The (Mis)Education of the Filipino Writer
According to Merlie Alunan, the writers Edilberto and Edith Tiempo, founders of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop, have so influenced Philippine literary production that the latter half of the twentieth century and “a few more decades hereafter” can be called “The Tiempo Age.” This essay examines the relationship of aesthetics and politics in institutionalized creative writing in the Philippines by unpacking the politics of the Silliman Workshop’s autonomous aesthetics. It situates the origins, pedagogy, and imagined community of the Silliman Workshop within the network of American colonial education in the Philippines, American cultural diplomacy, and institutionalized creative writing in the United States. It explores how New Criticism, as appropriated by the Iowa Writers’ Workshop-trained Tiempos, conflates the autonomy of the literary text with the autonomy of the literary space in which it is produced. The lack of institutional self-critique authorized by this conflation results in the propagation by the Silliman Workshop of colonialist and classist ideas about language and literary production, which are camouflaged, if not naturalized, as principles and mechanisms integral to the craft of writing. The essay calls on the successors of the Tiempos who currently run the Silliman Workshop to scrutinize the historical contingency of the aesthetic values they inherited and to revise their New Critical pedagogy, which continues to uphold the primacy of English as the language of creative writing education and literary production.