Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The End of Summer and New Semester Prep 2015

Yesterday I finished the Shakespeare chapter of my dissertation.
That was the last chapter I had to draft of #DevilDiss.
Work's not done, today I need to add a bit on Elizabethan pamphlets I realized I needed in CH 5's history. I need to add a tag at the end of CH 6 that gestures towards Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes.
Today's to do list is to complete these tasks and print out chapters 4-6 for last looks this weeks before sending them off to my director on Saturday, meeting my 1 August deadline.

That leaves Sunday to finish the last couple of hundred lines of Beowulf so I can turn them in on Monday.

Because a look at my calendar pointed out that this week is actually the end of my summer.

Next week and the week after I have a pre-semester class, a job-seeker's workshop. I sat through a version of this last fall, and have good templates for all my documents. My director looked at my CV last week, so I feel good about that. She has my cover letter, so I'll get feedback on that soon, and she wants me to send revised templates as I complete them the next couple of weeks.
The workshop is designed to not only prep templates, but also support us through the applications the next couple of months.

Next week I'll also start revising CH 1 of the dissertation now that I have my director's notes. I have scheduled one chapter revision per week, with the goal of sending off each as I finish. And all three chapters revised and sent off to my director by the end of August.

Classes start M 17 August. And as I do every summer, I have my list of things I'd like to try/do this year.
  • At the end of spring semester, I received comments that I was harsh, which got me thinking about whether or not this was gender judging, if I was being judged because I wore a tie and vest to work. If harshness was code for not conforming to gender stereotypes. So I spent money I didn't have (albeit at Goodwill) buying clothes that would make me more accessible. But it also led to other thoughts. About how I wasn't a gatekeeper. That my job as a teacher at the college level was not to police my students. I tried to think about how my teaching at Saturday school and during after school tutoring in high school was always so different than the days when I DID have to police people. So I started thinking of what I did there, of the ways I could be less harsh, more accessible. Which ultimately led me back to my clothes. On the one hand, I don't think I should have to change what I wear. I wear ties because it's easy. Navigating women's professional dress is crap. But maybe there's a middle ground. I plan on trying this out this semester.
  • Also inspired by the upcoming book How We Write I plan on sharing more with my students how I research, plan and write. Of asking them to explore what they do and why. I've done this in the past, but I want to revisit it.
  • This semester I'm also teaching my first Early English Survey course. As I thought about the best way to break down so many complex terms and concepts, I came back to the idea of Interactive Notebooks. I also just came across Lynda Barry's Syllabus which has a lot of shared qualities with the IN. I was exposed to these notebooks when I taught high school and coordinated with the AVID program. While I won't require students to keep them, I do plan on modeling it in case they're interested, and the process of creating it will help me teach it.

  • I also plan on asking students to volunteer every time we have an assignment to anonymously share their work so we can use it in class.
  • I also want to ask students to share their ideas about grading versus editing before our first assignment so we can both understand where we're approaching an assignment and what they can expect from me, in feedback and support.
  • For the survey class I'm also encouraging Twitter use as a way to ask questions, a backchannel for understanding. I'll also Storify the tweets each week so students can use them for a resource.
I tried to keep my list of goals relatively small, and manageale so that I can stay focused on these things throughout the semester. Also because I know the first half of the semester I'll also be juggling the job list and applications, I know I need to be realistic about what I can accomplish. I am only teaching two classes, the Early English Survey and an ENGL 110, and I've taught the ENGL 110 before, so I feel good about the workload.

I prepped my syllabi earlier this summer, and built my Blackboard shells, so all that is ready to go in two weeks. I have my color coded notebooks and pens. So I'm all set for school to start.
So what are your goals for the upcoming semester? Do you have things you want to try out? Revisit?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Job Market as ABD

As I've written Friday is the next big hurdle in the #DevilDiss journey, meeting with my director to discuss the notes from first half, update on progress for second half which I'm on track to send to them 1 August, and most importantly, get the godfather blessing to go on the job market.
But a couple of things happened the last couple of days that I thought I'd comment on.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a professor about the job market and today I revised my CV and cover letter which I had good templates from last fall, but consulted my department's webpage where I found four and five year old resources.

Both of these drove home a single point, that I have to explain what my job market search will look like, because the job market NOW is not the job market of five, six, ten, fifteen years ago.

