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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: September ::
Re: The State of the Profession
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0707.  Monday, 30 September 1996.

(1)     From:   Jeff Myers <
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        Date:   Sunday, 29 Sep 1996 14:41:49 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0698  Re: State of the Profession

(2)     From:   Greg Grainger <
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        Date:   Sunday, 29 Sep 1996 11:03:08 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   The State of the Profession

(3)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 29 Sep 96 20:21:42 BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0704  Re: The State of the Profession

(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 29 Sep 1996 20:05:26 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0704  Re: The State of the Profession


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jeff Myers <
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Date:           Sunday, 29 Sep 1996 14:41:49 GMT
Subject: 7.0698  Re: State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0698  Re: State of the Profession

>If educational monies are tight, where should the cuts be made?  At the earlier
>levels where we increase the likelihood that some will grow up utterly
>illiterate, or at the highest levels where the alternative to a few more years
>of reading and writing about literature might be (as Myers puts it) an honest
>job at Wal-Mart?

Much virtue in "if."  While Thomas Ruddick makes some interesting points, it
seems to me a bit too accepting of currently standard political ideology to
frame the question in this way.  Why must we view graduate programs as existing
at the expense of kids in grossly inadequate elementary schools?  Allowing the
debate to be framed in these terms can only hurt everyone in education.  If,
indeed, the choice were between graduate programs in English and a functioning
public school system, all of us, I hope, would choose the latter.  But I've
never been given that choice, and I don't expect that Bill Clinton, Bob Dole or
any other politician will offer it very soon.

As for "an honest job at Wal-Mart," what does that mean?  Have we come to
accept honest work to mean only gross exploitation at low wages in terrible
working conditions?  I'm truly afraid such might be the case. Much of the
resentment against tenure, e.g., seems to come from envy at the honest work we
can do.  As an administrator at Goucher recently put it, it's not fair to have
faculty on administrative committees because we can say what we want.  The
desired redress, however, seems not to make administrators free, but to take
away our freedom. Considering what's happening at U of Minn, perhaps we'll all
soon find ourselves at honest Wal-Mart-type jobs.  Then, things will get
interesting.

Jeff Myers

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Greg Grainger <
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Date:           Sunday, 29 Sep 1996 11:03:08 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        The State of the Profession

On the issue of whether or not a PhD is a worthwhile objective when the job
market is so bad:

From an article in the June, 1924, issue of _The Teacher's Magazine_:

Now education is a peculiar process. You aim at one thing and you hit another.
You set out to look for ultimate truth and you don't find it; but incidentally
you have acquired a cultivated mind. You pursue studies that you think will be
of use in your business. They are not. But by the time you are done with them
you are a better man for your business or for any other business.

                                 - Stephen Leacock

From R. W. Dale's 'Nine Lectures on Preaching', 1893:

It is the very intention of a university course to enable a man to read - not
what he likes, but what he does not like; to develop - not those intellectual
muscles which are already healthy and vigorous, but those which are so weak
that the slightest strain upon them is unwelcome while it lasts and leaves pain
behind. Thoughout life it is a wise practice to have always on hand two very
different kinds of intellectual work - work which is a pleasure to us, for in
that direction probably our true strength lies; and work which is a trouble to
us, for by _that_ our intellectual defects will probably be modified and
corrected.  Be thankful for the studies which are a drudgery to you; never
evade them, or to use a fitter word, never 'scamp' them. They will give you
what will be one of the chief elements of your power by-and-by, a despotic
control over your intellectual faculties, which will enable you to compel them
to do their work, and to do it thoroughly, when they are most disposed to
rebel.

Or, as Jane Fonda said, 'No pain, no gain.'

Idealistic? Yes. Unworthy on that account? I don't think so. My $0.02.

Best,
Greg.

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Sunday, 29 Sep 96 20:21:42 BST
Subject: 7.0704  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0704  Re: The State of the Profession

I suspect we all at times overstate the value of our subject, whatever it is.
In academia this is understandable as the students are often only too willing
to aid and abet us in this. But Kezia Sproat's recent posting from outside
academia--indeed asserting the value of being outside--makes the grandest claim
of all: Shakespeare saves the world!

I risk taking seriously what was intended as a joke, but here goes...

>Our times are thrilling and challenging, but tons of work needs doing,
>mostly in communication, helping characters around the planet as diverse as
>Cleopatra, Dogberry, Hamlet, Malvolio, Shylock, Brutus, and the King of Navarre
>understand and keep from killing one another. Shakespeare scholars are by
>definition well equipped to do such work.

This is the highly pernicious idea that Shakespeare captures the essence of
every type of human character and that in his plays one sees all the world.
This claim falls apart upon inspection. How many non-aristocratic women are
there in Shakespeare's plays? Exclude the prostitutes...Hmm.

The idea that Shakespeare civilizes the savage beast, and that Shakespeare
specialists therefore have a special role in the world, is the height of
intellectual arrogance. A fundamental part of any teaching of Shakespeare today
must be a critique of this cultural imperialism.

>Shakespeare Festivals --or, to begin, simply
>Shakespeare reading circles, in every county, on every corner of our cities is
>what the hell this country, and possibly the whole world, needs.

All around the globe the north and west consume the wealth of the south and
east, and condemn the majority of the world's population to abject misery. The
computer I'm typing this on was constructed by a slave-child manacled to a
work-bench. Just exactly how is Shakespeare going to set him/her free?

>If you have 10 or 15
>people who share the same problem and want to solve it, put them together
>someplace and let them talk and wash dishes together for 10 days, and they will
>find a way to solve that problem, no matter how apparently insurmountable.

Ahh....hokey dokey. I'll get Netanyahu, you get Hanan Ashrawi. Let's thrash out
this little misunderstanding about land and freedom. Then you get Ian Paisley
and I'll bring Gerry Adams. We'll have them all over for coffee and the boys
can do the dishes. Brilliant.

Joe Hill found that washing dishes for 10 days was just the right way to get
restaurant kitchens unionized, so I can see SOME value in Sproat's suggestion.

Gabriel Egan

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 29 Sep 1996 20:05:26 -0400
Subject: 7.0704  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0704  Re: The State of the Profession

Kezia Sproat, fellow Ohio Shakespeare Conferee, wrote:

>The structure of Godshalk's question, "What is it we think students should know
>today? and How should we organize ourselves to teach them?" might be taken to
>imply a fill-the-empty-vessel pedagogy that was out of fashion, thankfully,
>when my children entered elementary school 21 years ago . . . .

My colleagues do seem to be thinking in this way, and they seem to think that
our Ph.D. students need to be filled to overflowing with every theory
propounded in the last thirty years.  In our Revised New Structure, all Ph.D.
seminars MUST be theory-driven, and for every course in Renaissance literature
(drama, prose, and poetry) there are six "pure" theory seminars. My colleagues
have made this revision because they think that the more theories a new Ph.D.
knows, the better his chances of getting a job.

I wonder if this is strictly, and I wonder what you all think.

Yours,. Bill Godshalk
 

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