[Humanist] 26.478 should I quit

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Nov 13 06:06:45 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 478.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Jennifer Edmond <edmondj at tcd.ie>                         (168)
        Subject: Re:  26.476 should I quit

  [2]   From:    Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>           (191)
        Subject: Re:  26.476 should I quit

        Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2012 10:10:54 +0000
        From: Jennifer Edmond <edmondj at tcd.ie>
        Subject: Re:  26.476 should I quit
        In-Reply-To: <20121112090730.458746090 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Alexander,

One final word on this, as I have clearly failed in my attempt to encourage
you, then I will say no more.

Of course you feel disheartened.  But you seem to assume I never did, and
that I never had any contact with any of the arrogant jerks you mention.  I
would wager every reader of Humanist has done so: I certainly did, and I
do, and believe you me, there are certain things I know my institution only
asks me to do with hesitation.  Water, Back, Duck: their loss, not mine.

I did stagger through my PhD, I did put my heart and soul into it, and I
was tacitly told, through MLA interview after MLA interview that I was not
'good' enough (though later experience on the other side of the table tells
me that 'good' really isn't the right term: 'right' is a more suitable one,
as you can have one job to offer and 50 applications still in the pile when
the 'non-good' ones have been winnowed out.  It ain't always fun to be in
that position, either, and the exhaustion of dealing with 80 hungry
qualified applicants is one you might think a bit about.  It's no excuse
for arrogance, but with the best will in the world, it can make you cranky).

If I was in the right place at the right time, that place has spanned three
countries (and that is assuming you consider rural Kentucky and Connecticut
the same place) and a number of institutions.  And I certainly don't aim to
be self-congratulatory, merely encouraging, from a position of (I am
guessing) about 15 years further along the career ladder.

Lastly, as a good Irish patriot (albeit with American accent) I can assure
this is not a UK-based opinion.  Erin go bragh! :-)


Dr Jennifer Edmond
Director of Strategic Projects
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Trinity College Dublin

Phone: +353 1 896 4224

        Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:52:06 -0500
        From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
        Subject: Re:  26.476 should I quit
        In-Reply-To: <20121112090730.458746090 at digitalhumanities.org>


A long time ago, I too tried to land a position in the academy.
I am very lucky to have friends who too went that route and who have
carved out for themselves niches in which to engage in intellectual
activity. We get together regularly and catch up on our various projects.

The sense of community was what I thought I would miss the most by being
barred entry into the academic club. But the wall of higher learning are
porous and what I thought I would miss I have found through online
networks and choosing to live in a large metropolis (Toronto) with a
lively civic commitment to book and film culture.

For the most part I have dwelt with the not landing an academic job with a
certain degree of equanimity -- I have after all access to an excellent
reference library.

However there are times when I find that academic departments are insular
and fail to reach out to the larger community. I believe they sometimes
need publicists to encourage coverage of events and greater use of
recording technology for play back would be great -- there is at times an
alarming unknowingness about creating accessible archives of the events of
academic life.

Some would argue that being extra-muros brings its own rewards. I am not
prepared to say so. It presents very specific challenges to anyone who
would claim the mantle of scholar.  Being extra-muros does have its own
charm (especially when I consider the workloads of my friends and
colleagues who teach and conduct research). Charm of course is not a
reward nor is it a gift. It's a by-product of the story we extramural
folks spin. It takes an incredible effort to keep the story spinning so as
to avoid resentment. To have the energy and time to reknit one's sense of
pride and purpose is sometimes a matter of luck. I have been lucky and
part of that luck has been Humanist and its readers.

I am not going to trivialize someone's decision to quit the race by
producing some platitude to the effect that it gets better. It doesn't.
Nor will I intimate that they didn't try hard enough - that's simply

I will suggest that the academy -- the collective invisible college --
make it easier to prepare future scholars to exercise their abilities
whether or not they come to occupy a place within its walls.

I was lucky my alma mater did encourage us to think of career paths beyond
the academy. What it didn't do so well was help us imagine being scholars
for life. Humanist and other networks can -- and should.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

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