poets.Â” Couple the NEA findings with th e manner in which students read Â“textsÂ” in literary studies classes today, and it becomes clear that our students do not bring the necessary reading acumen to the workshopÂ’ s round-table discussion. This critical approach to the study of liter ature proved problematic for No velist Francine Prose when her passion for reading prompted her interest in graduate school. Here she thought she would continue her reading of literature; howev er, her experience served as a warning for what was to come in the decade or so af ter she dropped out of the program. Â“That was when,Â” she says, Â“literary academia split into warring camps of deconstructionists, Marxists, feminists, and so forth, all battling fo r the right to tell students that they were reading Â“textsÂ” in which ideas and politics triumphed what the writer actually wrote.Â” Perhaps, because we experience writing as performance, our fluid form resists such
150 shaping. Sue Roe suggests that Â“because we know that an imaginative piece of writing might be informed as richly by painting, mu sic, dance or theatre as by an in-depth knowledge of literature we have always been reluctant to hook the study of creative writing in a rigid or inflexible way to the study of English literature.Â”19 Gary Hawkins (Warren-Wilson) speaks for many of the creative writing teachers surveyed who contend the workshop model Â“wor ks best when students are also enrolled in an array of literature (reading) courses, so that they get a sense of the literary traditions from which theyÂ’ve sprung, and from which they may want to eventually depart.Â” Although Hawkins specifies that these should be reading courses, the fact remains that literature courses today focus less on the read ing of novels and poems and more on what Maurice Manning (Indiana U, Bloomington) refe rs to as Â“literary theory and pseudopolitical tracts,Â” which he notes results in work that is Â“often boring, self-evident, and poorly written.Â” The unfortunate realization, Manning observes, is Â“when students come to our workshop, we know what theyÂ’ve missed: a basic understanding of the history and tradition of English-language literature.Â” Leslie Adrienne Miller (University of St. Thomas) concurs when she says Â“as the discip line of English has moved away from New Critical methods and close reading, it has become more difficult to teach workshops because students do not come into the course with basic analytical skillsÂ—which renders the workshop method fairly in effectual.Â” Miller finds that more of her time is spent teaching what used to be taught in genera l literature courses, which, she decides considerably interferes w ith the time she would dedicate to workshopping. 19 Sue Roe, Â“Introducing MasterclassesÂ”
151 The workshop model which is predicated on critical reading acumen and response skills, often thrusts students in to these roles before they know how to perform them. Or as Stephanie Vanderslice suggests Â“throwing students like this into the traditional workshop cold is like holding a minnowsÂ’ sw imming lesson in the deep end of the poolÂ” (Â“WorkshoppingÂ” 147). Rather than go into depth about how a story works, the workshop has a history of nitpicking, with stud ents focusing on what they Â“likeÂ” or Â“don't like.Â” Such personal preferences draw the atte ntion away from the work and towards the reader. More appropriately, Â“ good writers,Â” R. V. Cassill insists, Â“are interested in something more than the application of successful literary formulas, and so they must study texts in addition to principles Â” (qtd. in Myers Â“The LessonsÂ”). Along the same lines, B. W. Jorgensen (Brigham Young University) judges that Â“almost no students have a vocabulary for talkin g about syntax, which seems to be partly why they donÂ’t perceive sentences very clea rly.Â” Jorgensen urges, Â“You have to teach them to read like writers, you have to teach th em that a sentence is something that can be felt and thought about.Â” Whatever the agency behind our studentsÂ’ lack of reading readiness, the workshop model must cultivate the student as literary reader. There is certainly enough substantive information in this section to more than sugge st that our students will not be well-read when they enter workshop classes; perhaps, except, in popular genres or as one teacher laments, their Â“reading by choice only Anne Rice.Â” StudentsÂ’ lack of reading history and the lack of literature (reading) courses create an additional load for teachers in the design of their workshop class. Indeed, some teachers, like Lisa Lewis (Oklahoma State), settle the problem of this theory focus in English studies by providing Â“a more literary
152 sensibilityÂ” for her workshop students.Â” T. R. Hummer (Arizona State University) adds to this position when he says, Â“creative writing in structors have to make heroic efforts to make sure their students read enough, and donÂ’ t assume they can write without reading.Â” Manning provides another way to reduce this Â“additional load,Â” by suggesting we offer courses that intensify reading skills such as a course called Â“Reading for Writers,Â” one designed for creative writing students that might stress Â“cross genres and literary periods.Â” Requiring such a course, Manning claims would then Â“add rigor, to a degree, in creative writing.Â” Vanderslice adds to this argument when sh e reminds us that students also need Â“reacquainting . with the responsibilities of the writing lifeÂ” (Â“WorkshoppingÂ” 152). Â“These students,Â” she insists, Â“need to be in troduced to the universe of literary reading and encouraged, perhaps directed, to devel op extensive reading lis ts of authors who might enlarge their sense of the world and their own workÂ” (Â“WorkshoppingÂ” 152). Assuredly, they need to know how to read as writers, not as literary or composition scholars, whose reading practices differ from ours. Vanderslice suggests that we prepare our students Â“to continually ask Â‘why?Â’, to try to get inside the head of the author and Â‘workshopÂ’ what they are reading in the sa me way they might do with a student textÂ” (Â“WorkshoppingÂ” 152). Creative wr iters consider the text from the inside, taking into account the effect authorsÂ’ choi ces have on a story or poem, to imagine what else a story might be, to conjecture, constructing theories driven by questions of Â“What if?Â’. This, Vanderslice tells us, informs Â“the heuristic na ture of creative writing to construct for the reader, and for the writer, a hypothesisÂ” (Â“WorkshoppingÂ” 152).
153 Such a practice of reading differs from the interpretive func tion of reading in literary studies, where the interest lies in determining the source of literary texts, the deconstruction of the text (and other more sp ecialized objects of study), which supersedes how a story is constructed. R. V. Cassill clar ifies our readerly distinction from the determinism of literary studies and the rhetorical modality of composition rhetoric when he insists that Â“[a]bove a ll [creative writers] are inte rested in how texts are made Â—how the parts fit together to form a wholeÂ—whic h means they are committed to the view that a text might have been made otherwise than it isÂ” (qtd. in Myers Â“The LessonÂ”). The story or poem reads as it does because the author has chosen his or her form from a number of other options. A writerÂ’s literary st udy is situated in th is understanding that the writer chooses the stor y or poetic form. Students must bear some of the responsi bility of expanding th eir reading range by adding to the bibliographies and reading lists we provi de, by seeking out suggested stories, poems, and references that might provoke some avenue yet developed in their writing. Finally, a scaffolding of writerly-reading c ourses should be part of the creative writing course design, beginning with basic reading skills to more intensive reading courses that supplement the workshop mode l. These protocols further establish the scholar of creative writing as a discipline markedly different than literary studies and composition studies. The Case for Writing and its Distinguishing Markers Creative writers learn to write by reading and by writing. We know that reading as a writer is a cognitive process that allows readers to actively process and then manipulate the workings of a text in a manne r that is distinct from other kinds of
154 readings. Francine Prose considers the manne r in which works of art trigger thinking from an aesthetic or philosophical perspectiv e. She suggests the reading of a text Â“can suggest some new method, some fresh approach to fiction,Â” but sh e adds that Â“the relationship between reading and writing is rarely so clear-cut,Â” relating it to something more active, Â“like watching so meone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few stepsÂ” (9). That the workshop model should demons trate this link be tween reading and writing is clear. At the very least, creativ e writing practice has its roots in early Emersonian construction (as the primary means of literature in the making), compositional practices of invention and m odeling, and the practice of writing within genres as classified by literary studies The disciplineÂ’s writing practice is epistemologically different than those of com position studies and litera ry studies in that creative writing emphasizes writer ly processes, not rhetorical persuasion or philosophical discussions of goals and methods of partic ular literary camps. Creative writers do not begin with a thesis, a main controlling idea th at serves as the cont ract between writer and reader. Creative writers do not submit rhetoric modes of pe rsuasion that anticipate the pathos, ethos, and logos appeals of our r eaders. Rarely do crea tive writers consider opposing views and refutations or contextualize their positions in th e larger conversation. They do not organize their st ories and poems to resemble the structure of a scholarly essay or argument. Their narration is not la den with the lexicon of academics. Instead, their poems are often fragments, images. In fact, their narrators ma y be unreliable, the point of view of their stories and poem s may be shifting, obj ective, subjective, omniscientÂ—their diction, perhaps, limited to the confines of a first-person persona.
