I’ve created a new category called “English Departments.” I’m guessing that most people who do not work in an academic environment (and many people who do) have no idea how English departments at colleges and universities work. By “work” I don’t mean what time we clock in and out (wait, we get to clock out?), but rather how we are organized, what our responsibilities are, how we get hired, how we are evaluated, etc. This might not make for fascinating reading, but it will provide a good background for helping people understand what it is we do. Why is this background necessary? Because there seem to be many people in the popular media and in the blogosphere who have a vested interest in misrepresenting us. Unless we make an effort to define ourselves accurately, these distorted representations will be the only ones people see. And these distortions can have a serious negative effect when state budgets are negotiated and when the time comes for decisions to be made about the future of, say, the NEA and the NEH.
Now, if you are part of an English department and you want to take part, write your own entry and link back to this one. Topics I’ve thought of that need covering:
- Divisions of specializations. (e.g. Rhet/Comp, American Lit, British Lit … Medieval, Renaissance, Restoration and 18th Century, etc…).
- The balance of teaching/research/service responsibilities.
- “Promotion and tenure,” by Chuck Tryon.
- “Academic publishing and peer review,” by Collin Brooke
- Academic conferences.
- Course assignments.
- Graduate student labor.
- Adjunct labor.
- Graduate education and preparation for the academic job market.
- The state of the academic job market.
- The hiring process.
What I have in mind is a basic, “Here’s what you need to know about this” kind of entry for each topic. I’m not going to write about this every day, and I welcome contributions from anyone who wants to take on one of these topics or suggest a new one. I do plan on posting something on the first topic in the next week or so.