Monday, 25 January 2010

Miscellany: a response to comments from the previous thread There's a lot to respond to in this the previous thread. Too much, in fact, which is why I'm turning my response into a separate post. Here goes: On Jobs: You're way off on the numbers and you know why. But I'm not! According to the MLA's annual forecast on job listings: In English the fields with the greatest percentage of positions are rhetoric and composition (20.1 percent), British literature (17.9 percent), multiethnic literature (13.7 percent), creative writing (7.0 percent), and American literature (6.1 percent). So I'm off about the composition numbers, but not about the American literature: I merely did a little further math to account for the jobs I could reasonably apply for, which cut the dismal 6.1 percent into even-more-dismal-because-decimal territory. [J]ust like I'm not allowed to give up on my chosen profession because the market hasn't been offering me anything but kind and condescending smiles yet this year, you're not allowed to declare yourself a failure because you haven't secured a TT job yet. I'm not considering myself a failure, though. That is the one thing getting lost in the parallel conversation I'm about to address: what I'm teaching now is neither less complicated nor less rigorous than what I taught previously. I'm no longer of the opinion that people who end up like me should be considered failures. This sounds more like sour grapes rationalization than a serious argument[.] Except that, as per above, I'm not bitter. On Teaching: I think that one of the imperative points that is being overlooked here is the possibility that critical thinking within a localized context can, with the right guidance, lead to the formation of a skill set that can be put to use in contemporary society. Wally handled this better than I would have, but to second what he said: when we teach undergraduate courses in "Critical Theory from Aristotle to Žižek," we're not teaching students the tools they need to interpret the world in which they live—we're teaching them how to talk to us. The critical discourse they enter is not the one that is most useful to them as members of the contemporary body politic, but the one most useful to us as literary scholars. I'm not piss[ing] on the work of your colleagues who find similar success and gratification teaching literature and theory to English majors? Because I'm not surprised that my colleagues who teach English majors are successful in getting those students to understand the significance and applicability of literary theory. But to rehash the old argument, it's a mistake to conflate literary theory and critical theory, especially when teaching non-majors what might otherwise learn portable skills. To put this in less polemical terms: I'm baffled by the fact that most composition programs teach their largely non-English-major populations how to quote and cite material in MLA format. It's not that I have anything against MLA style per se, only that I think the needs of the students would be better served if they...

Become a Fan

Recent Comments