Are there any famous novelists out there who have PhDs?

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PrimateJ
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I don't imagine it would be too prevalent in the writing world?

For some reason, true or not, I have an idea in my head that high levels of technical education tends to be counteractive or even anathema to creative, fluid writing and use of the imagination. Not always, of course. But still.

Thoughts?
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Festina lente
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How about Isaac Asimov?
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hobnob
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(Original post by PrimateJ)
I don't imagine it would be too prevalent in the writing world?
Well, to be fair, PhDs aren't that prevalent in the non-writing world either... Things may seem a bit different while you're still in an academic bubble, but in the real world, it's actually quite rare for people to have PhDs, and they were even rarer a couple of decades ago, when most of the now famous modern writers* would have been educated.
Unless you were working with the hypothesis that having a PhD makes you a better writer, you could only ever expect a small percentage of them to have PhDs.
So basically I think you're probably looking at this the wrong way, because you have a preconceived idea about too much education hampering creativity.:dontknow:

*You pretty much have to discount pre-20th-century novelists for this, because PhDs in the modern sense didn't really exist before then.
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Angelil
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Sarah Waters has a PhD, I believe. Make of that what you will.
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FormerlyHistoryStudent
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David Baddiel studied for a PhD, though he never finished it. He wrote a few novels, though I haven't personally read any of them.
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imgaysowhat
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(Original post by PrimateJ)
I don't imagine it would be too prevalent in the writing world?

For some reason, true or not, I have an idea in my head that high levels of technical education tends to be counteractive or even anathema to creative, fluid writing and use of the imagination. Not always, of course. But still.

Thoughts?
Reading too much criticism does hamper creativity. Look at Harold Bloom, his attempt at fiction was an embarrassment to Yale.
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PrimateJ
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(Original post by imgaysowhat)
Reading too much criticism does hamper creativity. Look at Harold Bloom, his attempt at fiction was an embarrassment to Yale.
Oh no...didn't realise he tried fiction. Was it truly horrible?
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imgaysowhat
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http://www.amazon.com/Flight-Lucifer.../dp/0394743237

He tried to retract it and was quite ashamed.
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hobnob
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(Original post by imgaysowhat)
http://www.amazon.com/Flight-Lucifer.../dp/0394743237

He tried to retract it and was quite ashamed.
:hahaha:
It's still not entirely fair to pick one example of an academic writing an embarrassing book and then extrapolate from it that 'reading too much criticism hampers creativity' in general, though. OK, so perhaps Harold Bloom should never have tried to become a fantasy writer, and perhaps he later tried to shrug off the embarrassment by blaming it on 'too much criticism', but that still doesn't prove that being an academic either improves or spoils your ability to write. I mean, I'll give you that most academics who try their hand at writing fiction aren't terribly good at it - but surely that's true for the rest of the population as well?
Novelists, never mind good novelists (or indeed famous novelists), form a tiny group within the overall population. If you compare academics to that group, find them lacking, then you're kind of missing the point, because that method is flawed. It's like saying that because there are few helicopter pilots with ginger hair, having ginger hair makes you a bad helicopter pilot.
If anything, the low percentage of famous writers among academics should be compared to the low percentage of famous writers among the population in general (which is likely to be equally low). If there really is a causal link between academia and bad fiction writing, then the percentage of famous writers in that second group should be higher. But that's the only way in which you could settle this question. Anything else is just speculation based on stereotypes and preconceived ideas about 'overeducated' people being bad writers.
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PrimateJ
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My God, a woman with a grasp of statistics.

Alert the media!


I josh...I josh...
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andyyy
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N'aww there are plenty of writers who manage a happy marriage between erudition and creativity. Borges and Tolkien are certainly the names that comes to mind first, but there are some examples even among contemporary writers. Look at Umberto Eco, for example, he manages to read/write/teach about semiotics (which seems much more "technical" than Old English) and write popular books at the same time so I really don't think it's impossible. Generally speaking, I don't see why reading a lot would make you less creative.
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FormerlyHistoryStudent
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C. S. Lewis was a professor at Oxford...
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evantej
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T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien stand out as the main English-language contenders; but almost all eighteenth and nineteenth-century Russian writers were academic in a broad sense (i.e. hobnob's original point about PhDs), and of course you have Vladimir Nabokov in the twentieth-century too.
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Pink Bullets
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Paolo Giordano is working on a doctorate in particle physics. Probably doesn't count as 'famous' yet though. But he won Italy's premier literary award.

Not to lower the tone or anything, but he's also kinda hot...

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Catsmeat
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(Original post by PrimateJ)
I don't imagine it would be too prevalent in the writing world?

For some reason, true or not, I have an idea in my head that high levels of technical education tends to be counteractive or even anathema to creative, fluid writing and use of the imagination. Not always, of course. But still.

Thoughts?
A few, perhaps. However, I imagine there are more people with a PhD who fancy themselves to be novellists.

As regards Nabokov, his technical education was both as a literary critic and a lepidopterist. In the latter case, his highly technical contributions to lepidoptera were well respected enough to have a genus named after him (Nabokovia, which is a Nymphalidae -please correct me if not: Edit: it's actually Polyommatinae). If anything, this knowledge contributed to his literary style; sometimes it seems that Nabokov uses butterflies and moths to leave watermarks and clues in his novels. In Lolita, Humbert Humbert often makes mistakes when it comes to identifying moths, and it would not be a stretch of the imagination to think that the butterflies he fails to identify were Nymphalidae also (i.e., Humbert may have written about identifying human 'nymphs', but Nabokov was inclined toward the insect world -another way of releasing authorial control over Humbert, and also of providing a contrast). Stephen Jay Gould, the biologist, gave some thought to this, too; he believes that the lepidopteral search for harmonies and regularities (female/male, the mirroring of both wings on a butterfly) is reflected in his technique and structure. For example, the balance between two styles of novel, and two voices, in Pale Fire. I think Gould put this down to Nabokov's search for harmonies; something shared by a philosopher and a lepidopterist.
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the_alba
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(Original post by imgaysowhat)
Reading too much criticism does hamper creativity. Look at Harold Bloom, his attempt at fiction was an embarrassment to Yale.
No it doesn't. Harold Bloom's bad fiction has nothing to do with the fact he's a (also rather turgid) critic. The tradition of the poet-critic is still very strong.
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the_alba
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But Hobnob has made the point far more thoroughly and eloquently
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Wyrd14
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Might as well mention M.R. James. He had a D.Litt and spent his life as an antiquarian and medieval scholar, cataloguing and editing manuscripts, but in his spare time wrote some of best ghost stories in the English language, as well as a children's fantasy novel, The Five Jars.
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DarkSenrine
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I heard that William Boyd does...?

<edit> Sorry, just read that he didn't complete it, but he lectured at Oxford (?!)
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Angelil
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^^ yeah, you used to be able to do that. Some of the oldest professors/lecturers even currently at Oxbridge don't have PhDs.
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