Saturday, October 31, 2009

Unrevising the Revisions

Ok, I know no one will be reading this on Saturday the Halloweenth, but I'm about to start reading and marking up my next chapter (this process keeps taking longer than I expect!), which is the one that is out there somewhere in the world right now, hopefully inspiring love in some external reviewer's heart and wending its way toward publication.

When I read through and take notes on my stuff, should I read what was in the dissertation? Read the article version? Read BOTH and collate the differences between them and make notes/a plan for revision off of both versions? Aaaaaaaaaaah! That sounds like a major pain in the ass.

And then I presume I'll need to take the (much shorter) article version and puff it back up to chapter length? Or ignore the article version and just work up the dissertation version for the book manuscript? (No, I can't do that --- I know I made a lot of the passages common to both versions better when I revised the article and sent it out again. Oy, the levels of work and possibilities for confusion here!) Or maybe all of my chapters need to be tightened up to article length --- about 35 pages instead of 50. Hmm.

And as a preview for some upcoming posts: Sisyphus has forthcoming disquisitions on introductions, toasters, National /Diss/Novel/Article Writing Month, cat hair, tailoring letters, boots, writing centers, and fellowships. Right now I'm home enjoying that the radio is playing tons of Oingo Boingo in honor of the holiday. Stay tuned for more academic excitement!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Louis Menand on the Professionalization of the University

The claims made in this article by Louis Menand won't be particularly groundbreaking for anyone who's been following the issue of PhDs and the practically nonexistent humanities job market, but I'll call attention to a few key paragraphs anyway. You can go read the whole thing and then let me know what you think in the comments here.

    • What is clear is that students who spend eight or nine years in graduate school are being seriously over-trained for the jobs that are available. The argument that they need the training to be qualified to teach undergraduates is belied by the fact that they are already teaching undergraduates. Undergraduate teaching is part of doctoral education; at many institutions, graduate students begin teaching classes the year they arrive. And the idea that the doctoral thesis is a rigorous requirement is belied by the quality of most doctoral theses. If every graduate student were required to publish a single peer-reviewed article instead of writing a thesis, the net result would probably be a plus for scholarship.

    • One pressure on universities to reduce radically the time-to-degree is simple humanitarianism. Lives are warped because of the length and uncertainty of the doctoral education process. Many people drop in and drop out and then drop in again; a large proportion of students never finish; and some people have to retool at relatively advanced ages. Put in less personal terms, there is a huge social inefficiency in taking people of high intelligence and devoting resources to training them in programs that half will never complete and for jobs that most will not get.

    • Unfortunately, there is an institutional efficiency, which is that graduate students constitute a cheap labor force. There are not even search costs involved in appointing a graduate student to teach. The system works well from the institutional point of view not when it is producing Ph.D.s, but when it is producing ABDs. It is mainly ABDs who run sections for lecture courses and often offer courses of their own. The longer students remain in graduate school, the more people are available to staff undergraduate classes. Of course, overproduction of Ph.D.s also creates a buyer’s advantage in the market for academic labor. These circumstances explain the graduate-student union movement that has been going on in higher education since the mid 1990s.

    • The obstacles to entering the academic profession are now so well known that the students who brave them are already self-sorted before they apply to graduate school. ... The result is a narrowing of the intellectual range and diversity of those entering the field, and a widening of the philosophical and attitudinal gap that separates academic from non-academic intellectuals. Students who go to graduate school already talk the talk, and they learn to walk the walk as well. There is less ferment from the bottom than is healthy in a field of intellectual inquiry. Liberalism needs conservatism, and orthodoxy needs heterodoxy, if only in order to keep on its toes.

    • If Ph.D. programs were determinate in length—if getting a Ph.D. were like getting a law degree—then graduate education might acquire additional focus and efficiency. It might also attract more of the many students who, after completing college, yearn for deeper immersion in academic inquiry, but who cannot envision spending six years or more struggling through a graduate program and then finding themselves virtually disqualified for anything but a teaching career that they cannot count on having. (Sisyphus: Isn't this what's called ... a Master's Degree?)

    • at the end of a long, expensive, and highly single-minded process of credentialization, they are asked to perform tasks for which they have had no training whatsoever: to teach their fields to non-specialists, to connect what they teach to issues that students are likely to confront in the world outside the university, to be interdisciplinary, to write for a general audience, to justify their work to people outside their discipline and outside the academy. If we want professors to be better at these things, then we ought to train them differently.
I agree with many of his points, but am dubious about his solutions. But I'm a big ol' Marxist and say we have to make it so that it's not cheaper for universities to use grad and adjunct labor over tenure stream positions.

