The Program Era

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, Apr 30, 2009 - Education - 466 pages
1 Review

In The Program Era, Mark McGurl offers a fundamental reinterpretation of postwar American fiction, asserting that it can be properly understood only in relation to the rise of mass higher education and the creative writing program. McGurl asks both how the patronage of the university has reorganized American literature and—even more important—how the increasing intimacy of writing and schooling can be brought to bear on a reading of this literature.

McGurl argues that far from occasioning a decline in the quality or interest of American writing, the rise of the creative writing program has instead generated a complex and evolving constellation of aesthetic problems that have been explored with energy and at times brilliance by authors ranging from Flannery O'Connor to Vladimir 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 systematic creativity—an idea that until recently would have seemed a contradiction in terms, but which in our time has become central to cultural production both within and beyond the university.

An engaging and stylishly written examination of an era we thought we knew, The Program Era will be at the center of debates about postwar literature and culture for years to come.


What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Stevil2001 - LibraryThing

This book is not the book I thought it would be. I didn't like it very much as a result. I don't know if that's Mark McGurl's fault or mine. I expected a history of American creative writing programs ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gregorybrown - LibraryThing

An awesome book if you're already interested in the premise: exploring most of 20th century American literature through the lens of the creative writing program, and how many can be easily and ... Read full review


Halls of Mirror
Write What You KnowShow Dont Tell 18901960
Find Your Voice 19601975
Creative Writing at Large 19752008
Systematic Excellence

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Mark McGurl is a Professor of English at Stanford University.

Bibliographic information