Sunday, October 03, 2010

Why I'm Not Going to (English) Grad School

I suppose I haven't ruled out law or business school entirely yet (though law school is basically off the table for now), and I might end up getting a Masters or something in another discipline, but I'm absolutely not going further with my major discipline, English. I love English -- as an undergrad. But I don't have any interest in teaching, if I was going to write as a career it'd be speculative/commercial fiction rather than MFA fiction/poetry, and, well...

So I'm reading A Princess of Mars. Haven't gotten very far into it yet, but in the first couple of chapters he deals with some hostile natives of both an earthling and Martian variety. So I'm sitting there pondering the broader cultural narrative that these depictions of native people fit into, what statements the overall work is making as opposed to the specific character, what points of view the work is privileging and what it's trying to shut down, and how complete that process is. I took that class last semester and I've already forgotten the relevant terminology, so that should tell you something.

I do enjoy this kind of thing, and I can have fun talking about it. I'm not one of those people who complains that now I know deconstructionism I "can't turn it off," because I can't "turn off" thinking about stuff no matter what tools I have to do it with. A Princess of Mars isn't actually a very good book to do this with, of course, at least out the bits that I've done so far; with straightforwardly negative depictions of a group like that pretty much all you can do is comment on what it means that Burroughs can grab this group and present them as straight up bad-guys without a whole lot of modification. I'm hopeful that the handling of the natives of Mars will provide some counterpoints to that initial sequence.

But my basic approach to the whole thing is "intellectual toy." I'm at least as interested in the technical aspects of how Burroughs is telling his story as I am in any of the literary criticism buzzwords I can attach to it. I'm more interested in just reading the damn book than I am either of those two things. I can enjoy a good bit of lit crit, but then I get bored and want to go find something else to do.

A lot of people with similar interests and academic proclivities don't feel this way; they take these ideas very seriously, think about them a lot, and feel that they're making an important contribution to the country's political and intellectual discourse by studying them. Which I don't think is untrue, exactly, it's just not my attitude towards those ideas at all. I can't summon the necessary passion, or maintain the long term interest. They're toys. And not even particularly engaging ones at that.


  1. I think you'll find Burroughs a bit more subtle about such things than you're expecting at this point. He's more Catholic in his morality; evil is what you do rather than who you are. I'll say no more (as should other commentors) since you don't appear to be very deep into the story yet. ;)

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  3. Avoid grad school for at least five years, unless it is as free as this advice.

    Law school has a negative roi for nearly all who attend. Closely study the NALP / ABA statistics on new grad salaries and debt loads, and ask yourself whether you can hit the low end of the debt distro and the high end of the salary curve (takes a good roll on Read Law and on Social Status).

    If you imagine yourself ready forbschool, then you should be able to follow the preceding analysis, and should know that roi != French for king.

  4. Yeah, grad school is completely off the table for at least the next couple of years. Going to actually work for a while first.

  5. It's good that you know this now and simply aren't forcing your way through it and making yourself miserable in the process. Better off channeling your energy into something you do enjoy at that level.

  6. With _Princess of Mars_, I think the really cool part is that he imagined all those things-- the guns that shoot for miles, the lights that stay lit for centuries, the ships that fly through the air, the telescopes that pick out the detail millions of miles away, factories that cranked out atmosphere in 1911. Airplanes had only existed for 8 years. The craziness of WWI was 3 years away. In that light, the ideas he had in there about martian tech were mind-boggling.

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