I will note though, how single-minded everyone I know, particularly among the bloggers I read, is about writing and publishing a book, even if they are in a school that doesn't require it or a school with a teaching and service load so high that it is almost impossible to do it. No one who's teaching mostly comp and lower-division level classes at an open-enrollment college needs the level of expertise a book brings. At one point, the candidates who really wanted those positions would apply for them specifically and would do a completely different set of activities considered research and service, whether in terms of writing textbooks or supervising student teachers or running a local Shakespeare-in-the-community group or what have you. I'm almost to the point of saying that I don't think all that much expertise is necessary to teach at the college level at all, and that I bet pretty much any high school teacher could step into pretty much any professor's shoes without it making much of a difference, barring the learning curve of how to run a classroom that you pick up in first few years. The only place the specialization has an impact is on the research side, which this article shows is more about reproducing the profession than about the research itself.

But what do I know? I don't have a job.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Little Steps

Although I couldn't sleep last night (wide awake between 3 and 6 this morning for some reason), today went pretty well --- I printed my dissertation book manuscript out while doing a big pile of dishes, then went to a coffeeshop and marked up large sections of chapter 1.

It was probably the most productive I have been in a long time or will be again ---- it felt great to be able to do two things on my task list at the same time! If only revising the chapters would go as quickly as printing them out. Heh.

I didn't make it through all of the chapter though. That's not surprising, as it's the first one I wrote, and I am marking all over it, and also I'm trying to figure out how to make what Germano calls "deep" rather than "cosmetic" revisions. Cosmetic revisions are what we have all done before in grad school --- taking a chapter and making it clearer and stronger. Deep revisions are all about completely rethinking the structure --- what needs to happen to translate this work from a dissertation into a book.

Since I don't have an introduction, a lot of the theoretical overview stuff got dumped into this chapter, as did a lot of the general introductory background stuff. However, since it was the first thing I wrote, there's a lot of "paranoid beginning writer tics" too. You know what those are, the weird, tentative statements encrusted with obsessive justifications and citations for everything.

So my notes to myself so far are about distinguishing what should go, what should get moved into an intro (and then restated here? or not?) and what should just get sharpened up. Or elaborated upon; while I may hyperactively reference the most obvious things ("the definition of is, according to recent scholars, is..."), I have big fat gaps in other, more important chunks of the argument. Like, for instance, how we get from good ol' Judy B to the actual topic of nosepicking. Or I immediately complicate my claim without, you know, actually stating what the claim initially is. Brilliant.

The good news is that I think it is a bad chapter, I think it is a lumpy chapter with introduction-warts growing out of it in places, but I still think it is a workable chapter. I'm not going to scrap it or return to my research and start over. I'm just going to beat the shit out of it until it looks as good as the last chapter I wrote. Or even better.

Figure 1: (left) My first chapter, represented by a five-year-old's first attempt at making a teacup. Figure 2: (right) My fifth chapter, represented by the final project of a retiree taking a community college pottery class. Clearly I would like to get back into making arts and crafts type things as well.

So, tonight I'm going to ILL a couple books I want to look at because they are in a series that seems applicable to my dissertation book manuscript, and then tomorrow I'm going to go to yoga because I slept through spin this morning, (cross your fingers I sleep well tonight!) and then I want to make it all the way through chapter 1, at least part of the way through chapter 2, and get groceries. If I still have any steam, I'll go think about queries to presses for the MLA.

And obviously I'm going to need to put in some effort to get my head in the proper psychic space for thinking of this as an actual book project. But, as you can see, it's all about the small steps!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flailing About

Damn, it's been how long since I looked at my pile of book-publishing advice and assorted crap? It took me most of today just to read through it all and figure out where I last got stuck.

I'm not done with the postdocs and other thingies to apply to, but the next deadline on my list is for a short-term research grant and after reading through what they wanted, I thought it might resemble a book proposal. So I went back to the pile, and then suddenly the day was over. (there might have been a spontaneous nap there somewhere in the middle of the afternoon. I'm not sayin'.)

I'm still stumped on what comes next in the dissertation-to-book revisions. Well, I guess I'm not. Next is to reprint out the whole fucker and reread it while making a running commentary of what needs to be changed. I know part of the flailing is me procrastinating, trying to avoid confronting my own writing. Maybe if I do absolutely everything else that needs to be done first, I wish to myself, when I open up the dissertation at last I will discover it is perfect and needs no revisions at all!

That's ridiculous, I say back to myself sternly. Then my id promptly knocks me unconscious in the middle of the afternoon. I'm beginning to think that even when I am alone in the room I'm outnumbered.

So anyway, this is all a mush for me right now --- picture me waving my arms wildly above my head as if trying to swat hundreds of invisible gnats and that's a pretty accurate image of my thoughts. On the other hand, before you offer worried sympathy and advice, by now it should be clear that flailing about kinda is my methodology, that and talking myself through it and taking every single wrong turn to make sure it is wrong before doing the right one.

