Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Little R&R was NOT what I needed right now

I've got about a billion library tabs open in my internet browser right now, each one open to some journal I've never heard of before.

I got home from my long day and much craziness spent with grading essays and the obnoxiousness of dealing with the person I'm teaching for (and here I thought I'd be able to rant about that for you today) to find that I've been summarily rejected by the journal that I've been waiting to hear back from for so long (hereafter to be referred to as Sucky Journal), you know, the one I was emailing every month for an update since for ever. It was a form letter with no explanation except that due to the high numbers of submissions, they wouldn't be sending any sort of readers' reports or give a reason why it was rejected. Those fuckers!

I heard back about a month ago about the other article, which is a revise and resubmit. But I hadn't said anything about it on the blog because they explained they were behind on getting the readers' reports back to me and asked that I be patient until after they dealt with finals and such and would contact me soon. Which is fine, as I've got grading and my conference paper and my dissertation chapter and now this rejection to send off again. So my immediate reaction to the rejection was, ¡pinche cabrons!, you pissed me off so much I had to go find my upside-down exclamation mark! And I decided to follow all the advice I had heard about publishing and pop that article back in the mail so fast it'd leave skid marks.

Only, the journal I had submitted to has a much higher word limit than a lot of the others, so I need to cut it a lot. Only, I'm not so sure what are the other options "in my field" it would be good to aim for. Only, a lot of the journals I can think of are "up" on the selectivity scale, not down. Only, I do weird stuff.

So, since I had promised myself that I could play on the internets tonight, and since I use this blog as a way of thinking through things, I opened another tab.

(And as a side comment, I have to say that finishing a dissertation with no job prospects or even adjuncting prospects has a strange sort of --- closure --- embedded in it, and closing all the publishing folders and conferencing folders is adding to this feeling of an ending, of the idea that a moment of a really clean break is coming up soon and leaving the profession completely, while painful, looks really logical for that moment. All these doors are closing, and there will be a gap before I open them up --- if I open them up --- with the job market in the fall. This is really weird and I keep wondering if I'm even gonna be here doing anything related to this in a few months.)

So anyway, back to the article. As I am trying to explain, I don't really do literary studies. I don't know what I do, but it ain't your typical "read patterns within a text very closely" type thing (I have banned the phrase "close reading" from my vocabulary, as none of us are really matching patterns to find the keystone of irony or whatever was in the New Critical method. It's become a pet peeve of mine that lit scholars use "close reading" and "reading a text closely" interchangeably. I digress.) So one of the advantages of Sucky Journal was its interdisciplinary perspective and openness to allowing work that combines 18th century novels about nose-picking, to use my perennial example, with economic study of the manufacture and circulation of early modern nose-picking implements. (You think I'm odd? Seriously, I love this imaginary topic so much I could almost drop my diss and start over on this new one ---- it has everything! gentility, the rise of the middle class, manners, the democratization of consumer goods, the body, liminality, social anxieties --- what's not to love? Plus, you'd get to say the words "nose-picking " over and over in conference presentations, and perhaps coin noseological words.) It's like that dude who railed like an old fogey in The Nation a while back about how nobody does "real literary studies" anymore; they stray from the neat boundaries of texts and ideas:
The items on these lists are not just different things–apples and oranges–they’re different kinds of things, incommensurate categories flailing about in unrelated directions–apples, machine parts, sadness, the square root of two.
Exactly! How can you not see this list as cool and wonderfully Borgesian --- I would so love to write an article incorporating all of these things! In fact, I think my whole methodology is actually what I dismiss as "bizarre metaphors" on this blog ---- I love to bring together the "incommensurate categories" and have them raise sparks. Mostly because everyone else seems to stay within their disciplines and not read the work of other disciplines, so that when I go tramping across the fields of research without regard to the lines and borders I come back with sugar packets and bits of twine and a rock and some idea some other scholar tossed off and bricolage them up into something rich and strange. And I think they help us see the "canonical" stuff in new and interesting ways. Hmm, metaphysical conceits as methodology. Yeah, it's so me.

But, it's actually not very literary studies-y. Mr decline-of-English can grouse all he wants but I think the profession is way more like his ideals than his fears; from where I stand it's tough to be taken seriously when I stuff rocks and a novel and sugar packets all in a big metaphysical conceit and hit "churn." I have had bad luck dealing with what I call "author journals" and "author people." You know, they ask me to cut two thirds of the essay ---- all the cool stuff that is not a boring retread of Done to Death Novel. They come up to me after conference papers and say, which of Overdone Author's novels are you dealing with in your other dissertation chapters? And then when I start telling them about a chapter with no novels, but with kitchen sinks, their eyes glaze over and they walk away. And, their lit-focused or specific-author focused journals appear to vastly outnumber stuff I feel "a good fit" applying to. I mean, if I cut out all the "yoking together of heterogeneous ideas" parts, you're getting rid of my biggest strength.

