Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The English Studies Job Search

Clancy of CultureCat links to these two perspectives on the English Studies academic job market . The first is "But Can You Teach?," by M. Garrett Bauman and published in The Chronicle, and the second is "Who Would You Hire?, or, Merit in Action," written by "Dean Dad" at Confessions of a Community College Dean.



At 9:44 PM, Blogger cbd said...

I am not a big fan of those or many of the articles I've read about "the market." Here are the reasons I can think of now:

1) The candidate controls very little of the process. Most folks are better off working on their dissertation than worrying about what Ivan Tribble or "A professor at a midwestern college" or some other psuedonymic has to say, and re-drafting their cover letter or tweaking their blog based on that advice.

2) However bad, academic job searches are just as bad as non-academic ones. We just complain about them a lot more.

At 10:05 AM, Blogger Clancy said...

I definitely haven't changed any of my application materials because of the articles. I have, however, felt very reticent about what I say on my blog, though. It's this (ridiculous!) feeling that The World Is Watching.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger John said...

I'm not overly bothered or concerned by such articles, and I definitely wouldn't change anything based on them.

What I find interesting about these accounts is that they are a glimpse on the whole process, but that's also why they're not worth fretting about: they're glimpses of the job search from the highly subjective perspective of someone involved with the process. It's sort of like slowing down to check out an accident on the other side of the highway. Dean Dad's discussion of the teaching demonstrations is a good example of exactly what I mean. If a hiring committee really wanted an authentic teaching demonstration, they'd seek an authentic example of those candidates' teaching: they'd all fly out to the candidates' home institutions and watch them teach their authentic classes. But that isn't practical, so they all pretend they're watching authentic demonstrations of teaching. It's those moments, descriptions of those experiences, that I equate to the wreck on the other side of the highway.

I think the old Tuesday Cafe job search discussions were much more enlightening and useful.

And as far as the whole world watching, isn't that the point? Not that I'm keeping blogs because I think the whole world wants to watch me (well, I started the Ong Archive blog because I thought people might be interested in the Ong Collection, but then, that's not an interest in me). The fact that the whole world can watch is part of the openness of digital culture and what's now being called Web 2.0. Unlike primary oral culture, or an oral-literate transitional culture, or a full-fledged scribal culture, all of which I can only study via artifacts, I can participate in the literacies and practices of digital culture, and so I choose to do so. We all are.

That does mean, however, we're going to engage in literacy practices that members of our disciplines don't recognize as valid because of their own situatedness in the logics and values of print culture. That's their call, but if they want to make such a call, then they're not likely to want me for other reasons as well.

I think Ivan Tribble's rant is a perfect example of this. For him, someone skilled in humanities based computing meant knowing how to use the features of MS Word and, maybe, how to code HTML. If his department can't believe someone who knows how to muck around with servers and databases could be a committed member of an English department, then that is not the environment for such a person.

If a hiring committee isn't comfortable with Clancy's blend of the personal and professional on her blog, then that hiring committee is probably not going to Clancy anyways because her dissertation is on blogging.

As Bradley says, there's little difference between how an academic job search plays out and how any other job search plays out (other than, maybe, academic job searches are likely to be more committee-based affairs). Most of the justifications for dropping good qualified people are just that: justifications.


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