Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Maybe I could be a stable boy": Alternative careers for the French PhD

If you're in a French doctoral program, you've seen the following articles, then been reminded of their existence by everyone you know: "Do Colleges Need French Departments?" We're all accustomed to The End of the Humanities articles, and we've all decided to ignore those warnings. At least - In These Economic Times - we get paid enough to live on and have health insurance along the way, right? Right? But The End of French, this does not bode well.

In an early episode of "Seinfeld," George sits on Jerry's living-room floor and contemplates career choices once it appears his days in real estate are (for reasons unrelated to the subject at hand - not an End of Real Estate so much as an End of Costanza Employability) over. Literally and figuratively at a low point, he lists alternatives. Stable boy. Talk-show host. Movie projectionist. Oddly enough, college history professor.

This scene (technically two scenes - one after he quits, the other, at the end of the episode, after he's been fired) comes to mind whenever the crisis in academia is announced. The specificity of this particular incarnation - French! - has motivated this post.

Here are our viable alternatives:

-Poodle groomer: For dog shows, or (why not?) the mostly-human runway. There's certainly room for advancement. French-language skills are probably useful in the caniche line of work. Also, we have an edge when it comes to beret placement on lap dogs. Because, obviously, lap dogs should wear berets. (See above.)

-Local/seasonal/organic farmer: The food movement is full of leaders whose formative years in Frahnce led to their appreciation of real food, unlike the deep-fried cardboard that is our own national cuisine. Anyone with some background in French is more than halfway there. If I were to go this route, it would be all ail, all the time. Green garlic and garlic scapes are the highlight of spring. Can these be grown in other seasons? What I lack in farming/gardening knowledge I could make up for in sheer determination to eat green vegetables that taste like garlic year-round. And I didn't see a single scape in Paris. I would introduce the scape to a city otherwise lacking in good food options.

-Fashion: While the age alone of PhDs rules out working on the modeling end of things, students of French - literature and history - tend to be more... aesthetically-minded than the typical academic. By which I mean, possibly after art-history grads, we're the best-dressed. And a PhD in French sounds like the sort of thing that would add caché to a fashion-writer's bio - at the very least, we know the keyboard shortcuts for typing words like "caché."

-French fryer: No explanation necessary.


Matt said...

On the bright side, you didn't want to teach at SUNY Albany anyway. (Trust me on that.)

And, if we can make a comparison with how vets are paid, than being a poodle groomer is probably both more pleasant and better paid than being a stable boy. (And the smell is probably easier to get rid of, too.) So, things are looking pretty good, I'd say.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Oh, "stable boy" was all George - I, unlike George, am not that fond of horses. Poodle groomer it is then.

Matt said...

plus, put "extreme poodles" into a google image search and you'll find that there's plenty of room for creativity. Too much, probably.