The MFA in Creative Writing: The Uses of a “Useless” Credential
Over half of today’s Masters of Fine Arts programs in creative writing in the United States were founded after the year 2000. Has the MFA-CW become a necessary credential for novelists? Relying on participant observation field research in the American literary field and interviews with authors, publishers, MFA graduates, and instructors, this work focuses on a paradox: Despite widespread agreement that the credential doesn’t “teach” enrollees to be a good writers or open up a pathway to a professional writing career, many involved in the literary field hold an MFA-CW. In this paper, we look at the uses of the MFA-CW, finding that although the degree serves little if any jurisdictional or closure-related functions it is made useful in a variety of ways: for students as a symbolic resource for artistic identity, for working writers as a source of income and community, and for editors in publishing houses as a signal for possible marketing and publicity potential.
Keywords: Credentialism, Professions, Literature, Books, Publishing, MFA
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).