And now: a partial answer to Dame Eleanor

Q: Perhaps I should just take over this program and do it right, rather than try to compromise.

A: Have you ever been a department chair, though? They put you through the wringer and if you do not run an authoritarian department, but rather act like a department chair out West or up North, you are not considered “democratic” — !

A: It is, however, better to be a chair than to be a sub-coordinator, where you get worse H*** and even less thanks. But, my trauma here is from having been assigned to mediate in this war for so long. I lost myself in mediation because, since I was fair to all, I was the enemy of all.

We had a department chair who was disliked for the same reason but who was therapeutic for me because he allowed me to be in charge of my own classes, rather than insist I constantly model the perfect compromise. That is why I do not want to take over in this area: I want to fully retake my classes first, in any case.

And then: I would really, really rather coordinate something else. I want to be the chair of a new interdisciplinary major in Latin American Studies, connected to graduate certificates and eventually M.A. programs in various disciplines.

I speak foreign languages, but I am not that national language and culture person so many are, I am drier: I like comparative literature and linguistics. And I am sociological and interdisciplinary, and it all adds up to Latin American Studies, which is a different thing even though in my world it is all the same, all about acquiring a variety of systems of knowledge, or languages.

I used to want to move completely to the English department because ours is so antiquated, but what I really want is Latin American Studies.

NOTE: I have to write a post on how it is Alain Renoir’s fault that we have the lives we do, it would be very funny, and it is related to this (he was the son of Jean Renoir and grandson of Auguste Renoir, and he designed my graduate program although I never studied with him; he was this polyglot who believed in old style mega-knowledge and depth; many of us ended up like Casaubon in Middlemarch or alternatively, Dorothea).




Filed under News, What Is A Scholar?

2 responses to “And now: a partial answer to Dame Eleanor

  1. I would hate to be a chair, because you have no friends and no one trusts you, either from above or below. But if you are already in a position of suspicion and lack of trust, then it seems there’s nothing to lose. You are very clear about what you do want to organize, though, which is more the point of my questions. If you could get something started and do it for a couple of years, that could be your springboard to something else, despite the crappy job market.

    • Z

      ” But if you are already in a position of suspicion and lack of trust, then it seems there’s nothing to lose.”

      That was the reason I should have taken the chair of my main department the last time I was asked to do so and could have done. It was an error not to, and I was taking standard advice not adjusted for here.

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