155 Rather, and I speak as a fi ction writer, we step inside our charactersÂ’ minds, showing, perhaps, unique perspectives on ordina ry lives. Our characters are flawed, raw, roundedÂ—their lives complicated, convoluted; perhaps, sympatheticÂ—their motives are defined by their movement, dialogue, interactio ns, the choices they make, the things they ignore. They will change, perhaps ever so subt ly through the course of their actions. Â“Our fiction,Â” as Robert Butler says Â“is the form of human yearningÂ” (34). We begin in medias res, with an unstable ground situation; perhaps a trigger shifts a storyÂ’s direction. Creative writers withhold information (or comp etently control its delivery), diverting off the beaten path if they choose so they may s how readers the dust that gathers in the cuff of their characterÂ’s pants and the grease th at collects on the cushy pads of her palms. Maybe she fails to wrench the corrosive lug nut s from her flat tire but succeeds, instead, in ignoring the cell phone that s ounds her babyÂ’s r ecorded laugh. Rather than making direct references a nd connections, reader s of creative writing will look for the links, the clues writers dr op along the way. Our endings may surprise, rather than summarize, or they may speak to the beginnings of stor ies or poems. Writers may create atmosphere with their settingÂ—ma ybe motive, metaphor, believability. They will mix up their narrativesÂ—blocks of exposition, summary, direct dialogue, scene breaksÂ—perhaps they will flash forward or backward in time. The distinction between writing taught and practiced in a creative writing workshop class and writing performed in a composition class has more to do with the compositional practices creative writers must unlearn as they write their poems and stories. Creative writers may have drawn fr om the composing practices of composition and literary study pedagogies, but clearly, their writing processes are significantly
156 different and marked by their own cognitive theo ries of writing. What remains is the need for more versatility and experimentation in the workshop writing practice and more studies of its markers of professional differences. The Case for Responding and its Distinguished Markers Before addressing student response and distinguishing marker s in the creative writing workshop, it is useful to consider what risks and dynamics are at play during the peer review process to the text the writer, the reader, the teac her. If we are to approach the text as verbal icon in the true fashion of New Criticism, then the text exists in isolation, as Â“words on the paper,Â” never as an incomplete work, but rather, according to Edward White, as a finished product Â“in general in order to be criticizedÂ” (qtd. in Bizzaro Responding 236). Additionally, a New Critical approach becomes complicated because whenever a text is objectified and perceive d as final authority, th e reading of student work and the workshop dialogue traditionally silences the author, both in the overt discussion of his or her piece and also as it relates to the possible biographical coincidence of the writer to the speaker of a poem or a fictional character in a story. In other words, no authorial intent or bi ographical nature on social or cultural contextualization embraces or implicates the author. New CriticismÂ’s singularly focused reading of the student text doe s not Â“grant to the student po ssible intentions or insights not yet present on the pageÂ” (Edward White qtd. in Responding 53). This approach assumes that students can isolate the words on the page and any interactions with a piece fr om a social or cultural pers pective bears no import on their reading or the usefulness of their feedback. However, Haake reminds us that workshops are not filled with homogenous groups of write rs, and this understanding complicates the
157 traditional workshop modelÂ’s narrow reading th at is focused on craft and technique. Moreover, the traditional workshop space rare ly includes room to challenge master narratives or much maneuverabi lity for the constructs by st udents which may respond to prevailing literary conventions A consideration of Mary L ouise PrattÂ’s perceptivity in Â“Arts in the Contact Zone,Â” offers teachers so me options in the ways they view and teach within their writing communities to incl ude the way they manage the response component of the workshop model. In her description of a particular cour se, one that attracted a diverse body of students, Pratt explains Â“how the classroom functioned not like a class of homogenous community or a horizontal alliance, but rather like a contact zone.Â” Texts at play had historical relationships, and she responds th at everyone had a range of stakes in the discourse. This theory has significant implications for the workshop spaceÂ—a space which also functions as a contact zone. When teachers open the workshop space, flex it so-to-speak; then everyone has a stake in th e responses of the wo rkshop discussion. There is more movement away from the current limiting workshop response of what works and what does not according to the personal taste of a particular reader. Indeed, if we consider, as Pratt does that Â“literate arts of the contact zone include: Â“authoethnography, transculturation, critique collaboration, bilingualism, mediation, imaginary dialogue, parody, and vernacular expr ession,Â” and that the dangers of writing in the contact zone might create: Â“Misco mprehension, incomprehension, dead letters, unread masterpieces, absolute heterogeneity of meaning,Â” then we can better understand that much more is at risk in workshop cla sses than either composition studies or literary studies when the student text opens to more th an just craft. Jan Ramjerdi clarifies that
158 Â“What we are willing to call a response, literary scholars wo uld call an initial personal response which then requires a standing back Â” (14-15). Without such critical distancing, he notes, Â“the use of a critical lens turns th e text into an object of academic study rather than a nebulous encounter, a blur really, of personal and ideologica l texts, yours and mine (Hence, more is at stake)Â” (Ramjerdi14-15). Healey addresses the need to Â“ front-load Â” workshops with Â“int erventions in the writing process before it begins and while it is happening,Â” in stead of the current practice of Â“hammering out literary verdicts like a jury Â” (38). Jenkins agrees that when it comes to the workshop setting, the problem lies with Â“t he competitive, grand-standing nature of the firing-line where the student who is up for cr itique just absorbs comments from others, who may have ulterior motives for comments. Â” When students are not taught Â“how to put [comments] into practice,Â” one instructor comments, Â“the workshop can feel just like Â‘votingÂ’ on TV or a focus group.Â” Karen Holmberg (Oregon State) wonders if putting Â“the writer before the class as a teaching toolÂ” may not be Â“ethically problematic.Â” In addition, the model assumes, as one instructor says, that Â“the work under discussion needs Â‘f ixing,Â’ like a car brought into the shop for repairs, when, depending on the studentsÂ’ level of seriousness and experience, such an approach may not really be helpful.Â” However, a number of teachers appreciate how the writer under review in th e workshop model prepares students for the kind of feedback and revision practices expect ed in the community and workforce. Here, the attention is on the purpose of criticis m and revising as a means of responsible improvement. J. T. Bushnell (University of Oregon), for example, acknowledges that Â“having a story workshopped is uncomfortable for an author,Â” and as a result, Â“more and
159 more writers seem to be responding to this discomfort by rejecting the system that produces it.Â” His point is that Â“writers who reject the work shop experience are the writers who make little or no progress with their work and their vocation.Â” Bushnell is not alone in this argument. Another surv eyed instructor, for instance, concurs that Â“even unhealthy dynamics offer teaching moments. ItÂ’s all about process.Â” S/he reminds us that Â“student writers of all stripes, from business to scienc e, must learn to show their work around with an eye toward improvement. Civil, sane, a nd substantive conversa tions about written work,Â” this teacher insists, Â“are essential for a healthy society.Â” To continue this line of thought, although the Â“pureÂ” workshop, one that Â“presumes everyone in the workshop has the ab ility to read well a nd to edit in a manner which will help any given individual grow,Â” is Â“humanly impossible,Â” states Thom Brucie (Brewton-Parker College), Â“a classroom is still a classroom,Â” and Â“its efficacy lies in the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them in an orderly manner, within a short time frame, utilizing a Â‘mentorÂ’ to facilitate student learning as much as possible from any given experience.Â” A well-managed workshop, he contends, Â“presents this classroom experience as one that is Â“bette r than any individual using a singular experience and vast amounts of time in search for answers for problems and vast amounts of time in search of improvement.Â” Sometim es teachers (and subsequently our students) feel the pressure of this Â“efficacy,Â” of Â“thi s classroom experience,Â” of this Â“well-managed workshopÂ” when they try to cram as much as possible in a single semester with noble intentions to improve our studentsÂ’ work. Donald Platt (Purdue), however, believes th at the Â“Â‘soulÂ’ can easily be sacrificed on the altar of technique.Â” Peter Harris (Colby College) coincides with this view,
160 concluding, if Â“Workshops privilege clarity,Â” then, perhaps, Â“[Emily] Dickinson would flunk.Â” Furthermore, Arielle Greenburg (Colum bia College Chicago) rightly suggests that conflicting feedback by Â“studentsÂ—or the prof essor!Â—can lead the poet astray or confuse themÂ” because students do not know how to use the workshop comments. For this reason, although I personally do not find this to be an issue, students might Â“validate what is most mediocre or honeyed in the writing, and students may ignore the teacherÂ’s criticism because it requires too much workÂ” (Allison Cummings/ So. New Hampshire University). At its worst, one suggests, Â“the proliferation of comme nts serve to dilute student workÂ—certain student s try to write the bland story that everyone will kind of think is okay but nobody will love.Â” McCabe agrees that Â“students can be too easily satisfied with the adulation of their peers and not work to make thei r work as strong as it could be.Â” To add further confusion, the opposit e may hold true in that students learn to disregard their peersÂ’ comments if they run c ontrary to the writerÂ’s intentions or they dismiss all comments but the teacherÂ’s as ex emplary reader of their work, the one who assigns it, finally, a grade. This notion give s Martin Cockroft (W aynesburg University) pause to speculate Â“if Rilke was right: Critical response to creative wo rk results in Â‘happy misunderstandings,Â’ rather than clarity, increa sed range, or aesthetic growth.Â” He reminds us that Donald Hall wrote that Â“our cont emporary poetry will be remembered for its mediocrity and lack of ambition.Â” He wonders if the workshop mode l, the way it Â“helps churn out the same Â‘workshopÂ’ writingÂ—a poe m mill, doesnÂ’t contribute to this.Â” It is clearly this derisive naming of what is wrong with a piece, the focus on the end product (though revision is intended) and the inconstancy of a readerÂ’s agency that ascribes such negativity to th e workshop model. There is so much room for improvement
161 in this process. For starters, the beginning creative writer who is still exploring the Â“writerlyÂ” and Â“readerlyÂ” pro cesses of creative writing cannot be expected to evaluate a body of work with any critical acumen. This ability requires not only the diligence of study and practice, but much reading experien ce and an ability to approach a body of work from a consonant perspective. This is certainly not an endorsement to abolish the workshop at this level, as students can still benefit from, at the very least, having an audience for their work. Rather, it is a cavea t that too early immersion into a workshop process can lead to unhelpful critiques, prem ature inflation of writing ability, or an early censor of a still-burgeoning piece. Even at the MFA and Ph.D. level th e workshop can create a good deal of guarding and gainsaying. This causes Philip Gerard to be decidedly tepid on regarding the traditional workshop as the ultimate peda gogical tool. What he says is an argument echoed by many in the field, but it is worth tr umpeting the horn one more time: Â“It can be a lot of people sitting around,Â” he insists, Â“saying Â‘I liked this but I didnÂ’t like that,Â’ and it can do more harm than good by creating a lot of defensivenessÂ” (qtd. in Menand). Student responses such as these are not only not helpful to the writer or the piece or to the collective learning experience of the class, bu t they remain superficial and do not help creative writers to distinguish markers of professional difference in the ways creative writing students respond to written work diffe rently than composition studies and literary studies. I am in agreement with those who a dvocate for another version of the workshop, one that does not privilege identity as defi ned or voice as singular or workshop writing as finite. Let me emphasize that such a work shop is possible. There are new spaces to
162 construct for the workshop model: spaces that Â“dismantle authorityÂ” and consider what more the model can offer. Katherine Haak e tells us when she first recognized the repetitive cadence in her voice, Â“to hear [her self] tell the same stories, say the same thingsÂ” (Â“Dismantling AuthorityÂ” 99). Her ai m became Â“to disorient students sufficiently so as to force them into a new space for writingÂ” (Â“Dismantling AuthorityÂ” 100). As a result, she developed topics-b ased writing seminars and hybri d workshops, Â“products of intensive scholarly rigor and careful planningÂ” (Â“Dismantling AuthorityÂ” 101). Yet, there is still more to be done. LightÂ’s provocative ne w understanding of studentsÂ’ conceptions of voice and HealeyÂ’s advice that we question the authenticity of voice are markers that must give us pause to reconsider our thi nking and our practice. This is not to suggest that ideologies w ill not be challenged or that writers will not acquiesce to the majority rule in creative wr iting workshops. Rather, Healey suggests that instead of competition, that Â“we learn through collaboration, as members of a group that collectively encounters a series of writing tasks and critical activities, that studies past and present models, all with judgment suspende dÂ” (38). This is not compositionÂ’s version of collaborative theory in which consensus risks indivi dualization, but rather, one I perceive as open dialogue, one in which the process of writing is our driving compulsion. In an environment in which the variable ways that writers might a pproach a text and the variable ways that writers might be influen ced in their writing, are interesting points of departure from old traditions of what is wo rking followed quickly by what needs fixing. Moreover, discussions get interesting when a written piece (professionalor studentgenerated) rubs against studentsÂ’ ideol ogy. These are useful opportunities for expanded discussions, intriguing encounters to discuss processes of writing.
163 Eugene Garber adds to this argument when he talks about the limits of discussion that go so far, that Â“donÂ’t really get to th e profound cultural, epistemological, maybe even ontological works that appear to be representa tional but donÂ’t repres ent correctly (i.e. rerepresent the master narratives ) (17).Â” He believes that conv ersations that head in this direction Â“will be the most energetic because people will see that the counters and structures of master narratives are really be ing challengedÂ” (17). Let me clarify that I am not interested in turning the creative writing workshop into a fo rum for social or political agendasÂ—definitely not. But there are refres hing opportunities for the discipline to shift the workshop tenor from its current defau lt mode of finding fault to addressing the writerly process of how a piece works (or does not). Tim Mayers shares an anecdote regardi ng an undergraduate workshopping of his poem and how it was revised based on that expe rience. His motivation for the retelling is to wonder what might have happened instead. For the most part, the workshop discussion focused on the elements of craftÂ—overall it was more of an editing, rather than revision focus. Â“Perhaps, the most interesting ave nues of discussion about the poem,Â” Mayers shares, Â“were implied in the professorÂ’s seemingly off-thecuff remarks before we moved on to the next poemÂ” ( (Re)Writing Craft 141). Mayers recalls the professor pausing, with a glance back to his poem before offering to Mayers that on his first read, he Â“half expected to hear a jazz saxophone in the background,Â” supposing that Â“some people might think of this kind of poem as high artÂ” ( (Re)Writing Craft 141). Because MayersÂ’ workshop space was closed off to discussions such as what kinds of imagery and topoi might have been generated by the professorÂ’s association, MayersÂ’ revision was limited to simple technique. In this respect, then, we can envisi on how our writing community
164 Â“can help students better understand how language is a social force, and how their writing practice functions in a social contextÂ” (Healey 38). The Case for Theory David Starkey contends many people have much at stake in the maintenance of the status quo. To this end, Ostrom suggests, teachers tend to rely on validation through performance and testimony, rather than cons ider theories that underpin their pedagogy. Traditional writing workshops are a bit threa dbare; their theories leave no room for pedagogy. Ostrom warns Â“Most probably, thos e who retreat from theory and pedagogy are likely to fall back on the workshop in its simplest form.Â” This means Â“going overÂ” poems and stories in a big circle, holding forth from time to time, pretending to have read the materials carefully, breaking up squabbles li ke a hall monitor, marking timeÂ” (Ostrom xiv). Ostrom reminds us that an aversion to theory is in a sense, still a theory. Peter Vandenberg has another pe rspective. He laments that: it is a sad fact that when we complain about Â‘theory,Â’ we are almost always complaining about something elseÂ—nom inalization, bald professionalism, myopia, professional turf-grabs, arrogan ce, elitism, and so on. We are rarely complaining about a particular set of provisional concepts, definitions, and propositions that, by specifying relations among variables, func tion to explain and predict phenomena. . As an institu tionalized practice, the production and circulation of theory in textual form f unctions to empower some and disempower others. (Â“After Words 107) In the end, he considers, Â“It is not theor y, then, that threaten s, but a particular, institutionalized version of theory-aspracticeÂ” (Â“After Word sÂ” 107). VandenbergÂ’s
165 perspective on the misguided dismissal of theo ry by creative writers is an interesting one. Whether creative writers really intend to dismiss the Â“authority of a particular institutional practiceÂ” or overtly intend to dismiss theory or a combination of both, the practices still Â“deny creative wri ting and its practitioners critic al tools and a self-reflexive ethosÂ” (Â“After WordsÂ” 107). I argue for a more rigorous and intelligen t workshop model, one with definitive markers of professional difference from com position studies and literary studies. Behind these distinct practices which set creative writing apart from othe r disciplines are the theoretical underpinnings in the way our students write read, and respond in our workshop-based classrooms. Inquiries and re search into the practice of the workshop model will help to explore distinguishable mark ers, will lead to a more useful and robust workshop, and will continue to advance creative writing studies as a scholarly discipline. Â“Theory,Â” Ostrom reminds us, Â“can result in new creative products, in honorable teaching practices, in classroom events that electrify pedagogy, in intellectual refurbishmentÂ” (xix). Peter Vandenberg, for example imagin es the Â“application of contemporary genre theory to the circumstances of a given work shopÂ” (Â“After WordsÂ” 109). Such imaginings open spaces in and around the workshop model. Rather than deny or resist theory, we should embrace that which can only open possibilities to expand not only our teach ing, but our studentsÂ’ appreciation and understanding of the workshop mo del and the development of creative writing studies in the academy. Ostrom says it best when he concludes: By talking with, through, around, beside th eory, [the creative writing teacher] becomes better grounded in her own institutional historyÂ—less defensive,
166 combative, or ill at ease. She will be more easy, familiar, and supportive with students, more likely to invite them into her own evolvi ng doubts and beliefs about reading, writing, and literary conventi ons. If she approaches theory on her own terms, she will be more likely to cha nge the institution, to shift paradigms, to dismantle the ancient hierarchies that even the most avant-garde critical theories seem, subtextually, to preserve. Best of all, she can still have Â“differencesÂ” with her colleagues and his ideasÂ—and even with herself. She hasnÂ’t sold out or gone over to the other side, assuming the bifurcat ion still seems necessary to her. (xix) Indeed, she has evolvedÂ—as must the workshop model she teaches. The Workshop Model: Final Arguments The writing workshop stays the same when workshop teachers continue to produce Â“their own interpretations of creative wr iting classroom lore in a field that as a whole rejects notions of itself as an acad emic disciplineÂ” (Ritter and Vanderslice Â“IntroductionÂ” xi). Most of us do not want to replicate th e tired workshop model, despite StarkeyÂ’s claim that much is at stake fo r some in maintaining the status quo. John Hopkins program director Jean McGarry warns Â“If workshops are only about selfexpression, then you have literary bums floa ting in and outÂ” (qtd. in Delaney). Teachers who promote rigor and inve ntiveness in the workshop model stretch the modelÂ’s flexibilityÂ—and in doing so, they also shape, for the better, our pedagogy, our students, and our profession as an intelligent model set apart in his distinctiveness from composition studies and literary studies.
