How does all this relate to the subject of the modern fiction and
creative writing? The European approach is that you start with basic
tools~the ability to write "decent" prose, for example. Then you study
as much of what has come before, and you try to move on. It is difficult
to rebel against something you do not really understand, so history
is important, even if you are intending to reject it.
It seems to me that the American system, where just about everybody
goes to some kind of university, has resulted in the diminished value
of the university itself. Why must so many people go? There was a
time when we used apprenticeships to teach~what is wrong with that
for those who are mainly interested in learning something that will
allow them to earn a decent wage?
One of the more interesting consequences of America's "radical democratization"
of education is that it has
a new kind of elite: the Ph.D. For many, a B.A. is no longer enough,
one must go on to get a higher degree. Who benefits the most from
this? Surely it is those institutions that confer those degrees.
I have always had a bit of a problem with intellectualizing "art."
That may be for critics to do, who study the arts professionally.
(This does not mean to say that artists cannot be successful critics.
The reverse, however, is rare.) I just had a look at some of the other
universities in the UK, and they also seem to teach "creative writing"~an
American disease? Makes them some money, I suspect.
If I were asked to advise a young person who was accepted at a reasonable
university and was unsure what to do, I'd say, "Do history or some
kind of liberal arts subject. Learn as much as you can about what
has been before. Read as much as you can. Absorb, observe,