September 11, 2015

Leonard Cassuto

Harvard Book Store and the Harvard Graduate Student Council welcome Chronicle of Higher Education columnist LEONARD CASSUTO for a discussion of his book The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It.


It is no secret that American graduate education is in disarray. Graduate students take too long to complete their studies and face a dismal academic job market if they succeed. The Graduate School Mess gets to the root of these problems and offers concrete solutions for revitalizing graduate education in the humanities. Leonard Cassuto argues that universities’ heavy emphasis on research comes at the expense of teaching. But teaching is where reforming graduate school must begin.

Cassuto says that graduate education must recover its mission of public service. Professors should revamp the graduate curriculum and broaden its narrow definition of success to allow students to create more fulfilling lives for themselves both inside and outside the academy. Cassuto frames the current situation foremost as a teaching problem: professors rarely prepare graduate students for the demands of the working worlds they will actually join. He gives practical advice about how faculty can teach and advise graduate students by committing to a student-centered approach.

In chapters that follow the career of the graduate student from admissions to the dissertation and placement, Cassuto considers how each stage of graduate education is shaped by unexamined assumptions and ancient prejudices that need to be critically confronted. Written with verve and infused with history, The Graduate School Mess returns our national conversation about graduate study in the humanities to first principles.

About Author(s)

Leonard Cassuto, a professor of English at Fordham University, teaches and writes about American literature and culture. He writes a monthly column for the Chronicle of Higher Education called “The Graduate Adviser." Cassuto is the author or editor of eight books, among which are The Cambridge History of the American Novel (2011), of which he was General Editor; and The Cambridge Companion to Baseball (2011), winner of the Best Anthology Award from the North American Society of Sports Historians. He is the author of Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories (2009), which was nominated for the Edgar and Macavity Awards and named one of the year's Ten Best Books in the crime and mystery category by the Los Angeles Times. Cassuto is also an award-winning journalist who writes on subjects ranging from science to sports, in venues from the New York Times to Salon. His website is