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Monday, March 26, 2018

The Book of Fiction

We are always working on the book. Not to be at work on a book, at a Research 1 University, means not showing up for work, since 40% of our effort is supposed to be research. Yet the book is elusive. There is the first book, that is either the dissertation or a second project written very quickly before tenure. Then there is the post-tenure book, but that might be the last one. People retire with two books, and no more, and three is considered great. What this means is that, really, many people do very little scholarship after the dissertation, and there are often long fallow periods.

So the book is in many cases a fictional one, not a work of fiction one that will never exist at all.  I probably wouldn't have the courage to say that I'm not working on a book. I couldn't say: Oh, I've published 5 and will spend nine years waiting for retirement; I've already done enough.  

 

6 comments:

profacero said...

Why do you think they don't?

Jonathan said...

They don't have anything to say, in some cases. Or they have enough to say in two books, and that's enough. Some might be better article writers, or want to devote their time to edited collection or something else. Let's stop forcing people to pretend to be working on a book when they aren't.

profacero said...

(One of my R-1 friends says this: the PhD and the tenure process were so exhausting that she collapsed, now he was non-precarious for the first time in his life and his exhaustion got the better of him. She says other elements are disenchantment with field due to obnoxious colleagues, and importantly, negative reaction to the neoliberal university. This is an extreme case. I think many people just aren't that interested - hence, for instance, the supposition that not writing is a reaction to not liking it.)

profacero said...

"Let's stop forcing people to pretend to be working on a book when they aren't."

We can't, because the unified faculty member no longer exists. We could have stopped in the past, when the university was what it was 30 years ago, and people could decide to use their time on other types of work. Now other work is supposed to be done by administrators, graduate students, etc. I will explain this in an article I am working on now.

Clarissa said...

It's very hard to derive meaning from teaching intro-level courses for 30 years with an occasional literature course. If I didn't have my research and the constant excitement that it brings, I'd be severely depressed right now. There is no better self-care for me than the third book.

Jonathan said...

Even with lit courses, the content has to change because of one's research interests. If you teach the same material in the same way it gets deadly for everyone concerned.