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The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880 Paperback – June 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0226554549 ISBN-10: 0226554546

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (June 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226554546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226554549
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #723,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The Elephants Teach is an astonishing piece of work. . . . Under the author’s magic it becomes the story of a great part of our culture since the turn of the century.” – from the Foreword by Jacques Barzun

(from the Foreword by Jacques Barzun)

“In clear prose and careful scholarship, David Myers . . . tells the story of how what was supposed to free English literature from the trap of academic disciplines became itself an academic discipline.”<First Things>

(First Things)

Myers is thorough, his writing is clear, and the history he has to tell will be to most, if not all, current teachers of creative writing little short of a revelation. . . . This is a book all teachers of creative writing should read.”<History of Education Quarterly>

(Roger Mitchell History of Education Quarterly)

"This material I think should be required for anyone who intends to teach creative writing on the college or university level."
(Patrick Bizzaro College Composition and Communication)

From the Publisher

Prentice Hall Studies in Writing and Culture captures the excitement of an emerging discipline. The writers in this series are challenging basic assumptions, asking new questions, and trying to broaden inquiry about writing and the teaching of writing. These writers raise challenging questions about how we teach and how we build communities of writers. They also investigate subjects as far-ranging as the nature of knowledge and the role that culture plays in shaping pedagogy. The series is particularly concerned with the interplay between language and culture, and about how gender considerations, race, and audience shape our writing and our teaching. Early volumes will be devoted to the essay, audience, autobiography, and how writers teach writing. Other studies will explore matters that are critical to teaching writing. The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880 traces the development of "creative" writing as (1) a classroom subject, the teaching of fiction- and verse-writing; and (2) a national system for the employment of fiction writers and poets to teach the subject. It answers the questions, "Why has fiction and verse writing come to be called creative?" and "When and why was this term first used?" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By foundpoem on July 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have a masters degree in writng and this book was assigned during the intro-to-the-writing-program course. It changed my perspective, entirely, about what I'd planned to do after graduating. It changed my opinion of writing programs and of masters degrees in writing. The book makes a valid point.

That said, the real world hasn't caught up to this little gem. We still need our degrees, unless we get lucky and publish something best selling, lavishly reviewed, become famous some other way, or some such thing.

But this notion that MFAs in Writing beget teachers in MFA programs in Writing is a powerful one. Academia is insular; we knew this already (this isn't my first advanced degree), but somehow that the most important element of my degree is that it's the qualification to teach in my own program is a powerful lesson. We teach writers to become teachers who teach writers to become teachers who teach writers to become teachers...
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bev on January 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Despite (or perhaps because of) its controversial conclusions, The Elephants Teach is a must-read for anyone involved in teaching writing. This fascinating and detailed analysis of the rise and development of "Creative Writing" in America raises important questions about the purpose of teaching writing, and if the answers are sometimes uncomfortable they are nevertheless thought-provoking. Though he asserts that after the Second World War "Creative Writing programs became a machine for creating more creative writing programs" (146), Myers is not ready to pull the plug; instead, he gently urges breaching the wall separating creative writing and scholarship in order to improve both disciplines. In an illuminating passage, he quotes poet Robert Pinsky on how the distinction between creative writing and scholarship works to the detriment of both: "On one side there is 'an immense elaboration of the techniques of composition' accompanied by 'a fatal ignorance of the past'; on the other side an 'elaborate sophistication regarding poetic theory' that goes with 'a fatal ignorance of composition.' The consequence, he said, is 'rhetorical pedantry in the poets; and arid nihilism in the critics.' Technique had been divorced from theory--composition from the past--as each section of the English deparment sought to perfect its own specialty" (168). It is clear that Myers would like to see creativity and criticism, poetry and scholarship join hands, enabling the Academy to produce not just writing programs but writers.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By MaryClaire on November 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
As a teacher of writing, I found this book extremely interesting and clear. Myers provides a lucid, organized history of the evolution of the teaching of creative writing in this country. While the book will likely not appeal to a layperson, anyone who plans to teach creative writing or enroll in an expensive creative writing program has a stake in what Myers is saying. I am surprised by other reviewers' comments about Myers' view of creative writing (MFA) programs. Unlike other reviewers, I did not find Myers' remarks venomous or even especially harsh; rather, I found them even-handed and common-sensical.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn Jill Coley on October 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Myers traces the birth of creative writing in American universities at the turn of the century as a humanistic response to pedantic philology, to its present status as an "Elephant Machine." Myers concludes his history of creative writing with the observation that we now have "a national staff of writers who teach writers who go on to teach, and to hope for tenure and promotion" (168). While Myers set out to present an objective history, I found his conclusion, although painfully true, still a bit venemous. Myers raises some good questions, however: Why do so many writers turn to teaching? And, can writing be taught?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on November 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had hoped that this book would explore some of the changes in the pedagogical approaches to creative writing since 1880, but mostly, this book contains fairly dry history. Some of the assumptions (for instance, that any poet with an MFA can get a job) are no longer true. Its argument that universities have replaced the patron-based support of writers is marginally convincing, but one can't help but feel that the writer has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, as much as he tries to sound even-handed.

If you're deeply interested in the history of who taught writing when and where and how programs have grown, than this book would be worth a read. Otherwise, I'd give it a pass.
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