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I was sitting at home, revising my manuscript introduction and feeling jealous of all of my historian friends at the conference, when I got an email telling me my last and best hope for a tenure-track job this year had evaporated.
I closed my laptop and walked out of my office. The perfect reading lamp, the drawer of fountain pen ink, the dozens of pieces of scratch paper taped the walls, full of ideas to pursue. The hundreds of books surrounding me, collected over nearly a dozen years, seemed like nothing more than kindling in that moment.
I cried, but pretty quickly I picked myself up and started thinking about the future. And then I started looking forward. Only now do I realize how messed up my initial reaction was.
But it had happened, and if I were ultimately to blame for it, what right did I have to grieve? The genre is almost universally written by those leaving, not those left behind, a reflection of the way we insulate ourselves from grappling with what it means for dozens, hundreds, thousands of our colleagues to leave the field.
Quit-lit exists to soothe the person leaving, or provide them with an outlet for their sorrow or rage, or to allow them to make an argument about what needs to change. To do so would be to acknowledge not only the magnitude of the loss but also that it was a loss at all.
To that I say: But more importantly, no one is owed my work. To whom would the value of my labor accrue? Please stay with us just a little bit.
We also try to avoid grappling with the loss of so many colleagues by doing just what we do with our students: You can use those skills in finance! All sorts of regular jobs that your concerned parents will recognize! I got a PhD in history because I wanted to be a historian.
But we also emphasize it, I think, for the same reasons we encourage the departing colleague to keep publishing. I teach my undergrads skills through content, and I keep the amount of content low, but as both a teacher and a scholar, I personally know so much stuff.
I have forgotten more about Martin Van Buren than most people around me will ever know. I knew what job would pay me to know a lot about stuff that happened in the past. I started as a VAP where I currently teach in the fall of and defended my dissertation that December.
Of course I could do it really well! This was what I had been trained to do. This was what I wanted to do. What hurts the most, in a way, is that my loss has been replicated a thousand times over, and will be replicated a thousand times more, barring some mass rejection of capitalism, and rather than face what that means, we have, as a profession and as people, found ways of dealing with it that largely erase the people we lose, erase their pain and grief, and erase our own.
What would happen if we acknowledged the losses our discipline suffers every year? What would happen if we actually grieved for those losses? A few final points: My feelings, thank heavens, are not subject to peer-review. Preview of coming attractions: A list of things I might do with my life, with pros and cons.
How can we have productive conversations about pedagogy when our institutional resources and the economic and cultural resources of our students vary so widely? Why is the response of so many senior scholars to the cult of hyper-productivity just a big shrug emoji?
An examination of structure, agency, and luck. And finally, the part of this post that makes me most uncomfortable. You can find a list of responses to this piece here.Hi Erin, Thank you for your essay.
I am so sorry for your loss and the loss that it represents to your discipline. In large part, I attribute the endless cycle of adjunct appointments that my partner went through (and is currently going through – going on 6 years) to the . Read more: Describe a person you admire essay Gates have shown to have many positive qualities.
Although he was born rich naturally, he still has a strong desire to achieve his dreams on his own effort.
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