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Oh man…

Today the Modern Language Association is releasing information on just how bad the situation is: The number of job postings in the MLA’s Job Information List will be down 21 percent in 2008-9, the steepest annual decline in its 34-year history. For English language and literature, the drop will be 22.2 percent and for foreign languages, 19.6 percent. Not all jobs are listed with the MLA, so the figures don’t cover every position, but the MLA’s postings have tracked consistently with national trends, especially for the assistant professor positions that are so desirable to new Ph.D.’s who want to land on the tenure track.

When you consider the fact that most of these lines that are left were approved before the economic crisis had started or at least fully settled in, well, it’s not a happy situation.

Was wondering to myself the other day what it would feel like to be employed in a line of work that was experiencing a period of growth rather than an epoch of steady-tending-to-precipitous decline. During the first two or three years of grad school, theory was still theory and while some were surely worried about the state of affairs, basically it didn’t seem devastatingly stupid or impossibly hubristic to get involved with the study of literature as a lifetime affair. Jobs were still scarce, of course, but the discipline retained a credit line from the heady days of English department imperialism.

How different would our work be if we felt that this had a future? Everything feels like starting an inappropriately portentous line of conversation after the bill’s been requested and settled, the tip is on the table – the cab has been called, the staff is ready to shut up the bar. Did I ever tell you about the time I slept with your partner before you two…  Oh, forgot: my father died this week… etc etc etc

Written by adswithoutproducts

December 19, 2008 at 12:14 am

Posted in academia

One Response

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  1. That analogy is great.

    Adam Kotsko

    December 19, 2008 at 4:40 am


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