Eileen Joy on Academic Life

Here’s an interview by medievalist Eileen Joy, one of the people in the humanities whose work I find inspiring. She’s has interesting and useful things to say about graduate school, open access publishing, and other things besides. He’s a snippet of her advice to grad students —

My advice to graduate students would be to take charge of the university and not wait for professors or other so-called mentors to tell them how to think or what to do. I think graduate students should be incredibly pro-active in the shaping of the university that they want. So instead of saying, “I wish it were like this or I wish it were like that,” they should take charge of the university as their property and their special mission. They should strive as much as they can, even under the influence of thinkers they admire, to try to create thought and not just follow other people’s thinking. Even though sometimes it looks like that’s the recipe for professional success — you adopt thinking and a methodology of a star in your field and you apply their thought constructs to a text or a situation, and voila, you (supposedly) have the start to a brilliant career.

I would tell graduate students that you should make an event of your own career and you should absolutely do it in collaboration with others. Reject the idea of solitude, or competition, or an intellectual agon, as the only path toward so-called “great thinking.” Join forces with as many people as possible to make things and to be producers of things — new collectives, presses, journals, zines, etc. — and create new spaces for the fostering of creative thought and action. Be GENEROUS: help others make things happen. Both people within the university and outside the university. Don’t just think of yourself as an apprentice that is slotted into this or that field, this or that school of thought, marching along behind others.

About Steve Mentz 650 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and early modern literature at St. John's in New York City.

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