bio: March 2007 Archives

Then I could tell you that those letters stand for "crushing seasonal headache." The news round these parts is that the temperature reached into the low 60s today, which has been good for The Melt, but bad for My Head. When seasons change, the corresponding shift in pressure typically renders me unable to focus for 2-3 days at a time, bringing with it dull, throbbing headaches of the sort that quite literally make my eyeballs sore. Needless to say, sleep becomes something of a chore, rivaled only by the effort that goes into being awake. Not the happiest of times.

I've been giving some thought to the presentation I'll be giving at CCCC this year. Inspired in part by last week's snarky little entry, which itself prompted me to add "snark alert" to my categories, I've been dialing back my expectations for what I'll accomplish in this presentation. It's hard, having been working on CCCOA for two-plus years now, to imagine that there aren't folks in our field who remain unfamiliar with it, and yet, my guess is that this is actually a fair description of most folks in our field. The speed of change in the 'sphere--and on the net more generally--outpaces that of the run-of-the-mill discipline, perhaps exponentially. And so, what I think I need to do in my talk is to actually introduce the site and what it contributes.

Right now, I'm thinking of an unofficial subtitle for my talk that would be something like "13 Ways of Looking at a Journal." Mostly it would be an introduction to the site, running from the most basic and obvious features to some of the trickier stuff we've built into it, and finally to a couple of disciplinary questions that a site like this can provide us the evidence to work on.

I've been thinking about this a little harder after seeing Tim Burke's post about what he describes as "search as alchemy." To wit,

But there are other times where I want search to be alchemy, to turn the lead of an inquiry into unexpected gold. I’m hoping that the rush to simplify, speed up, demystify and digitize search doesn’t leave that alchemy behind.

It seems like such an obvious point to me, that academic search functions in much different ways than "regular" search, but what's come clear to us over the past couple of years is that we need to figure out better ways of getting the word out, to make the case that CCCOA is a site for search, yes, but also a site of invention. I think that message is both clear and obvious to many of you, my fair readers, but to the field-at-large, it still needs saying.

So I think that's part of what I'll be saying next week.

What's SUp

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I haven't exactly kept to my promise to blog my job search this year as openly as I thought I'd be able to. Frankly, the prospect of figuring out with each entry how much I could say and how much I should hold back made me tired just thinking about it. And as a result, I haven't been particularly forthcoming.

But a couple of emails today reminded me that, given that my search this year is over, I can and should probably provide some info. If you're given to reading between the lines, you will have noticed that my "How" piece from a couple of days ago included a link to an Amazon list for a course at Syracuse this fall, implying pretty strongly that I will indeed be at Syracuse this fall. Let me make that implication explicit: without getting into details about who, what, or where of my search, I've decided to stay at Syracuse for the time being. I'm happy to speak privately about the details of that decision, but I'm not of a mind to blog about it, because it involves other people and institutions, obviously.

One thing I thought I might mention, though, is that I was a little surprised this year by the number of folk who were themselves surprised that I was on the market. If I had my way, this is something that every graduate student in the field would be taught. I went up for tenure this year, and while my department has been incredibly supportive, perhaps the single most important fact about tenure, for the candidate at least, is the following:

They can say no.

Having gone through a period of my life where I did not know if I would have a job as soon as six months in the future, I am not anxious to experience that particular abyss again. Tenure is indeed a delightful form of job security, but it is also a referendum on whether or not you will retain your job; it's quite the all-or-nothing proposition. If the institution does indeed say no, you have one year to find another job, your lame duck year, if you will. However, you must spend that year on the market, and more importantly, you must spend it as a junior-cum-senior candidate who was denied tenure by your present institution. Anyone who honestly believes that this fact doesn't color a search committee's impressions of you, please raise your hand. (Now, if your hand is in the air, please smack yourself in the head with it.) Now I know people who have overcome this particular vote of no confidence, and I know places where that vote was less than warranted. Neither of these things changes the fact that you have effectively been fired, and that you will have to explain yourself to everyone who gives you a second glance.

The alternative is going on the market while you are going up for tenure. If you are qualified for tenure, that means that you have spent several years making yourself look as good as possible; furthermore, you have gathered together all the same materials that you would for the job market, your colleagues have written letters on your behalf already, and all of the criteria by which you will be deemed tenurable are the same that other institutions will use to deem you employable.

It takes a great deal of time and energy to search for positions, but much of that same time and energy is expended on things like 3rd year reviews and tenure reviews. So it makes sense to put that work to the dual use of a search during your review. But more importantly perhaps, it makes sense to protect yourself against the possibility that you will not receive tenure.

And maybe even more crucially, it's important to understand that, in the final analysis, you have almost no control or power over your colleagues' review of your record. You are not present when they discuss your case, you don't see your outside letters (at SU, at least), nor do you really have access to the process itself, beyond preparing your materials. From a psychological perspective, testing the job market waters gives you some measure of control over your future, and that's a pretty welcome thing in the face of a tenure review. It makes sense to put yourself in a position to be able to make some of your own decisions about your future, at a time when a bunch of folk that you don't know are also making decisions about it for you.

I suppose that it's fair to ask whether it was worth all the extra hullabaloo, just to end up back in the same place I was when I started, but I think so. I got to spend time with friends, meet a lot of new people, and if nothing else, I gave two job talks and one at MLA without reading from scripts. I was more confident and relaxed about myself professionally than I've ever been. And I couldn't say any of those things if I'd spent the last four months fretting about tenure. Or just fretting about tenure, I should say.

That's all.



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This page is a archive of entries in the bio category from March 2007.

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