MLA job market follies

Via KairosNews, I found the 9 Interviews web site, a production of Brandy Parris and Spencer Schaffner, a couple of grad students at the University of Washington. Basically, it’s nine short films (around five minutes or so) that are satires of MLA interviews for folks in English departments. I found some of it pretty funny, though I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t been there would necessarily get the joke.

These folks also include a pretty handy list of links to articles and pieces of advice about how the MLA works, how to (and not to) be a good interviewee or interviewer, etc. For one reason or another, the site kind of works weird with Safari, but that’s a whole different issue.

Two other thoughts:

* For my money, the absolute best send-up and explanation of the weird world of the MLA and jobs in English studies is Murder at the MLA by D.J.H. Jones. I read this book before my first MLA convention and job search, eight years ago now. Basically, it’s a “who dunnit” murder mystery where the police detective investigating the crime is shown the ropes of the convention by an insider, an assistant professor at Yale who is herself on the job market. Funny and funny ’cause it’s basically true.

* I’ve been to four MLA conventions and I’ll be at the one coming up this year in Philadelphia. From my point of view, it tends to be a kind of tense and unpleasant event. I’ve presented at MLA twice, but I tend not to go to too many panels, and my sense is that most people who attend aren’t there for the presentations. At least a third of the people there are trying to get a job, and about another third of the people there are trying to hire people. I’ve been on both sides of the table, and without question, I found it much more unpleasant to be the interviewer than the interviewee. Sure, interviewing for jobs is stressful and draining, but at least you get to move around and do other things. Being the interviewer means you end up trapped in a hotel room (or, in my case, at a table in the ballroom “interview center” sponsored by the convention) and having a near-identical conversation every 15 to 20 minutes for two or three days. No fun.

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