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J.D. Salinger on Grad School Admissions


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"I think I despise every school and college in the world, but the ones with the best reputation first."

Just a friendly reminder that most of the great writers didn't attend Ivy League schools, let alone get paid by them.

...I hope this doesn't start a long and pointless debate about whether Salinger was a nut or a genius. I for one refuse to offer my opinion.

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"I think I despise every school and college in the world, but the ones with the best reputation first."

Just a friendly reminder that most of the great writers didn't attend Ivy League schools, let alone get paid by them.

...I hope this doesn't start a long and pointless debate about whether Salinger was a nut or a genius. I for one refuse to offer my opinion.

If I was only planning on being a novelist, I wouldn't be going to grad school, now would I???? (the "only" is not derogatory. I mean "only" in the sense as the one thing i was planning to do. Since i also want to research and teach and publish academically, as well as write fiction, a PhD is somewhat of a prerequisite).

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It seems kind of silly to me to despise any school, including those with the best reputations. I don't have anything against Salinger (and The Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books, fwiw), but I do think that's a very opinionated statement that really doesn't make much sense (at least to me, at this moment).

As for most of the great writers not attending Ivy League schools...that's all well and good, but since most of us here are looking to be scholars...

And, personally, I know novelists (published and soon-to-be published) who enjoyed their schooling, and others who haven't had schooling past high school. I know some who had schooling, but don't use anything they learned for their writing, and I know others who didn't have the higher education, but are self-taught. It's all very personal, and I think the desire to be an academic is also personal.

If an Ivy League school happens to be where someone believes they could receive the best training to become a novelist, poet, scholar, artist, or whatever, I don't see why anyone else should feel the need, or think they have the right, to judge that.

Actually, if I'm going to be completely honest here, I just want to know why a large percentage of people on this board are so anti-Ivy League. It's as if half the people here have been personally wronged by all the students at all 8 schools or something. I just don't get it.

And sorry about this post. I'm sure it makes no sense. My confusion regarding the Ivy League thing has been building up for a couple weeks, and I guess Salinger got me all worked up. haha

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As for most of the great writers not attending Ivy League schools...that's all well and good, but since most of us here are looking to be scholars...

Ha, yes, exactly. It seems to me that literary scholars and novelists/poets don't tend to see eye-to-eye, at all. I mean, often the two groups approach literature in diametrically opposed ways.

As for the Ivy-bashing, I haven't done it, but I think there is a perception, which is often borne out, that Ivies are can be elitist (not elite) in the sense that they look for pedigree above a lot of other more important considerations, and thus are quite insular. There's also a perception that they operate on cutthroat competition. Obviously those stereotypes aren't always true. I mean, three of my best friends went to Harvard, and obviously there are wonderful people at Ivies. But I will say that whenever I visited them, I was struck but the ratio of pretension and holier-than-thouness in some of their peers, compared to my own school, which was no slouch school itself (a top-5 SLAC).

That said, a few jerks shouldn't spoil it for the whole system. But people are always going to push against what's held up as the pinnacle of anything, especially when everyone won't have equal access to them, or to the things their grads have access to.

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"I think I despise every school and college in the world, but the ones with the best reputation first."

Just a friendly reminder that most of the great writers didn't attend Ivy League schools, let alone get paid by them.

...I hope this doesn't start a long and pointless debate about whether Salinger was a nut or a genius. I for one refuse to offer my opinion.

Well, Robert Bardo (murderer of Rebecca Schaeffer) and Mark David Chapman (shot John Lennon) both got caught with Catcher on them, so....I guess Salinger was just a popular guy ;)

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The Chronicle of Higher Education | Confessions of an Accidental Literary Scholar

The vague animosity of Salinger towards the realm of academic prestige reminded me of the article I linked above, in which a literature graduate student discusses the strange resentment that creative writing people exhibited towards scholarly pursuits, as if there is an ultimatum that one must write creatively or academically and not both.

And I'm not sure whether it matters or not, but for every literary success who eschews academia is another who was very much influenced by their studies. To each one's own!

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Ha, yes, exactly. It seems to me that literary scholars and novelists/poets don't tend to see eye-to-eye, at all. I mean, often the two groups approach literature in diametrically opposed ways.

This is definitely true. (Though, actually, I'm hoping to try to bridge that gap a bit by publishing fiction and being an academic...but we'll see how that goes haha)

As for the Ivy-bashing, I haven't done it, but I think there is a perception, which is often borne out, that Ivies are can be elitist (not elite) in the sense that they look for pedigree above a lot of other more important considerations, and thus are quite insular. There's also a perception that they operate on cutthroat competition. Obviously those stereotypes aren't always true. I mean, three of my best friends went to Harvard, and obviously there are wonderful people at Ivies. But I will say that whenever I visited them, I was struck but the ratio of pretension and holier-than-thouness in some of their peers, compared to my own school, which was no slouch school itself (a top-5 SLAC).

That said, a few jerks shouldn't spoil it for the whole system. But people are always going to push against what's held up as the pinnacle of anything, especially when everyone won't have equal access to them, or to the things their grads have access to.

I guess this makes sense, as sad as it is. It's sad because I feel like it could be considered a kind of prejudice, to assume that someone is a certain way because they went to a certain school. But I guess for every person that (however irrationally) hates an Ivy, there's an Ivy student/grad who is the stereotype.