But I'm stumped by how to map out a timeline for manuscript revisions and the whole publishing process and then also have it match a grant that will be available for disbursal next spring, not this one. Hell, I'm totally confused as how to just map out a timeline for everything for revisions and proposals and stuff without then matching it to a separate award cycle.

I made a list of all the things I need to do ... but can't really make a list without rereading the dissertation and finding out how much work needs to be done. But didn't then take the next logical step of actually, you know, doing that.

And I'm still confused even after I went back through the Germano books, Dissertation to Book and the Serious Guide to Serious Books one. Do I send out letters of inquiry or full-scale proposals? Do I revise everything before I even send out any proposals or inquiries or what? Do I send out emails to some presses to meet with them at MLA? And would those emails be letters of inquiry or propsals? And do I even need to meet people at MLA or what? What is the purpose of those meetings even? What would I need to do now, pre-MLA, and what could I save for later?

I have the feeling that I've already dithered back and forth about this on the blog and people gave me lovely answers and helpful advice, but I hadn't posted in a while (I've been too tired to write, only to read and comment on other peoples' posts, when I get back in the evenings), so I just went ahead and started kvetching.

Of course, there are other things besides book revisions to add to my November and December to-do lists, including about ... 8 or so postdocs and maybe 1 or 2 more job apps. They have later deadlines, so I'm (surprise!) on the fence, dithering back and forth, about whether to knock them all out this week and then turn to only book-pondering, or to wait until closer to the deadlines. I guess by pulling out my piles and getting the mental hamster wheels spinning again I have made a decision, huh?

At some point I want to review a movie I saw last week but that will involve pulling pictures and actually having an idea, which is beyond my capabilities these evenings lately.

In other news, based on some job-letter advice that was given me, I have been practicing writing smaller paragraphs rather than the synapse-shorting monsters I usually produce for the blog and my own research. Have you noticed? Is it more readable? I have to say, this is killing me! I have no idea why breaking up and simplifying paragraphs is so hard for me, but it's like torture. Even though I can see why they are so much easier to read through, particularly on the computer screen. If I had my druthers, or perhaps if my id had its druthers, I'd produce everything in one ginormous monster brick of a paragraph, 300 yards long, possibly lacking any sort of punctuation as well.

What am I saying? If my id had its way I would do nothing but nap and eat chocolate all day.

You know, I had been toying with the idea of naming my id and making it a full-fledged character on the blog. But I think that might weird people out. And be kinda complicated to explain. All I gotta say though is even if I became a monk or a hermit my life story would not lack a full cast of characters.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I am in a rut. I have not managed to get a single piece of work-related stuff done today, nor have I done anything fun and interesting. Part of this might be because I went to yoga yesterday instead of a pilates class, and today I am stiff and achy in all sorts of weird places. (But I thought I usually worked that muscle over there! Why can I not lift my arm above my head?) And tired. Clearly I need to cross-train, or at least get into less of an exercise rut.

But also, I was sitting around on my couch all day, clicking around on the internet, doing nothing, and I saw the j jill catalog on my coffee table --- the one with the picture of someone running around with golden retrievers on the beach, and I said to myself, hey! I should go out into this beautiful day and drive to the beach or spend it reading at the park or something. But I did not. Partly because I haven't figured out a way yet of getting my couch downstairs and all the way down onto the sandspit so I could be really comfortable at the beach, and partly because of the insidious way I kept telling myself, ooh, but in a minute now I will begin working!

And thus I spent yet another day neither getting shit done nor really enjoying myself or the nice weather.

I haven't done this all that recently, though, so perhaps I am beating myself up over nothing. I have worked all week, but not, of course, done as much as I'd like. Ideally I would have finished all my apps this week and moved back to doing my research work next week. But I think I could finish everything by the end of next week instead.

I will just reiterate, one more time for the record, how much I hate postdoc applications. I have a batch that are really glorified adjunct writing jobs in disguise --- and I am not knocking them in any way by saying this! I would love to get one of these postdocs! --- but I realized these apps basically need yet another iteration of a cover letter, one that explains my pedagogy as a comp/rhet teacher and that side of my teaching experience. I've just had a couple encounters with people that reminded me how much I love teaching, even specifically teaching writing, but it is just not something I have any desire to write a cover letter about. Perhaps this partly explains my sloth today.

