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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

The Value of an English PhD

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A couple of days ago, somebody forwarded me a link to a new career's website for Arts and Humanities PhD graduates, called Beyond the PhD. The site seems quite useful, offering advice and experiences from recent graduates, who have gone on to careers inside and beyond academia. Unlike many other careers websites, this is actually targeted at, and relevant to, this particular audience.

Seeing the website reminded me of my own experiences a couple of years ago, back when I was in the middle of my PhD research. I am a socialist and utilitarian at heart, which means I find it necessary to justify taking public money by explaining what benefit the society which distributes those funds gets out of it. Given that I was lucky enough to be fully funded throughout my studies, I was always conscious of the need to put something back into the public domain, as I explained in a series of posts labelled "The Idea of a University."

It was out of one of these posts that the issue of the "value" of an English PhD arose. Picking up facts and figures from various reports circulating at the time, I worked this post into an essay, which I presented as a seminar paper in my department. However, since I am now at the end of my PhD studies, I thought it appropriate to revisit this piece and put it up on The Pequod. Since some of the employment figures may be slightly out of date (especially given the current recession) it is not an authoritative case study, but will hopefully be of interest to some readers, particularly those currently undertaking PhDs in the Arts and Humanities, and wondering for themselves whether and why their studies are worthwhile.

The essay can be found here: The Value of an English PhD.

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Posted by Alistair at 8:54 am


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