Rate My JIL, Sept. 19

Well, it’s mid-September and I’m white, so that means I’m rocking some Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Rooibus.

In a roadside attraction souvenir mug, too. I'm a walking caricature of kitch whiteness.

In a roadside attraction souvenir mug, too. I’m a walking caricature of kitch whiteness.

Mid-September also means lovely walks in Forest Park, which are considerably less “lovely” when you are waddling along like a duck that’s been force-fed in preparation for being turned into foie gras, but hey.

Not Pictured: Waddling fattie.

Not Pictured: Waddling fattie.

All right, that was just to cheer everyone up. September also means that the MLA Jobs Information List is in “full swing,” so let’s see what we’re working with today in the walking sarcophagus that is German Studies. Most Germanists are currently huddled together about four hours down the Interstate from me, in fact, giving panels like their discipline still exists at the annual conference of the German Studies Association. If anyone wants to report back to me on the size of the pall there (on a scale from “complete denial” to “recognition of aforementioned walking sarcophagus”), please do, and please say hi to everyone from me. Maybe someday Eric Jarosinski and I can do a “Germanists Gone Wild” roundtable and I’ll return to GSA, but until then, we can fairly safely consider my life Major Disciplinary Conference Free. All right, now I’m just dawdling, because I don’t want to have to share such carnage, but, enough, here goes:

1. Berkeley. “Assistant Professor of Modern German Literature.” Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaha. Gather ’round, little children, for the Story of the Story of Everest, Berkeley-style. For over a decade, the departments of German and Comp Lit attempted a joint hire, and for over a decade (at least three searches) they failed. And everyone is too scared to say why, but I’m not: Judith Butler. When I talk to people with experience with this search (on both sides of it), they always speak of the impossibilities of pleasing “a certain eminent scholar” in hushed tones, but I’m not fucking afraid of Judith Butler. So. Now, finally, at long last, the German department has got its own hire. IT’S YOUR BIG CHANCE GUYS. YOU’RE BUTLER-FREE. GO FORTH. DON’T FUCK IT UP. No pressure.

2. UPDATE: UNC-Asheville. I had discussed this one (which appeared on the wiki before the JIL) last week, so I thought it was in last week’s total, but it’s technically on this week’s list, so: go for it! My uncle was chancellor of UNCA for years–to0 bad he’s retired now, because otherwise I’d be ON THAT with a li’l NEPOTIZZZZZ, you know what I mean? Because we have the same last name and everything. But, several years too late for both of us, I suppose. My uncle is a really nice guy, though, and pretty much the #1 reason I know that #notalladministrators are schmucks, because he is not a schmuck. So here’s to you, Sam, you’re the best. I hope your emeritus employer (where there is now, appropriately enough, a fitness center named after you, in true Schuman fitnorexic style) does you proud and hires someone nice (PERHAPS the insider? I’d wager the insider is nice…)

Aaaaand, that’s the sole, we’re talking only, those are all two tenure-track German job listed this week. So, the “good news” — we’re in double digits now. And there was a more than 10% 20% increase from last week! See, the bright side of small numbers!!!!

The bad news: Well, reality. Reality is the bad news. I feel like holding a German Studies Dirge-Writing contest so that at least this year’s PhDs have a fighting chance to win something. Any takers?

11 thoughts on “Rate My JIL, Sept. 19

  1. 22 new jobs in Spanish, 3 I could apply to. Side note: American University has managed to write an add where it is not clear whether they are looking for one person or two. If the former, qualifications required are also confusing.


  2. Know what’s almost more disgusting than the MLA list this week? My Facebook feed full of people’s excitement over the GSA. What the hell is wrong with people?


    • Ha, I hid all Germanists about a year ago in advance of last year’s GSA, but yeah. To be fair, the GSA is not too wretched for a disciplinary conference. I always had an OK time there, all told. However, yeah, those kissuppy, gushy FB threads are hilarious. No, a search committee is not going to read your fucking Facebook. LOL.


  3. I need to vent. I apologize, Rebecca that I have to do this here, but others will probably relate to what I am about to say.

