Here are four things I aspire to now:
1. Depth of engagement.
2. But... with a sense of humor, of not taking myself too seriously, and seeing the humor in things with some degree of humility.
3. Intellectual curiosity, leading to continued intellectual growth.
4. Accessiblity; writing for hundreds of people rather than dozens.
Thirty years ago, at the beginning of my career, I might have said this:
1. Theoretical sophistication; being at the cutting edge.
2. Having brilliant interpretations of texts.
3. Checking off the boxes to construct a CV; publishing in PMLA, MLN, Diacritics... Getting the major fellowships.
4. Being top banana, or at least being in contention for being considered the best in my field.
Of course, I've already accomplished most of those things, so it's easy to dismiss those aspirations as excessively "careerist." Of course, (I now realize that there is no top banana. Not simply because it is a subjective judgment, but because comparisons with others are pointless.) I still apply to major fellowships, but my career is complete without them.
What are your top values for yourself in your scholarship? These will vary between individuals, and also in one individual at different career stages. My current ones reflect where I'm at now. I realize I haven't reproduced myself, having PhD students in my own image (with one exception) or been particularly influential in the way other people do scholarship. Thanks god there's no Mayhew school.
(Unfortunately, my scholarship will not create a more just world or alter the climate for the better. Those are valuable things, but I don't see how the kind of work I do will further those ends. Even politically engaged scholarship in the humanities doesn't really do very much. Yet if that is one of your core values, then you should be honest about that.)
BACKGROUND: I am writing one of those career narratives for an application. I actually like reflecting on what I have and haven't done.