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Graduate Study for the Twenty-First Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  348 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Many graduate students continue to be regarded as "apprentices" despite the fact that they are expected to design and teach their own classes, serve on university committees, and conference and publish regularly. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the attrition rate for American Ph.D. programs is at an all-time high, between 40% and 50% (higher for women and mi ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 7th 2005 by Palgrave Macmillan (first published January 1st 2005)
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3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  348 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: grad students
Shelves: academia
So you're getting a PhD in the humanities. My first word of advice: flee to the hills. My second word of advice: read this book.

This is a refreshingly cold-blooded and practical look at the unwritten expectations and obligations we face. It assumes that in addition to wanting to be scholars, we also want to eat regular. In other words, this book is all about surviving our jobs as bargain-bin course instructors and positioning ourselves to compete for America's vanishing tenure-track jobs. To tha
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Far more useful than most books of this sort.
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: grad-school
p.214: "The first thing to do is have a drink."

It's a pretty harsh book. But you do need to be able to take it if you want to get anything out of grad school.
Focused very much on humanities, but still has some useful points that relate to grad school in STEM and other fields.

p.12-14: clarifies the distinctions between Assistant Professor (just started, still working towards tenure); Associate Professor (tenured); and Full Professor (promotion based on major new credentials beyond those that earn
Madelaine Pope
Semenza's book is helpful in outlining the different aspects of grad school and the early stages of an academic career. Additionally, he does a nice job walking through and providing examples of various professional materials such as CVs, cover letters, job applications, etc.

However, these helpful aspects barely make up for the fact that Semenza is overbearing and assumes everyone in grad school wants to become a tenure-track professor at a research university. Semenza paints everything in grad
While I'm all for learning everything you can about a field and I generally enjoy overview books, this book made it seem like the only possible end for attending grad school was to become a college professor. In fact, the repeated advice to get out of grad school unless it was the ruling passion in your life was a little bit frustrating, though I can see where he was coming from: grad school costs a ton of money and massive amounts of time, and if you're not all in, it's not going to be worth it ...more
May 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Yes I read this-- NO ONE MAKE FUN OF ME. It was actually very helpful. I have now learned that I will need to acquire a filing cabinet, and an additional five hours for each day.
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
it is a little bit of a terrifying read, but not discouraging. a necessary read for a realistic view of what your graduate experience and the beginning of your career will be like in the humanities.
Slightly patronizing, overly detailed and thorough, and somewhat helpful for "down the road." I'm probably not the target reader for this book, since I worked in a university English department and participated in service, job searches, etc. Many of the chapters were redundant given my experience, though I know many of my classmates think this book is helpful so I shouldn't be so dismissive. But it's unclear who the audience for this is, since it covers every stage of the grad school process and ...more
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If you've read this, you're probably in a similar position as me: uncertain what the hell you're doing right now (in your MA or PhD program). Luckily, Gregory Semenza offers an honest (if not a bit harsh) view into the world of graduate study and what to expect.

A lot of the reviews I've found on here seem to really push that Semenza's perspective is really harsh and will more than likely scare you away from wanting to enroll in such studies. I found this to be the complete opposite. He does an o
Ash Connell
There's a few tidbits of advice that are useful. Other bits of advice are extremely outdated despite the book's title. The rest feels like mean spirited hazing. The younger generations of academics are trying to turn things around so you don't have to do things like work 90+ hours a week or be considered a failure; this sort of nonsense just leads to mental health issues. There's also some gross gender "norms" that Semenza seems to be holding onto. I feel sorry for the students he is the advisor ...more
Massanutten Regional Library
Liana, Central reference volunteer, September 2015, 4 stars:

