I am hardly writing here, because I am writing a novel. I have sent pieces of it to Boulevard, Evergreen Review, Narrative, and Southwestern Review. You can see I am serious.

One of our major programs is being cut. That means dismissal of all faculty including tenured faculty. Notice was given Monday. I am looking at my vita. You can see I am really serious.

I am teaching a book on torture and realizing how sadistic some aspects of my upbringing were. It was all about teaching the correct gender roles. I still experience the same kinds of pedagogy at the university and I do not react well.

In one of my departments almost everyone is an adjunct or a year to year instructor. Continued employment is based on student evaluations in freshman courses. You can see why all faculty are competing with each other to see who can best serve these freshmen. It is a twisted atmosphere.

Meanwhile, there is the question of pleasure. I think I have said something like this before. We all have stories about how we fell into graduate school by accident. I wonder whether it is true, or whether it is part of a narrative which functions to justify poor work situations later.

I wonder whether we really fell in by accident, or whether we simply knew what fascinated us. I wonder whether it might not be more empowering, especially at the current, excruciating juncture, to remember that we fell in out of strength and not weakness.


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5 responses to “Autumn

  1. I knew I was going to grad school and getting my PhD even before I started my BA. I never even considered anything else as a possibility. There were many reasons for that. I felt that as an immigrant with a “weird” last name and an accent, my only chance of not feeling like a second-class citizen was through putting “Professor” before my name. Also, I wanted the freedom of having a lot more time to myself than people who worked regular office jobs. I also loved my future field so passionately that I honestly thought that everybody who wasn’t in Hispanic Studies was wasting their lives.

    Good luck on the novel!!

  2. Z


    I started fantasizing about the PhD in linguistics or comparative literature before I had even started kindergarten. But this was not considered a good thing in our family — it was too goal oriented, not arty enough, not bohemian enough, not aristocratic enough, too bourgeois, not feminine enough, I am really not sure.

    So for a long time I adopted the narrative, “Well, I didn’t know what else to do, and there was this TAship available in a program and city I liked, so given that one must do something, I did it.” Whereas really I think it would have been more accurate to say, “It was what I always wanted to do.” Only now am I learning to say it.

    Oh, yes. I know. I didn’t want to say it because I didn’t want it undermined, didn’t want it ridiculed, I think … so I had to keep it a secret, even from myself! ;-)

  3. Z

    AHA – now I have submitted to FICTION, too! :-)

  4. I do not know how to thank you enough for this post.
    Indeed, the “I fell into it” discourse probably has justified, for me, a lack of commitment to the things I do love, and have always loved, about my job/life in academia. (I just got tenured and work in an environment that seems only a bit less uncertain than yours.) It has also justified my taking on more and more tasks that are in no way satisfying, but which have taken up all my energy in the past months.
    I will certainly think about this over the next few weeks.
    Thank you. :)

  5. Z

    Thanks for visiting, eternal writer! I’ve got another iconoclastic thing to say, which is that one doesn’t have just one “love” for a job. People never wanted me to leave academia because you couldn’t like two things, they said. This is another weird idea — on the one hand, you’re not supposed to like academia or your field, but on the other, you’re also not supposed to like anything else. I wonder what is up with that, anyway…

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