A note in honor of Commonweal's just published fiction issue! I recently came across Louis Menand's characteristically witty assessment of creative writing programs in The New Yorker.For a sample: "Writing teachers may therefore cultivate their own legends. Once, on the first day of class, Angela Carter, who taught at Brown, was asked by a student what her own writing was like. She carefully answered as follows: 'My work cuts like a steel blade at the base of a mans penis.' The course turned out not to be oversubscribed."Notre Dame has an excellent creative writing program, which prompted my interest in the article given my role as dean. Menand ends with an almost touching note:"And if students, however inexperienced and ignorant they may be, care about the same things, they do learn from each other. I stopped writing poetry after I graduated, and I never published a poemwhich places me with the majority of people who have taken a creative-writing class. But Im sure that the experience of being caught up in this small and fragile enterprise, contemporary poetry, among other people who were caught up in it, too, affected choices I made in life long after I left college. I wouldnt trade it for anything."
John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.