The BYU MFA: An interview with Stephen B Tuttle of the new creative-writing program (part two)

Stephen B Tuttle is a participant professor in BYU’s new MFA for creative writing. The first half of this interview posted August 5.

Do you worry about the MFA bubble that was written about in I think it was The New Yorker last year. This idea that MFAs exist to train MFA instructors and soon we’ll have more MFAs than we need?

I’m not concerned about that at all. That’s a concern that’s been around a while, and it makes sense if you think about us as a vocational school where we’re training writers who now need to get jobs as writers. One thing that is true about BYU—and I think it’s probably more true about BYU than many programs, certainly thnt the big prestige programs, certainly more than Texas-Austin or anywhere else—is that a great many of our writers aren’t planning on careers in writing. They’re good writers and they want to keep writing but for a lot of reasons that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the job market. I don’t think our writers are by and large thinking about going on to jobs in teaching.

I think a lot of them are hoping to go on to publication. That market may be oversaturated as well, but it’s oversaturated in a different way and has been for a longer time than the teaching market. Continue reading “The BYU MFA: An interview with Stephen B Tuttle of the new creative-writing program (part two)”

The BYU MFA: An interview with Stephen B Tuttle of the new creative-writing program

Stephen B Tuttle is a writer of fiction whose short stories Amanuensis and The Weather Here I am happy to recommend. After finishing his MFA and PhD in creative writing at Utah, he became what he is still: a professor at BYU. He currently represents BYU’s new creative-writing MFA on the graduate committee and has been one of the architects of that new MFA. I spoke with him in mid-May, shortly after the close of the program’s first full year.

So maybe the first question I’ld like to ask is, what is the difference between the M.A. in creative writing and the M.F.A. and why did B.Y.U. decide to upgrade? Continue reading “The BYU MFA: An interview with Stephen B Tuttle of the new creative-writing program”

An excerpt from The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers

Last week Mormon Artists Group announced the availability of a fine edition version of BYU Assistant Professor of Music Jeremy Grimshaw’s The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers, an account of his trip to the island to study gamelan music and subsequent efforts to start a gamelan orchestra in Utah. I’m pleased to bring you the following excerpt from the book. Tomorrow I’ll post a Q&A with Jeremy.

The fine edition version is limited to 25 copies and costs $125. You can purchase it (and read more about it) at http://mormonartistsgroup.com/ (for some reason the website doesn’t do direct links to its pages — so click on “Works” when the page loads and then The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers). Other editions of this title may become available in the future. Mormon Artists Group fine editions almost always sell out so if this does interest you and is within  your means, act quickly.

From the section on unpacking the gamelan instruments when they arrive in Provo.

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When the instruments arrived, I couldn’t help but notice that the unpacking party was a kind of music of its own: a polyphonic chorus of hammering, the groan of boards being forced out of square, nails squealing at the pull of crowbars. The twenty-one crates, some of them as big as refrigerators and all of them sturdy enough to protect their heavy, precious cargo on the nine thousand mile, three month- long journey from Bali, Indonesia, to Provo, Utah, put up quite a fight before giving up their contents. Continue reading “An excerpt from The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers”

Terry Eagleton and the Mormons, take II

Back in Aug. 2004 I wrote a post titled Terry Eagleton is Utah-obsessed which cited two Mormo-centric references in his book After Theory. More recently (just last month) Dave Banack posted on the same references at Times & Seasons. An excellent discussion ensued which referenced Eagleton’s latest book Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate.

In the interest of completism, here is the one Mormon reference in that book (or at least the only overt one I found):

It is true that a great many Christians have fallen prey to flagrantly ideological versions of the Gospel — that is to say, version of it which in one way or another play into the hands of what Saint John darkly refers to as the powers of this world. As far as I can see, there is no support in Scripture for what I believe may still be the practice at the Mormons’ Brigham Young University (I refrain from placing that last word in scare quotes), where those students or faculty members who need for medical reason to grow beards are required to carry on their persons a so-called beard card. But perhaps I have overlooked some vital antishaving verse in Luke or Matthew here. (pages 58-59)

Anyone who doesn’t like Eagleton’s style and/or core philosophies won’t enjoy this book. I derived some mild pleasure from the Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens (or Ditchkins as he calls them) take down although you have to buy in to so much of Eagleton’s social justice version of Christianity for it to really be convincing.

As for the Mormon potshot: eh, whatever. It’s sort of like the potshots on Gilmore Girls — I still find you somewhat witty and interesting, but think you’d do best to keep to what you actually know.

On the new BYU MFA

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So that BYU is starting an MFA in Creative Writing. My only real wonderment is why it took so long. It’s a trendy program to have and BYU, one would think, should have a vested interest in flooding the earth with good writers. This is self-evident.

Furthermore, I am hopeful that this will result in writers being treated with the same slavish love and devotion that lawyers and MBAs receive. I’m wondering if the economic crisis and Tim Flanigan might be making them rethink their institutional preference for those professions and start giving writers a shot. Surely this is the underlying message behind the new MFA program: Perhaps artists aren’t that dangerous after all. (Comparatively.) Continue reading “On the new BYU MFA”

“Our Refined Heavenly Home”

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Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Seventy wrote a delightful article in this month’s Ensign, “Our Refined Heavenly Home.” I’m ashamed to admit that I might never have read it had not my dear wife told me I should. (I keep saying I’ll stick the Ensign in the bathroom where it will actually get read, but it seems weird to have all those pictures of Jesus on my toilet, Backslider or no Backslider.) The article is adapted from a BYU devotional Elder Callister gave in 2006 which is about 1800 words longer and has even more dandy quotations. (Frankly, it’s tempting to just lift all his quotations and anecdotes and place them here for discussion, but I can’t quite feel good about that.)

The article has three main thrusts, language, literature and music, with an everything-else category to finish things off.

For brevity’s sake, I will take a short excerpt from each section to comment on, but in your comments, feel free to reference any part of his talk. Continue reading ““Our Refined Heavenly Home””