Monday, December 03, 2018

Why not?

… Should Studying Literature Be Fun? - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
In applying to graduate school, I had written a statement of purpose declaring that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. because I believed that "studying literature was fun." One of my professors crossed out that line with the comment, "STUDYING LITERATURE IS NOT FUN!!"
At the time I took that to mean that I needed to come across as a serious and potentially professional academic critic rather than a wide-eyed enthusiast. After getting to grad school I came to regard the remark as a warning: not only of the myriad ways in which being in a Ph.D. program is no fun at all, but also of the systematic refusal of aesthetic pleasure within academic literary studies. Looking back, I see the two motives as aligned: Disavowing aesthetic pleasure is precisely how academics have sought to signal their professionalism and affirm the joblike nature of the work.
Well, why the hell would you take up a profession that didn't afford you any pleasure? To be a professional grump? I got into what I ended up making my living at precisely because I enjoyed reading. That is the reason a good part of my day is still spent reading. The best job is a fun job that pays reasonably well.

1 comment:

  1. We're supposed to worry about what GQ thinks about literature? Guess I'll have to subscribe to PMLA to find out how to firm up my abs and choose my ties.