Post Academic

The Semi-Notorious New Yorker Cover

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWow. That New Yorker cover by Daniel Clowes, which depicts a PhD moving back in with his parents and hanging his advanced diploma on the wall hit too close to home. Gina Barreca wrote over at Brainstorm, “We wonder whether the implication is that Ph.D.’s are worth as much as third-place ribbons—and are as easy to obtain.”

Eh. Somehow I don’t envision that New Yorker cover convincing a lot of readers that PhDs are deluded individuals who are doomed to return to Mom and Dad’s basement.

Yes, the portrait creates an unflattering picture of those with advanced degrees, but the reason it stings is that it makes New Yorker readers with PhDs feel like they’re being attacked by their own kind. That’s reason enough to dislike the cover, and I find it annoying because it perpetuates grad student/professor stereotypes. I don’t think, however, that the cover has a strong enough message to convince a person who is on the fence about the value of advanced degrees to dismiss such degrees entirely.

People move back in with their parents all the time because their grand life dreams didn’t work out, but it doesn’t mean there’s a reason to condemn the profession they chose. After all, people still go to the theater and go to rock shows, and for every successful actor or band, there’s probably about 10 people living in their Mom and Dad’s basements.

I posted the image of the New Yorker cover because I’m analyzing it for a semi-scholarly reason. I am fully aware that I’m pushing it with that rationale, so I kept the image small. If you want to see the image in detail, buy your own copy of the magazine.

3 Responses to 'The Semi-Notorious New Yorker Cover'

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  1. Really… we are critics… if we can’t take a little crit, ourselves, then what are we doing, exactly?

  2. gradland said,

    The Chronicle has a nice breakdown of the cover:

    I think I might have found it more amusing (and a little less baffling) if the PhD boy been disheveled-looking, had an expression of grim determination, and was hanging his diploma in a messy studio apartment next to headlines about a shrinking job market (maybe with a very weary-looking cat as his only source of applause).

  3. Arnold Pan said,

    Good points, all! If there’s any thing necessary for surviving grad school, it’s having a sense of humor about the whole. Although it’s gotta be said that, between the cover cartoon and the undergrad questionnaire, The New Yorker was pretty smug–maybe no more than normal?–taking a potshot at an easy target…

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