The Unpopular Profession

First page of “The Unpopular Professions”

This paper discusses a genre of essay writing that advises students not to pursue a career in academia and that has recently enjoyed increased popularity. Focusing on one such “Thesis Hatement,” it argues that these texts are marked by inner contradictions and that these contradictions are indicative of the cultural work they do. Emphatically rejecting academia, these texts typically fail to convince their audience and, in a curious split between denotation and pragmatics, open up a position from which to embrace a graduate career. After briefly delineating the genre and discussing its politics, I trace this textual dynamic in two places: in thesis hatements’ use of a limited set of metaphors, and in the contradictions of their pragmatic effect. As a deeply conflicted and contradictory genre, thesis hatements speak strongly of the conflicted and contradictory role and of the precarious un/popularity of academia in contemporary US culture.

Herrmann, Sebastian M. “The Unpopular Profession? Graduate Studies in the Humanities and the Genre of the ‘Thesis Hatement.’” Unpopular Culture. Eds. Martin Lüthe and Sascha Pöhlmann. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2016. 313-36. Print.