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"I think I despise every school and college in the world, but the ones with the best reputation first."

Just a friendly reminder that most of the great writers didn't attend Ivy League schools, let alone get paid by them.

...I hope this doesn't start a long and pointless debate about whether Salinger was a nut or a genius. I for one refuse to offer my opinion.

Great quote! Thanks for posting.

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"I think I despise every school and college in the world, but the ones with the best reputation first."

Just a friendly reminder that most of the great writers didn't attend Ivy League schools, let alone get paid by them.

...I hope this doesn't start a long and pointless debate about whether Salinger was a nut or a genius. I for one refuse to offer my opinion.

Love this quote. All it is, is commentary on ridiculous elitism and reliance on credentials (among other things)....it's not an attack on education, obviously. Of course the quote makes sense, if the person reading it

cares about having a life outside of an institution, and perhaps enjoys learning for the sake of it rather than education for some instrumental use.

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What?? Are two people on this forum actually appreciating my little quotation and not seizing it as an opportunity to spout their deadly serious opinions on "The Academy," or "academe," or whatever the hell it is they call their all-powerful overlord?

Edited by subzoo
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Zoo,

If you hate it so much, why go through it? I'm asking seriously.

We want to be scholars. I don't see anything wrong with that. If you don't want to be a scholar, and you want to be the next JD Salinger (nothing wrong with that, seriously, I love his work), why even bother thinking about grad school?

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Zoo,

If you hate it so much, why go through it? I'm asking seriously.

We want to be scholars. I don't see anything wrong with that. If you don't want to be a scholar, and you want to be the next JD Salinger (nothing wrong with that, seriously, I love his work), why even bother thinking about grad school?

Would you mind pointing out exactly where I've stated that a) I hate academia; B) I don't want to be a scholar; and c) I want to be the next J.D. Salinger?

Edited by subzoo
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Would you mind pointing out exactly where I've stated that a) I hate academia; B) I don't want to be a scholar; and c) I want to be the next J.D. Salinger?

Well, you seem to be dissing academia on a regular basis (conferences are petty and boring, calling it "all powerful overlord," and quoting a writer who hated academia with a passion while saying that "Just a friendly reminder that most of the great writers didn't attend Ivy League schools, let alone get paid by them." to a group of individuals who haven't expressed much interest in being fiction writers, and are mostly interested in being scholars).

I'm usually quite good at reading tone and voice - and most of your comments have been... well... very anti-academia. Perhaps you haven't stated it in so many words, but it's fairly implicit in just about everything you write.

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Well, you seem to be dissing academia on a regular basis (conferences are petty and boring, calling it "all powerful overlord," and quoting a writer who hated academia with a passion while saying that "Just a friendly reminder that most of the great writers didn't attend Ivy League schools, let alone get paid by them." to a group of individuals who haven't expressed much interest in being fiction writers, and are mostly interested in being scholars).

I'm usually quite good at reading tone and voice - and most of your comments have been... well... very anti-academia. Perhaps you haven't stated it in so many words, but it's fairly implicit in just about everything you write.

I suppose that answers my first query well enough.

Edited by subzoo
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Subzoo: You may not “hate” the Academy (that all powerful overlord, to use your rather puerile language), but you did reduce several important facets of contemporary academic life to “stupid little accolades” when we were discussing this same issue in the thread “MA vs PhD.” While I can relate a little to your Miniver Cheevy-esque lament about the current focus of many Literature departments on literary and cultural theory, and while it is romantic to dream about bucking the system and about a return to the “days of old” when critics like Walter Pater, William Hazlitt, and Matthew Arnold—the “great” literary critics you mention—enjoyed much more intellectual currency than they do today, you are being nothing other than antagonistic and, I think, a little naïve when you write that “[you’ll] be a different kind of professor and critic than [we] all aspire to be.” A kind of professor you both implicitly and explicitly position against “[t]he Academy, or academe, or whatever the hell it is [we] call [our] all-powerful overlord.” So much for queries one and two, then, since it is apparent that you oppose what the Academy stands for and do not wish to be what the Academy considers a scholar (i.e., someone who accrues those “stupid little accolades”; although, to your credit, you do admit that “[you’ll] probably end up scrounging those qualifications [yourself]”). As for query three: I very much doubt that you want to be the next Salinger, I think that between this thread and the one I mention above you have made it very clear what, in fact, you aspire to be.

However much we may disagree, Subzoo, I appreciate the fact that you’ve stood your ground and kept this entertaining back-and-forth going B). It has provided a welcome relief from the stress of waiting to hear from grad schools.

Cheers, and the best of luck w/ your applications!

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I suppose that answers my first query well enough.

Subzoo, it really seems like you're trying to start arguments. What exactly DO you like about academia? I've never seen you mention one thing you're looking forward to about grad school. This board is full of people willing to sacrifice money, time, and sometimes even personal relationships to be able to pursue their dreams. Of course we all know that there are quite a few seemingly arbitrary hoops to jump through, but we are here because we WANT to be. I'm not sure if you're aware that your remarks come off as very snide, but those of us who have worked very hard to get where we are don't appreciate the constant sarcasm.

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However much we may disagree, Subzoo, I appreciate the fact that you’ve stood your ground and kept this entertaining back-and-forth going B). It has provided a welcome relief from the stress of waiting to hear from grad schools.

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