Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Does It Take to Get a Master's in English?

Not much, regretfully.  In terms of a final project, my school requires only 60 pages, either of a memoir, short story collection, or novella.  That 60-page figure is a MAX number of pages.  It used to be that you had to submit a full novel or a complete (approximately 200 page) short story collection in order to have a shot in hell at getting a Master's.  But these days, with budget cuts and hiring freezes, the university staff just don't have the time to read 200-page books from all of us.

So we get 60 pages.  Max.

What the heck is wrong with an educational system that gives people a Master's degree for 60 pages of crappy fiction?  Or memoir?  It's embarrassing.  Granted, I don't have a literary novel lying around that I could use in order to graduate.  (A romance, a spy thriller, a mystery, and a vampire historical--yes, I have those!)  If my school had real standards, I'd have had to finish the literary mystery I started last summer.  I would have had to follow it through instead of letting it rot on my computer, untouched since August.

In a way, I want that push.  Instead of turning in 60 pages of random short stories, I would have had to work harder on what a fiction writer is supposed to do--write books.  Short stories are fun to write, but they're also easy on the relative scale of fiction writing.  Just because you can do it several times in a row doesn't mean you deserve a Master's.  How many of us had to write short stories in high school or our undergraduate careers?  My guess is a lot.  So how is doing more of that supposed to merit an advanced degree?

I shouldn't be complaining.  Next semester, I will turn in my 60-page collection of short stories and hopefully get my Master's degree.  But part of me wishes that school had given me the kick in the ass I need to finish the one that got away.