167 SECTION THREE: THE ACADEMIC HOME OF CREATIVE WRITING STUDIES Perhaps the first objective in dete rmining the academic home of creative writing studies would be one of purpose. Earlier, I pos ition creative writing at a crossroads along with creative writing studies In my discussion of the workshop model, I speculate on the trajectories of both disciplin es and recommend course deve lopment, program designs, and curricular tracks at the undergraduate and gr aduate levels. In this section, I argue for the academic home for creative writing studies It should be noted, however, that as I consider the space for creative writing studies in the academy, the academic residence of the discipline of creative writing (perhaps in a more dimensional form) becomes a natural part of the discussion. This crossover occu rs primarily because creative writing has a history and relationship with the institution a nd with the disciplines of English studies and because creative writing studies is an emergent field. I submit that given the value-added servic e that creative writing provides to the academy, there are a number of location options for the discipline of creative writing, one of which is to remain within the English de partment as a viable and growing program for students whose first priority is to write (rather than teach). At the very least, as I explore placement options for creative writing studies as my primary aim in this argument, there arises many opportunities for cr eative writing to add more dimension to its field. As creative writing studies stands at the crossroads, it does so with what I suggest is a keener
168 vantage point. Its orientation permits a far-reaching view of where the discipline of creative writing has been, and as best as the practitioners of creative writing studies can judge from the topography below, what mi ght lie ahead for th eir students, their profession, and their field. Why, if creative writing is such a popul ar program housed mostly in English departments, one which draws student enrollm ent and financial support to the university, do we need to consider the academic home of creative writing studies ? Could creative writing studies not just set up its scholarly operati ons from the current home base of creative writing? Further, to draw creative wr iting into this discussion and to assert an academic home for creative writing studies means drudging up considerable unrest. We must grapple with the voices of contention from literary critics w ho appreciate what our student numbers mean to their own discipline not the least of which is more students reading literature. Then there are the concer ns of compositionists who identify with our underdog status and the constructivist aims in our writing classes. But any talk of an academic home for creative writing studies also means some heel digging from our own creative writing teachers, many of whom retreat from theor y, who dislike much delving into their practices and pedagogy; who, perhaps, want to keep the mystery and lore in and around the process of writing, and who, genera lly, resist reform. Why provoke such a discussion? After all, an argument can be ma de that creative writi ng now represents one of the three major Â“power bloc ksÂ” in the English department along with lite rary studies and composition studies. Creative writingÂ’ s rising course and program enrollments certainly suggest it has arrived as an acad emic discipline. As long as these numbers
169 climb, creative writing could invariably car ry on its operations, its workshop-centered classrooms. In a sense, creative writingÂ’s academic home has been a point in question since Emerson pledged for a democratization of cr eative power and a desire to study creative writing within American univers ities. It took fifty years fo r EmersonÂ’s vision of creative writing in the academy to take place; however construed it was (in its purity) as an opposition to philologyÂ’s scientific study of literature. Conceived later as a pedagogy, creative writing operated as a studio-based m odel at the University of Iowa, then its writers and poets soon attended the same facu lty meeting as did literary critics and composition scholars. Richard HugoÂ’s reason ing seems cogent when he says, Â“The English department seemed a logical place for creative writing perhaps because it was already involved with other wr iting, critical and expository . and the assumption that reading and writing was cl osely relatedÂ” (54). Although creative writing programs continue to develop and student enrollment steadily rises, the discipline remains anomalous within English studies as a deviant from the scholarly norm. Shirley Geok-lin Lim speaks of the Â“major oddness of creative writingÂ” (154), how its forms of poetry, ficti on, and drama shape Â“the chief substance of what is studied and taught,Â” how it is largely absent from th e history of literary studies despite its pivotal role, and how it is Â“hardly visible as a disciplinary component of the professionÂ” (154). Creative writing programs Â“have seldom received the scrutiny of outsiders or been required to account for them selves to the same extent as programs like composition and American studiesÂ” (Lim 156). Lim asks Â“How does the modern research university incorporate or cont ain creative writing?Â” (151).
