Friday, February 19, 2010

Business, Meet Literature

Someone thinks French businesses should hire French lit majors, and 94% of those with masters are finding jobs within 3 years (!) of graduating, only 1% less than graduates with other kinds of degrees, but les atomes crochus seem to be in scarce supply on both sides, with a guy from Price Waterhouse telling literary types that "we are not the devil" and a guy with a masters in philo who is today a financial manager assuring his comrades that "littéraires are not dreamers." And then there's the fellow from Rothschild's whose ambition is to "format" young poets before it's too late:

"Les entreprises fonctionnent à l’habitude, et quand 90 % des salariés sont issus d’HEC ou de l’ESSEC, ils vont embaucher ceux qui leur ressemblent. L’idéal est de recruter les littéraires juste après leur diplôme, quand ils sont encore des pages blanches sur lesquelles on peut écrire.

Perhaps he's forgotten that Mallarmé wrote of "la page blanche que sa blancheur défend." In finance, presumably, les blancs becs are defenseless before the dangled dreams of wealth to make Croesus blush, and il faut tenir la dragée haute.


CJWilly said...

As a masters grad in history and politics, I count as a pretty "littéraire" type in France. I can confirm being unemployed, a "dreamer", and having a very low opinion of most "prestigious" companies.

Those who read Hugo and de Gaulle aren't going to moved by the nihilistic rat race of blue chip companies. I think it's that simple.

MYOS said...

Hiring "those most like yourself" was the policy in the US before Affirmative Action. It's very telling France is still thinking along those lines.

I confirm that France, for all its glorification of "culture general", despises liberal arts graduates - if you studied sociology, philosophy, or literature, it means you were unable to do anything else and are essentially worthless. I still remember how some people wanted to "abolish" social science studies at the university level - probably the same that got it kicked out from the secondary curriculum, replacing them with "economics and management" (for 10th graders). In the UK, history, literature or classics graduates aren't seen as worthless, but as on a path to law or politics.
As for the opposition between literature and money-making, in a knowledge-based economy, how can anyone maintain that with a straight face?
Creative people come in all shapes.
Here, my friends who graduated with a degree in computer science and French literature, or who got a BA in philosophy and moved on to engineering (after 6 months on-the-job training and further courses, but still) are unthinkable. As in, they can"t conceive such people do exist or have something valuable to bring to the table. (And I wish I were exagerating).

MYOS said...

Oops : I meant: French people can't conceive such people such as my American friends who studied philosophy and showed promise for an engineering job, or got hired for the computer science/French combination.
Can't conceive how their brains work, can't conceive how that'd be possible in France, can't conceive what possible value it'd have for a company.
Someone who goes to engineering school and, for some unfathomable reason, wants to take a course in literature at the local university, sure. But the reverse?
The intrinsic value apportioned each type of study is so far apart that they just can't conceive it.
(Again: I wish I were exagerating).