So says Matt Blakenship over at Ricochet, prompted in part by the removal of a Milton, Shakespeare, and Chaucer requirement at UCLA by idiotically ideologue English faculty raving on about “Empire” and such.
My rule of thumb for many years has been: a desire for undergraduate major in English is often a good sign, and with a little guidance away from the really rabid ideologues, most of our English departments, and especially the ones at the smaller liberal arts colleges, will provide one with enough decent-enough courses, and a few really great ones.
But. While a desire for graduate study in English is also laudable, it is a mistake to pursue it. Unless you are a rabid ideologue, or someone who can refine such rabidness into complex theoretical constructs, or someone who is so shameless as to be able to imitate and laud such behavior for the sake of professional self-preservation, it will by and large make you miserable. Because most of the departments are dominated by such ideologues, and such theory-wielders, and if they are on their better behavior with the undergraduates and the course catalog, their true colors come out in graduate education.
(I don’t like giving this advice, and I’ve often asked around to see if conservative and moderate intellectuals have any English grad programs they would recommend as exceptions to this rule, but I can’t say I’ve ever received a very confident answer from anyone. Do our readers here know of one they’d recommend?)
I still suspect my undergrad English okay, grad English no, rule of thumb is still correct enough, but UCLA’s surrender to the ideologues and this Blakenship fellow are making me wonder if we’ve past the point in this area of being able to rely on past patterns. Obviously, it would follow that when things go to pot at the tenure/hiring and grad-education level, they will eventually go overtly to pot at the undergraduate one.
Are we there yet? And are their little groups of resistance/revival forming anywhere? I don’t know, and really would like to hear from someone in the comments who feels they know the landscape of English departments today well enough to answer these questions.