Russell Berman, Gerald Graff

Once again it turns out I am with or ahead of the times, not behind. This semester I was convinced to give up my claim that we need an articulated curriculum if students are to make satisfactory progress to degree, and to endorse the allegedly new, individualistic practice Gerald Graff called “courseocentrism” in an address to the MLA I missed.

But now there is this from Russell Berman:

It is a common practice in some social sciences for entering students to face an articulated set of required courses with clear benchmarks and learning goals.1 In contrast, in some literature fields, annual course offerings vary in accordance with individual faculty predilections.

1. That an articulated curriculum is not the norm in the literary humanities is discussed by Gerald Graff: “We still think of teaching in ways that are narrowly private and individualistic, as something we do in isolated classrooms, while knowing little about what our colleagues are doing in the next classroom or the next building” (728).

Works Cited

Graff, Gerald. “Presidential Address 2008: Courseocentrism.” PMLA 124.3 (2009): 727–44. Print.

I am not convinced by Berman’s four-year PhD plan, but that is a separate question.


4 thoughts on “Russell Berman, Gerald Graff

  1. Your blog has been so information rich lately that I’m taking a couple hours to go through it. I agree with you about work. It’s what we’re born for. Look at people who don’t work. Yuck.

  2. I did a video project on the function of poetry in life. I took video of professors and then just people in public places asking if poetry had made any impact on their life. What is the purpose of teaching or learning poetry. From programs for ‘teens at risk’ to it being the reason for getting a job at a tech firm, it turns out that poetry matters in the non-linear ways. I believe that doctorates in humanities are undervalued in a society which demands that everyone be able to write and present papers, but doesn’t require that they have experience doing it. During my MA, I made money tutoring government business workers on how to write thesis statements.

    I hope you see this reply as an affirmation of your viewpoint, though perhaps not his. Where I went, 90% of all doctoral students failed or dropped out. They were trying for a 50% pass rate as a target instead of 10%, but without increasing mentoring, advisor work loads or changing the Viva. Eventually the thesis became lowered to 100,000 words (mine was err..260,000) and a vague guideline of yearly progress to self guage was developed.

  3. Your program was torturous. I didn’t experience mine that way – it was this great period of growth and so on – but others did.

    I’m more interested in Graff’s piece than in Berman’s. Poetry, non-linear ways, yes.

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