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Those seeking or

December 18, 2008

soon to be seeking tenure-track jobs — hell, any jobs! — in languages, literature, or writing may want to avert their eyes.

The job outlook south of the border for people in those disciplines is not good, and despite the federal government’s reluctance to level with Canadians, most of us know that where the Americans go, we usually follow. Further, where there are, hirings contract positions are increasingly replacing TT jobs.

Read ’em and weep:

  • Disappearing Jobs,” Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed (Dec. 18/08): “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.”
  • Literature Scholars Face Steepest Drop in Jobs in Decades,” Audrey Williams June, The Chronicle of Higher Education (Dec. 18/08): “Those of us who hold tenure-track positions need to be aware of the overall academic work force on our campuses,” [Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA] said. “A scaling back in the tenure-line faculty is really a compromise for higher education that we can’t afford in this country.”

Key Facts

+ Between 1993 and 2004, the hiring of nontenurable faculty continued to dramatically outpace tenure-track hiring in the profession as a whole. In terms of raw numbers, however, most disciplines actually gained tenure track lines, or at least held steady. Political science gained 2.5% new lines; philosophy and religion packed on 43%.

English, however, lost over 3000 tenure track lines, an average annual loss of 300 positions. This amounted to slightly more than 1 in every 10 tenurable position in English—literally a decimation. If that trend proves to have continued—and all indications are that it has–by early next year we will have shed another 1500 lines.

+ Rewards in English are profoundly stratified by gender. While men hold the majority of tenure-track lines in Carnegie Research and Master’s institutions, women hold a substantial majority of tenurable lines at the less prestigious baccalaureate and two-year schools.

Only a third of tenurable positions in community college English departments are held by men. Additionally, women continue to substantially outnumber men in nontenurable positions—both full and part-time at every institution type.

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One Comment
  1. Toto Biteme permalink
    December 31, 2008 9:20 pm

    Here’s another key statistic. Between 1980 and 2008, the literacy rate of Ph.D. candidates in English has plummeted. Fake disciplines, astonishing declines in real scholarship (if you’ve actually read Auerbach, Curtius, and any Northrop Frye, raise your hand), and the utter neglect of any attempt to read literary texts as anything other than pretexts, have left the “profession” justifiably enervated. If you think anything you’ve done is real work, involves real stress, or requires real responsibility, get ready for a big surprise when you have to walk out of the headfake of the academy.

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