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MFA novels tend to use pairs of adjectives or adverbs less often, or avoid the more straightforward structure of a noun followed by a verb in the present tense.
But there’s an underlying assumption that the MFA But what if there’s no change to speak of?
Is it really possible to tell the difference between novels that have been through the meat-grinder of the MFA and those that haven’t?
What if this is just something that’s been imagined into existence, by both detractors and supporters alike, to satisfy a collective need to believe that institutions can improve anything, even creativity?
Or conversely, that institutions ruin everything, especially creativity?
No real distinctions at the level of language, themes, or even syntax.
When we went further to test whether the way writers constructed their characters was any different, once again nothing significant showed up.The debate has shifted from whether creativity could be taught to how well it can be taught and whether it be taught.The stakes are real: Creative writing has become a big business—it’s estimated that it currently contributes more than 0 million a year in revenue to universities in the U. Today’s debate falls along predictable fault-lines: One side eyes the teaching of writing suspiciously, and concludes that MFA programs may produce some good fiction, but they don’t produce enough “great literature.” The other side defends the institution by saying, if nothing else, that programs give aspiring writers the time to “dedicate oneself” to the craft of writing.Using a variety of tools from the field of computational text analysis, we studied how similar authors were across a range of literary aspects, including diction, style, theme, setting, and even how writers use characters.novel, what makes, say, Junot Diaz sound like Junot Diaz, is of course mostly immeasurable.But these features remain the fundamental building blocks of any novel, so if MFA writing were in aggregate to have some essential difference from books written by authors without MFAs, it should be perceptible at the very least at this genetic level of prose.There has to be , writes, creative writing programs “obviously” teach writers how to become a specific “creative type.” Or as Chad Harbach has argued more recently in his popular essay “MFA vs.Whether you valorize the Romantic ideal of the lonely, humble artist or the neo-liberal belief that education can solve any problem, the MFA has become a kind of Rorschach test for how writers and critics feel about creativity, where it comes from, and how best to nurture it.Until now, no one has used much evidence beyond the anecdotal to test whether or not the MFA has actually influenced the contemporary novel.Nevertheless, there are some words that are different, but given that we’re talking about over 200,000 unique words, this is hardly surprising. They prefer names like Ruth, Pete, Bobby, Charlotte, and Pearl (while non-MFA novels seem to like Anna, Tom, John, and Bill).But on the whole, these distinctions look pretty meaningless; the words that appear more often in MFA novels don’t seem to be related to each other in a significant way.