General Interest Column: A. W. Strouse on, «How To Be Unprofessional»

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How to be Unprofessional

A.W. Strouse

Plenty of empirical evidence demonstrates that humanist doctoral students are utterly screwed:

  • The mean attrition rate in humanities Ph.D. programs is roughly half.
  • Time-to-degree averages about ten years.
  • There are practically no decent jobs for humanities doctorates.

And anecdotal evidence confirms, too, that many graduate students feel tormented by their advisers, tortured by poverty-level stipends, and generally just stressed the hell out.

So, what should we do?

Personally, I see this doomsday scenario as a radical opportunity. In such a dire situation, it would be irrational for me to simply conform to the norms of professionalization in the hopes of winning a tenure-track position. Therefore, I feel liberated. If I have nothing to lose, then I can to take big risks, go for broke, and enjoy my studies.

As I recently argued (in a special issue of Pedagogy[1] dedicated to issues in graduate…

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