Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's not you--it's the market

This is bad news and good news.

From Inside Higher Ed:
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. . . .
For English jobs, the 1,420 positions the MLA lists this year is a drop from 1,821 last year. While the English totals hovered between 1,000 and 1,200 for several years during the mid-1990s, they have not been as low as this year’s figure since 1997-8. For foreign languages, this year’s MLA total is 1,350, the smallest number of jobs since 2003-4.

Over at the Chronicle, on one of the job boards, there is--or was--a little bragfest going on in the guise of problem-solving: "I have twelve MLA interviews and just don't know how to schedule them."
I submit to you, the jury, these ideas:
-- such claims are either highly exaggerated or just plain false
-- the job market is as bad as it has been in a long, long time
-- especially for Americanists
-- and that if you don't have an interview, it's not necessarily about you, your publications, your teaching, or anything else that you can control.

So the bad news is this: It's about the market, which is awful.
The good news, such as it is (and it isn't much), is this: It's not about you.


Mark Scroggins said...

As someone chairing a search committee, & who's been incredibly snowed under with righteously qualified & interesting & attractive candidates, I can only second that: It's not about you; it's about whatever ad hoc sieve the search committee's using for any given search.

undine said...

Thanks for seconding this, Mark. I've found this to be true in other years when I've been on search committees and can only imagine how true it must be this year.

CarlD said...

Agreed. When there are twenty jobs and 200 good candidates, pathos is the rule.

The one thing I'd add is that for both durable institutional status reasons and ad hoc demographic and/or fad topic reasons, there are often a few 'it' candidates out there each year who against all good sense get interviews everywhere.

There's a guy named Brian Leiter who dishes this stuff for the philosophy job market. Isn't there an MLA Yenta?