When I was entering graduate school in 1978, there were 29 new Ph.D.’s for every tenure-track job opening in English. It was the period in which anecdotes about Ph.D.’s driving taxi cabs became commonplace.
I didn’t know that information at the time, but it became very apparent as I made my way through the Masters and doctoral programs. Very few students in the cohort ahead of me stayed on to pursue a Ph.D. The cohort that included me essentially vanished. And the cohort that followed me has a much more nuts-and-bolts point of view about graduate education. They seemed to feel very little of the joy that I felt about simply being in graduate school and, instead, to be focused immediately and intently on doing everything that they could to enhance their chances of securing a tenure-track position.
I started graduate school in the transition between the baby-boom years, when…
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