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April 3, 2005

T. S. Eliot Was Right

April is the cruellest month, at least as far as my allergies are concerned. I've also been dealing with some personal stuff related to my job status for next year, a topic that I've avoided discussing here for a variety of reasons. You see, my teaching fellowship here at Tech expires in just over a month, and I'm not yet sure where (or if) I'll be teaching next school year, which is pretty discouraging, especially after I've invested so much time and energy on delivering conference papers and turning them into journal articles on top of a demanding teaching schedule (six composition sections and one film section this year, and yeah, I realize lots of other people have heavier teaching schedules).

But I've avoided mentioning these details on the blog (other than in occasional, usually elliptical references) in part because I am concerned that my complaints may sound like whining or something. KF has been talking about online personas lately, and the voice I've consciously been cultivating here works against expressing this kind of uncertainty, especially when it comes to my professional career. Now, I will often write blog entries that present half-baked, ill-formed ideas with the hope that you, my readers, will find something of value there or that you'll challenge me to think about these ideas in new ways (which you invariably do), but that's a far cry from the uncertainty and frustration I feel right now. I really do enjoy teaching and writing, and it would be very difficult for me to walk away from academia, but right now, I'm not willing to dismiss the idea completely. I know that I have a lot to think about and that I probably shouldn't (and won't) make the decision to leave while I am exhausted from a combination of a long school year, an emotionally taxing job search, and a body battered by allergy symptoms.

I've been writing and re-writing this entry for nearly an hour now, an illustration of the degree to which I'm not sure I'm ready to discuss these concerns here. If, as KF suggests, many of us have "the sense that it's unseemly to brag," I'm even less comfortable talking about when things don't work out, and so far the job market hasn't. I'm not sure yet how to think about my experiences on the market this year, but long story short, I'm still staring the abyss that Collin described several months ago in response to my previous discussion of "blog block."

So, instead of talking about job stuff, I've tried to use the blog as a way of avoiding that topic (and I'll probably quickly return to wiriting distracted entries on movies and stuff), but KF's discussion of her recent experiences has inspired me to try to sort through some of my own. I'll try to work through some of these ideas over the next few days as the last few weeks of the semester quickly roll past.

Note: Slightly updated for clarity, some new thoughts.

Posted by chuck at April 3, 2005 6:18 PM

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Actually, the load's pretty heavy--a 25-person composition section is practically 1.25-1.5 courses.

As I mentioned in a post over the weekend, my colleagues were pretty sure my new 4/4 load would be lighter than my previous 3/3 (+1) load.

You've accomplished an incredible amount over these three years.

Posted by: JBJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 3, 2005 8:17 PM

I'm glad you're talking about these issues here. You are dealing with issues that, at one time or another, plague us all and it would probably be better if we all spoke more openly about them. Actually leveraging the power of a network.....now there's a novel idea...

As someone who "opted out" of academia two years ago, I'd be happy to share my perspective if you ever want to chat. You know how to reach me, so give a call anytime.

Hang in there, buddy!

Posted by: Lori at April 3, 2005 9:59 PM

I find your comments (and KF's) about personae really interesting - as a corollary, I think I've cultivated a slightly more uncertain/whiny/confessional persona than I originally may have intended/wanted - and while that persona *is* me, it's not the only me, and it's interesting how different personae allow us to express different kinds of things - and how much they seem to become something independent from ourselves, if that makes any sense.

In any case, I wish you the best in working out your future plans.

Posted by: New Kid on the Hallway at April 3, 2005 10:32 PM

I haven't started whining about my job search yet, but I fear there may be an impending onslaught of bitter posts if something doesn't materialize. Of course, I don't technically need a job until late July.. but still, damn it. I WANT TO KNOW WHERE I'M GOING.

Posted by: Jen at April 4, 2005 1:01 AM

It's important to talk about the job search process. There are a number of reasons why, but one is keep those of us who know you updated. If we then become aware of something, we can chime in and hopefully help out where we can.


Posted by: jeff at April 4, 2005 9:26 AM

I find that it's useful to have a sense of humor at times like this, so remember that if Jeff Gannon can get a job, there is hope for us all.

Have you looked into the film and tv companies in the Atlanta area? I know that TCM hires film scholars, although I'm not sure if they're hiring right now.

Anyway, of the four jobs I've had, I found two through listservs and newsgroups, and two through networking. So I'd rate listservs and newsgroups over monster.com etc. in case you're searching online.

Posted by: Chris Martin at April 4, 2005 10:01 AM

I've been working most of the morning on designing an exam for my film students, so haven't had time to respond to all your comments. I have figured out that allergies were a much bigger factor this weekend than I initially realized (with pollen counts over 500).

JBJ, you're right about the load at Tech--it's a "heavy" 3/3, for sure. I'll respond to your post about the Chronicle article later, but while I've had a tough year market-wise, I do think the Brittain Fellowship has been a positive experience.

