Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)

  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
  • DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
  • CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
  • KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ceci n'est pas une MFA thesis.

Now, that is a true statement.

But you wouldn't know it by looking at me. And would you know that this blog is not an MFA thesis, by looking at it? Or that it is?

If I said it was, I could be lying. If I didn't, it could be true anyway. Would there be any textual markers? "Damn, your art is sooooo fine! You' a master, baby!" Back in the day, you studied under the previous master, and he (he) decided when you were a master (or journeyman). Scholasticism. Rules. Frame: parergon - which, to Derrida, is a paregoric (cf. "Economimesis").

These questions are, perhaps, more to the point than asking, "What is art (or lit)?" That is, the institutional accreditation and sanctioning as such determines it, in any given time and place. If R. Mutt brings the urinal into the academy and presents it as his MFA thesis, who's to gainsay him? Indeed, has anyone ever failed an MFA?  I mean, flunked out - if they did the work? How do we say if something is art? Or fine? Or masterful?

If you reject such categories, you can do whatever you want, without the stick of conformity or the carrot of income. God bless you!

But if you accept them - to the point of earning or dispensing MFAs - you'd better be able to define them. Right? Did Jeff Koons have an MFA? Could an MFA thesis be a blog about tatting or a Lyme disease support group? How come? Why not?

2 comments:

Jen said...

You've just used a word that's been needed: MFAdustrial Complex. Even though I'm a member of an MFA program, I've always thought of MFA programs as pyramid schemes: they "verify" that people write artfully, teach them to teach, then turn them out into the world to teach yet more MFA-aspirants, all while squeezing writing into the day to day.
I do reject the categories and cheer on the blur of form. It's like gender: flexible, (but knowing that it's flexible makes people uncomfortable). We want to put literature in a box: this is fiction. This is nonfiction. This, poetry. Male. Female.

Joseph Harrington said...

August Kleinzahler (sp?) uses exactly the same metaphor (if that's what it is): the Ponzi scheme. But I wonder how many students really think they're going to get a tenure-track teaching job based on their MFAs - without having a book or two published first.