The professor asked me why I'd go on the market ABD. That I should put it off. That I should apply for post-docs. That I should take my time.
And none of these things are true.
  • Putting finishing off means another $15,000 in student loan debt, and no improvement in my situation.
  • Every post-doc I've looked at required a PhD in hand before you can apply. Most have deadlines of October. So what am I supposed to do to pay bills and survive between May and October when I am eligible to apply or more accurate, between May and May when the position starts?
  • Why would I take my time? If there's nothing wrong with my drafts, what is the benefit of dragging this our longer than it needs to be?
I understand that I will be competing against people who have PhDs in hand, and are "safe" bets. But I think my publication record and time to degree proves that I am a safe bet as an ABD.

I've also learned that there are degrees of ABD.
There are ABDs who go on the market with barely a chapter finished (which baffles me). Some who are halfway finished (likewise baffling), and some like me, who will have a complete draft and be through the first round of revisions by the time I turn in applications in October.
I think that makes a difference too.
But I do understand that there may be some universities that are hesitant about hiring an ABD. I've done everything I can to alleviate those concerns, including backtracking my entire #DevilDiss writing timeline around having a defense date by the time I interview at MLA, and aiming to defend before campus visits roll around.

The department's resources also say not to go on the market ABD. But my questions are similar to those about the post-doc. What exactly am I supposed to do in the year between graduating and the job market? How are bills supposed to get paid?

What these conversations/resources seem to have in common is a lack of acknowledgement of what it means to be in this situation and not have an economic safety net. Which also points to larger issues in higher ed that often fail to recognize the disparity between people who grow up poor, with no economic surety and not knowing the secret handshake to higher ed, and people who attend prep schools and universities that have pedigrees.

These issues and concerns though make me think of others things.
  • How much will the differences between MY job market and the job market of 6+ years ago when my professors were on affect my chances? 
  • Will I get advice that's not relevant in this new cutthroat market? 
  • Will there be tension when I follow my gut (based on the up-to-date information I've gotten from Twitter, and people who were really recently on the market) instead of the advice of profs?
  • How do I explain the impact of my blogging and Twitter profile to a committee that does neither, and furthermore doesn't grasp how those worlds work?

Don't get me wrong, I respect and trust my committee and director. And their contacts will help. But the nearest any of them to job market is seven (?) years. That's forever in job market years.

I think the best I can do is make sure I continue to share these issues and concerns with my director, and ultimately it comes down to me. I have to listen to the advice, take the notes, but ultimately go with what I can live with. What I think is best.

But don't worry- I'm still pretty sure I'm NOT the one getting out of this mess...but there's always hope!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Not a Fan

Last weekend as I finished the pamphlet chapter of my dissertation I kept loading YouTube videos of panels of shows I liked from the San Diego Comic-Con 2015 to play in the background, get me through, and as a reward.

When I spoke to Dad a couple of days later he asked me what the takeaways were from Comic-Con. Anything he should look at.
I loved the chemistry on the Agents of Shield panel. The actual trailer for Batman v. Superman leads me to believe it might not suck, or at least the plot was clearer than the leaked stuff. The Arrow cast is always fun. Misha Collins and Mark Shepherd are always funny and Jensen Ackles continues to show his disdain for fans at every opportunity. I love Teen Wolf and love hearing from Jeff Davis but gosh those kids are young. And have not yet mastered the art of speaking without a script. The Sherlock bit was funny. I didn't watch the Doctor Who one because Moffat makes me batshit crazy. The bit on Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great, emptying Hall H and shafting Kevin Smith's panel afterwards was not. The preview of Conmen was hysterical. The Nerdist HQ talks are always good.

As I was talking to Dad, and explaining some of these things the more I got to thinking about being a fan. I would love one day to go to SDCC but there seem to be so many rules to it, and so many chances of getting shafted, that it doesn't seem real appealing.
With so many panels now available online, it seems like maybe it's not worth the hassle I hear SDCC is in so many ways.

And it got me thinking that maybe I'm not a fan.

Don't get me wrong, I grew up on Star Trek and Star Wars and science fiction and fantasy and horror are my favorite genres. I've seen most of these movies, can quote them, and have seen the shows and can quote them. I have Crowley and Castiel Funko Pop dolls on my desk. Star Wars figures on my bedside table. Dozens of fan themed t-shirts.

