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(Slate)   English major accepts reality, inquires if thou dost desire a portion of a potato-based comestible of substantial magnitude with thine meal   (slate.com) divider line 27
    More: Obvious, Ph.D., Ron Rosenbaum, English, literature, Kafka, meals  
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8064 clicks; posted to Main » on 05 Apr 2013 at 3:55 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2013-04-05 04:15:44 PM
6 votes:
BWAH-HA-HA!  That person thinks that literature grad school is "the hardest work you'll ever do".  That's why you didn't get employed, young lady.  You thought literature grad school was "the hardest work you'll ever do".  You have no idea what hard work is.

Boy that's funny.
2013-04-05 02:55:16 PM
5 votes:
There's a big difference between an English major (BA) and a PhD in Literature. As long as software companies continue to hire H1-Bs, people with English degrees and a bit of technical knowledge can find decent jobs. A PhD in literature is what happens when you are terrified of graduating and are willing to shell out six figures to stay in school.
2013-04-05 04:12:05 PM
3 votes:
Let's do some math.

With a few exceptions, the point of a humanities PhD is to teach that subject at a university.

Assuming a constant population and a constant proportion that attends college, then every humanities PhD needs to train one (1) replacement, over the course of his or her entire career.

Even if we assume population growth, a steady increase in college attendance, and 'exporting' our professors to other countries, at best each PhD needs to train three (3) replacements over the course of his or her entire career.

An English department of 8 professors and 14 PhD candidates is running a Ponzi scheme.
2013-04-05 05:19:48 PM
2 votes:
What you do isn't work, what I do is work.  I mean, my simplistic view of what your life might entail trumps your simplistic view of what my life might entail.  I deserve what I have, you don't.
2013-04-05 04:48:50 PM
2 votes:

pedobearapproved: Once, to a few corporations, and I thought he POTUS learned a hard days crying lesson from that about how when you just give a private corporation money they will do anything with it they want including flying private jets to your meeting where they tell you to your face to suck it. Which is why they should have gone down in the flames of reorgainzation and asset selloff.

The bailout was one of the few genuinely bi-partisan events of 2008.

I agree on what they should have done, but what they did do is prove that free enterprise, especially at the highest levels, is an illusion.

Between the subsidies, bailouts, government contracts and legislative exemptions, it's clear that governmental influence is a business asset.  Millions of taxpayer dollars are redistributed upwards, to the corporate elite, every year while we beat our heads against the wall because some single mother is getting $287 a month in food stamps.

This is why we can criticize the compensation of CEOs (especially those of publicly-traded companies) without necessarily being ignorant "econ 101 drop-outs."
2013-04-05 04:36:17 PM
2 votes:

over_and_done: I never understood the "tenure track" thing.  After reading this article from start to finish, I still don't understand it.

There's not much to understand. For the six or so years that you're "tenure track" you're on a yearly or biyearly contract. You have annual reviews in which you summarize everything you've done for the previous year and attach copies of stuff you've published, teaching evaluations, and so on. If your department's colleagues like you and what you've done, they renew your contract for another year or two. At the end of the tenure track period, you put together a binder to show what you've done for n years, which is really just your annual reports rewritten to reflect a longer period of time. If your colleagues and the administration above them agree that your publishing/teaching record is good enough and they wouldn't mind spending the rest of their careers hanging out with you at meetings every week, you might get tenure.

/Former professor, recovering academic
2013-04-05 04:08:04 PM
2 votes:
Done in the article comments:

To pare it down there are a couple fundamental problems here: 
1. Grad students are more useful to academic incumbents that PhD holders.  
1a. As a result, everybody wants to expand their graduate programs. Incumbent profs can teach graduate courses, which they like better, and which preserve their jobs, since it's the last sort of class that won't be farmed out to an adjunct. Incumbent administrators like the grad programs because their either a profit-center or a source of cheap labor, and allow the administrators to keep the money flowing to administrator salaries.  
2. As profs retire, incumbent administrators will continue to eliminate tenure-track jobs, because paying teachers is not what they want to spend money on.  
3. The oversupply of grads creates a situation where adjuncts have little bargaining power, since their labor is seen as interchangeable and replaceable, and no collective bargaining power since most of them see the situation as a zero-sum game with their fellow graduates rather than a crap deal they're being handed by professors and administrators.
2013-04-05 04:04:09 PM
2 votes:
I bombed out when I finished my MA.  I got accepted at a school that paid my tuition and gave me a (very) modest stipend in exchange for being a teacher's assistant.  That term means someone who, with no training, no guidance, no nothing, is handed a freshman comp class to teach.  I don't know how well I did--I'd like to think that my constant message of, "Just keep writing, keep trying, keep working on your ability to express yourself on a page" did some good.  But most of the students couldn't have cared less about the class, and in fact said so.  Frequently.
2013-04-05 03:28:59 PM
2 votes:
She wants a tenure track professorship.  Those don't exist anymore for any field.  Hell, when I was in engineering school in the late 80's half of my "professors" were guys hired to teach one class for a single semester.  Universities are moving away from tenured professors because they are crazy expensive and frequently don't deliver good value for the institution.  Yeah, it sucks, but that's how it rolls these days.
2013-04-06 10:13:02 PM
1 votes:

FrancoFile: Even if only 25% of Literature profs work at PhD-granting universities (which is a conservative estimate of your assertion), then each of those prof should have no more than 2 candidates under instruction at any given time.

