21 July 2006

Another way

This article confirms all of my cynical suspicions about graduate school ("To succeed as a Ph.D. in English, you have to give up all of the things that attracted you to the subject in the first place"). More and more I feel I made the right decision in avoiding it--at least in the U.S.
The problem is you can't get to where I am now without going through a decade or more of immersion in a highly politicized and anti-literary academic culture. You have to spend so many years conforming that, by the time freedom presents itself, you don't know why you became an English major in the first place. You might even have contempt for your seemingly naïve students, who represent the self that you had to repress in order to be a professional.
It seems that "idealistic" people such as myself have to find alternate routes to express this insatiable love of literature and are compelled to delve deeper into modes of personal study (which isn't a bad thing). Yet somehow, I still harbor the small hope that more will come of this passion. I especially wonder how Mr. Benton's observations would apply to literature departments in other countries. How widespread is this political disease?

But in the meantime, litblogs are the perfect place for misplaced former English majors to continue their exploration of and contribution to the world of books. Something inside of me is deeply satisfied by the times when I more rigorously examine works and ideas in this little corner of cyberspace.

(via The Reading Experience)


Jana Swartwood said...

A fascinating article, though now I'm a little depressed. But still, might it not be worth it to jump through those hoops with the hope of freedom (and the Ph.D.) on the other side?

amcorrea said...

If teaching is your passion, perhaps. Other than that, I think the best bet is to study abroad (get the degree in another country). Of course, then you'd have to go *back* to the States to get a job...hence my current situation.

Anne said...

You *can* do it all, but it's tricky...

Thanks for the link. I'm going to think on this and see if I can figure out what more to say.

In general, I like this "Benton" character's columns, though, and this one is a depressing but smart one.

Anonymous said...

You might wish to reconsider your response, in light of more original possibilities of expression.

See here.

Rivers of Sinope said...

Hullo. I've just stumbled across your blog.

Don't let that article cause you undue fear. Although I am studying for an MFA in creative writing rather than a PhD in English, I've taken graduate literature courses at two universities and can say that, from my experience, the author of that article is either exaggerating or had a completely different experience than I have had. (And perhaps things have changed since he was a student.) I also know quite a few people who have studied graduate lit at other universities whose experiences are more in line with mine. The main difference I've noticed between grad and undergrad studies is that your classmates are better read and more devoted to the literature, both of which make for more interesting discussions both in and outside of class. Studying abroad is still not a bad idea, though it can be financially infeasible.