New Report Suggests English Lit Profs. Writing Too Much Worthless, Well, Crap

by John D’Angelo

Here’s what stupid uneducated people imagine that college literature professors do: teach. Here is what college literature professors actually do: write obscure papers that nobody will read. Now that’s where it’s at!

Teaching unmotivated 19-year-olds about what James Joyce “meant” is not why literature professors spent nine years in college getting various degrees of questionable value to society, okay? They got those degrees in order to be able to eloquently engage in literary microfeuds conducted via barely-read niche publications, see? Now, a traitorous Emory English professor writing is suggesting that all these academic papers that lit professors spend all their time on might be, you know… what’s another word for “worthless?” Let’s just say “worthless” until I can find my thesaurus.

“Many professors enjoy their work, finding it rewarding and helpful to their other professional duties, but if their books and essays do not find readers sufficient to justify the effort, the publication mandate falls short of its rationale, namely, to promote scholarly communication and the advancement of knowledge,” Bauerlein wrote in the report. “To put it bluntly, universities ask English professors to labor upon projects of little value to others, incurring significant opportunity costs.”

To translate that into average American-speak: liberal elite college professors are wasting your money to write about, probably, nothing worth writing about! Or, worse, writing about the tepid ennui of upper middle class life in a university town! And worst of all, nobody even cares: although English lit professors are turning out published writing at an incredible pace, most of their work is never cited by other “scholars” in the field, according to Bauerlein’s research. And if it’s not cited by other scholars in their own stuff, what’s even the point?

Bauerlein writes:

Our review reveals that:

• Universities make substantial investments in faculty research through direct compensation—for example, in 2008–09 the University of Illinois paid its 57 regular English department faculty members $1.34 million dollars to conduct research.

• Faculty members respond to this support by producing ample numbers of scholarly books and articles—for example, from 2004 to 2009, University of Georgia English professors published 22 authored or co-authored books, 15 edited or co-edited books, and 200 research articles.

• Once those books and essays are published, the vast majority of them attract meager attention from other scholars—for example, of 16 research articles published by University of Vermont professors in 2004, 11 of them received 0–2 citations, three received 3–6 citations, one received seven citations, and one 11.

Books receive more citations on average, but not enough to justify the labor that went into their making.

The point is that your average English lit professor will be celebrated as a genius long after he dies in obscurity, when the rest of America finally “gets” what he was doing. You’ll feel bad then. You can’t put a price on genius, okay? Just wait until you see the academic papers by English lit professors taking issue with this one. Socks: prepare to be blown off!


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