So, in sum, I have no clue where I'm going with this. "This" being not only this blog post but my career. Do I even want to write about nose-picking metaphors if they're not going to let me include photographs of antique electric nosecleaners I've been collecting? I dunno. Writing this post has reminded me that I still do love what I do; I just can't get anyone else to love it. Or pay me to do it. Same difference.

Oh, and if you are one of the people who knows what I really study and have any good journal suggestions for me, drop me an email. Hopefully you know of a better one than some of these with a 5,000 word limit.


Matt said...

Hmm, metaphysical conceits as methodology.

This sounds fantastic! I'd love to know what you study. I find a lot of the same problems sometimes in my work, as I study the intersection of print culture and Book History (sexy right now) and creative writing (laughable right now). I find that some people (the awesome ones) get really excited and giddy when I mention what I'm doing, while others (the boring ones) basically just mentally write me off as one of those postmodern wankers who studies shopping receipts and looks for patterns in tea leaves.

Keep doing what you do, though. The profession really needs more creative people who are willing to look at problems sideways and on one foot while hopping up and down and humming a Kronos Quartet reworking of "My Humps" as they stuff rocks, sugar packets, and oranges in a blender.

Nice to meet you, by the way. I love your blog!

Dr. Crazy said...

Sending all good vibes your way, Sis, and drop me an email - I might be able to think of some journals that are lower down on the ladder. Actually, depending on the time period of the article, I've got a couple of suggestions that might be quite good.... Yes, anyway, if you've not figured out where you're sending it already, drop me a note.

I think I'm going to do a post in response to what you write about fitting one's work into trends in criticism/scholarship, so I won't hog your comments. Good luck with the revisions (all and sundry) and yay that you're almost done!

kermitthefrog said...

I don't quite have the same problems viz. interdisciplinarity (although I work on multiple genres!!1! which freaks some people out in itself).

But I love reading work that combines novels about nose-picking with the study of the economics of nose-picking. So if you find a journal that is cool about that stuff, I'd be an enthusiastic audience.

medieval woman said...

goddammit. I just wrote you an awesome comment and then it wouldn't take. I hate that...

Anyway, I've lost my comment mo-jo now - but I wanted to say I'm sorry about your crap news and I think you should thumb your nose and send it out immediately!

k8 said...

I'd love to hear what you study, too. From the hypothetical I thought of Clio, but that's based solely on what I'm imagining based on that description.

Doing inter-disciplinary is hard enough without the problem of other people trying to classify what it is you do. I work in two inter-disciplinary fields (comp/rhet and library & information science) and, apparently, I confuse the hell out of people because they have trouble figuring me out. As in, I've been asked in interviews which one of my two areas I "really" see myself doing/leaning towards.

I don't know when (if you do) plan to go back on the market, but if it is this fall, it shouldn't look like you've spent time away if you are just now wrapping up the dissertation. The advice I was given is that a year or two outside of academia isn't a big warning sign to search committees, but after that it gets a lot harder. And, since it sounds like you are getting publications out there, you will have things happening after the official defense date.

Keep up the interdisciplinary awesome-ness! Fight the power of institutional determinism!!

Sisyphus said...

Hi Matt! Welcome to the blog! Although book history people make me annoyed right now ---- why does what I study have to be same-old and the stuff I don't like (ecocrit, I'm lookin at you) get all the oohs and ahhs?

That said, Doesn't Mark McGurl have something out right now that would be up your alley?

Dr C--- yes, I should email you! The temptation is to just not deal with this at all since I have a bunch of other stuff coming up with close deadlines. Bah!

Kermie, the journal that goes along with that conference is the sucky one right now, which as you can imagine is quite annoying as it is _the_ place to get placed and get your name out to people in the field, but they are annoying. And i have heard a lot of editorial troubles and dropping of balls besides my case, so it's not just me.

K8, you're making me think about interdisciplinariness now, and I may have to do a post on it. Look out!

Loose Baggy Monster said...

Oh, do a post on interdisciplinariness, please! If only because it's a really fun word to type. But seriously, I would love to hear your thoughts on it...

k8 said...

Yeah, I had my own rant regarding interdisciplinary work back on January. It was semi-cathartic.