04 October 2010

Great, Another MFA Academic Behaving Badly

I generally come to the defense of MFA programs and such, yet readily acknowledging their limitations, as I've done here in this blog. But sometimes, I come across an appalling example of the worst kind of academic who happens to be associated with MFA programs and I want to retract everything positive I may have said about an MFA degree. Such is the case of Judith Turner Hospital.

Her infamous e-mail champions the very worst kind of dilettantism, and it's so deeply provencial that even the Idahoan in me recoils, seeing this Canadian poo-poo the backwaters of South Carolina and rubbing their collective noses in the fact that she's now teaching at a "real" MFA program in Manhattan. I also imagine New Yorkers just love these transient New Yorkers going on about the dumpy towns they've left behind just so that they can join the crowd and immediately be an insider. Professor Hospital might do well to read some Edith Wharton.

Fortunately, Seth Abramson has ably called her on her misrepresentations of her new program at Columbia, but the damage of this remarkable e-mail has been done. What is most unsavory from my perspective is just how uncritically she champions the most banal of laurels, whether it's a Pulitzer or a literary agent bidding to nab a Columbia MFA grad.

Don't get me wrong, I'm down with the Pulitzer and big-time book contracts. But what she's championing is so patently exclusive and careerist that it makes me wince. No, it's not about this at all, even when you are lucky enough to get a good job, a nice office, a shiny fellowship, and a positive review in the NY Times, all that is beside the point.

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