Oh, and this week sucked. No wait, mostly it was just Wednesday. And I was all set to bitch and moan on the blog about all the stupid crap from Wednesday when I took that yoga class Thursday morning, and at one point in the middle of it, with my legs on fire from having been in the warrior poses, just starting to sweat a lot, while being told all sorts of things about twists and muscle memory and how psychic energy shoots out of your fingers in this one pose, and the instructor was saying something about how grateful we should be that we have the time and physical ability to come do something like this, when suddenly I thought popped into my head so strangely it sounded like another's voice: I am happy

So at some point I will tell you all about the upsetting events and developments of Wednesday but right now I am trying to hold onto that strange voice and this involves not thinking or talking about Wednesday at all. I just hope this doesn't also require that I do no work whatsoever, because I can't really keep that up. ;-)

Still bored though. And now I kinda want chips and salsa. Maybe I should scavenge up some spare change and head out?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Too little, too late?

phoenixcomplex, who is a grad student at a different university, left a comment on my earlier grumpy post about being rejected, a comment that took too much effort to respond to right away, but that I will contemplate now:
surely this was indeed one of those jobs where your life would become a cosmic battle with That One Guy in the department and hidden dysfunctions would surface as soon as you locked yourself in, and you have dodged a bullet. surely.

but reading these posts, and recalling last year's posts, and the previous year's posts, i keep wondering: how do you feel about the support you've gotten from your advisors on the job market? don't they have some responsibility to help you do this? do you have any information about their advisee-placement records, or anecdotes from others who work with them? i remember your post about the advisor who had to be *reminded* that you filed your dissertation... i hope these people are advocating for you like they should be, and giving you the good advice you deserve. because clearly you deserve it. do you think they are?

obviously you're under enough pressure, so no pressure to write about this. i don't know. maybe it does just take 7 years. (seven years! your life as written by thomas mann...)
What is your take on this, oh readers?

So reading this comment made me think, what could my advisors do for me that they aren't doing already? Apart from that first year where they were very sloppy and late getting my letters written on time for me to apply for things, which I do think was a major problem, I'm not sure there is much more they could do that would help me actually land a job. How much of this is that I'm not getting something right in the job search process and how much of it is traceable to the fact that grad schools still produce about three PhDs for every tenure-track job slot? I don't know.

My dissertation advisor at one point told me that the nice thing about this horrible process was that you really were judged on your work and not on who you know ---- that of course she would make calls for me and advocate for me in every way, but that these types of nudges had carried very little weight in our own department's searches and had done nothing to override faculty concerns with research quality or fit. I'm still not sure whether believing this --- and thus tying my work even more closely to my worth and making subsequent rejections even more painful --- or thinking the whole idea of an academic meritocracy is a sham is the more upsetting route to take.

I do know that both my advisor and Not My Advisor, who actually isn't in my field even, repeatedly pressed me for lists of "everywhere" I applied to last year, so they could make calls and work their networks on my behalf. I did some sleuthing and ran some names by them and then gave them lists of everywhere I knew they knew someone, which was nowhere near "everywhere" I applied (the whole thing about places I am "too good for" can wait for another post). It worked to an extent as I think my writing sample requests came out of this networking. Unfortunately every single place that asked for a writing sample last year then froze the search, and they haven't reposted the job this year. Ha! The Vegas casinos should hire me to stand next to their lucky customers.

So my advisor tries to work the backstage connections wherever she can. Trouble is, if the department is at all small, and my advisor knows someone on the department, they do not want to hire me because that someone is basically the person who covers my field. You know? I figured this out, that networking at field conferences actually doesn't help with the job-getting part of academia, either. Maybe I should start trolling conferences on either century around my field.

Some of the other stuff I could have done to be more "marketable," like "pick a different field," "publish something right after going ABD," or "get real comp experience," would involve me using a time machine or starting everything over, so I kinda look at it as I've done all I could for this moment, and they've done what they could for this moment, and I should just soldier on.

The one good thing about being unemployed right now is that I have lots of time to devote to a really intense and quick job search, and I've sent out a shitload of apps much earlier than their required deadlines, as opposed to last year, when despite being as organized as possible, I missed some deadlines and ran quite a few others right up to the fedex overnighter deadlines, mainly because I was learning how to teach weird classes at the same time and was overwhelmed. (Reapplying is way easier than applying, too, since a lot of my materials didn't change or just needed a little updating like my cv.) Doing it all in one big damn lump means that I'm almost done and haven't had to go back to deal with my advisors at all, once they approved this year's drafts of my letter.


You know, at this point, I don't want advice, I don't want help, I just want to be left alone. If you can hand me a job or make connections that will get me some sort of wonderful something, contact me, otherwise, I just want to shoot all these apps out and move on.

That is not what is currently happening.

I have an outside committee member --- who I will now name Left Fielder as this person is wayyyyyyy out in left field on multiple levels --- who has been less connected to my dissertation project than some of the others. That is totally fine. Left Fielder also has been the most busy, most forgetful, and slowest to update my letter every year. That is not fine. I have emailed Left Fielder, who is off being philosophical, at a couple points over the summer and mid-August, just saying, hey, what's up, I'm still doing the market again this fall, here's what I have been writing this summer, how are you. That sort of thing. Left Fielder usually responds with a hurried oh yes we must talk soon how are you and of course I will get to the letter of yours shortly we must meet at some point when I am back in the country and plan the best way for you to venture out on the job market yrs truly lf. And that's fine.

