chapter  11
19 Pages

Literary Theory in the Graduate Program

As the shrinking job market makes graduate study in English less attractive and as real or threatened budget cuts force departments to watch carefully the number of students in their various classes, there has been considerable debate about what should be done with graduate programs in English. Everyone agrees that other universities should cut back their graduate intake or eliminate their programs entirely, but there is little consensus about what should be done in the numerous programs that will remain. Addressing an Association of Departments of English meeting in 1977, William Schaefer urged a broadening and liberalizing of Ph.D. programs. If we teachers of English believe that the study of literature is a central and valuable experience, then we do ourselves and others a disservice by drawing a line between undergraduate and graduate studies, assuming that liberal education is appropriate only in the former and presenting the latter as a specialized activity suitable only for future teachers of English. If we have anything worthwhile to teach, it ought to

be made available to those who have already received a B.A. as well as to those who have not. By devoting graduate programs exclusively to professional training, Schaefer argued, we have effectively destroyed the M.A. in most of the humanistic disciplines and have eliminated learning that we ought to be encouraging. ‘We have got to liberalize our graduate as well as undergraduate programs and persuade ourselves and others that there is no answer to the question “how high is higher education?,” ’ making it possible for students to go as high as they can.1