170 Today, creative writing graduates compet e for many of the same jobs as their rhetoric and composition and literary studies counterparts. Mixed course loads that include the teaching of creative writing, creative nonfiction, mode rn literature, and composition coursework are the norm. Theory-b ased Ph.D. creative writing candidates, in particular, present with more multi-faceted attractiveness than ever before. These candidates join with MFA graduates; both gr oups have received little to no teacher preparation in creative writing. As a result, cr eative writing graduates join the majority of faculty in their field who do not know their history or theories that underpin their pedagogy. They are less likely to inquire or research or publish scholarship on topics related to their field, and they are inclined to follow the trad ition of the workshop model. I argue for a different kind of space for creative writing studies an academic home that occupies more substance for the discipline, more equalbut-separate-standing with its colleagues in literary studies and composition studies, more distinction for its students. My research question asks: What space will give creative writing studies more meaning for the academy, for its profession, and for its student body so that it might fully avail itself of the qualities needed for a best representation as a scholarly field? Control of Space, Domain, and Power Foucault argues that Â“space is fundamental in any form of communal life; space is fundamental in any exercise of powerÂ” (qtd. in Porter and Sullivan 389). With this in mind, relations of power, knowledge, and space become entwined, unavoidable. Foucault also tells us that space is a v ital part of the battle for c ontrol, of which power can be productive and negative. Territorial disputes or dinarily ensue in this struggle because of competing ideologies and the subsequent control of space, domain, and power. We see
171 these power dynamics play out in what has be en a mostly hegemonic English department in which literary studies has occupied the te rrain, and thus the power In the seventies and eighties, in particular, not onl y did literary studies have a poor view of the intellectual contribution of creative writing faculty, but teachers of cr eative writing (mostly MFA graduates) often held a dim view of their own desire to participate in the writing of literary criticism and/or the study/practice of theory. Certainly, as creative writing and literary studies situated unde r one umbrella, friction ensue d. Creative writers were not taken seriously then, and eve n, today, with the rise of Ph.D. creative writing programs some literature professors continue to perceive such programs and their creative dissertation as anti -intellectual. While space can be a theater of operation for such power dynamics, Foucault also posits space as a space of freedom, as unconstraine d by barriers. It is within this idealized space of freedom that I wish to springboard my argument that creative writing studies must secure its academic home and its se parate-but-equal position to that of literary studies and composition studies with in the department of English. The Academic Home of Creative Writing Studies Here, I explore the fronts which have come forward in their architectural plan for creative writing and creative writing studies Â—either with an offer to coexist within English studies or as a separa tist consortium apart from the department of English. In the end, I argue against these offers. I petition, instead, for an academic home for creative writing studies that stands on more equitable ground, that promotes the visibility (rather than the isolation) of its pract itioners, that incorporates grad uate career training to include teacher preparation, that articulates its rese arch agenda and academic forums, and that
172 permits its practitioners to claim creative writing studies as a research area. While exploring its academic home my argument promotes creative writing studies as a convincing professiona l body of knowledge. Creative Writing Studies and Literary Studies In her 2006 presidentÂ’s column of the MLA Newsletter Marjorie Perloff speculates on the growing number of Ph.D. creative writing programs and what such a rise in development will mean for literary studies. She concludes that Ph.D. creative writing graduates will be asked to teach, in a ddition to creative writing classes, a modern literature course or two. Conjointly, this candidate will be expected to have some Â“knowledge of early literary periods, genres and conventions as well as of the present,Â” (4) if one considers the tradi tional required curriculum of a graduate studentsÂ’ literature coursework. Since logic presents that Ph.D.level creative writing faculty will incorporate theories of reading as well as Â“the study of rhetoricÂ—the how of writing rather than the what Â” (4), in their pedagogical a pproaches to teaching, these pr actices correlate, for those in literary studies, as more engagement by students in the reading of literature. For Perloff and others, what unites Ph.D. creative writing graduates (not all of which will teach in the academy) is Â“love for the field of human interestÂ”Â—the field of literatureÂ—Â“a field without which creative writing could not exist and wh ich, conversely, may currently have no other place to goÂ” (4). The above explanation is necessary to appr eciate the ties (whe ther positive or not) that bind creative writing to literary studies. In this case, the perception exists for those like Perloff that creative writing requires lite rature as a means of teaching its students, and Â“literature,Â” or more specifically, the read ing of literature has always been considered
173 a hierarchal function of literary studies. On the other hand, this insight also suggests, with a hint of fatalism, that the impor tant new work in the field of creative writing studies combined with the noticeable decline of twen tieth-century literature, may mean that the discipline of literary studies may have Â“no othe r place to goÂ” than to creative writing. It seems clear that literary studies would desire to maintain propriet y over creative writing because Â“creative writing was perceived by many to belong with literature and the reception of textsÂ” (OÂ’Neil 31). The antecedent of such a view that creative writingÂ’s role is to acquaint students to literature can be found in the early twentie th century laboratory school where Hugh MearnsÂ’ students were intr oduced to literatu re as a means of permitting their experimentation with it. Along the same lines as Perloff, Paul Dawson buttresses the partnership between creative writing and literary studies. He redefines a role for creative writing in his formation of literary studies in what he refers to as Â“the New Humanities.Â” While DawsonÂ’s view vilifies PerloffÂ’s dramatiza tion of the struggles between writers and critics over the integrity of literature or th e importance of aesthetic value, he nonetheless sees the common ground and common goal betwee n creative writing and literary studies as one based on a vision of social agency rather than a theory of ge neric form or of the creative process. Dawson, personally attuned to the potentia l offered by Australian creative writing programs in the post-Theory environment of th e Â“New Humanities,Â” collapses the writer and critic into the figure of the public intellectualÂ—Â“the exemplary figure of the New HumanitiesÂ” (201). Dawson outlines the various forms of literary authority assumed by the writer and shows how this authority has positioned the writer (185), and he seeks
174 another purpose for creative writing Â“b eyond its Â‘officialÂ’ purpose of employing and training writersÂ” (192). Ther e must be, Dawson argues Â“a function specific to the university,Â” that would Â“contri bute to the domain of knowledge of cultural intellectuals within the academy by the provision of a litera ry educationÂ” (192). As such, rather than continue Â“the teaching of writing literature alongside the teaching of writing criticism,Â” Dawson argues for a particular Â“mode of literary research within the academy,Â” one which would entail Â“literary and critical writing as comple mentary practicesÂ” (178-179). While I support the role of the creative writer as public intellectual and appreciate the benefits of joining forces in the best interest of serving the academy, DawsonÂ’s view limits other avenues which creative writing studies might pursue if it were to more appropriately direct its own pursuits. For example, the use of social media in creative writing studies is one such path that might obscure tr aditional literature readings by virtue of its immediacy and technology. If we ar e to become a place where students can generate ideas, try out these new ideas, a nd continue a quest for human expression, then we might also collaborate with others in th e fields of media and technology to explore options of digital writing a nd digital teaching. These kinds of forward-thinking vehicles of creation might very well go against the grain of literary studiesÂ’ more traditional modes of instruction. To add to my argument against such an academic home for creative writing studies it is not certain how such a partners hip (or collapse) might affect decisionmaking or shape the program development fo r creative writers at the undergraduate and graduate level. Who speaks for the goals and direction of creative writing programs and the development of creative writing studies and their students in such a Â“partnershipÂ”?
175 How does the Â“New HumanitiesÂ” offer markers of professional difference for our field? Taking on a collective academic identity under the umbrella of Â“New HumanitiesÂ” steers us away from our approaching id entity as writers and artists and teachers and scholars. Such uncertainty adds to a familiar unease concerning the dominance of literary studies over the discipline of creative writing. Furt hermore, it seems doubtful that this new academic home might incorporate a negotiati on between the ways in which texts are interpreted and literatur e is studied, a fundamental differe nce between literary studies and creative writing and creative writing studies As such, refiguring a ne w discipline in this space seems implausible given the unlikely sh ift in the current st ructural model of English studies. Moreover, collapsing the creative writer and the literary critic, as Dawson suggests, can be accomplished in the same person, without the consociation of literary studiesÂ—in the field of creative writing studies we call this person a craft critic. Creative Writing Studies and Cultural Studies The argument for locating creative writing studies within the cultural studies program is tied to the idea of an all-round aesthetic education for our students. Such an aesthetic education proves problematic in an English department in which literary studies splinters into a variety of movements, most centered on the ideological or historical analysis of a text, and in wh ich creative writing focuses mo stly on writerly processes and the production of a well-formed piece of work. The debate for an academic home for creative writing studies within cultural studies pred icates that a union between creative writing studies and cultural studies is the answer to the known divide between creative writing and literary studies. Such a divide is more than territorial if the methodology for approaching writing within an arts curriculum encourages what Peter Howarth refers to
