Novels on the tenure track

Elaine Showalter, author of Faculty Towers: The Academic Novel and Its Discontents, recently answered some questions that Joshua Glenn posed about contemporary academia. Asked why fiction professors “have grown more and more grotesque, and their departmental squabbles more petty” since the 60’s, Showalter responded:

In the early ’70s, the job market for new Ph.D.’s in literature tanked-so untenured professors who write novels have become even more disillusioned. And since 1968 the academy has no longer been a sanctuary-the simplest questions of curriculum or faculty recruitment have been politicized…. Also, by the 1990s English departments had lost confidence in their mission-yet another reason the genre of academic fiction has become so nihilistic.

Timothy Burke, using John Holbo’s thoughts as a springboard, argued earlier this year that the drive to scholarly overproduction and specialization is to blame for the death (or at least increasing obscurantism) of academia.


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