How I learned to stop worrying and love the MLA

This past weekend was the 2014 MLA convention in Chicago, a site (albeit nomadic) that fills most early career faculty/graduate students with dread. Last year, my first “real” year on the market (aka my first year with MLA interviews), I felt that dread. I soaked in the anxiety of everyone around me (and yes, it is palpable in those hotel lobbies). I expected this year to be no different.

And yet, it was. I had three times the interviews that I had last year, which I believe is mostly due to two factors: a) the market, while still absolutely shite, is improving, or at least appears to be; and b) I’m in a much better position professionally than I was last year. I also bunked with a dear friend from my MA days on-site (instead of staying with equally dear, non-academic friends an hour away), met up with other colleague-friends nightly, and sat in on several conference panels, including session 418 on “Vulnerability and Survivalism of the Humanities in Corporatized Academia”, the live-tweets of which (mine included) you can see under hashtag #s418. That session, in particular, made me feel both not alone, and even more like shouting about injustices from the roof-tops.

My interviews went well, I think. Under the harsh light of day I am of course starting to second guess almost everything I said, but at the time I thought they went well. Never perfect, I’m sure of at least one flub I made, but I was much more relaxed than last year and acted far more like myself, something of which I am quite proud. Sure, they’re nerve-wracking—this is my potential future we’re talking about—but, like this blog, if you don’t want ME as a colleague based on something I’ve said or written, it probably wouldn’t work out in the long-term anyway. Some of my previous blog-posts, which, if you just interviewed me, you may be on your way to check out now, probably sound angry (and at times they are) but that drive to improve this thing we call The Profession won’t go away even if I do get one of the rather fancy jobs for which I just interviewed. We deserve better, and our students do too. If you still don’t believe that, perhaps you’d like to check out this piece by Richard Moser on the Chronicle?

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