What I was thinking this morning

1/ Here is a good post on the Schuman-Potter argument.

2.1/ A low-level tenured person who feels in some ways like a contingent person trying to get a job and wondering if they can stay in the alleged “profession” (not everyone calls it that), I always wake up at first light, even if I then decide to go back to sleep — as I learned to do weekends and holidays after becoming a professor. Today at dawn my hallucination was that someone was being tortured in the next room.

2.2/ I am glad I have this house — I like the inside of it and I feel comfortable in it — because the university, even on its well intentioned days, is thin and so is the town, and I am not well enough off to leave often enough, although life would be far better with weekends away nearby in places I know. It is unclear that in these circumstances I will ever be able to do what I allegedly stayed in as a professor to do, and the future looks very precarious. The instability makes concentration difficult.

3.1/ Someone for whom things have gone better and whom I did not know, friended me on Facebook because I, like her, was railing at the obtuseness of Michael Bérubé (on various issues having to do with the MLA). She has a degree from my university, another department, and got a job in a Southern R1, as I did. Unlike me she stayed and did well, or well enough, as I would have done without Reeducation.

3.2/ Not Reeducated, she has had time to be aware of some other things, including Richard Ohmann’s English in America, which I will read with its 1995 updates. I think Schuman should write about it somewhere, and that this Senate President should read it.

4.1/ I am not entirely patient with people who complain about the elitism of “the profession” because, well, that was what we signed up for, right? I am actually more comfortable with that than I am with the extreme reduction of resources, and the lack of objectivity and also professionalism which can reign in smaller and also less elite institutions.

4.2/ I do agree largely with Clarissa on this. But considering all I have been through despite very good circumstances and luck, and also far greater than average talent, I think the academic institution is inherently abusive, or structurally so. I am more interested in Ohmann’s analysis, and in the way “the profession” is organized to maintain hierarchies while claiming it is “meritocratic.”

4.3/ How we can protect ourselves while maintaining this organization is a very difficult question. It matters even if law and medicine are the same or even if one does not care about those who “lose” as individuals, because the entire enterprise must protect itself. All of the internal policing that goes on, and the bitter arguments among people of different strata, are participation in the status quo, not in any kind of “revolution.” And how some kind of reform can be even thought of from within the logic of capitalism is, of course, another problem. But first, I will read Ohmann’s book.

5.1/ I have decided my subject-position is very unusual. I must have been at one time very, very elite, all though I did not know it. It would be how I kept getting jobs of some kind, despite doing comparatively poorly at them and also not interviewing well enough to get the kind of job where I would really fit in. I am not sure very many people as truly elite as me have fallen as far as I have and yet stayed around so long and in as good shape, comparatively speaking.

5.2/ This seems to give me a broader view on matters than is available to many, and I think I should use the knowledge in some way. I have been working on my vita and my annual report, and these activities sadden me because the lacunae in them track of the amount of time I spend engulfed in the removal of institutional obstacles to work, in exhaustion and in various states of claustrophobia, and longing, and grief. But these lacunae are also a kind of eye, that give me the vista one might need to organize.

6/ On Facebook, and I hope elsewhere, soon, Bérubé has emphasized that the convention interview was invented as a replacement for old boys/word-of-mouth hiring, and it was a democratizing innovation in its day. This is important to keep in mind; people have short memories. He also has an interesting comment that sheds light on some of the irrationality about the job market, and also of the people in my own department, where instructors have this strange paranoia about how the hiring of Ph.D.s will lose them their jobs. Bérubé:

People mistakenly think the MLA convention is a major source of revenue for the association. They actually think the MLA organizes the job search process in such a way as to profit from the misery of jobseekers. At an extreme, they think the MLA is not just a clearinghouse for academic jobs and interviews but some kind of regulatory agency that sets the terms for the number of jobs and interviews available. At an even more extreme extreme (and this takes us back to a certain angry-pseudonymous Chronicle commenter), they believe that the MLA is in possession of information about interviews that, if released, would lead to a radical democratization of the job system whereby everybody in departments in the modern languages would spontaneously agree to interview candidates from low- and middle-ranked institutions in proportion to their numbers in the applicant pool. Relatedly, some people argue that the entire job system should be run by lottery.

7/ People really are prey to irrational beliefs. I am beginning to wonder whether being less so than the average, is another reason why I have so often been called “unfeeling.”





Filed under Bibliography, Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

2 responses to “What I was thinking this morning

  1. I’ve had some run-ins with Berube. He even came over to my blog and chastised me for being outraged by the Paterno scandal and being critical of college sports programs. Then later he resigned from the Paterno chair at Penn State. He has personal struggles, a kid with Down syndrome, and has been attacked by David Horowitz, as I’m sure you know. I actually like him but can’t imagine what goes on in his life. He had one of the better blogs for a while. He is very all-American compared to you and me.

    How do I know all this stuff about the goings on in universities well enough to have a lot to say about it? I was a fairly objective observer of three related departments at Portland State: linguistics, foreign languages and English. I was an age peer of the professors but at the same time a student, which gave me some insights. And this was in the 80’s when the culture wars raged and the hate was overt. Reed College, where I transferred to, was a lot calmer, but there was plenty of nonsense going on there too. I did really well there, because campus politics was a cinch to me after what I had been through at Portland State. I identified the passionate interest of the program adviser and wrote my MA thesis on it.

    I frankly played politics to get what I wanted, because hardly anyone wanted to give me anything. I got those scholarships and recommendations by befriending the right people, doing favors, etc.–Whatever it took. Not all cynical, but I had real enemies. My lack of importance did not keep them from being vicious and underhanded in the way they treated me. And I figure I had a GOOD experience in higher education!

    The politics were 50% of my education.

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