Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Well, I managed to eat four meals in two days with entirely different groups of friends, hang out with former fellow grads for short and long conversations, have coffee with some bloggers and alcohol with others in a meetup that went so late I only caught the tail end of what seemed like a successful and packed department party and regretted only having short periods of time catching up with friends (some of whom are still at school with me so I should be seeing them regularly --- sad). All this and I managed to not go to a single panel. It was a very nice, very non-anxiety-producing MLA and much fun. It was exactly the experience people claim conferences should be like and entirely devoid of any job-market-related stress. Now if only it had been completely un-job-market related because I had a job and didn’t need to think about getting one.

Lots of my fellow grads had interviews, but I have never met anyone who has interviewed in “the pit.” Do they still even use that anymore or have the indigent search committees moved straight to phone interviews? Nor have I heard of the “drop your resume off for the schools who are just taking people on a first come, first serve basis” actually happening since, oh, I don’t know, the 70s. Why are people still advising me to do this? Anyway, I hardly even saw the usual black-clad job applicants sweating bullets. Perhaps it was because SF was totally crowded with every single friggen Bay Area resident coming up to shop on the square. Seriously, MLA planners, did you really think this was the cheapest and least crowded venue? I thought you picked cities for their snowy “off season.” I definitely saw more job applicants carrying their anxiety spewing out of them like a cloud that perfumed everyone around them last year. But perhaps the weather kept more people indoors in Chicago?

Lessee ... I got to pet Horace’s coat (not the blue one he has written about but a lovely burgundy velvet one, but it had more of this toffee-butterscotch tone to it than a really purple-y wine-y color) and did not steal Flavia’s shoes or heu mihi’s handknitted sweater (seriously? you knit that? why does everything I try to knit ---- which has been no more difficult than a sort-of rectangular scarf ---- look like the cats have chewed on it, regardless of whether they have or not?) and reminisce with Medieval Woman and Dr. Virago and some guy who herds words for a living but I don’t remember his nom de blog or even his nom de name, and compared tattoos with another blogger (I don’t have any; I’m afraid of needles. But I feel like I should).

I had a long conversation with the various colleagues of the Acephalous one over the relative merits of technology, comp/rhet, and sanity, punctuated with copious pop culture references and movie suggestions; unfortunately the names of all the films that I haven’t seen yet have escaped me. I also got to meet the Bride of Acephalous aka the Little Womedievalist and totally get Scott in trouble with her --- she got this expression of “you did what? I’m going to kill you” and I was like, I have worn that expression before; that is what I looked like, eh?, although I wasn’t married to the person I was throttling. As for Scott, he had many shocking revelations, not least of which that he had gone to the MLA Delegate Assembly and a) stayed awake and b) understood what was going on. As for the rest, we decided that the only thing he could do to redeem himself would involve creating a time machine and any effort at going back in time could potentially jeopardize the results of the presidential election and I’m just not willing to risk that, so he’s going to have to dig himself out of that hole using only a spoon.

I also got my schadenfreude on hearing about how everyone at the Junior Farm came up dry this year and someone at the dept. party responding to my brush-off answer* “It’s a very bad year for the market” by vehemently saying “it’s a shitty bad year” and suddenly looking almost about to cry. In the same vein I was heartened by the person from my school but not my department who is now at a Prestigious Postdoc Somewhere Synonymous with the Term Ivy League complaining that her brain has been kinda melty since filing the diss and she has been reading nothing more academic than People Magazine and Go Fug Yourself and she has been unable to write her articles and R&Rs too and besides, don’t you know that R&R deadlines are more of a general guideline than a hard and fast cutoff anyway? Suddenly my list of accomplishments this quarter seems acceptable. You already know my argument that I should be able to list those damn job applications on my cv just to show time and effort put in, if not success coming out. Like I said, lots of my ABD colleagues got some interviews this year and most got at least one and while I like them all and sorta wish the very best for them, I also kinda wish that they would trip and jam that fork into their own eyeball with the little party canapĂ© still on it. The world should be glad I have not been put in charge of instant karma.