Gregory Colon Semenza does not sugar-coat anything in this book, but for people interested in beginning an academic career in the humanities, I think it is solid, essential (if somewhat bleak) reading. While I am reading it for a graduate school course, I would totally recommend it to anyone who has interest in doing academic work in the humanities, whether it be a high school or undergraduate student, or even someone who has a friend o
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
As with many books like this, the exhaustive details leave you feeling two things: "Does anybody actually check all these boxes?" and "If they do, is it worth it?" Maybe Semenza did incorporate all of his own strategies during his PhD program. Maybe not. The point is that there's a lot of good advice here, but you'd go mad if you tried to follow it all. At the very least, this book was a good wake-up call for me - here's what to expect from an academic career - and it's prompting me to ask that ...more
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Gregory Colon Semenza does not sugar-coat anything in this book, but for people interested in beginning an academic career in the humanities, I think it is solid, essential (if somewhat bleak) reading. While I am reading it for a graduate school course, I would totally recommend it to anyone who has interest in doing academic work in the humanities, whether it be a high school or undergraduate student, or even someone who has a friend or relative who works in the academic humanities and doesn't ...more
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
This text has "Twenty-First Century" in the title, but Semenza's ideas and arguments often feel like they're being taken from the 80s. There's some important information about the mechanics of grad school present in this text but if it's going to be touted as being for the "twenty-first century," it needs to do work to catch up.
Kelly Sauskojus
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Super practical and useful, but sometimes Semenza’s tone is a bit extreme. More geared to PhD students than MA students, but this is definitely one I’ll keep on my shelf.
Jordan H
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academia, nonfiction
Probably the best guide to preparing for graduate school for the prospective graduate student in the humanities.
Donald Quist
Aug 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You should become a professor because “you believe it is the single most important thing you can pass on to other people. Nothing else will do” (38). Ugh.
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book twice now, and while some of it is common sense about being organized and maintaining good time management skills, etc, I can't fault Semenza for being thorough. I just reread this as I am beginning a Ph.D. program in English this August, and I wanted to be better prepared for what I was diving back into. I love the way that the book focuses on the job search throughout all the chapters, offering reminders in the teaching chapter of what sorts of materials to save for your te ...more
Kathleen O'Neal
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great guidebook for the contemporary graduate student who is serious about a career in academia and most of the advice seems practical, ethical, and accessible for students at all stages of their graduate school careers. My biggest complaint about the book is that all of the author's examples are drawn from English literature and art history. It makes sense to some degree that this is the case since these are the fields the author knows best from personal experience, but as someone pu ...more
Christopher Tirri
I find it hard to rate/review a book that is pedagogical in nature because it seems like how I feel/felt is irrelevant when it comes to having actually learned something from said book. With that said, I had a pretty indifferent relationship with this book. The author presents himself in a very strange light that is at once condescending, patronizing, helpful, vaguely amusing, and sometimes slightly egotistical. However, the points he tries to and does make are invaluable to those of us who are ...more
The Awdude
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Required reading for grad students like me who wouldn't normally care to find out what the difference is between, say, an Associate Prof. and an Assistant Prof. Also Semenza recommends giving this book to your loved ones who, chances are, don't really know what it is you do for a living: the GF or Mom who doesn't realize that you work 65-70 hours a week with zero days off, no summer breaks or holidays (except Yom Kippur and XMas, you are expected to be writing), or that you are, like, the most u ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Getting ready to take the plunge this Fall.

{ahem, academic speak time}

I have been seeking a tome of this nature for a while. The abstracts (not to mention titles) for reference materials such as 'How to Survive Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School' did not inspire a great deal of confidence in their usefulness in my particular situation. Not having begun my graduate education as of yet I cannot fully speak to the relative accuracy of the advice dispensed but I do feel somewhat less
Sep 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
If nothing else, Semenza is honest. I plan on keeping this book with me throughout graduate school and (surreptitiously, of course) tucked in my desk as I start work in some remote community college. Lots of solid advice, but be sure to check with professors and professionals who share your point of view. If you're not a gung-ho research uni or nothing kind of person, Semenza's opinions might not be as applicable. Especially useful are the appendices with examples of CVs, teaching portfolios, co ...more
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academia
A must-read for anyone considering graduate school in English. There is a lot of really helpful information about how departments work, and the book is written in an engaging style. Do not skip the section where the author goes into the archetypal characters that haunt graduate school in the humanities, as this is absolutely hilarious and all too true. Ultimately, no one can prescribe a course of action, since everyone has to forge his or her own way. But this book contains frank and instructive ...more
Michael Hattem
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If you're insane enough to pursue a PhD in the Humanities, then do yourself a favor and get this book. So much of the ins-and-outs of navigating a graduate program is unwritten protocol and procedures... until this book. Learn what to really expect from coursework, learn to how to draft a teaching statement, a CV, a syllabus, etc.... If you've read this book, you have no excuses for pleading ignorance when it comes to graduate study. It is as close to "graduate school handbook" as has ever been ...more
May 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: graduate students
Recommended to Jason by: Professor Nestingen
My mentor suggested, nay, assigned this book to me. He highly recommends it.

Scary and challenging. It reminds me why I am going to graduate school, but it is very sobering. Semenza answers my burning questions about academic life for the graduate student. The chapters on time management and organizations and on seminars are detailed: what to do and what not to do (in line with each individauls personal tweaks).
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academia
This book ought to be read by everyone who is contemplating or currently attending graduate school in the humanities. Straightforward, comprehensive, and insightful look at what you need to do in order to get the most out of your experience and how best to position yourself for a career in the humanities.
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academe
Should be recommended reading for all humanities grad students. Includes chapters not just on getting into grad school or writing your dissertation but also on choosing classes and developing professional relationships with faculty and peers. One of the few self-help books that I've actually found helpful!
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book was helpful. I particularly think the appendix was well-thought-out and completely useful. I also really liked the chapter on organizational strategies. I have a tendency to want to throw things out wily-nily, so Semenza's organizational tips will help me avoid the desire to clear out and clean out at the end of every semester.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely fantastic reference that should be required summer reading for all incoming humanities Ph.D. students. I will be constantly pulling this off my shelf for the next 5 years as I progres...
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