Creative Writing What Is It

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More dug into the American past to find evidence of a long-standing new humanist tradition, and where he couldn’t find evidence he invented it.

He discovered that, with some pressure and selective reading, he could turn almost any writer into an evangelist for his movement.

Although Lewis later denied that he had based the character on Irving Babbitt, the Harvard professor had the misfortune of seeing his surname enter dictionaries as a new word for bourgeois conformism.

More introduced Babbitt’s ideas to a wider public through his prolific writings for , which he named for his writing retreat in Shelburne, New Hampshire.

For Babbitt, all evil descended from two men: Francis Bacon, the father of empiricism, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the father of Romanticism.

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Empiricism and Romanticism conspired under the idea of progress.Writers love to hate creative writing programs, graduates of them most of all.In 2009, literature scholar Mark Mc Gurl published , in which he declared the rise of creative writing “the most important event in postwar American literary history.” For an academic book full of graphs and terms like “technomodernism,” it reached a wide audience, prompting reviews and editorials from publications like .It emerged from a long-since-forgotten philosophical movement that instituted creative writing as a discipline for learning about yourself rather than the wider world.New humanism arose in the first decade of the 20th century as a response to the progressive education movement. Babbitt and More, in their mid-30s at the turn of the century, announced themselves as that rare thing universities have a knack for producing: young curmudgeons. Babbitt and More resented all forms of collectivism, all philosophies that put the group or the nation before the individual.But the administrators who hired them did not want their new professors of the craft trumpeting the big social novels Lewis admired but to perpetuate the philosophical movement he hated, to teach the circus of new humanism.Students, the discipline’s founders believed, should write what they know rather than what they think, show what they see rather than say what they learn, represent an authentic self rather than show how it formed or say what it means.New humanism is the philosophy of creative writing.It is a philosophy of disciplined individualism, of crafted authenticity.Most Americans, he told his European audience, “are still afraid of any literature which is not a glorification of everything American, a glorification of our faults as well as our virtues.” He railed against the jingoism and anti-intellectualism of American universities and colleges, lamenting that they excluded creative writers from their lecterns because professors liked their literature “cold and pure and very dead.” Lewis saved his harshest words for new humanism, a philosophical movement that promoted a restoration of moral teaching in the liberal arts and opposed deterministic theories of human nature, which he mocked as an “astonishing circus” and a “nebulous cult.” Elitist, moralizing, nostalgic for an imagined past — new humanism, he argued, epitomized the worst of American culture.Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, titled his lecture “The American Fear of Literature.” He received a standing ovation in Stockholm and severe criticism in the United States. Not 10 years later, universities began hiring novelists and poets as professors not of literature but of the new discipline of creative writing, first at the University of Iowa and then at Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Denver.


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