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The Programmatic Era: Creative Writing as Cultural Imperialism

Harry Whitehead


In recent years, Creative Writing has spread far beyond its origins in the Anglophone higher education institutions of the global north. Positioning Mark McGurl’s much-lauded The Program Era in the global(-ized) arena, the essay asks: how, why, and to what end might the Creative Writing Program influence global literary production, given the cultural and historical particularity of its teaching models and craft devices? Moving beyond a discourse on pedagogy, the essay draws on wider debates around cultural and linguistic imperialism, as well as literary production in the global marketplace. It uses the key example of the subject’s recent expansion into China, and focuses on the ‘workshop model,’ writing anthologies, and ‘plot’ as it is articulated in canonical writing guides. The essay argues that the subject must better articulate its historical and cultural particularities. If not, it risks enacting a form of cultural imperialism on the production of future ‘World Literatures,’ limiting the potential for experimental writing in a globalizing world.


Creative Writing; globalization; cultural imperialism; linguistic imperialism; global literary marketplace; orality; China; narrative structure; workshop; craft; World literatures.

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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