Though Wallace Stegner, who graduated from Iowa’s creative writing program in 1930, a few years before it took on its familiar mode, may be the next-best contender for such a distinction.
In the following decades the prestige of the workshop has only grown, and its students have proven that at the least Iowa is successful in encouraging talented writers to write.
Such writers-slash-casual-teachers include Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and Philip Roth.
How much the Iowa Writers' Workshop served to bolster these people is unknown, something even the program itself makes clear by admittance. Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors.
The only thing that could give the impressive student list of Iowa Writers’ Workshop a run for its money is its roll call of current and former faculty.
One of the program’s eminent teachers is novelist Marilynne Robinson, as well as poet Mary Ruefle.
Why, in the last fifty or so years, has the MFA program become a major literary institution?
This is in part because brilliant and successful writers, often insufficiently supported by book advances and royalties, are able to find a second source of income in academia.
It only makes sense that those bold enough to try to make a living with their pen have available to them a break and bulwark from what author and MFA teacher George Saunders has called “the capitalist s**tstorm.”In academia, age matters a lot, and one finds that the most esteemed institutions are often the oldest.
The same applies to the University of Iowa’s Program in Creative Writing, as it is officially called, which was founded in 1936 (which in MFA-creative-writing terms, is ancient).