Sep

29

MFA Professor Janette Hospital Is So Happy At Columbia!!!

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Janette Turner Hospital, an author and Adjunct Associate Professor at the MFA Writing Program here, really likes Columbia. Her school spirit is perhaps second only to that of Roar-ee the Lion.

Today, she wrote an email to her old students at University of South Carolina. She is, it seems, happier here than she was there. In many hundreds of words, she details everything that she loves about Columbia, and encourages USC students to stay in a nearby hostel (with linens provided!) so that they can just smell the Morningside (“Upstate Manhattan”) air. Gawker got hold of the email, and it is unreal. We bolded some true gems. The MIT and Matisse bits are our very favorites.

To those I’m supervising and to all other MFA students:

Forwarded below are a couple of emails sent to all of our Columbia MFA students. It’s the kind of invitation students here receive-and take up-at least once or twice a week in a cornucopia of literary riches. It seems to me that USC writing students should also know about these opportunities, since you could car-pool up to NYC very cheaply and stay at youth hostels on Manhattan (within walking distance of Columbia U and Central Park) for just $30/night (shared room) with linen, towels, and breakfast provided. MFA students from other states take advantage of this and visit in groups. Why not USC?

As for news from this very different MFA planet, I’m in seventh heaven teaching here, and not only because I have Orhan Pamuk (whom I hope to bring to USC for Caught in the Creative Act), Oliver Sacks, Simon Schama, Richard Howard, Margo Jefferson, etc., etc., as colleagues, though that is obviously part of it.

My students also live and move and write in seventh heaven and in a fever of creative excitement.Columbia’s MFA is rigorous and competitive but students don’t just have publication as a goal – they take that for granted, since about half the graduating class has a book published or a publishing contract in hand by graduation – so they have their sights set on Pulitzers.

This program is huge, the largest in the country. It’s a 3-year degree, with 300 students enrolled at a given time. Each year, 100 are admitted (in fiction, poetry, nonfiction) with fiction by far the largest segment. But 600+ apply, so the 100 who get in are the cream of the cream…

This kind of rigor about the thesis (absolutely no easy rides here) has a lot to do with the high publication rate. But there are certainly other factors which contribute: students do internships at the New Yorker, Publishers’ Weekly, Paris Review, and at major publishing houses. They attend multiple readings by famous writers every week (not by any means all at Columbia, but at the NY Public Library, the 92nd St Y, at NYU, etc.

Also, the program hosts a reception for all graduating students with about 30 major editors and agents invited. At his reception, each agent or editor is presented with an anthology of the work of the graduating students, along with contact emails. No wonder the students are off to a flying start. Agents and editors hover like major-league recruiters at college championships.

But I think what thrills me most of all is the sheer intellectual intensity of the students. Although I have taught at a number of the most highly regarded MFA programs in this country and in England, there’s only one other place I’ve ever taught where there was a comparable atmosphere, and that was MIT, where I taught for 3 years. At both places the crackle of intellectual energy in the air is almost visible, like blue fire.

And then there are all the peripheral pleasures of living on Manhattan: we’ve seen the Matisse exhibition at MOMA, have tickets for the opening of Don Pasquale at the Met Opera, have tickets to see Al Pacino on stage as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice, etc etc. Plus I’m just 15 minutes walking distance from Columbia and from all the sidewalk bistros on Broadway, and 3 minutes from Central Park where we join the joggers every morning. This is Cloud Nine living on the Upper West Side (which is known to my agent and my Norton editor, who live in Greenwich Village, as “Upstate Manhattan.” ) We love it.

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19 Comments

  1. JEWISH AMERICAN PRINCESS WHO WEARS LEGGING

    YAY!!! MAZEL TOVVV!!!!

  2. ...  

    it's like she doesn't at all understand that "Upstate Manhattan" is actually a pejorative phrase meaning "the corner of 116th and The Middle of Fucking Nowhere."

  3. Anonymous  

    I don't think this is as offensive as people make it out to be. Should she be emailing former students bragging about another–likely unattainable– school? No. But she certainly isn't being malicious.

    maybe she was drunk when she wrote it.

    • Anonymous  

      She's just a writing professor who like most profs has poor social skills but unlike most profs likes to use extravagant language. The result being she was just excited about MFA shit and wanted to tell her former students but accidentally wound up sounding like a douche.

  4. Anonymous  

    This is mean and unnecessary to post.

  5. hey  

    south carolina isn't so bad.

  6. Hospital  

    She belongs in one.

  7. I wrote emails like this

    During NSOP.

  8. hmmm

    Why don't you come and spend $30 to BREATHE the air around me? No really, why not? You don't think you're good enough? Consider this my invitation.

  9. ...  

    WHAT is so wrong with this email? She is LOVING her time here -- why criticize her for that at all? And what's worse is that you're criticizing her for enjoying her time at YOUR institution.

    Bwog should be ashamed of even putting this up. As for its readers, I can hardly speak to the shame they feel on a daily basis since most of the comments on this website are inane.

    • Umm...  

      It's the fact that she's bragging about the "sheer intellectual intensity of the students", TO HER PAST STUDENTS, saying that they do not possess the "blue fire" (side note: WTF? Like the Goblet of Fire?) that apparently only Columbia and MIT students do.

      The problem is not that she's happy and writing about her happiness. It's kind of like the difference between telling your friends how sex with your new partner is the best you've ever had and telling your ex the same thing.

    • 2O13

      well duh, we're at columbia, we're jaded and unhappy and we want everyone else to feel the same way.
      also blue fire haaaaaahahahahahaahahhaa so many lolz.

  10. Alum

    What are you people talking about? How was sending this email a bad thing? For that matter, how is posting it on Bwog a bad thing?

    Prof. Hospital loves Columbia. She loves it more than South Carolina, but so would lots of other people. We're the stronger school, with the stronger MFA program and the stronger students. She isn't bragging; she's just sharing the facts and saying how happy they make her. The students at South Carolina probably expect Columbia to have a better program, better students, etc., so I doubt they're shocked. The same goes for NY, NY vs. Columbia, S.C.

    She's not insulting anyone at South Carolina. She's just telling them she's found a wonderful place and urging them to experience it for themselves. That's what friends do. I think it's great that a prof does the same thing for her former students.

  11. T

    Er, looks like she wasn't actually \sharing the facts\ but \sharing some fictions\..

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/columbia-fiction-professo_b_746769.html

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