"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Friday, April 29, 2011

From Adjunct Serf to Independent Scholar

I had to go up to Grad School Campus today to return a library book. It had been recalled, due tomorrow, and since the fines for overdue recalled items are $2.50 a day and things in the office were slow, I figured it was a good time to go.

I haven't been on campus since I started this secretary gig back at the beginning of February, but being there today motivated me to write down some things I've been mulling over for a little while now:
  • Holding onto an adjunct gig because you consider yourself a scholar and feel that you need to retain your ties to academe by whatever means possible in order to pursue your research projects is limiting rather than liberating.
  • Teaching is hard work, and can be stressful. And if you're doing too much of it and not being justly compensated, you don't have the energy to pursue your research project(s). At least that's how I felt adjuncting this past summer and fall, my first terms post PhD. Combined with the anger and frustration of a second futile attempt at the tenure-track job "market" (come on, you all know it's a lottery and not a market), I had no interest in putting time and effort into the dissertation-to-book project. 
  • And yet that project has been at the back of my mind since I defended a year ago, and it is now time to more actively set out upon the task.
  • Why? Well, unlike many in the postacademic community, I rather like my project. And I have something original to say (and this isn't just my ego asserting itself -- there's more concrete evidence), and, of what I've said already, a great deal of it will remain intact. 
  • Although I refuse the terms of academic employment currently available to me, I'm not really and truly a postacademic. I have simply chosen to divorce my intellectual life from the restrictive bounds of institutional affiliation. As long as I maintain library privileges (and I always will to a greater or lesser extent here because I'm an alum of 3 different places in this area), I'm free to think and write as I please. Who needs a teaching affiliation? I have more than a decade of experience, should I ever choose again to pursue a teaching position. It's not like you forget how to do it.
  • Why not get going on it, then? What have I been waiting for? How much revising is there? Well, that's what I'm gearing myself up to do, but the question of how much revision and what to revise is a good one. Depending on who you talk to, I should have sent my "book" off months ago, without any revision, OR , while I can leave much intact, there is a chapter missing that needs to be written from scratch and another, currently the first chapter, that needs to be broken up into at least two separate parts/chapters (possibly three), one part/chapter left more or less intact but the other(s) substantively developed. That's a fair bit of work, especially given that there is some research I will need to do before the writing. It's hardly an inconsequential amount of work but very much manageable.
  • I am personally of the opinion that my "book" needs revision and would be almost certainly rejected if I sent it out as is, especially since an editor at Very Fancy Press, for whom I did a peer review back in January, has expressed interest, indeed has invited me to send hir my "manuscript" in terms that were VERY encouraging. Do I have a shot at being published by Very Fancy Press? Yes, I believe I do, but only after I've put solid time and effort into well-planned, careful revision. I haven't been mentally prepared to do this until very recently. And yet, when I think about what I have to do, while not insignificant, it is much less than what I've already put into the project.
  • If I were adjuncting right now, I wouldn't even be having these thoughts. I'd be buried under a mountain of end-of-semester grading. I'd be exhausted. I'd be burnt out. And I'd be waiting on pins and needles to find out if Scheduler of Adjuncts would condescend to offer me a class or two during the summer, no doubt something I hadn't taught before, if I were lucky enough to get anything -- and likely offered, if at all, a week or two before the summer term started, hardly enough time to plan and prep properly without considerable stress and overwork. That's how it was last summer. I took one day off between spring and summer terms, the day I "commenced" in a sweaty, pseudo medieval robe. Everybody clapped and took pictures. Felt like a whole lot of bullshit to me, because nothing at all changed.
  • But, so here I am a year later, sitting in a nice, quiet, air-conditioned office. All by myself next to a big picture window. Oh, there are things to do, but they rarely fill the whole day. And there are no papers to take home and grade at night or on weekends. No planning and prepping to drain the energy of my every waking thought. No students' whiny, grade-complaining emails to answer. No distractions.
So, it's time to move ahead, finally, time to say goodbye to a "complete dissertation" and hello to a "book in progress." I'm in no hurry. I have no tenure clock to subject myself to. Might take me a few weeks to get my thoughts organized about how to proceed. Might take a few months to get the research done, a few more months to write.

A year from now, I'll have a book.


  1. Go for it!

    It is encouraging to hear that there is the likelihood to publish without a school affiliation. Is Very Fancy Press an academic press or are you reaching for a broader audience? Just want to keep all my options open as a year from now I may be in much the same position.

  2. It's an academic press, and one I did not seek out. The editor contacted me because the title of my dissertation (I'm not sure how ze found it other than a ProQuest search of keywords) suggested I would be a good person to review the manuscript they were considering.

    You absolutely don't need an affiliation. You just need a relationship with an editor. I even told this one I was getting off the adjunct track, but ze was very happy with the review I did and responded by telling me to send my manuscript when it was ready, even if it wasn't ready for several more years.

    I haven't given much thought to broader audiences, at least not for this project...