You Chose the Wrong Degree

The academic study of literature leads basically nowhere, as we all know, unless you  happen to be an especially gifted student, in which case it prepares you for a career teaching the academic study of literature – it is, in other words, a rather farcical system that exists solely to replicate itself and yet manages to fail 95 percent of the time. Still, it’s harmless, and can even have certain marginal value. A young woman applying for a sales job at Céline or Hermés should naturally attend to her appearance first and foremost; but a degree in literature can constitute a secondary asset, since it guarantees the employer, in the absence of any useful skills, a certain intellectual agility  that could lead to professional development – besides which, literature has always carried positive connotations in the world of luxury goods.

From Submission, by Michel Houellebecq. Translated from the French by Lorin Stein.

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