“Let us stop saying that it sounds stupid”
Let us stop apologizing for our enthusiasm. The only people who would mock a life of the mind have already lost their hearts. We need people like you. The humanities and higher education are under attack. The same efficiency crazed culture that scares students away from grad school is stripping away programs that seem unnecessary. But as Shakespeare’s Lear says, “O reason not the need! Our basest beggars are in the poorest thing superfluous.” We need talking and thinking and writing in a way that cannot be put on a graph.
But seriously, if you make it in, if you make it out of grad school, you must never take your privileged position for granted. Unlike humanities scholars in past years, you will not be able to strut around propped up by cultural institutions and vague notions about the value of the past. You must show your students why studying literature, even obscure literature, is pleasurable and instructive. You must think about ways of explaining the richnes of academic loab to the public. In short, if you are a professor, you must not take anything, even the university itself, for granted.