Melbourne University Creative Writing

Rather, I see the value of my Ph D in, above all else, the supervisory relationship.This unique experience, in all its complexity and intensity, is an introduction to – an induction into – how our writing and publishing industry works.While the monetisation of mentoring provides a certain transparency, the user-pays model arguably influences the advice customer–clients receive. But if the individual working on a prizewinning manuscript is from the commercial sector then their feedback is also unlikely to be neutral, and more likely to be market-driven – which may, of course, be exactly what the applicant–author wants and/or needs.

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I have been awarded professional and personal insight into how I can now further my development alone. In ‘Why teaching (writing) matters: a full confession’, Jayne Anne Phillips argues that, more important than teaching writing, an MFA is a way ‘those engaged in the practice of an art can mentor apprentice artists, and apprentice artists, in community, can mentor one another.’ Our industry has long been aware of the value of mentoring: not only have established authors throughout history advised and edited emerging ones, but the trade itself is founded upon that all-important author–editor relationship (or author–publisher, depending on who takes on this developmental role).

As our profession and creative practice differs from fine arts’, so the nature of creative writing mentorships also vary – from other sectors, and within our own community.

Which begs the question: what do we students (have the right to) ask for?

Everything costs someone something – whether it’s cash, in kind, personal time or academic workload allocation.

To connect Stover and Brabazon’s perspectives, supervisors don’t only help students navigate the university system, they must chart a path themselves that protects both their time and that of their student meetings.

In many institutions the preparatory experience for this one-on-one supervision, honours, is under threat.

For context, I’d already had one novel published; for further context, that too had been developed through a higher education program – a masters.

Clearly I’m in favour of formal learning, but coming to the end of our highest arts degree I’ve been reflecting on what, exactly, it’s taught me.

Regardless of whether you agree at an undergraduate level, most would concur in the case of a student studying to be a doctor of philosophy.

Though perhaps arts courses are not inevitably so productive: David Foster Wallace’s well-known commencement speech neatly articulates how teaching individuals to think also teaches them to recognise and resist certain kinds of ‘Think-Speak’.


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