It’s been ten years since I was a college freshman. One year since I graduated with my master’s degree in the blossoming, lucrative field of humanities. The nights of cry-snacking myself to sleep over the 179th draft of my thesis are over, but I still get flashbacks of dread and anxiety any time someone happens to mention deadlines, studying, tests, or writing papers. And yet, PTSD aside, the world of academia is still fascinating to me. I find myself sucked in by the high-minded intellectual debates, literary jabs and political theatrics, the stress/burnout/despair of it all, and the never ending cycle of teaching, grading, researching, writing, publishing or perishing, etc. Sometimes I actually want to engage with questions and issues that are being explored in a university context; sometimes I just want to get close and poke it with a stick before I run away screaming. Here’s a list of books/movies to turn to when you’re feeling the need to be reminded of the good, the bad, and the ugly that is academia:
Footnote: Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik are father and son as well as rival professors in Talmudic Studies. When both men learn that Eliezer will be lauded for his work, their complicated relationship reaches a new peak.
Tenure: Professor Charlie Thurber loves to teach but can’t stand all the expected publishing and politicking that goes along with the position. So when his opportunity for tenure is announced, he goes out on a limb to prove his worth, but unexpectedly finds himself falling for the very person who might replace him. It’s a battle of the brains where the stakes are high and only one person can get an ‘A’ for effort.
Liberal Arts: When Jesse, a 35-year-old New York college admissions adviser, is invited to his Midwestern alma mater to attend his favorite professor’s retirement dinner, he quickly falls back in love with the university life. But when he meets 19-year-old student Zibby, the daughter of his professor’s friends, he suddenly finds himself caught in a moral dilemma: does he pursue a relationship with this kindred spirit, or does he break her heart and return to the real world?
Good Will Hunting: A young head-strong, working-class genus is failing the lessons of life. After too many run-ins with the law, he is paired with a psychology professor for counseling.
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar: Chronicles the life of mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., and discusses his contributions to the study of economics, his illegitimate child, his bouts with schizophrenia, and his Nobel Prize-winning theories.
Legally Blonde: When a blonde sorority queen is dumped by her boyfriend, she decides to follow him to law school to get him back, and once there, learns she has more legal savvy than she ever imagined.
Dead Poets Society: Inspired by their new, unconventional teacher, a group of private boys school students discovers the joys of literature and the rewards–and challenges–of expressing their individuality.
Monsters University: Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn’t always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met they couldn’t stand each other. Monsters University unlocks the door to how Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became the best of friends.
Straight Man by Richard Russo: William Henry Devereaux, Jr., is the reluctant chairman of the English department to a poorly funded college in Pennsylvania. His reluctances stems from his natural-born anarchist tendencies and the fact that his department is more savagely divided than the Balkans.
Finding Forrester: Jamal Wallace is a talented young basketball player in New York City whose secret passion is writing. After an accidental meeting, Forrester, a reclusive novelist, becomes Jamal’s unlikely mentor. Soon, both men learn lessons from each other about life and the importance of friendship.