From an article in The Australian about South African born author JM Coetzee:

universities should be educating students in the history of arts, music and humanities rather than just equipping them with the skills to write creative prose and play music.


"Should we be worried that the graduating students are equipped to write novels and stories and plays for today's literary market but not well informed about the history of these forms or about what has been achieved in the forms in the past?" Coetzee asked.

"If I asked the corresponding question in the realms of science and technology, a reasonable answer would probably be, no, it is nothing to be worried about, that someone could get a degree in astronomy without knowing about Ptolemy or a degree in engineering without knowing about Archimedes."

Whereas, of course, someone writing creative work who hasn't read at least a survey of Homer, Chaucer, and Cervantes is virtually crippled. The problem lies in the Trade School approach to literary education, the idea that there are critics who need one sort of learning and creators who need another. University English departments reinforce this division institutionally by providing their BAs of English Literature—for critics—and BFAs in Creative Writing—for poets, novelists, and the seemingly endless supply of short story writers in the vein of Raymond Carver—as separate sets of curriculum. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say that a person who hasn't read a good 70% of Shakespeare, along with The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf has no business even thinking about being a professional poet or teaching creative writing. I'd go farther than that and refer readers to Ezra Pound's ABC's of Reading for a more complete list, but I'd probably only get accused of elitism and any way, I have trouble with the idea that one needs to speak Provençal and Catalan in order to write good poetry in English. Still these days, given the emphasis on workshop courses and the reading and analysis of 20th century English speaking poets and critics, it's conceivable that there are Creative Writing MFA's, and maybe even a lot of them, who haven't ever done their homework. Some American schools have started to realize this problem. SUNY Buffalo, for example, runs the PhD in poetics program which is designed to produce well-read artists rather than the highly skilled artisans that come out of a program like Iowa's Writers Workshop.