176 as Â“double-think in its studentsÂ” (41). In other words, students Â“code-switchÂ” depending on the class they are in, and th is reflects the split within the academy between those who theorize (critics) and those who produ ce poems and stories (writers). Rather than encourage such a split, proponents believe that making creative writing or creative writing studies part of a cultural studies program will narrow the gap between creative freedom and hi storical criticism. Students would, perhaps, resist the traditional critical evaluation of a work and instead reflect upon the felt experience of reading and/or writing a part icular form. Coursework might include literary theory, medieval literature, and soci olinguistics along with parallel seminars in which creative readings guide discussions of cultural categorie s that resist or oblig e those which students encounter in their reading a nd/or writing. Such integrati on with cultural studies leads Kevin Brophy to conclude this synthesis is cr itical Â“if creative writ ing students are to maintain a level of sophistication and security important to resisti ng rigidity in their approaches to writingÂ” (203). In addition to advancing a more aesthetic education for our students, the rationale behind linking creative writing studies with cultural studies is to reconcile the kind of split thinking traditional Englis h studies curricula promote for students engaged in both literary stud ies criticism and creative writing. I would not dispute any programmatic de pth that added a se ries of practical cultural studies courses and seminar discussions as a means of facilitating studentsÂ’ experience of creative writing studies to the social contexts of literary criticism. Undergraduate and graduate prog rams should, of course, involv e students in a course of study that introduces them to a score of possibi lities. However, I coul d not appreciate the
177 development of creative writing studies as an academic discipline to this end, as a means of limiting creative writing studies in this singular focus. Independent Writing Programs The academic home for creative writing studies Â’ in an independent writing program assumes a unique configuration of sp ace and issues quite different from what, for the discipline of creative writing, remain s on the fringes of the English department. This space would not be a part of an English studies department, but rather it would stand apart as a newly-formed disciplinary space devoted exclusively to writing. Notwithstanding the need to negotiate many more bureaucratic a nd operational issues such as funding, staffing, curriculum, and quest ions of how such an independent writing program would gain acceptance within the existing structures of universities. There is much to consider in terms of the measurable sense of community within independent writing programs if we are to c onsider the Â“new kinds of collaborations,Â” opportunities for Â“radical challenges in writ ing instruction, for rearticulations of disciplinary boundariesÂ” that emerge in this context (Crow and OÂ’Neill 8). The discipline of creative writing is not alone in its adjuvant status in the English department. Despite its intellectual claim to share w ith the hard sciences, composition studies has long been referred to as a service field, the work-hor ses of the department. The problems of composition are said to be Â“deeply rooted in the traditions of English departments and in the fieldÂ’s history with themÂ” (Grow and OÂ’Ne ill). As a result, compositionists have long imagined professional lives separate from an English department as suggested by Maxine HairstonÂ’s 1985 CCCC pres idential address in which she ca lls for the fieldÂ’s intellectual independence. Hairston rallies compositionists to Â“establish [their] psychological and
178 intellectual independence from literary critics who are at the center of power in most English departmentsÂ” (qtd. in Grow and OÂ’Neill 2). Creative writing shares with compos ition studies a communed history of subordination by literary studies along with a shared interest in writing practices and writing theories. This history, in part, attracts the attention of creative writing studies After all, many of creative writingÂ’s practi ces have some foundational basis in early composition pedagogy, and it would be difficult not to become enmeshed in whatever political agendas may surface in untangling from the embattled field from whence both fields derive. A space such as the one created by Daniel Royer and Roger G illes within the department of academic, creative, and prof essional writing at Grand Valley State University, might mean Â“twice as many writi ng coursesÂ” for creativ e writing students, a curriculum model approaching Â“that of art and design, wh ere studio courses outnumber content coursesÂ—but where Â‘contentÂ’ natura lly informs each and every studio courseÂ” (32-33). For creative writing studen ts it is a space that is not a bout literature or writing so much as a location for Â“theorie s about writing and the teachin g of writing and theories of readingÂ” (33). It means cross-fertilization possibilities such as merges with media studiesÂ—team taught classes by composition spec ialists, poets, fictionists, technical communication specialists, and media scholar s. Bridging such a di vide has research implications for the ways students think, read, study, learn, and write in such an integrated, yet collaborative model. Although there are interesti ng and innovative gains for creative writing studies in this space constructed as an independ ent writing program, what becomes lost,
179 coincidentally, relates to th e autonomous gains we might experience as an independent academic discipline, and it is this independe nce that bears more weight than what a united writing community such as the one desc ribed here might court. In addition, our Â“divorceÂ” from English studies (if the concept of a marriage can be loosely applied to this relational context), may leave us uncertain, wondering if another relationship so soon is not Â“simply shacking up with another Â‘oppr essorÂ’Â” (Grow and OÂ’Neill 3). Rather, we might imagine how we can profit from aligning with such a venture. For instance, what new courses could be developed that woul d incorporate team-teaching opportunities as well as cross-fertilization with those in th e fields of composition, professional writing, and technical communications so as to add more depth and relativism to a creative writing studies program design. Creative Writing Studies and Composition Studies A less circumscribed version of the i ndependent writing program is one that incorporates a number of spatial properties for creative writing studies aligned with composition in a number of ways: as an inte rsection between the two fields, a minor or major program track, a concentration within di sciplinary studies, or a blending or blurring of discipline lines. Among the first to s uggest a natural relati onship between creative writing and composition are Joseph Moxley and Wendy Bishop. In Â“Tearing Down the Walls: Engaging the Imagination,Â” Moxl ey writes that Â“engaging studentsÂ’ imaginations,Â” a process he sees as the prim ary purpose of our instru ction, Â“requires an interdisciplinary approach, one which bri ngs together creative writing, literature, criticism, and compositionÂ” (25). In Â“C rossing Lines: On Creative Composition and Composing Creative Writing,Â” Bishop asserts th at Â“We need to be crossing the line
180 between composition and crea tive writing far more often than we doÂ” (181). Anthony Petrosky (Â“Imagining the Past and Teachi ng Essay and Poetry WritingÂ”) notes that, despite surface differences, the processes of poetry and essay writing are productively similar,Â” and Marie Ponset and Rosemary Deen ( Beat Not the Poor Desk: WritingÂ—What to Teach, How to Teach It, and Why ) agree that there is Â“no essential difference between writing a poem and writing an e ssayÂ” (qtd. In Bishop 190). If we believe as Ponset and Deen do that Â“all students of writi ng are creative, that they are always writing literature, and that writing processes have basic commonalitiesÂ” (qtd. in Bishop 190), then what lessons can each discipline learn from the other? Hans Ostrom tells us in the introduction of Colors of a Different Horse that there are those who believe Â“(so-called) imaginative writing has a gr eater role to play in (so-called) basic and first-year writingÂ” (xxi). In addition, Ted Lardner poses that creative writing has Â“important lessons to lear n from composition in refere nce to process, pedagogy, and epistemologyÂ” (72). Whether students are writing a rhetorical analysis for composition class or developing a story for a creative writing course, both pro cesses combine some elements of creating and composing. In a ddition, Â“both are grounded in some degree of reality, and both involve some use of the im agination. Both kinds of writing include the subjectivity of the writerÂ” (M iller 43). Each requires plan ning, drafting, and recursive processes and employs Â“a reader-response theo ry [which] persuades that meaning does not reside solely in the text inserted once and for all by authorial agency Â” (Bishop 191). Â“Meaning,Â” as Bishop contends, Â“is constructed by authors in conjunction with a reading and a readerÂ” (191). She asks us to consider Â“that for years we may have been reading a wealth of Â‘imaginativeÂ’ and Â‘c reativeÂ’ essays even when we have assigned them and
181 evaluated them as non-fiction work.Â” In addi tion, Bishop claims that Â“it is also possible then to visualize the infinity of shaped Â‘family storiesÂ’ and Â‘true experiencesÂ’ that comprise the beginning composition of generations of creative writing studentsÂ” (192). A crossover between composition and creative writing studies seems reasonable to me; however, as Bishop contends Â“the old, limiti ng distinctions . were given primacy because they helped keep our selves and our academic territories well and safely sortedÂ” (192). These Â“limiting distinctionsÂ” continue to be major stumbling blocks to the intersection of composition and creative writing studies Although creative writing and composition we re considered one and the same in the early years of Harvard English education, their bifurcated tracts since then are one indication why their intersection remains inco mplete today. To begi n, the protraction of their degree-tracks differ. Creative writing, on ce perceived as an ar ts studio degree, developed MFA programs while compositionist s formed Ph.D. studies in rhetoric. Consequently, Peter Vandenberg reports Â“As creative writing was defining itself against the research ethos, rhetoric and compositi on, following literary studies, was buying into itÂ” (Â“IntegratedÂ” 8). Compositionists became very focused on writing processes and pedagogical approaches and expressed some re lative interest in creative writing. Moxley, for example, published Creative Writing in America (1989), which is said to be Â“the seminal work about creative writing inform ed by composition pedagogyÂ” (Vandenberg Â“IntegratedÂ” 8). Bishop responds to how MoxleyÂ’s composition pedagogy might inform creative writing. She suggests: that knowledge in that field will redefine our understanding of creativity as Â“the natural consequence of learning, invo lvement, and commitment.Â” Moxley
182 discusses language studies and composing research; he looks at the scientific method, hemispheric brain research, and writing productivity. In doing so, he claims that it is possible to develop theories of teach ing creative writing, and he begins to map out the resources for developing a theory-based pedagogy. (Â“Rev. of Creative Writing in America Â” 426) After the release of Creative Writing in America Katherine Haake recalls her anticipation that NCTE, the publisher of MoxleyÂ’s collecti on, would roll out a whole series of texts on creative writing pedagogies. This production di d not transpire, but if it had, one wonders if such attention to pedagogy and practice might have stimulated more interest in such an intersection; certainly, such a study w ould have advanced the emergence of creative writing studies MoxleyÂ’s book was followed by Colors of a Different H orse (1994), edited by Bishop and Ostrom, and once again, contributions, in particular OstromÂ’s introduction and a section on Â“Rethinking, (R e)Vision, and CollaborationÂ” attempted, in part, to consider the intersection be tween creative writing and composition. Peter Vandenberg adds to the list of the above pedagogues interested in overlapping the interstitial sp aces between composition and creative writing studies by including David StarkeyÂ’s perspective in Teaching Writing Creatively Starkey endorses what he calls a Â“polyculturalistÂ” approach to writing instruction c onstructed by Â“teacher theorists who, over the years, have actively cross-pollinated areas of writing that had once been isolated from each otherÂ” (qtd. in Vandenberg Â“IntegratedÂ” 9). Then there is Tim Mayers, poet and compositionist who makes a plausible case in (Re)Writing Craft: Composition, Creative Writing, and the Future of English Studies (2005) for a hybridized field of inquiry which joins composition and cr eative writing as Â“writing studiesÂ” (114).
183 One of the mitigating factors behind such a conj oining is a need to offset Â“literary studies as the rightful center of English studiesÂ” ( 133). Mayers proposes that this shift in infrastructure is possible through Â“a concerte d effort to alter one of the fundamental dynamics of the disciplines at largeÂ” (133). At the very least, he notes, Â“compositionists and creative writers will have to put aside their very signif icant professional differences long enough to realize that work ing together . they can acc omplish more than they can by working separatelyÂ” (133). Mayers maps out the necessary groundwork for such a structural change which requires, am ong many other adjustments, converging composition and creative writing practices w ithin three of the core undergraduate courses: first-year compositi on, introduction to creative wr iting, and the writing about literature course. Vandenberg informs us that Â“A clear sign of a fieldÂ’s maturation and stability is the move to claim influence for oneÂ’s own schol arship discourse on that of another fieldÂ” (Â“IntegratedÂ” 9). Most of the movement to wards an intersection or union between the discipline of creative writing (or creative writing studies ) and composition studies has been executed by compositionists or those writer-teachers who find it difficult to shift their personas when they en ter their creative writing and composition classrooms. Add to the mix, the increasingly generous space in journals like CC C and College English (which devoted an entire issue to creative wr iting in 2003) for essays on creative writing pedagogy and/or reflections of the fieldÂ’s co mposition influence. Combine this direction with the rise of creative writing sessions at the College Composition and Communication Conventions since 1996. It becomes apparent to Vandenberg and to me, that Â“Clearly, composition has claimed creative writing as a correlativeÂ” (Â“IntegratedÂ” 10). It is
184 questionable if creative writers are atten tive to compositionÂ’s di alogue about creative writing, and if they were, there is no movement to suggest their interest in such a space. As someone whose feet are in both fields I endorse the blurri ng of lines between creative writing studies and composition studies. And to that point, it is difficult not to consider overlapping properties given the f unctional interdisciplinar y of more and more teachers today. In my own case, my highe r education includes creative writing and rhetoric and composition, my writing practices include fiction and scholarly publications and presentations, my teaching pedagogy is informed by both disciplines, and my research methods mix observation and expe riential skills with bibliographic and pedagogical scholarship. I repr esent a fused model of a co llective identi ty, one that influences my students, my colleagues, and my field to the degree that I can, but the shifts in structural models that Mayers argues for, such determinant programmatic directions and praxes, are beyond the capabili ties of such an inte rsection. A merger remains abstract because the fields stay entr enched in their own histories, conferences, professional organizations, practic es, and program development. Creative writers, for the most part, are suspicious of com positionÂ’s theoretical advances. Kelly Ritter, another writer a nd teacher of creative writing and composition, points to the structure of gra duate degrees offered to its cr eative writing students as one reason for this withdrawal. She asserts that both MFA and Ph.D. programs in creative writing Â“by design encourage writers to beco me islands adrift professionally and intellectually from their larger English de partmentsÂ” (Â“Professional WritersÂ” 209). As a field, many creative writing teachers ar e resistant to a discourse that includes theory and pedagogy, and Ritter suggests the lack of training in these areas explains why
185 creative writers are less interested in the research of ways in which creative writers read, write, and teach. The AWP, as creative wri tingÂ’s professional organization, compounds this problem when it disregards an endorsement of graduate training in the preparation of teaching. If we are products of our training as Judith Harris suggests when she notes, Â“In prioritizing the writing skills that will best prove studentsÂ’ proficiency, teachers tend to perpetuate biases that are embedded in their own training and predilect ions,Â” then it is no wonder that creative writers ta ke on, what Ritter refers to as Â“collective academic identities.Â” In the field of creative writing, we see ourselves as Â“Â‘writersÂ’ and Â‘artistsÂ’ as opposed to Â‘teachersÂ’ or Â‘scholarsÂ’Â” (Â“Professional WritersÂ” 210). CompositionÂ’s teaching training versus creative writingÂ’s lack of such training, would ultimately leave such a space conflicted over how student writers might be taught. The academic home provided for creative writing studies and/or creative writing by composition studies is one in which creativ e writers remain suspect. I return to Moxley, who makes two excellent points: first, that Â“the general segregation of creative writing from literature and composition corrodes the development of a literacy culture,Â” and second, that Â“our passion for specializati on within writing depart ments has caused us to divide and subdivide (pot entially) consolidating processe s of discovering and shaping meaningÂ” (25). FoucaultÂ’s concept of space seems reasonable here, for as he relates space, knowledge and power as that which is ne cessarily related, he notes Â“it is somewhat arbitrary to try to dissociate the effective practice of freedom by people, the practice of social relations, and the spatial distributions in which they find themselves. If they are separated, they become impossible to unders tandÂ” (qtd. in Elden and Crampton 9).
186 Perhaps the current Â“spa tial distributionsÂ” of creative writing studies and composition have bearing on our inability to intersect and this Â“s eparation of sortsÂ” impedes our understanding of one another. Perhap s, Â“spatiality occurs as an integral part of a larger concernÂ—as a tool an alysis rather than merely an object of itÂ” (qtd. in Elden 9), and if that is the case, then there is wo rk for creative writing to do in its field, in redefining its space, power, knowledge. For th e time being, the segregation and division that Moxley refers to remain as a mostly theoretical binary between creative writing studies and composition. That is, until creative writing studies can become better situated as a research field and as an academic curricular entity. The Academic Home for Creative Writing Studies It is in this space, the space Foucault rese rves as a space of freedom that I argue for the academic home of creative writing studies Defined by Tim Mayers in a special panel 2008 MLA presentation and in a recent College English article, creative writing studies is Â“a still-emerging enterprise that has been set in motion by some of the problems and internal contradictions of creative writingÂ”; and as suc h, it Â“is a field of scholarly inquiry and researchÂ” (Â“One Simple WordÂ” 218). As a scholarly field of inquiry and research, creative writing studies is not a new concept; in fact, Wendy Bishop can be said to have pioneered its beginnings with her spatialization of creative writing and composition as an intersection. Also, in th e United Kingdom, in particular, creative writingÂ—unencumbered by the history that c onfines the traditi onal United StatesÂ’ disciplineÂ—has partnered with criticism, re search, and scholarship from the start. Recently, in the U.S. there have been more assertive proclamations for a new academic
187 home for creative writing studies in the twenty-first centur y, particularly from craft critics Kelly Ritter, Patrick Bizzaro, Katherine Haake, and Tim Mayers. I return to FoucaultÂ’s concept of space as a space of freedom, as unconstrained by barriers. Foucault adds, Â“Such is the power of language: that which is woven of space elicits space, gives itself space through an originary opening and removes space to take it back into languageÂ” (qtd. in Elden and Crampton 7)Â—such language exists in academic home of creative writing st udiesÂ—in the power, the knowledge and the space of creative writing studies This academic home situates the practitioners and scholars of creative writing studies shoulder-to-shoulder with its coll eagues in composition studies and literary studies. I have argued for the estab lishment of creative writing studies, outlined the steps to advance its emergence, added to the development with my own inquiry and research into the field, and proffered its academic home. If creative writing studies is to become pedagogically and programmatically sound, productive and meaningful to the academy, its profession, its creative economy, an d, critically, to its student bodyÂ—it must continue its necessary field of inquiry, scholarship, and rese arch as well as advocate for its own identity at the pub lic and institutional level.
