The upper-division students in my “Shakespeare: Later Plays” elective at Boston College, which wrapped up with our reading of Henry VIII, articulated this realization especially well. Their most common sentiment was that they have nothing to look forward to — a view expressed not as an anxious complaint but as a clear-eyed observation. Their college education won’t lead to a job (or even a ceremony to mark the end of a life-stage), their semester of assignments won’t culminate in a feeling of mastery (or even a grade), and many meaningful relationships they have made will be cut off without resolution.
I don’t see why being well-instructed in literature — as I happen to have been — would get in the way of employment. It never did for me. And I don’t see what unionization of teachers would have to do with that. If you want to teach literature in college, then you need an advanced degree. The number of such jobs will always be limited. Literature is grounded in life. Knowledge of literature helps in understanding life. Life tends to involves the necessity of employment.
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