Post Academic


Great Employment Opportunity! #2: So basically, anyone can apply?

We’re back with our latest installment in our series highlighting and reading between the lines of job postings in lit fields, what we’re calling Great Employment Opportunity! (or GEO! for short).  Last time, we started with the ethnic lit catch-all, which I think will be quite prevalent this year, because I’m guessing that a lot of depts think they will have a preference for Chicano lit specialists, but still aren’t quite sure yet and will keep their options open.  But if you think the ethnic lit catch-all was vague and open-ended, check out today’s GEO!#2, which is so broad that the job calls in question should just ask for anyone who ever studied U.S. lit to apply.  Actually, that’s what the 3 sample postings we have for your perusing pleasure more-or-less do, courtesy of the folks setting up the 20-21 c. American lit page at the Academic Jobs Wiki site, of course:

"Main building of the University of Notre Dame" by Tysto (Public Domain)

Notre Dame: “Assistant Professor, American literature after 1900. Breadth and interest in various genres desirable.”

Princeton: “19th-20th – century American Literature. Candidates with expertise in theory and/or visual culture are especially welcome.”

San Diego State: “Assistant Professor: 20th and 21st Century American Literature . . . tenure-track assistant professor specializing in 20th and 21st century American literature. Desirable secondary specializations include race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality studies, literature and the environment, transnational and comparative studies, border studies, or media studies.”

So, great, if you’re applying for these jobs, you’re basically going to be in a pool of at least multiple hundreds of applicants.  Hey, at least, San Diego State adds some specifics, though there are so many of them that I’m not sure who is left out, since what person working in American lit over the past century doesn’t deal with race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and so on–maybe that burgeoning field on the intersections between New Criticism and the graphic novel might be snubbed, although I’m thinking specialists there could talk themselves into thinking they work in media studies, right?

My favorite of these job postings is the one for Princeton, which really could yield applications from almost everyone working in American lit, since I’m sure early Americanists who mostly work in the 18th c. could fudge their credentials in 19th c. and 20th c. implies 21st c., right?  I suppose those who work in “theory and/or visual culture” are licking their chops now, thought, you know, that might weed out 1 out of every 10 folks because everyone *thinks* s/he does theory in some way or another.  But speaking of weeding out, how many applications do you think have no chance the instant they are received for these positions?  I tended to avoid applying for jobs like these, because I figured I would never even get a reading among the hundreds and hundreds of applications, and assumed I needed a connection to grease the process for me, rightly or wrongly.

In the end, it seems like there’s no real criteria for the position, so what was the point–I might be full of myself, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the BEST scholar in 19th-20th c. U.S. lit that a job like the Princeton one would seem to be seeking, though who’s to say who that is or if it exists?  My friends would always say that you just have to apply to everything because you never know what might happen–except I did know from my experiences what was going to happen.  In the end, the wing-and-a-prayer GEO!s can add up, in time, effort, postage, pilfered letterhead, and inbox space.  Count me out!

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