Rate My JIL, Oct. 25: The Great Maine-Off

Now it pains me to do this week’s Job Ad Grade (singular), because I have a friend who worked at Bates College in Maine for a semester and loved it, and one of the senior Germanists at Bates was editor of Modern Austrian Literature until 2010, and oversaw the four protracted global revisions of what turned into my first major publication. This publication happened largely against the wishes of a peer reviewer whose objections to my paper grew more acrimonious with every subsequent draft (which is funny, given that I made all of my changes specifically to please this individual, and I am the most obsequious paper-reviser you will ever meet–this may be impossible to believe, given the tone I write with here, but I assure you it’s true).

It was very clear to me that this reader had zero experience with Wittgenstein, and thus treated my use of him as a tool of modernist analysis to be wholly unacceptable. This is a common reaction by academics: rather than admit that there exists something on God’s Earth they don’t know, they will dismiss that thing as being unworthy of knowledge or otherwise inferior, to deflect from the rather glaring fact that they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. This was evident to me when the reader insisted quite haughtily that Wittgenstein’s “saying/showing” distinction in the Tractatus was metaphorical. Yes, this reader insisted that the ‘show’ in Was gezeigt werden kann, kann nicht gesagt werden (What can be shown, cannot be said) was metaphorical. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the early Wittgenstein should LOL at that, as the entire fucking point of the Tractatus was that the logical form of reality is a literal, actual, very much existing thing that simply resides outside of language, and thus outside of the world. Der Sinn der Welt muß außerhalb ihrer liegen–the sense of the world must reside outside it.

To know this, you would have to do about forty-five seconds of work on the Wittgenstein Wikipedia page, but this typical academic decided instead to just react to anything that was not the usual Derrida-influenced claptrap by writing erudite, constructive marginalia such as “HUH?” What I’m saying is, the valiant former editor of this publication, whose name I will be kind enough not to associate with this blog and Rate My JIL in particular, was enough of a mensch to see my article through to publication despite the increasing hysterics of this idiot, whose main M.O. seemed to be to skip all of the Wittgenstein parts of the article and then claim it didn’t say anything new (if you are valiant enough and have enough time on your hands to make it through the paper, you can easily identify the parts I had to add in order to placate Mr. Didn’t Derrida Invent the Show/Say Distinction?).

This guy/gal was a total dill-hole, people like him/her appear in academia a dime a dozen, and the editor soldiered on anyway, and my article appeared in print, and we even had a wonderful lunch together at GSA 2011 in Kentucky. So, with that extended and grateful preamble, it very much pains me to rate the current MLA Job Ad for Bates College, which is also this week’s singular new job ad, which is also not a tenure-track ad, and rather instead a measly three-year lectureship:

Bates C., Lecturer, German and Russian. This is a three-year job, with no language about the possibility of renewal (so, probably non-renewable), that requires a “near-native” fluency and teaching experience in both German and Russian. At least last week’s Murray State job had the decency to give the person doing two people’s jobs tenure. Not this one. I’ve stopped assigning letter grades to jobs ever since I got a shitstorm of ire over Sewanee: University of the South, whose alumni acted not unlike the screeching helicopter parents of middle-school children that make it so that now most middle schools grade on a scale of “Excellent” to “Will Definitely Be President of the World.” But for Bates, I’m sorry to say I have to resurrect the letter-grade system, however hegemonic it may be: F–, that’s TWO minuses, for listing such a transparently, cynically pathetically awful job that shows just how little your school values foreign language instructors. It’s like your Dean is Rev. Lovejoy, who instructs Ned Flanders to consider one of the other major religions, because “they’re pretty much all the same.” “Well, once you can gain teaching mastery of ONE fern’ language, can’t you pretty much do ’em all? Especially two that have 100% fuck all to do with each other and one of them uses non-Roman orthography?” Fuck this job, fuck the department for advertising it, and the 2013 Maine-Off of German Jobs goes handily to Bowdoin. The end.

14 thoughts on “Rate My JIL, Oct. 25: The Great Maine-Off

  1. I particularly appreciated the description of the kind of thinking that was so very apparent in UVA’s religious studies department (a very close friend had the unfortunate experience of going to grad school at UVA). By this I am referring to your statement that rather than admit to their own ignorance of some piece of the whole of human knowledge they dismiss it as unworthy or not relevant. And if you don’t march in step with department dogma you’re dismissed as quickly as they can get you out the door.

    And don’t get me started on the problems of anonymous peer review or pathetic job ads I’ve seen on listservs.


  2. Oh man is this series giving me some painful flashbacks. I think I can expect night terrors this evening.

    I’ve never experienced anything as dehumanizing and hope-destroying as the academic job market, and it actually has been getting worse since my last shot at it (back in ’10-’11). Keep on doing the work that I can’t, since reading these job ads makes me want to curl up in the fetal position.


  3. These sorts of ads have been increasing over the past few years. It really doesn’t seem that strange to me, any more. They’ll probably find a comp. lit. person. There’s always a comp. lit. person. And I don’t mean to be hateful about comp. lit. but … Well, has anyone else noticed that departments are snatching up non-Germanists to staff German departments? Germanists are actually being crowded out of the field by folks who don’t have PhDs in German. I’ll admit that I’m a bit cynical about the whole “German Studies” vs. Germanistik project, but come on, German departments! Take care of your own FIRST!

    As for the Murray job, though, I looked. It seems their current professor of German actually *does* teach German AND Spanish, and she’s probably retiring, so they likely *have to* hire someone to teach German AND Spanish in order to keep her tenure line. I feel bad for them, honestly. That’s got to be a shitty situation to be in since they’re going to have trouble finding suitable candidates. But then again … they might find a comp. lit. person. 😉


    • But some of MY BEST FRIENDZ are Comp Lit! But seriously–it’s not even just Take Care Of Your Own, it’s the fact that the vast majority of CompLitters do not study Second Language Acquisition and L2 pedagogy! So they might be “near-native” but they still might not be able to teach the first- and second-year classes that make up the vast majority of these jobs’ duties.


      • You are correct! But it’s not stopping departments from hiring KomparatistInnen and historians and other non-Germanists to teach in their departments. 😦 In the case of Murray, fair enough — they need to do what they can to keep that tenure line because otherwise it will be gone and lost forever. In the case of Bates? I dunno.


  4. Rebecca, you are my hero. If I ever meet you I’m making you and yours a casserole of some sort. You express the frustration of a million wanna-be-academicians. I’m in the life sciences and it still sucks fish farts out there as I began application number 90. Why do we try so hard? Because, damn it, Mama said I could be whatever I wanted to be and I want to be this.


  5. Reading this reminds me of how often English departments advertise for someone to teach “Ethnic American Literature” and then spin the wheel for a minority literature “African American OR Latina/o OR Asian-American OR Native American.” Those always feel like “insert a minority picture onto our department’s page” ads.


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