So when I finally get my very busy advisor and my totally insane committee member to update their letters and the very early apps and postdoc-type-things are due, I send a little reminder email to Left Fielder, just to nudge this person along, and to remind this person of the job deadline timelines for the various disciplines I am applying to and when the MLA is and all that sort of thing. And I get a very flustered and contrite email that of course LF will write the letter right away and get it in ASAP and in no way does this person want to put me out of the running for any jobs by not having all my letters in on time. Which is fine.


Today, now I get another email --- lf here will be swinging back through country next week between prestigious opportunity and wonderful project abroad stop still working on letter but thought of ways you cd improve yr candidacy stop want to meet with you to go over your job ltr and other materials stop think you shd develop a teaching philosophy statement tho I am personally not in favor of them stop also a next book project will work with you on that also stop send drafts of all three immediately and clear sched for next week will meet extensively w you at that time stop yrs lf

Sigh. Please tell me this person is not going to hold my letter hostage while making me extensively revise materials that I have sent to 90% of my job places already? I know, I know, I am picky and ungrateful, but I don't want any fucking help right now! I want all my advisor people to leave me completely alone while I send off all my applications in a big blorp! I am picky and want my help at a particular time ---- to wit, before job deadline season begins.

Excuse me now while I go bang my head repeatedly on my desk.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ok, *Now* I am prograstinating!

Yesterday I worked for a long time on my job apps, although I won't count them as "out" yet since I still need to put them in the department mailing bin when the office opens on Monday. Today, however, I have not.

The problem was my kitchen. It had progressed at some point beyond "filthy" to "downright horrible to be in for any length of time." I have Goldilocks Syndrome, you see, when it comes to cleaning and doing dishes --- it can't be too hot or too cold out --- and when you have cats tracking litter and cat hair every where you can't let it go for weeks like before you had pets. So I did an enormous mound of dishes last night and still had more to finish this morning.

But then I noticed my bell peppers (when the hell did I buy bell peppers? I don't remember that. How did they get into my house?) were all wrinkly and starting to go, which reminded me to go through the fridge and clean it out, which led to me chopping up all the veggies first, as that is a major reason why my floor gets filthy and this way I only have to do it once today.

So I chopped food all morning after doing the dishes (I'm going to make a veggie gratin tonight! Yay! And thus will have lunches for the week!) and then made lunch and ate it and then scrubbed down the damn kitchen. Now I am happy and may spend the rest of the evening sitting in there admiring it and not touching anything.

And I also did the last of the laundry and cleaned the living room, which, because it is right next to the filthy kitchen, had quite a bit of cat litter tracked around on it, so this too was necessary. And as a side note, can I say that I love it when the laundry machines in my building work? I have figured out why I hate laundromats: with the ideal system, I can just take the loads downstairs and start them and then go up and have half the dishes washed before my timer goes off. I think having your own washer and dryer in your own unit is not an ideal system either, but that could just be due to the number of times the machines downstairs have leaked, flooded, or started oozing goo.

Now I am tired after all this work. And sore because I did a mat Pilates class yesterday and it seems to use muscles differently than the machines, because whew boy! my calves. I should go to the drugstore since the mop head ripped off but I think I will put that off for a bit, (not like I'm going to go right back to floor-scrubbing now that I've given it a good cleaning) for if I go to the store I will probably buy lots more food (and undoubtedly bell peppers will hitch a ride on the underside of my shopping bags in an attempt to infiltrate my house) and that will undercut my attempt to use up all the veggies and have all my meals set up for the week. Plus, if I cook a lot this week, the kitchen will just go back the way it was even faster.

I guess, then, I should go work on my job apps. Or look at my job apps. Or pretend to think about looking at my job apps. Because I had worked up a Schedule for the week, and job apps definitely were on it for today. I don't want to get behind. Oh wait, is it five? I need to start dinner!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Well, despite sending out a whole buncha applications on Tuesday and today (intervening days involved tailoring different sorts of letters), I am still nowhere near done. Bleah. I'm cherry-picking all the easy ones, which means that I might have sent out some late-Nov-deadline applications that only required a letter and cv while ignoring some that are due very soon and require a statement of teaching philosophy or a blood test or a hand-written scroll containing the first 70,000 digits of Pi. Damn job apps!

But, I persevere. Even if my cats are driving me nuts. (goes to thwack a cat.)