But let me tell you what I can't/don't do.
I often don't learn the names of the actors or follow them online because when Tom Cruise went nuts on Oprah's couch it took me years to enjoy watching him again and I love him. I still can't watch Mel Gibson, and Lethal Weapon is an all time favorite. Teen Wolf has taken a ding since I heard Tyler Posey in interviews.

I don't follow many actors on shows I love on Twitter or Facebook because I don't want things to pull me out of liking the show. So I follow the show, but not the person. There are some exceptions, people that do it well, but I read, I follow, I do not comment.

In order to protect the thing I am a fan of I have set certain parameters. I don't collect. I don't cosplay. I rarely go to cons. I don't read paratexts. I don't write paratexts. I go on Tumblr only to find funny gifs for blog posts. I have no idea what Reddit is but it seems evil.

I memorize all the trivia on IMDB but I can't tell you what the ship designation of the ship in the background of episode 53 of Star Trek:OS was at minute twelve.

But I have friends who can/do.
And more importantly, I know whole groups who gate keep about who gets to be fans in THEIR fandom based on this level of obsession. And I realize that obsession is a word bound to trigger some responses.

For me, a lot of these decisions come down to time. Because I like so many things I often have to choose. I can watch the show and stay up to date OR I can spend time online talking about past episodes. Liking so many things means I prioritize. And because of negative reactions and interactions, I prefer to choose to watch what I like. And if that means I can't interact with people about it, well, I've made my peace with that. I also don't have a lot of money and am not into things, so something has to be special if I'm going to add STUFF.

I'm not falling into the trap made so famous by Shatner of accusing fans (fanboys) of never kissing a girl and living in their mom's basement (although I can tell you that out of all the fanboys I know, few DON'T fit this profile so make of that what you will).
Obsession is often characterized negatively, and I don't think it has to be, but I do think that "the domination of one's thoughts" is the key here.
As I told Dad, I think maybe part of the problem is that I like LOTS of things- Star Trek AND Star Wars. Battlestar Galactica. Supernatural. X-Files. Arrow. Flash. Sherlock. Doctor Who. Teen Wolf. Beauty and the Beast. NCIS. Person of Interest. Hannibal. Buffy. Angel. Pretty much anything on CW. My DVR is full. Most nights I have shows to watch all through prime time. I spend Saturdays working in my office just running things on the DVR to clear it. With liking so many things, I don't have the time for the level of detail seemingly necessary to pass the fan test. I also don't see why I have to choose.

A few months ago, the NCIS Facebook page posted that a character died. I made the mistake of commenting that this was a spoiler. And was promptly jumped on by hundreds of people within minutes that the actor had died and I was an idiot because I didn't realize that there would be a corresponding death on the show.
And this interaction is typical. It seems that not only is there a level of detail knowledge that is required in order to pass into any specific fandom, but the default mode has become nasty.
To these people, liking the show, watching every week, and having watched since it was a JAG spin off was not enough. I didn't qualify as a fan under their rules.
My experience is not a new one. I have an academic friend who shared a conference paper who is getting hate all over the place. I, and most of the women I know, avoid using hashtags on Twitter because it cuts down on the likelihood you'll get trolled by fans of those shows/movies.

When Agent Carter, a limited run series, first premiered suddenly a Renew Agent Carter hashtag appeared. I made the mistake of pointing out that the language was inaccurate as it was not designed to be a series, it was intended to be a limited run, so "renew" was not the right word. Asking for another season was.

I then spent the next two days blocking people and getting ugliness from all kinds of people.
And these are every day, low threat interactions. I don't get death threats, or violent threats. And lots of women do. In fact negative, violently themed interactions are more the norm.
But think about this for a minute, what it means that women's voices in the things they are a fan of are silenced by others, and by themselves for their own safety.

These interactions ultimately mean that I don't share my fandom online.
When I share movies I like or tv shows I do it only on Facebook where I am friends with only face to face friends, not Twitter where at large people could go after me.

