Should I Go to Grad School?: 41 Answers to An Impossible Question
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The decision to attend graduate school is easy for future doctors and lawyers: they must have a professional degree to get started. But for young creative workers, aspiring artists, and intellectuals, grad school is an existential fork in the road. An M.F.A. or a humanities Ph.D. can give you time to invest in studying something you love among like-minded intellectuals and qualify you to teach a new generation of students; but it can also uproot you geographically, expose you to backstabbing competitors, and saddle you with debt. Given the current job market, is grad school really worth it―financially, professionally, and emotionally?
In Should I Go to Grad School?, a wide range of people who lead intellectually and creatively interesting lives―sculptors and philosophers, activists and poets, a cocktail designer and a movie star―tell their own stories about choosing to go to grad school―or steering clear―and what that decision has meant in their lives. They give us an inside look at what grad school today is really like, and share the wisdom they wish they could have had going in. They reflect on their divergent paths to success, and muse about the path not taken.
With contributors including David Orr, James Franco, Simon Critchley, Terry Castle, Sheila Heti, and many more, Should I Go to Grad School? is a must read for anyone seriously considering that titular question.
This should have been an ideal setup. And yet graduate school has been a drag. This is because I allowed myself to get caught up in the banalities of professionalization, the most common feature of graduate education in the humanities. From day one, you learn not what and how to read, but rather how to position yourself as a candidate for the dwindling number of humanities jobs. It’s assumed from the outset that there’s nothing new to discover, only positions to take and status rewards to
all had their own versions of this argument.) It was a critique devastating enough to stop social history in its tracks in the late 1980s. With it came a new generation of so-called cultural historians, who, armed with difficult, largely French theory (Foucault, Derrida, etc.), again rewrote the canon with a radical edge. Their version of history was not an account of persistent repression and heroic resistance, but a kind of war of all against all, in which historical subjects were constantly
My last year of graduate school, a group of us were drinking away (and thereby reduplicating) the tremors and woes of the job market when a conversation arose about the relative merit of African literature. Why, a friend of mine—often a devil’s advocate, I should say—wondered, are there critics who study a literature that has obviously not been around long enough to warrant genuine attention? 5.81 This time I did not gawk. I don’t specifically work on African literature, but by virtue of the two
Should I Go to Grad School? grew out of conversations about how and why degrees matter in our respective professions, as well as what the future might hold without any extra letters after our names. The purpose of this book is to provide a broad, unempirical look at how a variety of people in the arts, academia, social sciences, and humanities have personally engaged with the problem of grad school. Rather than solicit a yes-or-no answer to our titular question, we wanted each writer to reflect
University and a visiting fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. Gabriel Winant is a PhD candidate in history at Yale University. He is also an organizer with the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, UNITE HERE. Samuel Zipp teaches American studies and urban studies at Brown University. He is the author of Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York and is at work on a book about Wendell Willkie and popular internationalism during World War II. He has