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By Adam Gottlieb

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Still, one can find obvious exceptions to this rule even at these places—for example, Kurt Vonnegut at Iowa, Gilbert Sorrentino at Stanford—and it seems a fairly weak description of programs at schools like Johns Hopkins, Brown, and SUNY Buffalo, all of which have been and remain strongly supportive of experimental writing. T. Coraghessan Boyle recounts how, when he was studying with John Cheever at Iowa in the seventies, “I kept making noises about ‘experimental writing’ and hailing people like Coover, Pynchon, Barthelme, and John Barth, but Cheever would have none of it.

Others such as John W. Aldridge have given thumbs-Â�down to the writing program not only for its removal of writers from the manifold stimulations of the real world, but also for the damage it has done to the originality of the individual authorial voice. Demonstrating the continuing appeal of the romantic conception of the artist as an original genius, “assembly-Â�line” writing programs are blamed by Aldridge for producing a standardized aesthetic, a corporate literary style that makes a writer identifiable as, say, an Iowa writer.

John Irving”—on the cover of a book. They know that fiction emerges in the most literal sense from the experiences of the author —writing fiction is one of those experiences. And they know that in the literary culture in which the fictional author named Garp came to exist, “personal experience” and “creativity” are primary values that relay one to the other in a relation of mutual authorization, distortion, and augmentation. They know that part of the value of the modern literary text, quite apart from the “relatability” of its characters, is the act of authorship that it records, offering readers a mediated experience of expressive selfhood as such.

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