Two whole weeks!?! It’s been that long since my last post.
Well, I have been sick. And busy. Very busy at a job that I want to leave very much because of its insistent busyness, an insistent busyness that also keeps me too busy to actively search for other jobs. There is a bit more than three weeks of the semester left, but the job search window is closing fast, and I’ve not been able to complete many of the applications before deadlines. Soon I’ll be able to write and submit proposals to conferences and submit articles to journals and do all the other pointlessly alienated things academics do to raise their profile, and still be too busy the following job search cycle to take advantage of any tentative bites on those offerings.
I’ll also be preparing a non-academic resume and shopping it out to publishers and other preparers of academic and educational services in the hopes that I might be able to find a position there or somewhere like. Part of me is indeed very hopeful that I might be more successful doing that than the academic search. It’s no secret that I’m disillusioned and more than a little bitter about academic work, my inability to escape non-tenure track status, and the current state of the academy in general. I’d like to be getting a little more scratch, quite honestly, and that may be hoping for a little much at this point, but one of the unpleasant truths of academic life is that we are paid far less for the level of qualifications and the amount of work done than any other professional class.
Deadlines are coming up – and I missed one: Princeton as usual had some humanities postdoctoral thing up to apply for with a ridiculously short deadline of October 1. Highly desirable position, of course, being that it’s Princeton and they’re paying more than a lot of Associate Professors make just for a 2-year research position with a teaching load of maybe two sections a year. Yeah, like I’d be able to compete for that one. That deadline was up even before I did my first search, so I’m just going to be relieved I didn’t feel like I had to be responsible enough to actually apply.
The application packet for these positions is remarkably standardized. They ask for a letter of application and a CV*, and you send them a letter of application, a CV, and an abstract of the dissertation. They never – or hardly, hardly ever – actually ask for the abstract but apparently just expect you to know to send it. I have two different letters of application drafted up – one for a research university/literature position, and one for a composition heavy/heavy teaching load position. Postdocs require an even different array of qualifications and aspirations in the letter of application (generally known in the culture as the “job letter”), since you have to propose a course of research you’ll engage in that’s working off from the dissertation and into new and unexplored realms, and I don’t have anything drafted up for such a purpose. There are just very few postdocs that come up in the humanities, and it’s rare to see one that I would qualify for or would consider accepting. Except that I see that Harvard has a postdoc up, and the deadline isn’t until December 1. Well. That’s different.
The ritualized and routinized job market for English Ph.D.s begins with the posting of the Job Information List. Open faculty positions in modern languages for the next academic year are submitted in the early fall to the Modern Language Association (MLA), and the Association of Departments of English then posts the relevant listings on a password-protected list made available to those currently affiliated with an English Department.
In the past, I’ve drawn up a list of seventy to ninety jobs for which I’m qualified to apply. I then spend a fair amount of time organizing those job postings to highlight deadlines and the documentation required for application. It’s a fairly compressed timeframe to process applications to these posts, with most of the major research universities asking for documentation to come in by mid-October and second-tier institutions and many of the more prestigious liberal arts colleges having deadlines in November. Less competitive institutions may still have application materials coming in right up to the dates for the MLA conference that happens just after Christmas each year and where many of the interviews are done, with some continuing to interview through January and February. This year the first round of results from my search yields less than thirty job postings. There will be a smattering of positions advertised later, so I can expect to add maybe as much as a dozen to that total, but it’s still a grim sign for the profession and for my efforts to locate a better position within that profession.
Last week – or nearly a week and half ago – the job postings for tenure track positions at English departments around the country were released by the Modern Language Association, inaugurating the seasonal academic job market for all us literature PhDs. I haven’t had a chance to look to see if there are any jobs for me to apply for. Part of that is cynicism and weariness: I’ve been on this carousel a few times already with largely disheartening results. But the main thing of it is I’m just too damn busy!