How Iowa Flattened Literature is one of those pieces that makes you go hmm. It echoes a few works a I’ve read that deal with the post war America and the Cold War. The author, Eric Bennett, is definitely more concerned with how Paul Engle, the head of the Iowa Writers Workshop, collaborated with the CIA and ultimately lead to the current state of creative writing programs in the US today. That’s not the story I more concerned with. Obviously, I want to know how Flannery O’Connor was affected by Engle and his leanings towards conservative pro-american ideals seen right after WWII. I do question whether he’s methods for teaching writing were as ingrained with FOC was in Iowa. (I really doubt that). Beyond my questions, I think this quote is by far my favorite:
Of course, we live in an age that cringes at words like “greatness”—and also at the notion that we’re not all great. But ages that didn’t cringe at greatness produced great writing without creative-writing programs. And people who attend creative-writing programs for the most part wish to write great things. It’s sick to ask them to aspire but not to aspire too much. An air of self-doubt permeates the discipline, showing up again and again as the question, “Can writing be taught?”
I think if O’Connor were here, even though she went through a writing program, maybe inclined to say no or at the least it should try harder to stop new writers from graduating.