Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Because I'm interviewing for a one-year teaching position today, my thoughts inevitably turn to self-fashioning. If a summer away from your university has made you realize--as I have--that maybe you don't loathe academia quite so much as you simply hate where you've been, you, too, are ready for the Fall Job Market. It helps to be unemployed, or facing unemployment. Bankruptcy is ok only if you've gone through it and have nothing to fear. Once you have nothing--no job, no dream of tenure, success or financial security, no hope of children or a house or even a car that is less than ten years old-- what is it that you want? If you could choose, would you still want a job in academia? This is the kind of question one could pay quite a lot for in therapy, so I'm pleased to offer it here for free, in hopes that it yields you an epiphany on the cheap, sans my 4:30 a.m. night terrors. If you answer yes to my last question, your inner monologue immediately becomes less existential, your task narrower and more focused. As well as more desperate.
So now that you want a job, how do you get one?
1. Wear many hats.
This means that if you do 20th-century and contemporary literature and culture on more than one continent, they will read you as a British literature person and expect you to teach Aphra Behn. Prepare to discover the intricate joys of the incredibly long Eighteenth century.
2. Wear many dresses.
If you talk about women, gender, or sexuality, English departments will read you as a Women's Studies person. Women's Studies, on the other hand, will think you teach Interpretive Dance. You must learn how to dance with your social conscience on your sleeve. Consider having your sophomores revive "Hair" in time for the awards banquet.
3. Love Literature.
"I love Literature. Literature is over, but I love Literature." Repeat until this makes sense.
4. Love-Hate Theory.
I love theory. I mean, I used to love him. We broke up. Now I hate him. I know all his passwords, though. I could tell you them if you want.
5. Love teaching.
I love teaching. I mean, it's a great opportunity for dialogue, right? The best part is how hard it is to pick out something nice to wear every day when they don't pay you enough to even buy new underwear. It's a challenge, and I LOVE a challenge!
6. Love teaching writing.
No sentence too cryptic or convoluted for the sentence doctor! No paragraph too short or long, no topic too rambly, but I can find an idea buried deep within its maze! You're almost there. Now, take the idea you ended with, put it in the first paragraph of your paper, and see if you can go through and support your argument! Wasn't that easy? B.
7. Love everyone.
Example: "I look forward to working with you on the ten-year-old curriculum revision project." Practice tone and eyebrow control until you can sound convincing.
8. Love everywhere.
You can always say: "Houses must be very affordable here."
Now you're ready for that job, no matter where it is. Good luck in the interview, and remember, BE YOURSELF.
And wish me luck.