Just out of morbid curiosity–and to celebrate its free-and-open-to-the-publicness, thanks in large part to the wonderful Rosemary G. Feal (we’ve met, so I know for a PROVEN FACT that she’s wonderful)–I checked out the MLA Jobs Information List in German for 2013-2014.

There are eleven beginning tenure-track positions in German studies (excluding medievalist jobs and “open rank” jobs with a stated preference for Advanced Assistant). In the world. Eleven.


For hundreds of new and not-so-new PhDs.

This is the fifth consecutive year I’ve checked out this list, and by a short margin (last year’s list was the grimmest yet) it’s the worst I’ve ever seen. I’m sure a chorus of advisers around the US is placating its collective and rightly-panicked Doktorkinder with the following heaping piles of bullshit:

1. “More jobs will be added in the coming weeks!” Ha. Even if the list doubled in the next few weeks, that would be 22 jobs. Even if it quadrupled it would be 44. It would have to be multiplied by 6-10 to be even remotely indicative of a pre-2008 recovery (and the market pre-2008 was no picnic! Ask anyone! Especially ask Bill Pannapacker! Ask him *a lot*!).

2. “Someone has to get those jobs.” Fuck you. I’ll have a piece appearing about this (and other horrible platitudes candidates hear on the market) on the Chronicle‘s brand-new Vitae site week-after-next, so my boilerplate prevents me from writing anything beyond the “fuck you” that is definitely not legitimate-publication friendly, so I’ll stop here.

This market is abysmal. It is worse than no jobs at all, because there are hundreds of German PhDs around the US and world who really, truly think they will be those eleven. And eleven people will be those eleven–but five will be people already on the tenure-track looking for their last chance to move somewhere not horrible before they’re tenured and stuck where they are for life, and three will be either inside hires or the favorite son/daughters of someone very well-connected from a “prestige” program. That leaves three jobs for every Normal in the country to fight over, ABD, VAP, adjunct alike.

No thanks.

The PMS’d out mean version of me wants to say: if you willingly subject yourself to this market, knowing these odds, I will have a hard time mustering sympathy for the existential misery that awaits you. But that is so short-sighted of me. OF COURSE you’re going to try, because you have been so conditioned by your masters that “there are always jobs for good people,” that if you don’t turn into their Mini-Me, you’re worthless. You deserve love and compassion, and the world’s biggest cyber-hug. So that’s what I’m doing for you now.

Good luck with those eleven jobs, for real.

((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((( )))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

I love you all. I’m here for you. In fact, I just signed on with Vitae to write a recurring column, right now called Market Crash Course (oooh the portmanteau-tasticness of it all), that will bring you gallows humor, compassion, truth-to-power-speaking, and even a few practical suggestions, for every stage of this miserable cycle, from the JIL to the April gloom. So I’m here for you, the whole market through.

…but boy am I ecstatic I’m not out there now.

13 thoughts on “Eleven

  1. The job market in German is abysmal but there are more than eleven jobs “in the world.” The MLA list is by no means comprehensive. H-Germanistik regularly posts additional jobs (Juniorprofessor, and Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter, the latter of which is, in practice, the equivalent of an Assistant Prof in Germany) and so does a British job site. (Let me know if you want more details.)


  2. I have yet to find any jobs in my particular field of study this year. All the ones in my discipline request either another subfield entirely, or someone who studies a different enough part of my subfield that I wouldn’t have a chance. Hard to explain without giving away the field, but it’s probably the equivalent of comp lit departments all asking for either 19th/20th century Russian lit specialists, or German medievalists.* Just imagine you love Russian lit; you have most of your undergrad and part of your grad degree in it; you have a solid command of the language, although you have not published in/on it; and you have even designed and taught a successful introductory course *comparing* 19th century Russian and German lit, and are in the process of designing another. But you haven’t done PhD-level research or published on Russian lit…so forget it.

    *Granted, that is a bad analogy because Russian is not always taught in the same department as German in this country, and it’s not expected that a degree in one has involved significant exposure to the other. But just pretend that’s the case, and that comparative lit specialists always make a big deal about how they are United by Theory, and that is what Makes the Discipline Strong.

    I’m doing some active exploration-of-other-paths, and have heard, a few times, “You sound really concerned about what kind of job you’ll be ABLE to get. Maybe instead you should think about what you really WANT to do!” Hahahahahaha!


    • That may seem like miserable, misplaced advice but I actually think it’s not that far off. Jen Polk might have just the thing over at PhD to Life, to help you think about what you do want and if it can be made available to you.


      • Love her blog, and am working on it – I think thinking of different possible paths is certainly part of it. But I have friends with PhDs who’ve dealt with long periods of un-/underemployment despite following all the advice about “translating” your transferable skills, networking, etc., so sometimes “what do you really want to do?” seems like an overly idealistic question to be asking.


  3. Just for fun, I checked out my graduate alma mater’s Germanic Studies program.

    They list 10 students who are currently on the market.

    At one school.

    My god.


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