(But our beginnings never know our ends!)

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Late Spring To-Do List

  • Read scholarly book #1
  • Read scholarly book #2
  • Catch up on professional journals
  • Administer evaluations
  • Grade seminar research papers
  • Write two final exams
  • Grade final exams
  • Compute final grades
  • Order books for fall
  • Find apartment in New City
  • Attend INRU Commencement!

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sing those blues

Right now, I'm feeling good--what with the vita-updating and the general on-top-of-shit-ness that comes from spending the day crossing a gazillion things off my to-do list--but I've been in a funny mood these last few days, often sinking rapidly into despair or oh-what-the-fuck-am-I-going-to-DO? as the evening wears on.

Partly it's the usual late-semester blues, which have me thoroughly sick of all my classes. It's not so much the material--I love what we've reading in my survey sections, and even the material in my comp class is holding my attention for perhaps the first time all semester--but I'm worn out and find it hard to muster the energy to prepare for class. That's no big surprise, I guess, in mid-November.

What's more surprising is that I think part of my low mood is connected to finishing my Ph.D. I certainly wasn't expecting that the actual awarding of the degree would be a transfiguring experience--nothing has changed in my career circumstances, and in any case I really finished my degree six weeks ago, when I submitted the dissertation. But I also wasn't expecting to feel as low as I've been feeling lately.

I got my readers' reports in the mail yesterday, and they were generally quite good. No one said, "the field has been waiting for decades for this project! Lecturess must go find a publisher immediately! And in fact, here's my editor's name!"--but they were encouraging and offered me some very useful suggestions for revision. Still, reading my readers' criticisms brought home to me the fact that nothing HAS really changed in my circumstances other than the degree, and that this project really isn't done yet, or as close to done as I'd hoped it was.

The biggest criticism, and an entirely valid one, was that the project lacks a clear and overarching theoretical framework. True enough: I'm a trees more than a forest kind of person, and I tend to be suspicious of systematizers; as it stands now, my dissertation draws on several different theoretical models, but doesn't fit comfortably within any of them. I already knew that I had to do more reading in a couple of relevant fields before I did anything else with the manuscript. But when I read that, my immediate thought was: "what if I get asked that on a job interview--what my theoretical approach is? I don't have a good answer!"

And, yeah. I think that's what this is all about: the job market. I've been so focused on finishing my degree that I haven't been dealing, at least in recent months, with my larger professional anxiety. I mean, shit: I know a number of whip-smart academics with PhDs from Instant Name Recognition U who took years to land tenure-track jobs. Which leaves me (less than whip-smart, in case you were wondering) exactly where?

Well. We all know that the job market can be grossly unfair. Who's to say, then, that it won't wind up being unfair in my favor!

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:02 PM |


Blogger Terminaldegree commented at 1:13 AM~  

Congrats on finishing!

I finished last year at about Thanksgiving and was surprised by the "postpartum depression" that followed. I think part of the situation was redefining myself as "NOT a student," since I'd played that role quite nicely for over 25 years!

Enjoy being not-a-student. And go frame that diploma when you get it! :)

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 1:28 AM~  

yeah, i hear you on the pathetic job search front. couple of friends, many of whom as sharp as a fucking tack, are presently going on their third t-t job search in as many years. nice, that.

Blogger Dr. Virago commented at 9:07 AM~  

I got almost the same response on my reader's report for my book manuscript. She even used the "trees and forest" metaphor herself. (I'm just going to assume the anon reader was a "she.") So at least you're getting it before the stakes are higher. Now, of course, I don't know how much weight you want to give that. In my case I have an advance contract and the general editor of the series in which my book will (I hope) be published *did* give the reader's words weight, so I have to do what she says to fix it. But imho, the days of applying x theory wholesale to y text are over (except among the pyschoanalytic theorist, but they make my head spin). Theory -- or rather, theories, are like tools -- sometimes you need different ones for different jobs. That said, I do think my book MS needs a better 'argumentative architecture' (my reader's words) -- but like you I'm wary of broad, sweeping, systematic arguments. Sigh.

As for the job market, I don't if this works for you, but I told people I was more or less a New Historicist -- though I then said that label was getting old and that I really preferred thinking of myself as a historically oriented critic influenced by post-structuralist thought in general.

That should get you through. :)

That question -- what's your method -- doesn't come up much, but it's good to have an answer. Otherwise you'll end up like a friend of mine (who did eventually get a job) who said "Oh, I don't have a method." Not good.

Blogger What Now? commented at 7:06 PM~  

Like terminaldegree, I had postpartum depression for awhile after my degree became final. And then that whole job market depression -- oy, very grim. All of which is to say that I sympathize. Hang in there.

Anonymous Dr M. commented at 1:07 PM~  

I took me 5 yrs to get a t-tjob. I finally got my diss. to a publisher and that got me 2 big conference intereviews. I didn't get either job that I interviewed for; one went to an Ivy League grad and one went to someone totally outside the field advertised. That summer I got a comm college job where I like it OK but I'd love to move on to the big U. 2 pieces of advice: publish, publish, publish; and since you're young and single, take a few more of those "lectureship" type jobs for 1-2 years, get a few pubs out, work on your teaching and also your contacts, and hopefully the job market will improve. Good luck.

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