In “Reforming Doctoral Programs: The Sooner, the Better,” Russell Berman, former MLA President, insists the business of graduate education in literary studies has to change. Given the limited number of academic teaching jobs new PhDs can compete for, Berman insists that graduate programs need to be redesigned so they can provide forms of professional development that, while important for an academic career, are transferable to other professions in for-profit and not-for-profit workplaces.
Should literary studies be seen narrowly as the gateway to an academic teaching job, or should they be redesigned to enable students to move in a number of different career directions? If so, how? Berman is enthusiastic about the possibilities in fields related to the public humanities, publishing, translation, journalism, the film studies, and digital media.
But what will happen to the study of literature if the stress is put on practical skills? Can we do it all without making fundamental changes that fracture the coherence of the discipline? Berman’s piece is a keen follow-up to essays about the profession by former MLA Presidents Sidonie Smith and Gerald Graff.