Post Academic

Great Employment Opportunity! #3: You know it’s time to quit when…

"Carrier Dome" by Lvklock (Creative Commons license)

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.

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!