I have already had enough experience from my Masters and PhD English Departments to know that pursuing an English degree or teaching writing is not as romantic an endeavor as Dead Poets Society painted. The essay “Goodbye, Mr. Keating” from the Chronicle Careers section emphasizes that when he writes, “I simply want to demonstrate that the reasons most people get into English are different from the motives that will make them successful in graduate school and in professional life beyond that.”
He also remarks, “For me, it’s strange and wonderful, after receiving tenure, to be able to rediscover my undergraduate self, to nurture in my students the motives that drew me to graduate school in the first place.” Note the phrase “after receiving tenure.”
And even then, you have to be wary of that David Horowitz and his anti-academic freedom brigade whose trying take you down!
While my experience has made me quite cynical at times, I feel it’s been a good thing that so many rhet/comp faculty left my current department. I’ve had no other choice but create my own directed studies and take classes with newer Visiting Profs, all of which have had more time to mentor me than most of the full time profs. Now that I’m done with coursework I feel I can finally pursue my own romantic motives of writing a dissertation that means something to me and can cast a light on what the Internet really did and is doing for New Orleans, post-Katrina. It took 3 years to get to this point and I’ve still got my exams to go, but as long as I keep reading and annotating the stuff I am interested in (no more Lacan and Derrida and “The Purloined Poe” for me!), I’ll be a happy camper.
That is, until, the job market search and first job where inevitably I’ll end up bombarded by committee work, teaching, and other politically motivated university moments… 😉
(at least I am not naive!!!!)