Mountains, Lowlands, and Archipelagos


Horace Engdahl thinks that creative writing programs and the walled-off communities academic programs create are hurting western literature. Since writing courses help monetize writing—and fund writers as professionals—Engdahl worries that the courses are removing writers from the real world. Engdahl finds fault with literary criticism, too:

“We talk in the same way about everything which is published, and literary criticism is poorer for it,” he said. “This revolution has marginalised proper literature, which has not got worse, but which has seen its status change. Before, there were mountains and lowlands. Today, the outlook is that of an archipelago, where each island represents a genre … with everything coexisting without a hierarchy or centre.”

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →