Sunday, October 19, 2014

Green Grass on the Other Side of the Fence

Is it just here at NWU, or is it everywhere?

Our English Ed folks always seem to want to teach literature.

Ask them why they did a doctorate in English Ed, and they'll tell me that they were aware of the horrid prospects in lit, and so chose English Ed.

And they're right: my school starts English Ed assistant profs at about what associates in lit make.

But then they'll say that they want to teach lit, and they're totally qualified to teach whatever it is in lit that strikes their fancy... because they taught it in high school.


  1. This absolutely chaps my ass. Mostly because I've seen what some of the Ed folks at my university call a "dissertation," and I think their degree is a joke. I earned the right to teach Brit lit by studying it, testing in it, and writing and defending it at the doctoral level.

    There's a M.Ed. person in our department who was hired in a pinch to teach FYC, and now we can't get rid of her. She also wants to teach lit whenever she can and whines incessantly when she doesn't get to.

    If you want to teach lit, get a degree in lit and take your lumps when it come to the job market. Bah!

  2. Anonymous9:33 PM

    I'm not in English but I am in literary studies, and I'm the only person in my language-section trained in lit. Nevertheless my colleagues alternate between arguing studying literature is pointless and wanting to teach the (required) literature courses, leaving me with electives that make enrollment by the skin of their teeth. At least one of my colleagues is at least making a good faith effort to engage in the field, but one does wonder why the institution didn't hire a straightforward lit person (like me) before they hired me.

    All of that to say ... you're not alone, and yes it's infuriating. The reasons for being out of field might be different (for example people being geographically limited), but the result's similar.

  3. Our writing people want to teach lit. The guy running the writing center wants to teach a Milton class. Dude, no.

  4. All this is nothing in comparison with the howls of the rhet/comp people when a lit person applies for a writing job.

  5. We don't have that specific problem, because we don't have an English Ed program and don't hire Ed.Ds (we considered them, for our recent YA lit search, but very few had literary-analytical dissertations). Like others, though, we occasionally have faculty wishing to teach things they're not specialists in.

    Generally, though, since we're emphatic about hiring specialists instead of generalists (and have a decent amount of field coverage), we solve it by either

    a) having the interested non-lit faculty member teach at a lower level (for example, a creative writer may be a terrific teacher of contemporary American lit, in a course that's primarily about form, style, and close reading, but not have the scholarly or critical background to teach a course that involves theory and a significant amount of lit crit),


    b) getting the go-ahead from the relevant in-field faculty member. For example, my colleague who is a Classicist and New Testament scholar and I decided to swap courses for one semester: I would teach Bible as Lit and he would teach Shakespeare's tragedies. Since he's worked on Seneca and knows a lot about the tragic tradition, and since I work on the Bible in the Renaissance, this wasn't a crazy thing to do (we'd also team-taught a course that involved both biblical and Renaissance texts)--but our chair required assurances from each of us that we thought the other was competent to teach in our field on a one-off basis.

    This is also a way of preserving lines. If *anyone* can teach Shakespeare, why hire a Shakespearean? If a creative writer can teach contemporary lit, why hire a 20th C. lit scholar? So our department doesn't encourage a lot of it, but we try to accommodate people who are eager to stretch.