Welcome to the Program Era Project Blog, where my team and I will be updating you on the latest developments in our efforts to create a comprehensive and flexible research tool for both critics and creative writers.
Our inspiration, of course, is Mark McGurl’s groundbreaking book The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Harvard 2009), and especially his call to colleagues in the opening chapter: “We need to start documenting this phenomenon, moving out from the illustrious cases of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Stanford University to grasp the reality of an enterprise that now numbers some 350 institutional participants and continues to grow. This enterprise is our literary history.”
In response to McGurl’s call we intend to create a digital database along with a visualization tool that can be used to map the professional itineraries and social networks of everyone who ever studied or taught creative writing at Iowa since the Workshop’s inception to the present date. Ultimately, we intend to collaborate with Stanford and other “early adopters” of creative writing to map the Program Era as a whole.
We want to emphasize from the outset that we will only be using publicly available information and we will not provide digital access to any textual material currently in copyright. We intend to respect both privacy and confidentiality and we welcome any questions or concerns you may have regarding these matters.
We also have no specific research agenda. Rather, our goal is to provide access to an archive for anyone doing research on the Program Era. We see our project as a supplement to, as opposed to replacement for, conventional research. That said, I do have my own research questions that I will be sharing from time to time, and the team will also use this site as a venue to highlight some of the more interesting information, surprising trends, and unexpected anomalies we encounter.
At this point, we are working on getting everyone in our database so that cohorts and mentoring relations can be easily visualized. We hope that patterns of influence, both individual and institutional, can be traced using this information. We also are including information about hometowns and employment, so that geographical patterns can be mapped. Eventually, we hope to add information about publications and prizes.