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Sun Yat-sen University opens nation’s first English Creative Writing Department

Posted: 03/21/2014 7:00 am

Sun Yat-sen University this week opened the first English-language Creative Writing department in mainland China, Nanfang Daily reports. Classes in Creative Writing will be optional for undergraduate students, according to the paper.

This year’s seniors have the option of making a piece of creative writing or a translation of one part of their dissertation. Post-graduates have the same option, and can also write an analysis of a translation of a piece of creative writing as their thesis.

The introduction is partly aimed at improving the creative thinking skills of its graduates, something that Chinese youngsters have long been said to lack. The camp also intends to invite established authors from around the world to hold “writing camps,” short courses on improving writing. This is how a lot of writers support themselves as the “writer’s life” is becoming more precarious than it has been for decades in the post-financial crisis world.

Can creative writing be taught? That question has been causing a stir in the British media in recent weeks after award-winning novelist and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (who teaches on one) said the courses were “a waste of time.” Saying that 99.9% of his students are not talented, Kureishi said that taking a Master’s degree in Creative Writing “would be madness.”

Other authors agreed, saying it was “the biggest con-job in academia” and it was all about lying to young people. But, Tim Clare, a graduate and teacher of such a course posted a riposte on his blog titled: “Can Creative Writing Be Taught? Not If Your Teacher’s a Prick.”

You can get a sense of the tone of the riposte by the second paragraph:

I try not to respond to manifestly stupid statements from authors, in the same way that I don’t respond to toothless medicine-swigging men’s bellowed warnings to pigeons that MI5 are poisoning our Irn Bru with flourine. There are just too many of them and engagement sometimes convinces these people that they are rational interlocutors in a debate, when really they are deserving of our pity and baffled compassion.

The debate continues to rage and is sure to go on doing so. Which side are you on?

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