Tuesday, January 06, 2004


Finally, an update.

After a long absence here—visiting family, attending MLA, dissertating, and preparing to teach a new class this term kept me quite busy—I should comment briefly upon the MLA interviewing experience. I cannot comment upon any of the panels, since I did not attend. Even those few panels I would have been interested in attending would have been excruciating to sit through, given my state of perpetual anxiety about taking what in some ways amounted to mini-orals exams.

I’ll start by addressing the theory question. It did come up, but not in the way I expected. Apparently, some of my letters of recommendation made it clear to hiring committees that I was no fan of theory. I was not exactly required to defend my position, but I was asked by more than one interviewer to confirm that I was not entirely opposed to theory in all circumstances. I fell back on those modern theorists whose ideas I do not find too blinded by leftist politics, and managed to rescue myself, I think.

As for the interviews themselves, I’m avoiding commenting on them too much. I’m just superstitious enough to want to avoid jinxing myself. Supposedly, I will know by the end of January whether I have any campus visits. I’ll post something more on the whole process then.

As for the conference, the entries in other blogs about dark clothing and severe glasses is dead-on. It was amusing walking around San Diego incognito (jeans, a sweat shirt, and tennis shoes, when not interviewing) and playing “spot the academics”. There is also the “soft bag” phenomenon, which was pointed out to me by “Julia.” Academics seem to favor the same sorts of soft leather “briefcases” to carry papers, books, etc. Business people, on the other hand, seem to favor the hard-shell briefcase. Admittedly, I cannot find a hard-shell briefcase that will hold a laptop, scores of student papers, and a Norton Anthology—actually, I’ve even had trouble finding a soft leather bag with this capacity. But, I digress.

I should also point out the one academic fashion faux pas that I have always found most irritating: men’s shoes. Buck shoes are perfectly appropriate to wear with khakis and other less formal pants, but not with suits. I can’t count the number of men I saw wearing perfectly acceptable suits whose effect was destroyed by the poor choice of shoes.

Academic males: buy at least one pair of dress shoes!!

Also, men’s dress shirts. Oxford, button-down collar shirts are acceptable with khakis, etc., but they are not suit shirts. Invest in a couple of nice dress shirts to wear with your suit and tie.

Perhaps academic males should start reading GQ. It has become insufferably leftist since the previous editor passed, and there are swipes at Bush at least twice in each issue. You can have your politics reified and learn how to dress at the same time.

As for women’s clothing, I pay a little less attention, because I don’t wear it myself. What seems most needed is a little variation. Dark pantsuits, chunky shoes, the ubiquitous glasses—a little individuality would be nice, though the woman who wore the skirt made out of men’s ties mentioned in Erin O’Connor’s blog is taking it a bit too far.

Hmm. Maybe I should change my nom-de-plume to Mr. Blackwell.

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