188 CONCLUSION: THE LEGITIMACY OF CREATIVE WRITING STUDIES My overarching goal in this study is to provide academic legitimacy to the discipline of creative writing studies and to add to this legitimacy through my contributions to the fieldÂ’s inquiry and rese arch. To best accomplish this objective it is important to explore the disciplineÂ’s histor y; more specifically, to understand how the grounding of creative writingÂ’s practice informs not only its pedagogies and the theories which underpin its practices, but also its isol ation from the central curriculum and its binary opposition with academic critics. With regards to the latter, Hans Ostrom tells us that creative writers often feel underapprecia ted. They are Â“aggrieve d,Â” he says, Â“always waiting to arrive,Â” and Â“even scorned, by those in Â‘literatureÂ’ and challenged by those in composition and cultural studiesÂ” (xiii). The smal lness of creative writ ers in the scope of the dysfunctional family it calls English studi es, Â“only exacerbates elitism, inbreeding, suspicion, and unproductive c onflictÂ” (Ostrom xiii). Figuratively, along the same lines, it is ha rd not to connect with Eve ShelnuttÂ’s view of creative writing teacher s Â“huddled in tight circle s reminiscent of Conestoga wagons under attack,Â” and Â“as second-class ci tizens in English departmentsÂ” (11). She claims our students come to accept their Â“p roper placeÂ” Â“in the intellectual ghettos of English departments,Â” and learn Â“they were never meant, heaven forbid, to become creative writers and thinkers tooÂ” (empha sis mine, 12). Scholars criticize the study of creative writing, the classes that convey Â“an immoral disregard for great literary
189 monuments,Â” the writing processes which are Â“too intuitive and nave at best,Â” and Â“irrational and ignorant at worstÂ” (Fenza para. 39). Creative writing classrooms are Â“occasions for self-indulgence, confessional e xhibitionism,Â” and Â“hardly the stuff for the rigors of an academic disciplineÂ” (Fenza pa ra. 39). Those who teach creative writing complain of disparate hiring pr actices, of perceptions that the area of cr eative writing is soft and trivial, only a fun activity, anti-intellectual, a nd Â“touchy-feely.Â” Some of the skepticism between creative wr iters and those in l iterary studies are located in the way the discipline is defined, the lore and perception both from within the academy and from the popular images of writing and writers. Even such basic principles as Â“whether we write the writing or the writi ng writes us,Â” are wrangled with issues of ownership, authority, and practice ( What Our Speech Disrupts Haake 53). There was a time in the early twentieth cen tury when creative writing and literary studies partnered. When poets, in particular, entered the university and joined literary critics in an unlikely partisan group to fight against the scient ific study of l iterature. Poets became critics, defining, in part, the study of literature from a New Critical view. Even Norman Foerster, who designed the Iowa Sc hool of letters, intende d for creativity and criticism to be allies in his university curriculum for wr iters. The discipline, however, became less dually-aligned with creative writi ng and criticism when Paul Engle dropped the academic track at Iowa and focused instead on the studio method, the workshop prototype practiced in classrooms today. Since the sixties, the Â“mystique of professionalismÂ” has given rise to creative wr iting teachers disregarding the discipline of criticism to become, according to MyersÂ’ ch arge: Â“a national staff of writers who teach writers who go on to teach, and to hope for te nure and promotionÂ” (qtd. in Lim163). This
190 sustains, Lim reports, Â“the debilitating segregation of writing from criticism and scholarship, of technique from theoryÂ” (163). The workshop model provides a useful pedagogical example of a practice in which the separation of writing from criticism and technique from theory is apparent. As discussed, the century-old workshop has been Â“basically unrevised Â” because there has not, until recently, been a ny Â“rigorous inquiry,Â” whic h Â“offers testimony to its excellenceÂ” (Bizzaro Â“Research and ReflectionÂ” 296). As part of my course to add to the theoretical and academ ic scholarship of creative writing studies I explore such a Â“rigorous inquiryÂ” to the model and find, as a result, exciting opportunities to flex its elasticity and complement and complicate its practice. With an understanding of creative writingÂ’s history, even one as brief as I mention here and throughout my discourse, it is not difficult to trace th e path that led to creative writingÂ’s isolationist location within Englis h studies, nor is it difficult to trace the evolution of some of the in terdepartmental disputes and note where and when creative writing as a discipline partnered with criticis m and where it separated from the practice of criticism. What is important to also addr ess in the disciplineÂ’s history is the selfmarginalization by some creative writing teach ers who resist inquiry and research into their pedagogies, who retreat from theories that underpin their classroom planning and practices, and who replicate the basic workshop model and other methods that idle. Moreover, self-marginalization in creative wr iting is also very much connected to Â“the absence of teacher training and pedagogi cal reform in the face of the lore that perpetuates the traditions and customs of the fieldÂ” (Ritter and Vanderslice Â“IntroductionÂ” xiii). This is the lore of the lonely write r in the garret; of long, unbroken
191 passages of inspired writing; of casual clas srooms and clustered conversations, of easy Â“AÂ’sÂ” and cool, eccentric teachers. This is th e lore of teaching creative writing, which Â“is systemic, pervasive, and rooted in creative writingÂ’s isolated academic status, at once frustrating and comforting to the writers and organizations who perpet uate itÂ” (Ritter and Vanderslice Â“IntroductionÂ” xiii). One of the more critical ambitions of creative writing studies is the training of its graduates in te acher preparation. David Radavich proposes that Â“advanced degrees in creative writing cannot generate the job prospects available even to graduates of more tr aditional doctoral programsÂ” and that Â“there is no profession for which an MFA or PhD in creative writing provides direct training Â” (110). There is an urgent need for such training not only to bett er position creative wr iting graduates in the marketplace, but also so to best prepar e instructors who can teach the new skills formulated through the fieldÂ’s inquiries, resear ch, and discoveries. Th is training (and then practice) equates to what amounts to a signifi cant professional paradigm shift as more creative writers welcome inquiries into thei r field and willingly participate in the scholarship and new identity of their discipline. As long as there are such vast differe nces in epistemological studies and pedagogical approaches between the disciplines of English studies, tensions will remain, and faculty will question why and how creative writing is still a tenant in the English department that houses it. Ho wever, a discipline such as creative writing studies which explores the pedagogy and theory of its fiel d, establishes its own scholarship, identifies its own markers of professional difference, tr ains its graduates in teacher preparation, develops new courses and venues for passing new skills on to its students, may bridge some of the widened gap that has occurred over the embattled territory of what many
192 consider to be a mostly hegemonic English department. Creative writing studies moves beyond its opposition to criticism so as to deve lop its own scholarship and identity. As an academic discipline, it may not eliminate interdepartmental tensions, but there is hope that because some points of creative writing studies overlap with both li terary studies and composition studies that the emergent discip line will create more positive movement in redefining the structure of English studies. Moreover, Mayers considers the fate of creative writing in a dysfunctional English department. He notes that should th ere be a split between composition studies and literary studies (for example, compos ition studies joins an independent writing program), then Â“creative writers may be pl aced in undesirable positions,Â” as they are Â“compelled to choose between two imperf ect optionsÂ” (Â“One Simple WordÂ” 227). MayersÂ’ scenario is further Â“validation fo r the importance of cr eative writing studiesÂ—a field of inquiry that will provi de creative writers in academia with the intellectual tools to answer tough questions and face tou gh choicesÂ” (Â“One Simple WordÂ” 227). As an academic discipline in its own right, creative writing studies negotiates, accommodates, and identifies critical theories. It identifies and negotiates critical theories as it challenges traditional pr actices such as I have done through my inquiry and research into the workshop model and the discipli neÂ’s major pedagogi cal theories. It accommodates critical theory as it consid ers what it draws epistemologically from composition studies and literar y studies and then applies, modifies, or develops discipline-specific critical writing and readi ng practices in the creative writing classroom and writing workshop. The vi sion for practitioners of creative writing studies situates the writer and the discipline within a broader theo retical base. Part of the imperative in
193 creative writing studies is the constant questioning and challenging of existing practices. We are that much closer to accepting creative writing studies than we were a decade ago. As the discipline aims for a more diversif ied body of knowledge, it also rethinks its signature pedagogy, dominant teaching strategi es, and its perspectives on theory and scholarship. It becomes more expansive, flexible, collaborative, enriched, and independent. As creative writing studies becomes better situated as a research field and as an academic curricular entity, it will soon receive the attent ion it deserves. As it does, creative writing studies will add more meaning to the academy, its profession, and its diverse student body.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dianne Donnelly is a summa cum laude 2001 graduate from the University of Houston where she received her BachelorÂ’s Degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She completed the MastersÂ’ level Creative Writing Program at the University of South Florida, graduati ng in 2004. She has been teaching composition, expository, and creative writing courses at the University of Florida since 2003. While at the University of South Flor ida, Ms. Donnelly received scholarship awards, multiple teaching awards, and one of the universityÂ’s Provost Awards for Outstanding Teaching. She presents cons istently at the Conference on College Composition and Communication a nd at other discipline crossover conferences as well. Besides her short story and scholarly public ations, Ms. Donnelly is the recipient of multiple fiction awards and th e editor of the collection, The Writing Workshop Model: Is It Still Working? published by Multilingual Matters, Inc.