So you want to get a Ph.D. in the Humanities

In an October 10 editorial in the New York Times, philosopher Robert Pippin offers a very elegant defense of naive reading, in which he
argues that:

Literature and the arts have a dimension unique in the academy, not shared by the objects studied, or “researched” by our scientific brethren. They invite or invoke, at a kind of “first level,” an aesthetic experience that is by its nature resistant to restatement in more formalized, theoretical or generalizing language.

As wonderful as Pippin’s piece is, it’s amusing, in a self-heckling kind of way, to remind ourselves not only of the challenges of graduate study in the humanities but of the real-world difficulties of finding and keeping a job, either inside or outside the academy, with an advanced degree in English or philosophy or whatever.

And for that you need to go extranormal.   

(By the by, the bit about H. Bloom is below the belt, but still I chuckled throughout. And maybe you will, too.)

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9 Responses to So you want to get a Ph.D. in the Humanities

  1. Colleen says:

    I want to write about Emerson. And DEATH. Classic.

  2. Fiona Bell says:

    I laughed too, and felt a little dis-spirited, but didn’t mind the Bloom part! A great find.

  3. Hi Fiona, welcome. Lawyers aren’t spared, either. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMvARy0lBLE. I actually think the writing is superior in this script.

  4. Oh dear … have just sent it to my daughter who is just starting her PhD – but in the end she chose social sciences rather than literature though it was a close call, and who knows how the career path will work out. I love the students’ persistence with her dream! So real… What a hoot, thanks for sharing.

  5. Career paths are funny things, aren’t they. Very few people are where they thought they’d be. I for one. And you’re welcome.

    • The funny thing is that when I retired a couple of years ago I suddenly realised that I’d pretty much ended up working in what I wanted to when I started university – not in the specific place I’d envisaged but in the “industry”, doing the work that best suited me. I’d been doing it almost all of my career without really realising it – except that I knew that I liked where I was (give or take the odd organisational politics which you get anywhere anyhow).

  6. That was quick. Fortunately I know it … I am now at the airport filling in time before we head off to Hong Kong. Retirement is good too – and I know that too!

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