Great Employment Opportunity! #3: You know it’s time to quit when…
I’m still frozen out of the MLA JIL, so it’s probably time to pay up rather than just rely on Una74 and the Academic Job Wiki. But I did find this “Great Employment Opportunity” on the wiki, which really is a great employment opportunity. I should know, because I interview for this position, more or less, at the Chicago MLA in December 2007.
Syracuse University’s English Department seeks a tenure-track assistant professor in Asian American Literature. This position enhances our strengths in American literature and supports the development of an Asian American Studies program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Ph.D. must be in hand at time of appointment.
The difference between the job posting this time and last time was that the earlier ad wasn’t focused only on Asian American lit, but was looking for a multiethnic lit specialist that could check off as many of Asian Am lit and/or Af Am lit and/or Chicano lit as possible. The gist of it is that Syracuse seems to want an Asian Americanist, which it must not have gotten the last time around–despite interviewing myself and two friends of mine working in the field.
Personally speaking, the job represents something I’ve been suspecting for a while now, but had been unwilling to recognize: that you know it’s time to quit when the same jobs you applied to before come around again. This has happened to me before, with mildly encouraging results, when I scored an interview with an Ivy League school the second time I applied to an Asian Americanist position. The first time was a way-too-early trial run that I mostly did because all my friends were testing the market, myself only halfway through the diss. The second time I applied for the same position, I did feel I was pretty legit, even though I coulda/shoulda done better with a pretty pleasant interview experience.
So when I saw this Syracuse position open up again, my initial thought was to try for it again, since I’ve had decent luck basically trying again. Plus, the pool would be smaller, with only Asian Americanists competing this time. Plus, I would have a strong publication to tout on my CV. Plus, I have more teaching experience in Asian American and multiethnic lit than before. Except that my Ph.D. is now three years older. And if they liked me enough in the first place, I probably would’ve gotten the consolation prize of a campus visit or something, at least.
In any case, I’m passing on this position, because I actually don’t believe in getting a second bite at what’s essentially the same apple. But this sloppy seconds situation goes to show how the academic job market is an enabler that can fool you into rationalizing what is really insane and compulsive behavior, applying over and over again hoping that the results will change even when you know they probably won’t. It’s just that it’s even harder to break the cycle when the options are so few and far between and you’re getting more and more desperate for a job.