Sobriquet 39.14

Well, I met with my adviser this afternoon and I was amazed by how favorable her response was to my section on Age of Iron. We also discussed whether or not I should narrow the multi-author scope of the dissertation to focus exclusively on Coetzee. Essentially, I would be taking what was initially intended to be a chapter and fleshing it out into a full-fledged dissertation in itself. Now, this idea is not wholly unappealing to me. It would, for instance, shorten my reading list substantially. Other than some reservations about my ability to write enough on Coetzee to reach dissertation length, the only hesitation I felt heading into the discussion relates to my marketability as I head into the job search.

The hard reality of the academic job market is that one must always consider how his or her scholarship will affect employment opportunities. Certainly, writing a dissertation on a recent Nobel Laureate would interest hiring committees considering offering me a contract but, as an Americanist, I wonder if writing exclusively on J.M. Coetzee would weaken my candidacy when applying for positions as an American literature specialist. I mean, it could work both ways: a potential employer could view a dissertation on Coetzee as either evidence of my working at the nexus of the critical discussion surrounding an important contemporary writer or of me devoting more energy to a global writer than of one more closely linked to the field in which I am attempting to land a job.

The logical compromise, it seems, would be to write a multi-author dissertation including Coetzee as well as an American or two (Joseph Heller and/or Philip Roth), as I had originally planned, but working on the Coetzee section while bearing in mind the idea of possibly transforming it into a stand-alone work. That way, I can focus on writing the best section on Coetzee as I possibly can without worrying about de-Americanizing my dissertation to a point where potential employers would raise a perplexed eyebrow.

Of course, one of the reasons I am glad I took one of my field examinations in contemporary global literature is because, as someone interested in ideas, I would like to teach books based on theme rather than nationality once in a while. I never really liked the idea of pigeonholing myself, taxidermically sorting my academic interests into areas that I can and cannot teach. I realize that it is a necessity in today's milieu, but such hyper-specialization can sometimes feel restrictive...In the end, though, I think I will be most happy teaching literature to bright, young people, so whatever it takes to get from here to there, in my mind, is well worth it.

At any rate, speaking with my adviser really gave me a renewed sense of energy and purpose not to mention a boost to my self-confidence, knowing now that what I have written thus far is, in fact, good enough.

For today: Begin rereading The Master of Petersburg so that I can begin writing a section on the novel sometime in the near future with the book fresh in my mind.

For tomorrow: Read another twenty pages of the novel.


minxy said…
I knew you could do it. :) Dude, you're awesome.
literarychica said…
congrats, my friend. i'm glad all went well in your meeting. i understand your feeling about the job market. as graduate students we're pushed to explore our interests to the fullest, but on the other end we're always told to stay marketable. sometimes that's not easy. sometimes it's downright frustrating. but like i've said before, you give me hope, man!

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