As some of my friends (both academic and not) have had to endure from me lately, I feel like I have been going through a mini mid-life crisis– an academic mid-life crisis, that is. I’m not likely to dump my wife for a twenty-something girlfriend and a convertable. But I have been in a bit of quandry as to what to do next. The short version goes like this:
- Advantages: A “hot” topic, it’s probably something that would be interesting to a lot of other readers, might have appeal beyond the comp/rhet community.
- Disadvantages: There are probably about a dozen similar projects underway and/or about to come out (this sounds like someone’s dissertation if you ask me); by the time such a book would actually come out, we’ll probably be on to something beyond the blog (and even if we aren’t, it will still be “dated” as soon as it’s published); working with human subjects/interviews can be kind of a pain in the butt.
- Advantages: I have already done a lot of research and scholarship on this (an essay on chalkboards, conference presentations, etc.), it’s kind of fun research because much of it involves hunting around in weird parts of the library, it’s not likely to be a project that goes out of date in a few years, and it’s research that won’t require me to go through the rig-a-ma-roll of human subjects review.
- Disadvantages: Even with what I’ve already done, I still have a lot more work to do, the research on this is difficut, I’m not sure I have the training and/or “street cred” to do this kind of history, and I’m not sure anyone else (other than me) is really interested in this stuff.
Meanwhile, I recently found out that I can apply for promotion to professor this year (meaning that I would be promoted for the 2007-08 school year). I am of course aware that at many institutions, where one has to produce truly distinguishing scholarship in order to get promoted to full professor, it’s very common for faculty members to toil away as an associate professor for decades or longer. For better or worse, promotion at EMU doesn’t work that way. If I were to bust out and write one or two books in the next year or two or three, I would be promoted to professor. If I did what I am doing now or even less (see below), I would be promoted to professor.
And, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my wife Annette Wannamaker has just wrapped up her first and very successful year as an assistant professor here at EMU. She’s happy, I’m happy, and, given the challenge of us both finding academic jobs elsewhere that would work for us as a couple and a family, we’ll probably be at EMU for the rest of our careers.
So, this opens up another possibility:
- Advantages: Literally I can pretty much do what I want, I won’t be pointlessly contributing to the mounds of scholarship that already go unread, I can return to some of the “creative writing” sort of work that got me into this buisness nearly 20 years ago, I can have some version of a life.
- Disadvantages: This sort of freedom often allows me to become so lazy I accomplish pretty much nothing, and a vague sort of guilt, probably the result of the overly zealous pursuit of “THE WORK” so common in academia. In other words, even though I don’t really need to be doing something like a book project, I feel like it’s kind of expected that I’m supposed to be doing a book project.
Fortunately (or not!), these various courses of action have been more or less decided for me for the next year, and I finally realized this a couple weeks ago (thus the “convergence”): for reasons that are not worth going into, I am going to be the interim writing program administrator for the first year writing program this year while Linda Adler-Kassner is on sabbatical (she’s working on a book, but I hope she does some blogging, too). What this means is that next year, I will be both the “writing program coordinator” (charged with various issues having to do with our undergraduate majors in professional and technical writing, and also with our graduate programs in teaching of writing and professional writing), and the “writing program administrator (running the first year composition program).
Now, I had been more or less putting off/not thinking too hard about my additional WPA duties in the fall, mainly because I’ve been busy teaching. But as that class wraps up, as I prepare for our trip to Italy and Germany, and as I think about my more than pseduo-administrative duties for the fall term, it has occurred to me that really, the only thing I’m going to be able to do next year is a version of Option C– though I am already imagining an article where I discuss and describe my role as the “accidential WPA.”
So, like I said, convergence. For the time-being, my future seems decided for me, and that’s an okay thing.