Read enough columns about the crisis in the humanities, the publish-or-perish dilemma, or the faculty job market, and you’re likely to think that we academic writers spend our days and nights imprisoned in dimly lit cubicles, praying for relief. But we’re not all miserable, and I think it’s time to give an alternate take on what it’s like to work hard on scholarship and actually enjoy it.
No doubt, academe—and the humanities in particular—faces a range of problems that have upped the pressure on everyone. The job market is cutthroat, and even those of us with tenure-track positions must start publishing almost immediately in order to stay employed. This state of affairs has inspired no shortage of serious critiques, as well as whiny diatribes, on news sites and blogs. Every fall, we seem to get a barrage of sad tales from A.B.D.’s and angry polemics from bitter grapes, who rail against a process they will never understand—because they don’t want to.
We’ve also seen increasingly far-fetched proposals to right the system. Onerecent columnist hopes to make her A.B.D. status a kind of “certificate of completion” in order to avoid writing her dissertation. Another columnist proposes banning graduate students from publishing in journals.
That line of thinking is not restricted to the page, or the screen. At conferences, I often encounter other early-career academics who detest the tenure-and-promotion process. They maintain that they shouldn’t be required to publish “that much,” or that scholarship is overrated compared with service and teaching. In truth, I think scholarship, teaching, and service should be valued equally. I also support efforts to create a teaching track that does not require extensive publication and offers full-time jobs, with benefits, for college teachers. But I also find it hard not to hear at least some of the complaints as, well, self-serving. <Read more.>