by Ted Scheinman
The prevailing presumption is that graduate school is supposed to be hell, and that madness is the natural reaction.
Pop wisdom says you'd have to be a lunatic to spend six years earning a humanities Ph.D. given contracting faculty budgets and a concomitant expansion of ill-paid lectureships.
Leaving aside this prevalent if pat diagnosis (the constant howling drives consistent traffic — exhibit A), we might more properly say: Six years in a doctoral program is liable to make kooks of even our best-adjusted scholars.
Just look at our rich options for scholarly neurosis. There's Imposter Syndrome, relative poverty, the endless solitude of reading and research, disdain within one's extended family, not to mention the mixed-up rewards system that you must engineer in order to tell yourself that reading qualifies as work and therefore you deserve three square meals and occasional sleep. Depending on the school — especially if you're in California — competition for funding (not travel grants, but a livable teacher's stipend) can fuel all manner of anxiety.