Using a variety of tools from the field of computational text analysis, we studied how similar authors were across a range of literary aspects, including diction, style, theme, setting, and even how writers use characters.novel, what makes, say, Junot Diaz sound like Junot Diaz, is of course mostly immeasurable.Tags: Child Abuse Term PaperResearched Position PaperWe Write Your EssayRalph Waldo Emerson Power EssayBeowulf Anglo Saxon Hero EssayCreative Writing Courses In LondonBad Creative Writing AdviceGreat Business Plans
Nevertheless, there are some words that are different, but given that we’re talking about over 200,000 unique words, this is hardly surprising. They prefer names like Ruth, Pete, Bobby, Charlotte, and Pearl (while non-MFA novels seem to like Anna, Tom, John, and Bill).
But on the whole, these distinctions look pretty meaningless; the words that appear more often in MFA novels don’t seem to be related to each other in a significant way.
So we decided to examine to what extent writing from MFA graduates differs from writing by non-graduates.
We collected a sample of 200 novels written by graduates of MFA programs from over 20 leading programs (including Columbia, University of Texas at Austin, Iowa, and others) that have been published in the last 15 years.
To test whether this was the case, we used a method called topic modeling that examines themes instead of individual words.
And while MFA novels do tend to slightly favor certain themes like “family” or “home,” overall there’s no predictable way these topics appear with any regularity in novels written by creative writing graduates more than other people who write novels.It was extremely difficult to separate the MFA and non-MFA writing groups in any meaningful way.If these results seem unbelievable, we shared this feeling as we carried out our tests.To sum up: So far, no real difference between MFA and non-MFA works. Surely, we thought, there should be some stylistic differences between these novels.The way writers put their words in order, that special MFA voice, should be detectable at some level.Whether you valorize the Romantic ideal of the lonely, humble artist or the neo-liberal belief that education can solve any problem, the MFA has become a kind of Rorschach test for how writers and critics feel about creativity, where it comes from, and how best to nurture it.Until now, no one has used much evidence beyond the anecdotal to test whether or not the MFA has actually influenced the contemporary novel.But there’s an underlying assumption that the MFA But what if there’s no change to speak of?Is it really possible to tell the difference between novels that have been through the meat-grinder of the MFA and those that haven’t?You don’t need a degree in statistics to know this isn’t very good—you can be right 50 percent of the time just by accident.To put this number in context, with the same procedure we can predict bestselling novels about 82 percent of the time or whether a novel is a mystery or romance 85 percent and 95 percent of the time, respectively.