According to an in-the-know Iowa MFA-er, new Workshop Director Lan Samantha Chang owes her job to faculty member Marilynne Robinson. Students and alumni overwhelmingly preferred finalist Ben Marcus (pictured left), as did the search committee saddled with the task of finding Frank Conroy’s replacement. But Robinson, winner of the Pulitzer and the NBCC prize in fiction for last year’s Gilead, threatened to quit if Marcus was selected for the job.
Both Robinson and Marcus attended Brown University, where they received their BA and MFA degrees, respectively. But the ideological distance between them couldn’t be greater: Robinson, also a biblical scholar, is adamantly anti-theory; Marcus, on the other hand, is the author of such semiotically-minded books as The Age of Wire and String and Notable American Women, of which The Onion A.V. wrote, “[it] plies the stony poetics of postmodern figureheads like Donald Barthelme and William H. Gass.”