/did you follow the math?

Factor in that not all PhD graduates must stay within academia? Not all of them want to either. I'm in the private sector as a consultant and very happy. I know someone with a Botany PhD who works as upper management in the insurance sector. Employers do value the skills attained in postgrad studies even in unrelated fields.
2013-04-06 10:06:50 PM
1 votes:

Kinek: LiberalConservative: hitlersbrain: What a sad waste of time... like so much of college. We really need to concentrate on phasing it out in favor of on-the-job training and working your way up based on competence rather than... whatever the hell we use now... cronyism? Plain old bribery?

You would have the added benefit of knowing you will actually be trained for an actual job.

My PhD took seven years to complete. But only because I combined it with botanical consulting work. Started as a junior and switched to independant contracting under my own name. When I finished the PhD I had enough experience in the industry to step into a Senior Botanist position. Worked out for me. Though a science PhD probably a hell of a lot more useful for employment.

Odd question, but how is the agricultural PhD field looking at the moment? Say for....an applied plant breeder in Barley? I've heard terror tales of over-qualified Phds and wonder if I should stop at the MS.

Odd my response post not appearint... try again.
In Australia there is a current shortage of agricultural/crop scientists for academic, government, and private positions. But I do not know the situation outside Australia. From what I have seen employers value the PhD about the same as the equivalent number of years of employment experience. However, I see the PhD having the benefit of the Dr title; gives the opportunity to attain part-time employment as an adjunct lecturer/prof later in my career as I approach retirement.
2013-04-05 07:41:20 PM
1 votes:
Not sure which is worse, people who go "lol studyin books is dum n stuff stoopid art shiat yall got burger jobs" or people who think spending 15 years exploring deconstructionist literary criticism of one Poe short story is useful.
2013-04-05 07:26:58 PM
1 votes:
Shiat, they need to get some literature majors to edit the terrible grammar and mechanics in AP articles.
2013-04-05 07:22:41 PM
1 votes:
I'm a librarian with a heritage library at a university and I think going down the path of a master's in library studies was a better option for me than pursuing a PhD in history, which I had considered a few years back. I prefer being more of a generalist than focusing on one narrow topic. I still get that leafy, green academic environment. I still get the opportunity to go to the occasional conference and I don't have to worry about generating new research.
2013-04-05 06:52:23 PM
1 votes:

over_and_done: I never understood the "tenure track" thing.  After reading this article from start to finish, I still don't understand it.

The idea is that a professor who has tenure will be able to pursue research without having to consider the institutional and national political implications of their work.  A tenured professor can advance a theory on it's own merits without having to consider if it will get them fired.

In practice, research grants and funding competition has killed a large part of that original goal.
2013-04-05 06:50:52 PM
1 votes:
I have an English MA - my thesis was on Beowulf's dragon.

What I learned was how to research, analyze, and write clearly.  These skills are very much sought after in the world outside the ivied walls.

I can't believe the guy can't get a better job.  What a dork.

PS - Graduated 33 years ago, and never been without a "real job".
2013-04-05 06:21:07 PM
1 votes:
I have an MA in English and, at one time, thought about pursuing a Ph.D.  The job prospects are dim, and most colleges are trimming grayed out positions left and right.
2013-04-05 06:16:48 PM
1 votes:

No, I now realize graduate school was a terrible idea because the full-time, tenure-track literature professorship is extinct.

This has been the case in just about every field for well over a decade. Universities realized a while ago that they could save a ton of money just keeping everyone at the Assistant Professor level, and there are so many people out there with PhD's looking for teaching jobs that they don't need to offer tenure to recruit high quality professors. There are also way more adjunct professors than ever before. People are increasingly willing to take those positions for little money because they want to pad out their resume. Basically the only way to get tenure is to go somewhere that nobody wants to go, or be considered the top person in your field.
2013-04-05 05:43:55 PM
1 votes:
Unrepentant University Dropout here.  I was a Comparative Literature Major at the University of Illinois in the mid-1990s.  I found my way to that major completely by accident and dropped out after 3 years, but I've got to say that the experience probably taught me more about real life than any amount of work I've done in the 16 years since then.  When I was in high school I went from wanting to be a pilot to a lawyer to a high-school English teacher.  I was inspired by the middle-aged, bearded, Hemingway and Vonnegut-admiring, possibly-alcoholic man who was my junior year English teacher.   My first two years of college were completed at a community college, where I majored in LAS with a concentration in British and American Literature.  I breezed through it.