I like comic book superheroes and their movies, but I won't comment on them for fear of fanboys jumping all over me for not knowing what the comic is "really about." Or being lectured that superhero comics aren't "real" comics.
I like Supernatural but find their hot and cold reactions to fans insulting most of the time. But I won't say that for fear of hearing about it from the very fans that the show insults.
I like to talk to friends about shows and movies but when I can't state my opinion without people jumping in to yell at me because they think the opposite, I lose interest.
I follow shows on Twitter and Facebook, but I've learned not to comment on anything.

I think in a lot of ways social media allows for us to share our fandoms.
It allows us to widen the participation of our fandom.
It allows us to interact with and have the illusion of access to people we like.
But it also seems like it has drawn clear, solid lines in the sand about who is and isn't a fan. If you add in the added complication of being an academic who is also a fan, and therefore often interrogates the very things they love, and things get murky.

It seems as though it's impossible to express your opinion without someone saying the opposite. As my mother would say, the entire Internet seems to become part of the Contrary tribe when opinions come up.

I went round and round this past week about Go Set a Watchman. I said as an English teacher who taught it for over a decade, and one who grew up loving Peck as Finch, I just had no desire to read it, and taint the memories I had.
My social media promptly because this:
Others: Well I DO! And let me know condescend to you about why you're stupid because you don't.

Fandom encompasses a lot of things. We like different things. We participate in different ways. We interpret in different ways. And we use fan practices and fandoms to different ends.

But it'd sure be nice if we could stop knee-jerking to hate as our first response.
And it's be even nicer if we could be secure in what like, and not feel the need to judge or be nasty to others who don't see fandom as we do.

Because more and more I don't participate in fandoms because I lack the energy to fight the trolls I know will appear.
And that's sad.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pre Job Market Questions

I blogged yesterday about finishing 5 1/2 out of 6 chapters of #DevilDiss.
I have to tell you, feels good.
Felt good today too when I had lunch with an old professor who was happy to hear my progress.

I also met a friend for coffee, and when she said I'd been busy, I told her that when I was doing it, it was just moving down the list- what's next? But when I told others what I'd done it seemed like a bigger deal.

So with first drafts winding down on the dissertation, and a bit of wait time, and the job market prep class coming, I started to think some, look ahead.

I've read all the information about the job market. And having done that, I'm going to ignore it.
Because there's nothing I can do about it.
I can think I'll be a unicorn, and move forward.
So, here's what I can control.
I have templates of all my job market materials which I welcome notes on. I have to update them next week as prep for my meeting with my director, and the class.
  • I plan on taking my cover letter and prepping templates for tenure track, SLAC, and CC. Anything else?
  • I know too when I send letters out to make sure first paragraph addresses the specific job ad criteria I'm a fit for.
  • What's the best choice for a writing sample? A dissertation chapter? An already published article?
    • Most of my publications are in folklore and popular culture, not medieval or early modern, which is why I ask.
I do have some questions:
  • I have an Interfolio account I made last year. I understand that I and my committee members will upload things directly here for a lot of applications. But my understanding is that you then pay each time you send these materials out. Is this right? How much are we talking?
  • What's the proper etiquette to ask for recommendation letters (even from committee members)? If I apply to twenty or thirty jobs, that seems like a lot. How much time should I count on giving them to write letters? I assume it's a general letter they write, but how much notice will they need to upload per application? I want to be polite and respectful.
  • I've created a spreadsheet to track materials as I submit them, then plan on color coded folders for ones I make the first cut for. Any other organizing tips for keeping track of materials?
  • I have a publisher interested in my next book project. Should I get something official from the editor so I can mention it in my letter?
My director is on sabbatical this year, but I know will be accessible. Likewise the professor running the job workshop said he'd be available to help us.

But I also trust my extended academic network here on social media. So, any tips for going on the job market?
Please leave practical advice in the comments.
And if you're just going to say don't do it, or place Eeyore comments, don't bother, I'll moderate and just delete.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Finish Line is in Sight #DevilDiss Progress 15 July

Today I finished the pamphlet chapter of my dissertation. It was the last chapter I had to write from scratch. I started the survey chapters last summer as I read for comps. I wrote the first chapter on the Anglo-Saxons in a seminar this past spring. I wrote the Milton chapter in a class with my director this past spring, and revised in June. The Shakespeare chapter is in conference presentation form as I presented it at ACMRS in February. This week I will take that conference presentation and based on feedback I received, and what I now know are the throughlines of my dissertation, will finish the final chapter of #DevilDiss.
Then I just need to add a short bit on Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes to my Milton chapter. And the majority of my dissertation will be finished.
Right now, without the expanded Shakespeare chapter I'm at 260 pages. So I'm feeling really good about what I've done in a year.
Don't get me wrong, there's still work to be done. 
I meet with my director next week, which is the next big hurdle. It's a check in meeting, but really it's the next big step because I'm counting on them being confident enough in my work and progress that they will sign off on me going on the job market in September.

