Epistemology of the postacademic closet: some very non-theoretical ramblings 

Over the past couple of days, I've been encountering a constant parade of friends and colleagues I haven't talked to in months. Amazing how everyone reappears when the fall semester starts up. And it seems as if, in every "Oh, I haven't seen you in ages! How are you? How was your summer?" conversation, there's a moment when my interlocutor says "So, I guess you're going on the job market this year?" It's only been a few days and already I've lost track of how many times I've had this exchange. It even happened, with some variations, at the hair salon when I went to get my hair cut this afternoon after classes; when I told my usual stylist, who's been cutting my hair for the past three years, that I was done, he congratulated me and asked whether I'd be here next year.

Each time the "so you're going on the market this year?" question comes up, I find myself facing a dilemma: say "Actually, I'm going to spend the year looking for nonacademic job prospects instead of applying for tenure-track positions"? Or evade the question because I'm not quite ready for word to get all the way around the department? I've told my adviser, who surprised me by not trying to talk me out of my doubts about academia ("do what makes you happy" was his advice, bless him). But I haven't told the rest of my committee. I like all of them, but I'm not sure they'd all understand. I imagine them thinking "So Amanda couldn't hack it after all? What a pity, she was so promising." I've told the people in the department I'm closest to, but when it comes to everyone else, I start getting tired at the very thought of having to explain it all over again and worry about how they'll react. In my department there's not a huge stigma attached to the nonacademic career path, but there's enough to give me pause before outing myself. (This is one of the reasons why I'm opting for semi-anonymity with this blog, though not the only one. Cindy at Making Contact has written about some of the other reasons why anonymity appeals.)

Having come out of a variety of closets at previous points in my life (for the record: those would be the nerd closet when I was a teenager, the sexual-orientation closet when I was in college, and the unfashionable-research-topics closet as a graduate student), I'm well aware that closetedness is a variable state. You keep meeting new people and it's not always inevitable that they'll learn everything about you, so you have to make these "out or not?" decisions. You can be half-in and half-out. You can be cautious about what you reveal in certain situations and more relaxed in other situations. You can be out to some family members but not others. You can even feel like a spy, knowing that others around you don't know everything about you, wondering if you'll blow your cover and what will happen then. The postacademic closet isn't as traumatic to be in as other types of closets, but it works in some of the same ways.

The question is, will this state of semiclosetedness be permanent? In the future, will I be out as a non-professor but have to hide my academic side?


First day of classes: A Harper's Index-style summary 

Total number of students currently registered for my three sections of first-year writing: 54
Number I met today: 18
Number of students named Heather in today's section: 2
Total number of students named Heather in all three sections: 3
Estimated hours spent either making photocopies or waiting in line to make photocopies: around 2
Weeks before I have to start grading the first set of papers: 3
E-mail lists to be set up this week: 3
Course websites ditto: 3
Number of square feet by which my new (lecturer's) office is bigger than my old one: not many
Number of other lecturers with whom I share said new office: 1 (and she seems quite nice)
Number of people with whom I used to share an office as a lowly graduate student instructor: 2
Requests for Harry Potter books overheard at library circulation desk: 1
Recalled library books returned: 1
Disoriented new students who asked me for directions: 2
Old friends and acquaintances encountered in hallways: too many to count
Minutes wasted this morning in frantic but utterly futile search for comb: 15
Minutes spent in not-so-futile search for official department handout on plagiarism: 10
Pints of beer consumed at end of afternoon when T. talked me into a trip to our local pub: 1
Episodes of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" watched this evening to combat first-day exhaustion: 3

Er, maybe that should be Bridget Jones' Diary and not Harper's Index...

Things I like about Collegeville 

I live within walking distance of a nifty Art Deco movie theater that shows art-house movies and the occasional classic film series. Tonight I went to a screening of Psycho. A free screening, in honor of Labor Day and the resumption of the school year. The theater was packed, people gasped and shrieked at key moments (though not at the shower scene; I guess it's too familiar even if you've never seen the movie before), and the weird comedic moments came through in a way that they usually don't if one is not surrounded by a big high-spirited audience already warmed up on an animated Bugs Bunny short -- in this case, the immortal "What's Opera, Doc?". Now I can't get the Ride of the Valkyries, as reinterpreted by Elmer Fudd ("Kill the wabbit! Kill the WABbit!"), out of my head. Chuck Jones and Alfred Hitchcock: what a double bill!

Overheard on the street afterward: "Dude, the next time you see that movie, it's going to be so much creepier. Because next time you'll know it's Norman the whole time."



I'm enjoying the last couple of days' worth of summer, and I'm completely incapable of Serious Weighty Thoughts about Academe right now, so posts until Tuesday will be frivolous and silly. Fair warning.

For starters: this game, called "Samorost" (or, as I'm privately calling it, "The Adventures of Snowsuit Guy on the Tree-Covered Asteroid") is bizarre, beautiful, and addictive. I can't decide which is my favorite, the part with the sheep or the part with the squirrel-like creature playing its gramophone inside the tree, but I've played it twice, in spite of my slow dialup connection. (Via texturl.)

Also: Yesterday I went shopping for fall clothing at my local Target. I was looking without much success for practical yet stylish shoes; these, alas, were lovely on the shelf, but they made my feet look horrid. I knew there was a reason why I usually avoid pointy-toed, foot-exposing shoes. I was more successful in finding some practical yet stylish pants with pockets. (Whoever decreed that women's pants should be pocketless should be made to do without pockets for the rest of his or her natural life, and -- if it's a he -- should also be required to carry a big ungainly purse.) Both Target and the "everything under one roof" mega-store across the way were jammed with returning and incoming college students stocking up on things to furnish their dorm rooms. The closest thing to a Weighty Serious Thought that crossed my mind was "Wow, college kids today sure have a lot of stuff" as I watched parents helping their offspring choose lamps, mirrors, squishy cube- and beanbag-shaped furniture, and whatnot -- much more furnishings than I had when I started college. I've heard various criticisms of the consumerism of college students, but I found yesterday that I couldn't get worked up over watching them avail themselves of Target's style-on-the-relatively-cheap aesthetic. Hey, I'd have liked a few brightly-colored throw pillows and squishy cube chairs myself.

Apropos of Rana's reflections on tweed, and while I'm on this shallow and materialistic note, I wonder if I'd lose classroom authority points if I showed up to teach in a bright pink Isaac Mizrahi shirt?