However, after I transferred to the U of I, I quickly became aware that I was out of my league.  I had a couple of gen ed requirements that I had to finish up during my first semester, so I could only take three courses that applied to my major- Shakespeare Across Cultures, Middle French Literature, and The Harlem and Celtic Renaissance.  Shakespeare Across Cultures taught me that the stereotype of the lecherous, drunken professor hitting on coeds while plying them with wine and wearing a tweed jacket with suede sleeves was based on reality.  Middle French Literature taught me that I was wholly unprepared to study in a deadish language that I didn't know well.  The Harlem and Celtic Renaissance taught me that you can sometimes have a course taught by two tenured professors who figured out that if you combined two related courses into one you could both get full pay for doing half the work simply because you're considered to be an expert in your field.  All of my courses taught me that you have to be present to BS your way through them, but if you are present, it's easy to BS your way through them.  Unfortunately, I learned those lessons too late.

I also learned that pretentious people are often very insecure, college girls fark like minxes, and that you can live off of coffee, cigarettes and Guinness for 3-4 weeks at a time.
2013-04-05 04:37:14 PM
1 votes:
Another whiner? Jesus Christ. Take a farking job in a related field and apply yourself to hunting down the academic shiat.

/English Lit; now working best job in the world: regional correspondent and investigative reporter.
2013-04-05 04:36:37 PM
1 votes:

The_Original_Roxtar: don't you dare disagree with a tenured professor's opinion.

If you're doing a subject where it comes down to opinions, you're doing the wrong subject.
2013-04-05 04:36:12 PM
1 votes:
Surprisingly, English majors do pretty well in advertising, marketing, and tech industries.
2013-04-05 04:35:19 PM
1 votes:

pedobearapproved: The_Gallant_Gallstone: HailRobonia: This only works if everyone gets rid of tenure. If you get rid of tenure and another institution keeps it, then they will get all the talented folks.

Same reason why we have to keep paying CEOs those obscene bonuses... top talent and all that.

we? you don't pay them anything. go suck on a lemon.

/maybe you shouldn't have dropped that econ 101 class.


"Why are you teaching this shiat at 8 o'clock in the morning? Are you trying to keep it a secret?"
2013-04-05 04:28:30 PM
1 votes:

pedobearapproved: we? you don't pay them anything. go suck on a lemon.

/maybe you shouldn't have dropped that econ 101 class.

I guess you blinked out of existence momentarily during the heady months of 2008.

Some unprecedented taxpayer largesse was rendered unto the Titans of Private Enterprise.
2013-04-05 04:25:39 PM
1 votes:
The British staple of fish & chips (chips being chipped potatoes, AKA french fries) was invented only in 1865.

The french fry as we know it originated somewhat earlier in Belgium, where they eat them with mayonnaise, which is also customary in the American South.

Tomato ketchup is but one of many recipes for catsups or ketchups (the original dish was made with fish paste, but other forms of ketchup are made with a base of mushrooms, walnuts, etc.)

Shakespeare could not have sold french fries even if he hadn't made a good living as part-owner of the Globe, actor, playwright and man of busynesse.

What did people eat as snack food in those days? The potato was still fairly new. Bananas arrived in London earlier than we used to think, so Shakespeare might have noshed on one of those although any one of many varieties of apple, such as the Orange Pippin, would have been easy to get.

For a hot treat, roast chestnuts were, and still are, popular in much of Europe. They are quite tasty and healthy. The Swiss make chocolats in the shape of "marrons", which is the the French for chestnut, and we get the colour Maroon from them--it is a deep reddish brown.

Maroon is also the name of runaway slaves who hide in the jungles and forest of the Caribbean and the Southern coast and combined their various languages and cultures into a sort of improvised African tribal society. And, of course, it is how Bugs Bunny famously pronounces "moron".

In the Globe theatre, the spectators would have had their choice of oranges, nuts, and chestnuts to nibble on or throw at the actors. Since they had no plastic or cellophane wrappers to rustle and annoy other spectators, they had to make do with other bad habits. The rich and near-sighted were able to sit on the stage itself where they could enjoy the show above the fray in the pit, which was standing room only and full of pickpockets and villains.

And what the Hell is wrong with being a permi-student, by the way? Learning is a life long job. You might as well try to make the good times last as long as you can.

It is not the scholars who bring shame to the Academy. It is the dumbasses who stay on to get a degree in teaching. Really, how sad and useless can you get?

At least English majors can sometimes read and write.

A study funded many years ago by a major bank (Bank of America) and a major employer of engineers found that Arts majors had a rough start in business but after 15 years of employment were better paid and had more responsible positions than Commerce and Engineering students.

It is a very dumb engineer who does not wish he had taken English instead. Do you know what they call Engineers who can read and right? Managers.
2013-04-05 04:17:30 PM
1 votes:

Tommy Moo: I for one support the elimination of tenure, as it encourages professors to work very hard for a few years and then sit on their asses for 40.

This only works if everyone gets rid of tenure. If you get rid of tenure and another institution keeps it, then they will get all the talented folks.
2013-04-05 04:07:12 PM
1 votes:
I thought we'd be riffing off Gilbert and Sullivan lines in this thread...

"I am the very model of a modern Major General,
I provide a portion of a fine potato-based comestible"
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