By the end of this month I should have notes on CH 1-3 from my director, and will send off CH 4-6. My director and I will swap sections so to speak. I'll start revising CH 1-3 while they read and give notes on CH 4-6. I'm hoping I'll finish CH 1-3 revisions in September and send back to director, have CH 4-6 notes by October, and then work on those revisions and send back to director. Final notes on whole thing in November. Entire thing off to committee members in December.

In August I will use the Storify I've spent the last year building on #DevilDiss  to see the long view of the dissertation and revise my prospectus to be my introduction, and write my conclusion.
In August I'm also signed up to take a job market prep class. I took it last year, and I feel good about the template documents I have, so the work shouldn't be major, but I do need to update my materials to be ready for 15 September.

I know the academic job market is awful. I know that me getting a job this year is something like a 1 in 300 chance. I know I'm going up against PhDs from Ivy Leagues, with pedigrees. PhDs that have been on the market for years.
I know all that.
I don't care.
I'll be a unicorn. 
Or I'll apply to be a researcher for the government. Meh.

Either way, I've done everything I can to prepare. I feel good, I have seven publications, four articles in journals and three chapters in edited collections. I think that shows an off the charts work ethic. I think finishing my PhD in three years shows that too. I may not have the pedigree, but I'm a worker, I produce.

This fall I will teach two classes. I will revise my chapters based on my director's notes. I have nothing else on my plate. I have one conference I'm waiting to hear about that I'll go to in October if I get in, which I should hear about in August.

I want to be able to set a defense date at the end of January, the beginning of February because I want to have a solid date if I have interviews at MLA since I'm on the market ABD. I also want to have defended by the time there are campus visits. I want to be able to present myself as a sure thing.

In the spring I'll teach another two classes. I plan on lobbying for them to be two literature courses, and one a Shakespeare, but we'll see.
Other than MLA, I'm only planning on attending one other conference, PCA/ACA in Seattle in  March.

As odd as it seems, in July, that's my next year.
It's in sight...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I am not the academic 1%, so what now?

Yesterday Twitter was talking again about Vitae's Academia's 1 Percent which once again revisited the idea that what few jobs there are with the academic job market are going to PhD graduates who attended the top 16-18 schools.

I've listed them below.

Now these schools are generally R1 schools, so there's a gap with PhD students who are interested in pursuing jobs at Small Liberal Arts Colleges (SLACs), community colleges or alt-ac.

I can tell you my program is not on here. Which according to the article means I should just quit now as I won't be getting a job.

But a conversation on Twitter with someone who looked at their department webpage, and recent hires got me thinking.

There are 46 English faculty members listed on our webpage. This includes all levels of professors, and lecturers, and visiting professors. Here's the breakdown:
  • 33 don't list where they went to school.
  • Out of those 33 7 were creative writers, 3 were British and Irish literature, 6 were American Literary Studies, 3 were lecturers with no field association, and 5 were Rhet./Comp.
  • Out of the ones that DID list their schools, these were the schools:
    • UNM (2 people)
    • University of Nevada
    • Indiana University of Penn
    • Notre Dame (recent hire)
    • UC-Berkeley
    • Purdue (recent hire)
    • Standford (2 people)
    • University of Florida
    • UCLA (2 people)
    • University of Utah
    • New Mexico State University
    • Arizona State University
    • UT- El Paso
    • Sarah Lawrence
    •  University of Maryland
    • Emory
    • Brandeis
    • University of Minnesota
    • Georgia State University
The highlighted schools are the only ones that make U.S News and World Report's top list.
The schools apparently necessary to get a job.
And yet...

So this short look did a couple of things- the first is that as with all things, higher ed is never black and white, it's always shades of grey. The second is that there's hope!

Maybe I will be a unicorn. Time will tell.