    The chair of our once-esteemed German department still talks about how our program is one of the best in the country. Maybe ten years ago, and maybe when faculty lines were still being replaced after retirements and resignations, but whenever someone points to the outdated-even-before-they-are-published NRC rankings I want to vomit all over my Dirndl.
    Now, when there are no jobs, and the research interests being represented by the remaining faculty in the department are as non-existent as the Innenstadt of Dresden circa February 1945, the wishful thinking of our chair represents how delusional this field has become.
    Politics and the decline in the quality of public education aside there is no excuse for such wishful thinking. Our DGS, when I told him that the reality speaks for itself after looking at the 2014 job postings for German (he hadn’t even looked at them yet — surprised? I think not. Too busy thinking about what individual sessions he was going to attend at GSA this weekend, I suppose), he said, “There will be more job listings in October and November, and maybe into the spring.” It’s so reassuring to be advised by those who still believe in a system that was built up and torn down during their tenure (in part thanks to them), and one they have not had to compete in since the eighties when “the job market was bad then, too.”
    I’m sure Mr. Harvard Crimson or Mr. Yale Bulldog (let’s be honest, these are mostly white Ivy-league men we are talking about) had such a difficult time getting someone to push the nepotism button for R1 jobs in places in the country that no North of Boston WASP or Palo Alto/Berkeley snob would ever have dreamed of spending the rest of their lives, but it was done and they have made a career off the backs of many graduate students of yore. Not that many of these individuals ever helped their graduates nail down TT jobs upon defending their dissertations; the coveted R1 jobs were to go to future graduates of their own PhD programs where they defended. That couldn’t be more accurate now. The sad thing is, their departments (the ones from which they graduated) are still, at least when looking at the amazing Adjunct Nate Silber’s data, overproducing PhD graduates like its 1955. While others, like our department have dramatically and thankfully reduced the size of cohorts to reflect these realities. Who will drown out whom? The department with good intentions like ours? Or the former?
    Do I think the stellar PhD graduates who are defending this year from our department would even be given a second glance by the search committee at Berkeley? Because really, what PhD is (more or less) less than “stellar”? I know! The ones who don’t get jobs according to our DGS! Fazit: I think not, but the chair of our department circulates these emails on the recent job postings as if this is a viable option for us. I call it the “UMass syndrome”, where friends of mine as graduate students (though not in German) would teach at such lofty institutions like Smith or Amherst when they were ABD, only to then get to the job market and no longer be good enough for the TT jobs. That’s what happens with many of these prestigious departments that have for generations been overlooked by the elitists, who more than ever are exclusively hiring new TT faculty. There would always be in the cases I knew of, during such searches, a favorite automaton Princeton grad emerging from the woodwork (with no teaching experience), who would get the job after some fancy post-doc at another Ivy or Ivy-like institution.
    When did I first realize academia for German was a joke beyond my wonderful years as an undergraduate at a top SLAC? When I had to take the proficiency exam for non-native speakers, and at a time when there were more native German speakers than Americans studying in our department (a.k.a the stakes and anxiety levels were high). The Head of Language Instruction and former DGS had somehow made me exempt from the “probationary status” with which the others were labeled. They had seen something in my written and oral exam that when taking a closer look at them years later, and mine having looked similar in form to the other four individuals’ exams (especially with the number of errors) left me puzzled. I realized this was a means to weed individuals out for arbitrary reasons, even though these other individuals had also been recruited with multi-year fellowship funding similar to mine. At the time, they placed so much emphasis on my extraordinary “skill” for language learning above the others. That meeting, however, where I found out I was the only one to escape the probationary status, left a bad taste in my mouth. Was I really that much more proficient in German than the student who grew up in Vienna? Or the one entering with a (German!) MA from another institution? I still am trying to grasp what they saw in that exam that made me stand out, and for whatever reason that remains, through all of my disillusionment, a defining moment for graduate study in German: IT HAS BEEN ONE BIG SCAM, FULL OF SMOKE SCREENS!


    • Oh, I’m continually surprised at how clueless people are. Just check out the comments on my alt-ac article in Slate, where I was assured that a) adjuncts & alt-acs are inferior failures because nobody outside of a tenure-track research position is capable of producing interesting research (funny, given that I wrote my two best articles AND most of my book as an adjunct, but hey), and, also, that most people who don’t get TT jobs don’t get them simply because they weren’t good enough and the PhD is a consolation prize for their shittiness. Anything, anything at all to defend the system. I can’t even.


    • Adjunct Nate is the one to consult about this (he actually has the numbers), but from what I gather from him, these days there are about 50something new PhDs each year, plus the bottleneck of the 250+ from the past five who have not yet got jobs but are still trying, so marquis jobs will get 200ish applications, middle-of-the-roads will get 80-150, and shitty ones about 50. Generally about 30% of the jobs in German go to people already on the tenure track somewhere & moving laterally for whatever reasons, so, when there are only 11 total, that leaves some 7 that will even be open to people off the TT; at least three of these are reported insider hires so far (though as we know that’s been hotly and annoyingly debated), so that leaves about 3 jobs to be legit fought over by the 300 or so un- or underemployed Germanists in the US. So, 1% odds guys wheee!

      Every sad little job marketer’s response: “So you’re SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE!!!!!!!!!!” –Dumb & Dumber


  4. Another TT position in Portuguese showed up on vitae. At UNC-Asheville! Oh wait, it’s in Africana and Lusophone Studies. sadtrombone.com


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