A while ago I saw a hilarious little vignette skewering the naïve hopes of graduate students in the humanities everywhere. I have read many sober analyses about the plight of PhD students, but this 4½-minute animated short sums up the situation more clearly and pointedly than any such report, and with devastating whit.
The naïve student announces her intention to undertake a PhD in literature and declares that “I’m going to be a college professor.”
The jaded professor shoots back that she will waste away in a library for up to nine years of grad school “trying to say something original,” only to get a job as an adjunct earning less than a janitor at a college in Alaska, where she will work 65 hours a week “trying to publish an obscure article that no one cares about in an obscure scholarly journal that nobody will read.”
The video, “So You Want to Get A PhD in the Humanities,” has unsurprisingly gone viral, with more than half-a-million views. It has also spawned copycats, such as “So You Want to Be an [Academic] Librarian,” “So You Want to Be a Historian?” and “So You Want to Get a Ph.D. in Political Science.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently tracked down the woman behind the online animation, Leslie Allison – and yes, she is a doctoral student in the humanities, studying 20th-century American literature at Temple University. “No need to burst her bubble,” reads the article, “Ms. Allison … has already done more than anyone in America to poke fun at this particular aspiration.”
The Chronicle article also details the particular technology behind her creation, a do-it-yourself cartoon-video Web site called Xtranormal. The company’s simple text-to-movie technology – “If you can type, you can make movies,” goes the slogan – is “gaining a wide following among educators as a tool for both teaching and satire,” according to the Chronicle.
If you aren’t yet among the half-million who have seen the video, do so, especially if you’re a graduate student or faculty member. Let us know what you think.