Have I mentioned that my cats will pester me until I feed them? And then the follow me over to the closet while I get their food? But if they happen to still be over there, licking themselves, not paying attention while I scoop out food in the kitchen, it does not count and they refuse to eat the food I have served and pester me constantly instead? Yeah, stupid cats. Picking them up and carrying them over to show them the food has no effect. They will only eat it if they see me scooping it out into the bowl. Stupid cats. Maybe they are paranoid that I am poisoning them, or trying to slip a roofie into their kibble. Just what I need, paranoid cats.

Today I did not make it in to exercise, so I have signed up for tomorrow, and plan to go in to campus afterwards and steal lots of letterhead and department paper and print more crap. Crap being job letters and app materials, of course.

Speaking of job searching, has anyone else heard of this site?

I kinda like the idea of it ---- an online clearinghouse of jobs and job seekers for academics ---- and if everyone was on board with using it in the humanities like the science and engineering people appear to be doing, it would be very convenient. But when I only have one application to do on there and the rest I do through paper or school-specific sites, it's way more work. But when it's just one app, it's a pain. I still have to do two pages of my contact information, and figure out a way to not annoy my recommenders with automatic email requests for letters, since I'm having them use another dossier service. But if everyone used it, or if the MLA website had a section of its website devoted to this type of service, it would be pretty cool!

I am writing about it in the hopes that I have hordes of profs reading who will make their departments all switch over to it for the next hiring season. Sadly, considering the response from the donorschoose challenge, I don't think I have much of anybody at all reading.

I've seen an uptick, over the past (%&*$#@) four years of applying for jobs, of search committees wanting online applications, or to have applicants email their packages. I have also heard two stories already this year of people's apps getting bounced from a university email account that was full. People, if you do this, remember that even just a cv and letter attachment is pretty big and if you get hundreds of emails you will probably fill up your inbox quota. I suggest creating a new account at gmail, which has lots of room, or at the very least a blahblahjobsearch09@ your department address rather than your actual department email, because I assure you that you will be showered with applications.

But in terms of my side of things, the email apps aren't too bad. Going through your HR's web site --- and they almost all use the same software now, I notice --- is ok but still a pain if you have to type in your address and all your degrees and dates over again. And I worry that doing the AA questionnaire at the same time as I upload my letter means that my app gets stamped "nondiverse" and automatically shunted into a box where it is never read, but I guess this is the way to go. It is very environmentally friendly from my end. Probably a huge, paper-wasting mess on the other end though.

There's got to be a better way to do all this, logistics-wise. I really think if that online job apps site merged with and you could do job searches a bit more like the whole process would be easier. But the trick, whatever way you do it, is to get everyone doing it the same way, not each search run in its own idiosyncratic, annoying way. But coordinating lit profs not just in a department, but across the profession at a whole bunch of different schools, is probably even harder than training my cats.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Already got a rejection letter this morning from one of my first apps. We are moving on to phone interviews and are sorry to inform you that you are not one of our continuing candidates. Damn.

Why am I even doing this?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Great Drizzle of 2009

You'll never believe it, but it's raining! Enough to get the streets wet and actually require the windshield wipers on, which means of course that the accident rate in California has just gone through the roof. And I know, because I was just (stupidly) driving out in the rain shortly after dark (even more stupidly) and people are just not slowing down or paying any extra attention, despite the fact that driving in the rain is dangerous and all their fellow Californians on the road are stupid. Ah well. I survived. I became furious at least fifty different times and started immediately lecturing nonexistent passengers on general driver stupidity. As I have said before, it's a good thing I can't blog the various driving snafus I witness because this blog would be devoted to nothing but traffic bitching.

In other news, I am very tired, I have been working hard at sending out my job applications and yet it feels like I am not getting nearly enough done, I found a worse-than-typo in an already-sent letter ----- a sentence which appeared in one part of the letter reappeared in almost identical form as a transition on the second page ---- and I am refusing to check just how many letters I have sent out this way, and I don't have anything to do in the evenings these days because my eyes hurt and I don't want to think and I have almost no activities here that don't require looking at something and thinking about it. But if I just crash at 9 pm I'll wake up and be irritable around 3 once again. And there's nothing on even at 3 am.

I'm pretty burnt out on the whole job thing. Whereas I was obsessive and terrified the first year I applied for jobs, and panicky the second, and the third time kinda felt good and went smoothly, like I had finally learned the ropes (unfortunately with no success), this time I'm just unable to care. And that's a bad thing when it comes to quality control of the apps, or even just sending them out. Fuck tailoring. Fuck including any apt details about your programs that indicate I have exhaustively researched your institution and discovered in my heart the myriad ways my teaching and research approaches mesh with your mission statement. Fuck listing potential course titles and describing how the classes on your books match my teaching experience. Fuck even the "your job posted on the MLA Job Information List," fuck "cordially," fuck even spelling out my university's name for fanciness's sake; I need that fucking half line to cram another mote of teaching philosophy in there.

