Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Why My Life is So Much Fun Right Now

Couple more signs of interest from hiring universities. Feeling better about my worth as a human being, but on the other hand, these are just the early stages of the process. For you non-Academics--you lucky things, you--here's the way getting a Professor-ship works: The Modern Language Association (which acts as both professional association and job-placement center) puts out a list of potential hirees, universities that list an opening in their hiring circular. You weed through the list of said hirees (actually quite easy if you use the on-line job list), you find the (relatively) few for which you might maybe possibly kinda sorta be qualified. You send them (usually) a long letter of application describing your dissertation and general areas of expertise, and a very short CV--hard to claim a lot of academic experience when you've never had a real job. Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

And then, almost grudgingly, you get a slow trickle of responses, usually in the form of e-mails asking for 2 things: letters of recommendation, and a "writing sample," which is usually an abbreviated adaptation of a chapter of your dissertation, designed to prove that, you know, you can string together a sentence or two. (You may also be asked to provide stacks of teaching evaluations--those 'fill in the bubble' sheets that your students fill in right after you've given them a low grade on their final paper, describing you as a teacher and taking their revenge in doing so--or an official transcript, just to prove that, yes, in fact, you did attend graduate school and receive your Ph.D.) You send these off--you spend a lot on postage during this period--and then wait again. And wait. And wait.

And then, if you're very lucky indeed, you'll be invited to interview at the MLA convention, held this year in beautiful Philadelphia in the dead of winter. Joy to a Southern California native to myself--"What's that grey, slushy stuff I keep slipping on? And how come I can't feel my extremities and my nose and ears just fell off?" Assuming you impress them there, you then get to visit the college itself, and probably either present a paper to a roomfull of people scrutinizing everything from academic acumen to dress and deportment--no pressure there, especially when they get to ask questions of you afterwards: "How do you see your work reflecting the influence of [Unrecognizably Foreign Name of Literary Critic You've Never Heard Of]?" "You do realize that that same argument you just made was published in the latest issue of [Obscure Literary Journal]?" And so forth. I plan to sweat freely, thank you very much.

And then you go home. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. This part can take weeks or months. Who knows? You're down to the final cut, which means you have, at best, a 25% chance at the job. And then the call comes. Exultation or devastation? Who knows? If it's the latter, don't despair; you get to do it all over again next year! Hurrah!

And I'm still at the 'slow trickle' stage. Miles to go before I sleep...


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