The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing

June 14, 2021
The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing

In The Program Era, Mark McGurl offers a fundamentalreinterpretation of postwar American fiction, asserting that it canbe properly understood only in relation to the rise of mass highereducation and the creative writing program. McGurl asks both howthe patronage of the university has reorganized American literatureand―even more important―how the increasing intimacy of writing andschooling can be brought to bear on a reading of thisliterature.McGurl argues that far from occasioning a decline in the qualityor interest of American writing, the rise of the creative writingprogram has instead generated a complex and evolving constellationof aesthetic problems that have been explored with energy and attimes brilliance by authors ranging from Flannery O’Connor toVladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates,and Toni Morrison.Through transformative readings of these and many other writers,The Program Era becomes a meditation on systematiccreativity―an idea that until recently would have seemed acontradiction in terms, but which in our time has become central tocultural production both within and beyond the university.An engaging and stylishly written examination of an era wethought we knew, The Program Era will be at the center ofdebates about postwar literature and culture for years to come.