I vaguely remember blogging about how I almost didn't finish, refused to finish, my dissertation with less than a chapter and a month to go ---- how I've always had this incredible problem with finishing things. I'll be incredibly invested and anxious and freaking out about, say, a final, writing and working away at it furiously, and then something will just click and I'll feel myself go, I can't do this anymore, I'm done, and I'll get up and turn it in unfinished, right there in the middle of the sentence. I do this with deadlines all the time if I'm not careful. I have to make sure that a conference paper or seminar paper is in acceptable form long before the deadline and I'm just polishing it, or else I won't have anything to present when that little thing in my head goes click and I just walk. Well, now I'm feeling it pretty strongly with the whole job search thing, with academia, with everything. Fuck that shit. And so I'm fighting it but it has come awfully early in the process, considering I haven't even sent out most of the apps yet. I hope that I don't just send my stuff out but actually force myself to bother with doing a good job on it.

Ah, who am I fucking kidding? It won't make one whit of difference.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cat in the bag

Not out of the bag. Not in a hat. I know, it's complicated. Sorry to confuse you.

The real question is, where is the food???

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why, hello there...

Hey, baby, what's happenin?

You want me. I know it.

You are powerless to resist my fuzziness.

It is true. I am too sexxxx-ay for my own good. But, I cannot help it, no?

Sigh. It is so hard being adorable me. Fetch me another treat and I just might let you pet my fuzzy belly.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You know what sucks?

When you have to go onto your grad campus for not one but two different noontime meetings for things you are involved with, and neither provides food. I assumed that the noon meeting time meant that some sort of sustenance would be provided?* Hello!?!?! Or you could rename the mandatory meeting a "brown-bag session" and we would have gotten the idea to bring our own consumables. Not only did I have to send a lot of apologetic emails planning how I would be in two places at once for today, and excuse my way early out of one meeting to be able to sneak in late to another, I had to be hungry and grumpy for the duration. Bah!

In other news, applying to postdocs still sucks, being interdisciplinary may mean you can apply to more jobs but it also involves a lot more tailoring, and I have depleted the paper-clip supplies of this and the surrounding three counties. Oh, and applying to postdocs sucks.

* Ok, so one meeting apparently had a small plate of stale cookies going around ---- but there were so many people present that the plate got nowhere near around the room. That hardly counts.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Postdoc-ery: Tailoring the Research Statement

So I have sortof something that resembles a project description for my future research project, henceforth to be pseudonymously known as Enlightenment Orifices: Transgressing the Boundaries of Body and Nation (chapter one: "A Nose is a Nose is a Nose: The French Revolution, Syphilis, and Early Plastic Surgery."). And, you know, I have a nifty title, I have some interesting ideas, and because I have already written a dissertation, I'm getting better at knowing how to frame and present this shit as if I already have an argument or know what I'm talking about. It's mostly smoke and mirrors, but, since it took me maybe six months to come up with a workable dissertation prospectus (to say nothing of the time I took after defending it reading tons of stuff and actually figuring out the contours of my argument), I'm hopeful that this improvement means I will actually be able to turn this into my actual book project one day.

But having a something does not mean I can just shoot it off to the various postdoc places, oh no! One place wants 500 words, another place wants 1000, some want bibliographies and some don't, some want you to situate the project in the rest of your scholarly trajectory or against your dissertation project, and others don't. So I am busy right now twisting and tying and trying to make this stupid something look like a research statement that matches what each place wants without it taking up too much of my time, since most of these thingys are due way before my tt job apps and I need to get those all ready as well, although if I really meant that I would not be blogging nor would I have a sparkling clean apartment with all the laundry done right now.

And through all of this I am hoping that the search committees will not recognize that this something is not a tailored research statement at all but some cheap-ass fabric tied together as part of a ploy to avoid incurring the labor costs of actually sewing anything:

I mean, no one's gonna know that the bandeau I sent one place became the maxi-dress or halter-top I sent somewhere else, right? But they very well might realize that it's just some cheap, hastily-thrown-together crap that makes me look like a total dork. That's why I'm hoping that the smoke and mirrors and some mood lighting, or at least some fancy jargon, will distract from the fact that this thing is both riding up and falling down right now, know what I mean?

Excuse me now while I deal with this wedgie.

*lest you think I resemble in any way that American Apparel ad, hahahahahahaahahaha! I haven't seen my collarbone or had just one chin for years! Though I should think, from long experience watching my students fidget in class, that even thin girls can't keep a tube top up in the right places. Ah fashion, why do you make us so stupid?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ethos, Pathos, Logos, Crisis

Some of you may remember that I have a penchant for reading the blog of Isis the Scientist, mainly for her fabulous shoes, although snark and science are always appreciated as well.