*you know the question. It always follows someone pontificating about how well their own, multiple interviews have been going, doesn’t it?


Fretful Porpentine said...

Oh yes, they still use the pit. At least they did last year (when they put it in an actual pit, and you had to go down like three escalators to get there, and it was totally like going to Hades, except without the ferryman and the three-headed dog).

I think the indigent places aren't interviewing at all this year, though.

Dr. Crazy said...

I'm glad you had a good MLA! And your recap was just what I missed in not being there this year! Reading it made me feel like I had gone, so thanks for the post!

Earnest English said...

Sis! You do know someone who has interviewed in the pit. Me. This year it was very definitely a pit, where you had to go down and down and down to get there. That's where I saw most of my fellow applicants sweating bullets in their basic black. In weird corners of the Fairmont, I'd see people talking to themselves from sheaves of papers (of course they could be practicing their conference papers, but why do I think not?) I also had an interview in the pit the year before last, when it was not in the underworld at all.

I'm sorry I couldn't hang out and introduce you to Absurdist Baby, but we had to hurry home so Absurdist Lover could get back to work.

Join me in the post-MLA prayer: please call me, please call me, please call me. It's like fucking high school waiting by the phone all over again.

Glad you had a good MLA!

undine said...

Glad you had a good MLA, although I think the multiple interviews people should just shut up. Do they not know how that makes others feel? Don't they care?

This is like when you were a child and had three Barbies when your best friend doesn't have one. Your mother would have told you (hypothetical you) it was rude then to crow about it, and it's no less rude if interviews are the Barbies.

Bardiac said...

Sounds like your MLA was better than any I've ever had.

I'm sorry the job market is so terrible. Let's hope the economy turns around drastically and everyone gets to hire bunches of tenure lines next year!

Sisyphus said...

Too bad; I wish they really did have a three-headed dog and a ferryman at the entrance to the pit.

You know, if they went back to the old riddles or challenges of wits or strength to get tt jobs, it would probably feel a lot more meaningful in surviving the various levels of vetting, rather than the near-random process of luck that happens today. It would cut down on the adjunct oversupply too.

k8 said...

I have to admit that as a comp/rhet person, I'm now wondering about this conversation about the merits of my field. :-D

Sisyphus said...

K8, the conversation starts over at Inside Higher Ed, where Kugelmass had a provocative essay, and also from MLA panel 170-something or thereabouts, also by an Irvine person (who I didn't meet).

k8 said...

Ah yes, THAT article. It has been widely discussed and disparaged on various comp-rhet lists.

My thoughts about it: I think he elides rhetoric and a very basic understanding of some Aristotelian rhetorical approaches. This doesn't help his argument. Of course, the fact that this is an old conversation is part of what frustrates comp/rhet folks - we've heard it over and over and over. Seeing the field disparaged by those outside the field gets frustrating after a while (A good exploration of the politics of comp/rhet can be found in Susan Miller's Textual Carnivals). He doesn't acknowledge the scholarly conversations regarding this issue and dismisses commenters who do mention it. To me, that indicates that he doesn't want to take part in an actual conversation.

Also, I don't know where he gets the idea that comp/rhet, as a field, separates writing from literature. Well, maybe I do if he is only considering certain types of fiction as literature, but very few people separate writing from reading. Overall, he seems to equate rhetorical approaches to FYC to cultural studies - it isn't. Rhetoric can be used to examine cultural studies but they aren't the same thing.

Regardless, I'm most dismayed by his apparent inability to listen to his commenters and to consider moving beyond his understanding (as an outsider) of this portion of our field (and I do mean portion - comp/rhet is not simply FYC). That, and I'm annoyed that once more a higher ed publication has published an article about my field that is not by a scholar in my field. This happens all of the time. The articles are rarely, if ever, by actual comp/rhet scholars.