Shame Makes Us Who We Are

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Anyone who has ever been in a creative writing workshop knows the type of shame ordinarily suffered only by lifestyle submissives. And in the new Bookforum, Mark Grief, while reviewing Mark McGurl’s The Program Era, plays with McGurl’s idea that the shame inherent in academia has in fact helped define an entire era of literature.

Raymond Carver, for example, “turned shame at exposure into the mark of depth, made unwillingness to speak and selective revelation the signs of mastery,” all because, unlike someone like F. Scott Fitzgerald, he had to work in academics to support himself.  This makes me want to write a thousand page book that I never workshop once, all while being supported by a benefactor. Any takers?


Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →