Should I Go to Grad School in the Humanities? One Person’s Opinion
I’ve been talking about this all day on Twitter, in response to this piece from Pete Coviello. Here’s my take on this, granting of course that it’s rooted in my own experiences, and my personal assumptions about how a young person living in America in 2012 (who is not already wealthy) ought to spend their twenties. Naturally, reasonable people may disagree!
It’s all much more bloodless than Coviello’s, and (despite the fact that I genuinely loved my time in grad school and all the people I came know there) apparently much more cynical. Alas.
Should I Go to Grad School in the Humanities?
Well, if you have passion for the material,
- which you anticipate will be lifelong,
- such that you desire a tenure-track career in the academy teaching this material to students who will very commonly not share your enthusiasm for it, at least not at first,
- that you are prepared to relentlessly, even ruthlessly, pursue for the next decade or longer,
- through personal and financial circumstances that may be quite difficult,
- with no guarantee of success no matter how worthy you are or how hard you try,
- due to contingent and systemic factors that have nothing to do with you,
- knowing that even if you are successful you may be forced to live in a place you do not want to live for the rest of your life,
- and you have been admitted to a highly ranked program in your field,
- with recent placement rates that suggest your ambition of securing the kind of TT job you want is reasonably achievable,
- which is prepared to pay you genuine living wages to go for the whole time you will be there,
- such that you do not need to take out any additional loans,
- and you will have benefits, especially health insurance,
- and you have a realistic fallback career that you will be satisfied with, which you are already qualified for, or will become qualified for over the course of your time in grad school,
- and your health is good,
- and you think it will stay that way,
- and you’re willing to give up more than what’s already listed here to make all this work,
- including the ability to live in the same geographic location as your partner, again potentially for the rest of your life,
- and your partner (if you already have one) is also willing to make big sacrifices on behalf of your ambitions, perhaps in the end to sacrifice even more than you,
then—if you’re really asking me—personally I think you’re in a place where it could make sense to consider going to grad school in the humanities.