The editor of this journal said subject positioning was the order of the day for this introduction. In This Essay, Kass Fleisher does as much in (most emphatically) Act 3. Such positioning contributes mightily to explaining the partial (in both senses of the word, as the authors themselves acknowledge) coverage of the issue at hand. In the case of this introduction, subject positioning can help explain why, out of all the particulars in This Essay - the breadth of which is, well, breathtaking - I address the particulars I will address. Whatever your subject position, I would venture, you will find something to think about in This Essay.
I am the production editor, appointed managing editor in tempore opportuno (see Stone) - looks better on a resume. Either title means that I am the one to code the essay and all riPOSTes. For easier troubleshooting later, I wanted the code to be clean; consequently, I erased much of Joe Amato's coding in the essay itself, which he overlooked with characteristic benevolentia.
What resulted, "design"-wise, is what Joseph Tabbi called "an old-fashioned hypertext"
along the lines
of those from when this journal started way back in 1995. Sure, it's a long
scroll down, and certain British design journals might call that into question,
but I hope it's readable, navigable, and even printable, even for those still (as are the editor and I) enamored of print.
What's the matter with the Mill? In short, nothing. Even after installing hundreds and hundreds of links and anchors (too many to count, really) in the Progressively Circuitous Notes, I love it. And Amato tells me it has proven useful in a practical sense as well. And I hope none of y'all are resistant to the Gibraltar grain in the Citation Mill. If you are, you're taking yourselves way too seriously. In my Midwestern states, people get buried under piles of grains like these.
Polemic is one of my favorite genres (it beats the hell out of job letters) and This Essay has it. Although the preponderance of the discussion surrounds the pedagogy, or lack of it, found in the creative writing workshop - and I've never been in one of those - there are nubby threads of polemic woven (if I may) throughout the piece. The kinds of threads one might - irritated, provoked, annoyed - pick at and unravel. One such example is the dig at pedagogical theory. For while they seem to argue that creative writing workshops could benefit if those instructors paused to, with critical tools drawn perhaps from Composition's pedagogical theory, consider their teaching, we also find that the theory and its applications are themselves not immune from the criticism of anemia.
Back to subject positioning, then. Really I am more than managing editor of ebr, and that brings me to those particulars I mentioned earlier. For instance, in various stretches of the essay, the authors address the professionalization of the writing and/or (college) teaching profession. Such discussions can address issues of working conditions, salaries, and job availability, issues that I, as part of the sub(if you will)-professional class of English studies in the university, find especially relevant. In the university, I am a Writing Associate laboring under one Director of Writing Assessment and one Writing Center Director. Both PhDs and both men. We (three women) Writing Associates have a "(.50 FTE), academic year assignment" with "a salary of $7,972.20 plus benefits" - reason enough to continue to seek full employment. Still, it's the first time my family has had health insurance in seven years, so it's better than adjuncting. As for adjuncting, the university allows me to instruct one course per year. As I wallowed in theory while a cultural studies track master's student, I had no illusions that I would ever again be paid (without a really advanced degree, and lots and lots of luck finding a job) to ponder the intricacies of Hegelian Marxism.
And when Amato and Fleisher glance at the 1980's controversy between theory and creative writing, and the 1990's inquiry from composition into creative writing, they revive(?) Stephen North's compelling notion of the "lore" of knowledge-makers from "composition's rank and file." North and the authors of This Essay suggest that "lore" should be informed by scholarship and research; I contend that the "rank and file," who face a steady stream of students needing "practical" advice on writing, are allowed no time for doing or even reading scholarship and research.This Essay has many such moments that resonate with me. And that's how I know how well Fleisher and Amato see in their (now) rearward position as CW professors. Although they are no longer in the "trenches" they once wrote from, their view is still relatively clear alongside what we in the trenches do see.
To those more closely allied with creative writing, Fleisher and Amato have posed these questions, among others:
Is the creative writing workshop, like that of Grady Tripp from the film Wonder Boys, little more than a safe haven for taste distribution and reinforcement, harsh or supportive as the case may be, turning on the particular constituency of a given workshop?
Is the creative writing classroom a place simply for fortifying the mysteries of creativity, or can something more concrete, more palpable, more critical, more urgent therein be attended to?
Do advanced degrees help would-be writing instructors (much as literature instructors), regardless how talented as writers, to acquire the requisite analytical tools to acquire critical insight into teaching?
Kirsten Young, Managing Editor