After the Program Era
“Building on the achievement of Mark McGurl’s The Program Era, After the Program Era is an outstanding collection of essays that stages a vital and ongoing debate about postwar American literature and the university.”—Evan Brier, author, A Novel Marketplace: Mass Culture, the Book Trade, and Postwar American Fiction
“Mark McGurl’s The Program Era made clear that it is impossible to understand postwar literature without attending to institutions. Glass et al. take this insight in important new directions, discussing such disparate phenomena as the early twentieth-century precursors of the writing program, Cold War diplomacy, and contemporary poetry readings. The case studies are compelling, and the volume as a whole does the vital service of reminding us how much work remains to be done.”—Andrew Hoberek, University of Missouri
The publication in 2009 of Mark McGurl’s The Program Era provoked a sea change in the study of postwar literature. Even though almost every English department in the United States housed some version of a creative writing program by the time of its publication, literary scholars had not previously considered that this institutional phenomenon was historically significant. McGurl’s groundbreaking book effectively established that “the rise of the creative writing program stands as the most important event in postwar American literary history,” forcing us to revise our understanding not only of the relationship between higher education and literary production, but also of the periodizing terminology we had previously used to structure our understanding of twentieth-century literature.
After the Program Era explores the consequences and implications, as well as the lacunae and liabilities, of McGurl’s foundational intervention. McGurl focuses only on American fiction and the traditional MFA program, and this collection aims to expand and examine its insights in terms of other genres and sites. Postwar poetry, in particular, has until now been neglected as a product of the Program Era, even though it is, arguably, a “purer” example, since poets now depend almost entirely on the patronage of the university. Similarly, this collection looks beyond the traditional MFA writing program to explore the prehistory of writing programs in American universities, as well as alternatives to the traditionally structured program that have emerged along the way.
Taken together, the essays in After the Program Era seek to answer and explore many of these questions and continue the conversations McGurl only began.