Being an administrator is hard work, but it can be done with grace, style, and humor…
It is important for midcareer faculty members to be open to change—to shifts in professional interests and projects, to changes in teaching, to different affiliations…
Language and literature departments interested in creating new majors would be well advised to consider the changing landscape of higher education, in which niche programs are increasing in number.
Founded in 2015, the MLA’s Working Group on K–16 Alliances, which I was an original member of, sought to connect the K–12 and postsecondary educational communities in order to build support for teaching modern languages, writing, and literature at all levels. Bridging the gap between K–12 and postsecondary humanities education is a large and daunting task, but it can be done.
No one is entirely sure what happens to academics at midcareer, but most would agree they don’t like it. Jeffrey J. Selingo describes it as academe’s “mid-life crisis.” Anastasia Salter compares it to the “let down” that comes after training for a marathon. She calls the many recent testimonials about midcareer dissatisfaction a new genre of academic writing.
It may seem counterintuitive, but there is a connection between the administrative university and its push toward hiring contingent labor, now approximately seventy percent of college instructors (Betensky), and the status of a damaged species: associate professors. Long forgotten, these tenured professors find themselves burdened with extensive service and administrative tasks and with little guidance and few incentives to seek promotion.
[T]he humanities now lose at games of allocation that numerical supremacism has rigged. With premises that acknowledge not only the value of data but also the value of complementary interpretive systems, outcomes will become less skewed. . . .
[T]he use of smallness in this article does not refer to student enrollment or faculty size, areas in which we are naturally not small by choice. Rather, the term addresses the danger of a certain form of contentment with the tight-knit communities that we have built as well as the nostalgia for traditions. . . .
What would it look like if PhD programs responded to this emerging reality that the most valuable professional development experiences for a substantial percentage of graduates (even those remaining in academia) are increasingly extradepartmental and sometimes extracurricular?. . . .
We need to do the very hard work in the humanities of taking the lead at our institutions to redesign our programs in ways that are relevant, urgent, meaningful, and indispensable to students’ lives, including work lives that do not resemble those of their instructors. . . .
Higher education’s stigma against community colleges is strong, particularly since graduate programs and advisers don’t intentionally prepare their students for community college careers. . . .
The more we bring our work to the communities around our campuses, the more our communities will understand the value of what we teach and study.
I am suggesting that doctoral programs think more expansively about the concept of composition as a practice in the construction of meaning so that graduate students are prepared to recognize their ability to teach interpretive practices . . .
The kinds of questions, concerns, and projects borne out of public humanities work are, in fact, increasingly crucial for scholars and teachers of historical literary periods before the early twentieth century for two core reasons . . .
To be successful, presentism requires a change of genre from the academic articulations done in academic journals, books, and classrooms to the public articulations done through the popular press and community events.
To do meaningful public humanities work is to forge partnerships that reinforce local, public institutions and that establish clear public-public collaboration.
If we believe in the value of the humanities and want them to have a future, then more of us need to serve as ambassadors to audiences beyond these degree-attainment cohorts. We need to regularly seek public connections—to find or create them.
Are tenured and tenure-track positions, and tenure itself, disappearing from the landscape of the disciplines and higher education? Are there data that can help us understand the level of institutional demand for tenure-track faculty members and its relation to the supply represented in the annual production of new doctorate recipients? . . .
Each time a scholar is shouted down or denied a visa or arrested or killed because of the questions she or he might ask or the ideas and evidence she or he might share, the space for inquiry and expression shrinks. . . .
What I want for my students in the classroom is freedom to explore their ideas regardless of how the world might classify those ideas—freedom to ask questions free from fear of punitive judgment. . . .
Now is the time to insist that extramural speech is a vital aspect of academic freedom—precisely because the struggle for academic freedom is the struggle for democracy. . . .
As universities increasingly rely on contingent labor for undergraduate teaching assignments, graduate students are called on to lead the classroom despite having little to no institutional protection. . . .
The objective of a new humanistic approach that involves case studies would be to learn what works, what doesn’t, and why. Simply put, it would be to learn. . . .
Profession brings articles, news, and resources to all MLA members—whether you teach, write, advise students, or work in a library or an archive or a faculty development center. . . .
If you’re an adjunct and you think you’re not good enough and that somehow not being good enough got you where you are, don’t believe that. . . .
In reframing general education literature classes in the context of social intelligence, I don’t mean that we should resort to condescending platitudes—like the humanities teach us “how to be human.” . . .
We therefore owe it to ourselves to adopt institutional arrangements that are best for carrying out the academic mission, and I would suggest that mentorship arrangements are a key part of doing so. . . .
If academic job ads routinely ask for a wide range of skills, why does graduate school training often devalue the activities that would build these skills? What does a faculty member do—actually, fully? . . .
We thought that institutions would be more likely to pay contingent faculty members a living wage, increase opportunities for advancement, and offer security if their rankings depend on their willingness to do so. . . .
From “I Still Can’t Work with You” to “Let’s Work Together”: Creating a Rhetoric of Collaboration that Supports Professors
Because professors stand to gain so much through equitable evaluation of collaborative work (and we are not just talking tenure), we argue that the rhetoric of collaboration in the humanities can do more to support professors. . . .
I want to persuade you, therefore, to abandon any sense of complacency and to believe that we are facing at this moment—right now—a crisis in the humanities. Without action, we humanists, and the graduate and undergraduate students we care about and serve, stand to lose a great deal. . . .
In narrating the life and death of a literature professor, Wit asks what literature—particularly the study of literature in college—might offer in life and in death. Susie’s question gestures broadly: What is the end, or purpose, of literature? What significance does literature offer readers’ lives? How might teaching enable or hinder that significance?….
While Web-based literary projects tend to function like textual archives and repositories for commentary, this project enables readers to compare the various textual configurations of the Rvf and, in the process, participate in the seven-centuries-long tradition of actively reading, interpreting, and rewriting the text. . . .
We have learned that games can offer many advantages to language learners and can turn what is typically viewed as a mindless extracurricular activity into a vibrant learning experience that extends beyond the confines of the classroom. . . .
[T]he humanities are good for taking us out of our isolated selves and situating us among others who are both like and unlike ourselves, helping us both to see and to measure, to imagine and to create. . . .