University Of Iowa Creative Writing Program

“We continue to look for the most promising talent in the country,” the program states, “in our conviction that writing cannot be taught but that writers can be encouraged.”Whichever side of this debate one drifts toward, an avid reader of 20th century American fiction will be hard-pressed not to find one of their favorite authors on the long roster of Iowa’s faculty and alumni.Flannery O’Connor, who graduated in 1947, was perhaps the program’s first breakout star, publishing her masterwork, , just five years later.Though Wallace Stegner, who graduated from Iowa’s creative writing program in 1930, a few years before it took on its familiar mode, may be the next-best contender for such a distinction.In the following decades the prestige of the workshop has only grown, and its students have proven that at the least Iowa is successful in encouraging talented writers to write.Promising and talented young writers have a superb resource now that the masterful and accomplished writers of the day are more accessible than ever as mentors in the classroom.

Nevertheless, the desire to compare — to sort wheat from chaff — persists in this area of academic life, as elsewhere.Yet in the past few decades, a new titan has emerged, coming from the halls of higher education and graduate creative writing programs across the country.And of all of these, perhaps the most significant has been the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.A quick roundup of recent best-of novels finds the workshop represented by the likes of former students Garth Greenwell and Alexander Chee.More established former students include novelist Jane Smiley and masters of the short story Denis Johnson and Joy Williams.When President Obama met Robinson for a lengthy interview in 2015, the pair met not in Washington but in Iowa, perhaps signaling the veritable cultural pull such programs can have.Past writers include career-long teachers like Robert Coover, long-serving mentors like Kurt Vonnegut and Ann Patchett, as well as immensely talented writers who only dared to dabble in academia, but when they did set foot on the quad’s green grass, they choose the prestige and talent-draw of Iowa.The matter of whether great writers can be taught is a contentious one—proponents point to successes in far older models of artistic tutelage, like the case of Leonardo da Vinci, who was sharpened as an apprentice in an artist’s workshop beginning at age fourteen.But cautious skepticism prevails, including from the side of the people who teach and organize these very programs that, one presumes, they’re supposed to drum up excitement and enthusiasm for.“The fact that the Workshop can claim as alumni nationally and internationally prominent poets, novelists, and short story writers is, we believe, more the result of what they brought here than of what they gained from us,” Iowa’s own website explains.But if they do nothing else, the top MFA programs are places where the best literary minds can gather, support, and challenge each other. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.In the face of an increasingly distracted and pressed-for-time audience, and when one wonders what purpose writers have amid such cultural chaos, a program like Iowa's, at the least, can be damn good encouragement.

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