English department as Caste system
[My final comment on this thread]
Au contraire, mon ami…it is personal.
You are “Unapologetically” presenting yourself as a representative of a specific group. The top of the pyramid, as it were. You are part of what this whole discussion is all about. But, I will refrain from commenting on tone and comment on the tenor of your ideas.
Tim Mayers hits upon the elephant in the room. English departments are a caste system with lit crit the Brahmins. If you disbelieve, ask yourself this simple question: what are the three reasons for my English department to exist?
Your honest answer would include waxing elegiac about exposing young minds to ideas, texts and cultures far from their own. English is a mission field of Reader Saints amid a crowd of Philistines, Rubes and other undesirables. With patience and Keats, they too may know the enlightenment of Big Thoughts rendered poetic/prosaic.
Does UT speak for this view? Yes. Quoted from above:
As for the standards being raised over time, would we really want it to be any other way? That’s called progress.
Higher standards, as defined by the Received Tradition, means a monograph contribution to the study of literature. A professor must aspire to be Bloom in order to succeed. Little Elbows gets, well, elbowed out. “Scholarship” (read “progress,” read “virtue” and “light”) comes from aspiring to be like the “successful” R1 programs. Skill-based comp adjuncts are deceived in their idea that Virtue comes from eloquence. No, tenure comes from participating in a closed circle of “reading” approaches and insights.
Community Colleges, Land-grant U’s? They are not to hinder their ascent into Readers of Literature by getting clogged down in composition, writing or other pedestrian pursuits. You want to teach at a “real university”? then avoid anything that takes away from research time (reading what other have thought about the works of still others—or better yet, how to read the writing of those writing about the works of others) like teaching because Success is a Darwinian scramble to achieve Recognition/tenure. Once received, you can sit back, tsk-tsk the melee below and thank the lucky stars you were smart enough to escape, resting assured that you achieved all of the success by your own merits alone.
My final though in this comment stream. UT asks:
… I know that nothing I say will persuade the rabidly anti-tenure folks who, for reasons that make no sense to me, continue to frequent a website devoted to higher education.
Perhaps there are those who feel (I am beginning to think more and more that they feel this foolishly) that even though the present system is stacked against them (for secure wage, advancement, recognition), that the rewards of instruction will pay off. Cynically I would say that there are many longing after a lost cause. But, then I am here, pursuing the debate with no intention of rejoining the team.