It turns out that Isis and other scientists at the Seed Science blog are doing a fundraising contest with DonorsChoose, a nonprofit that helps teachers raise small amounts of money for their classrooms. So I clicked over to find out what the site was all about, and to see if her readers were actually donating. And I got lost over in that site for hours, clicking on project after project and getting more and more pissed.

It's partly because I am a softhearted sucker who can never refuse a plea for doing good, whether it be in money or time (seriously: I lost a lot of time-to-degree progress doing work with my union (UAW 2865), volunteering, turning out my department, organizing, running for office within it --- why is it that "if you don't do it, who will?" totally works on me, and yet so many other people are immune to that call?)

But my anger is directed at the fuckers who consistently defund and devalue k-12 public education, whether through No Child Left Behind or the nitwits who implemented massively unfair district funding levels based on local property taxes (fuckin' Prop 13), to say nothing of the asshole California legislators who think cutting back on education budgets that were never restored from their last slashing is a good idea. And add to that the perfect shitstorm that is California's budget crisis, which has involved such priceless moves as withholding Obama's education stumulus money to patch holes in the general budget, holding local cities' taxes hostage rather than letting them pay their own salaries, cops, infrastructure, etc., and bumping up the sizes of classes again, and you will see why I am almost pissed enough to run for office myself.

I mean, seriously ---- if you go look at the California teacher requests, you'll find people asking for paper because they no longer have anything in the school's copy budget. Or the elementary school which rations out only two pages a day of wide-rule paper to each child, so the teacher is looking to supplement. Or the teacher who doesn't have enough mutherfucking chairs in his/her classroom, for chrissake.

This is ridiculous. And shameful. I'm glad that this site exists --- it allows teachers who work in high-poverty districts to find wealthy and resource-rich parents, for one thing, who ordinarily would be giving time and money to districts that aren't nearly as strapped --- but This. Shit. Should. Be. Funded. This is not negotiable. It should be funded through our taxes just as a basic cost of doing business, like the idea of not having police or a fire station is unthinkable.

So I thought: hey, what if I gave some money to one of these projects, which one would I choose? And it wasn't long before I had the audacious thought: what if I set up a DonorsChoose page through my blog? Could I get people to contribute, even though I have way fewer readers than any of the Sciencebloggers?

And now we're back to my title. For compiling all these projects and funding needs from so many locations, all in one easy-access place, makes it into the ebay of fiscal need, or the wal-mart of underfunding (ooh wait, that's redundant, hah) or something. It becomes a space where all of these funding projects compete with each other for you, the "consumer," for your attention and money. And I was just clicking for hours, fascinated by all the strategies of persuasion, all the different ways these teachers try to move you with pictures and emotional appeals and explanations of returns on investment. I would love to teach this site in a comp class. I'm sure that people would be angry with that and see the act itself as a form of pressure on the students though.

And what would you choose, what sort of strategies are "savviest" for the consumer to employ with his or her charity dollar? Do you go for the poorest districts, or for a medium poverty district, knowing that those might attract fewer donations? Do you fund someone's technology request, since the teacher probably will never buy a digital camera or document projector out of his or her own money, or do you fund paper and school supplies because they are more cost-effective and are basic needs? Fund a book, or a segment of a bookcase?

I was especially interested in the number of teachers across the country who want a new carpet, either a section rug for a reading corner or just to pull up the whole mess and have new carpet put in. But that's something that is always lowest priority on the district's list (to replace or even to clean, believe me), is probably thirty years old, and is too expensive for a teacher to just dip into the wallet and get. (My sister in law teaches 2nd grade and let me tell you, she spends money in office stores and teacher supply stores the way you and I do in bookstores, or a kid in a candy store. Teachers always blow large amounts of their salary on classroom supplies and love to do it. I'm not sure you could get a teacher to not spend anything on books and shiny things for a year and purchase a carpet instead.)

I didn't pick any carpets. But I did make a giving page and stocked it with some reading/writing/literacy/literature projects, as this is a blog all about cats who read poststructuralist theory. Can I get you to cough up some dough? A twenty? A five? Want to fund a grammar project or thesaurus or paper or buy someone a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X because the school is making them share copies and not let them take books home? Or a chair? (Yes, I picked the chairs. I'm still pissed about the chairs.) Really, if you give up a couple beers or a week of coffee you'll be able to pitch in, no problem. The sciences are great, but microscopes and frog dissections aren't the only school activities that deserve to be funded.

Or perhaps you are not a resident of the late great state of California, or don't feel any obligation to help out its poor benighted residents who can't even pass a budget. That's fine, you YIMBY. Go back onto that site then and find your own city, county, state! I bet there's even a real-life school close to you that really needs your time and help. Go to it, people!