Creative Writing and the New Humanities

By Paul Dawson | Go to book overview
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Creative Writing in Australia

'The 1960s', according to Stephen Wilbers, 'was the decade in which creative writing programs or “writers' workshops” became commonplace in universities and colleges across the country. Many of these programs were founded, directed, and staffed by Iowa Workshop graduates' (1980:105). It was a teacher from the university of Iowa, R.V. Cassill, who established the Associated Writing Programs in 1967, and this, according to D.G. Myers, marked the 'professionalisation' of Creative Writing. While founded with thirteen member institutions, the AWP's website now lists over three hundred.

What were the reasons for this rapid proliferation? For James Ragan, the rise of audio-visual technology, or what he calls the 'New Mediaism', in the 1960s, was responsible for a decline in public literacy. Disenchantment with these social changes supposedly prompted a 'mass movement' of writers into the university, who then contributed to the subsequent proliferation of writing programmes (1989:165). 'The boom years of the Associated Writing Programs as a growth industry were the 1970s, ' Jed Rasula asserts, 'a decade notable for the rise of the self-help publishing market' (1996:421). The link, for Rasula, is that 'the workshops took self-development as a seemingly unschooled or “natural” incentive for writing' (422). In other words, the valuation of authentic experience and emotion in the workshop is designed to cater to the self-help market, and self-expression is part of 'a more pervasive process of social inscription and subjectification' which reproduces the capitalist consumer market (424). At the same time, it should be noted, current-traditional rhetoric in composition was replaced by more expressivist theories, thus drawing from and contributing to the popularity of Creative Writing programmes (see Bishop 1990: xv).

What also needs to be considered, however, is what happened in English Studies during this period. In the decades of Creative


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Creative Writing and the New Humanities


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