New Kid, yes the persona issue is interesting, and while I haven't consciously crafted a persona, I've certainly avoided blogging certain topics here.

Lori, Jeff, & Chris, you've illustrated one of my reasons for bringing up this topic: we do need to talk more candidly about the job market, if only because it may open up job opportunities through social networks (I never would have thought to look at TCM, for example).

Jen, good luck on your job search. Yes, it would be nice to know where our mutual job searches will lead...

Posted by: Chuck [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2005 10:45 AM

Chuck, I'm so sorry to hear about the state of things, job-market wise. Though I'd hardly call blogging your concerns about that situation -- both as it pertains to you directly and as it reflects on the profession more generally -- whiny, I do understand why you resist. There's something about the field that makes the admission of anything that might even for a second look like doubt feel really risky. I wonder how much it has to do with the illusion we've built up that the system is fundamentally meritocratic in nature; if we acknowledge our doubts, we feel that we are either announcing our lack of "merit" or threatening to bring the entire merit-system down on our heads. And if the latter -- if this isn't a meritocracy after all -- then the threat to our own well-being within the system is potentially that much greater.

This is why I miss Invisible Adjunct; for a brief time, there was a space in which issues like this could me vigorously discussed, without the usual self-protective orthodoxies holding sway.

Don't make any decisions right now (especially not if you're taking antihistamines!). But don't stop talking or writing about the decisions you need to make, either...

Posted by: KF [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2005 12:05 PM

KF, when I hear other people talk about job concerns, I don't pertceive it as "whiny," but I still often resist talking about it, for the reasosn that you've described -- talking about "doubt" in our field does feel pretty risky.

I miss Invisble Adjunct, too, and while I'm not taking antihistamines anyway (I'd be a bigger danger to Atlanta's roadways than I already am), I'm not at all ready to make any decisions, though I'll do my best to talk about them....

Posted by: Chuck [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2005 12:38 PM

"Fundamentally meritocratic?"

Posted by: Jonathan at April 4, 2005 2:40 PM

All I can say is ditto to what everyone else has said about being on the market. For what it's worth, I'm a newcomer to your blog, and I think it's great. I've really enjoyed the varied discussion. I've often thought it would be very interesting to sneak some hidden camera into MLA interviews--Notes from the Academic Underground or something like that. The whole process itself, whininess aside, is worthy of a documentary of some sort I think. Really . . . Well, maybe.

Posted by: Jennifer at April 5, 2005 8:46 PM

I'm beginning to think that it would play more like reality TV (MLA as Survivor: Philadelphia Hilton), but that could be because I have The Starlet playing in the background....

I'm in much better spirits now, even if I'm still not sure where the job market will take me. Thanks for the kind words about the blog.

Posted by: Chuck [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2005 9:12 PM

The time is long past due for a mockumentary about the graduate student/academic life, particularly in the English Department. In fact, I've outlined several scripts. I think it would work best as animation.

Who's in?

Posted by: Jonathan at April 6, 2005 12:25 AM

What kind of animation? Hand-drawn? Claymation? Computer generated? I'm not that picky; count me in.

Posted by: Chuck [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2005 8:13 AM

It'd be great to have access to the Hanna Barbera archive, a la Adult Swim, and superimpose primitive animations on it.

Alas, that's not too likely. So we'll need a skilled digital artist, someone willing to committ to backbreaking unpaid labor for the greater glory of the project.

Posted by: Jonathan at April 6, 2005 10:34 AM

Maybe a South Park spinoff kind of thing. I kind of like the fact that the Canadians look different from the Americans. Maybe the non-traditional theorists could look "different" from the traditional literature group.

Now a reality TV show would also be worth exploring, though I imagine that it might have to go the mock-reality TV route in order to make up for those stodgy moments when everyone is in their offices grading.

Posted by: Jennifer at April 6, 2005 12:19 PM

Chuck, you might sometime be interested in the distinctions raised in the short piece "The Making of a Para-Academic" where looking for a job is mapped to labour exchange; earning a living to service exchange and a career to the exchange of cultural capital. The invitation is for the intellectual or the academic to try on the positions of proletariat, petit bourgeois and captialist.


Won't solve your problems but will offer a distraction.

For what it is worth, I think it is quite healthy that you have expresed the situation in terms of finding the next job and not in terms of furthering a career. It's a focused approach that doesn't slight your significant production of cultural capital.

Posted by: Francois Lachance at April 7, 2005 8:54 PM

Thanks for the link, Francois. I'll admit that my focus on getting the next job is motivated more out of being able to pay the bills than anything else, but I've been trying to understand that as separate from what I've been producing in terms of writing, etc.

Posted by: Chuck [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2005 10:39 PM

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