From the mailbag: ConfusedProf needs advice on resignation

elvgrenmail

Regrets? I’ve had few.

A reader left a comment on an old post that I thought would be a good question to ask the rest of you in the academic blogosphere, especially those of you who either 1) have navigated a resignation like this, either successfully or unsuccessfully!, or  2) have experience as a Department Chair or Administrator who has dealt with colleagues in this situation before, again either happily or most unhappily.  

Here we go:

Dear Historiann,

I would like to seek your advice about a tormenting situation I live in. I am a t.t. assistant prof who has been in her position for four years. I am unhappy for several reasons: being away from home and teaching courses that are not really in my field among other similar reasons. I have applied to other positions and did not get any interview. I am thinking now of resigning, going home to my hometown, and searching for jobs from there. If I don’t end up landing another academic job, I am fine with leaving academia. I would like to pursue other para-academic interests …..

What are the best reasons to give my institution for my resignation which will allow to keep good relations with them, and would be reasonable to ask them to give me a reference letter or is this an unreasonable request when you leave an institution?

Signed,

ConfusedProf

Dear Confused,

First of all, no!  It’s not at all unreasonable to expect a collegial and positive recommendation from former colleagues, provided that you don’t leave a pile of road apples in your stall on the way out of the barn.  (Your question makes me think we’ve set the bar far too low for collegiality in academic employment if it’s even a question in your mind!) Continue reading

“Who can you trust?”

Stressed out?  At the end of your rope?  You have to hear this story by Mary-Claire King on the Moth.  King is the American Cancer Society Professor in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Her name probably sounds familiar to you because she was the discoverer of BRCA1, the gene she named that proves that breast cancer is inherited in some families.

I had the honor of meeting King a few times in the 1990s because one of my best friends from college was her microbiology Ph.D. student.  We had a fascinating conversation about mitochondrial DNA (the kind you get from your mother & can use to trace the maternal line), and the possibilities it opened for learning more about Native American history and early American history in general. Continue reading

New Binghamton U./Journal of Women’s History Postdoc: deadline February 28

youthere

You! Get your application together!

Big news, friends–a little birdie told me all about a brand-new postdoc at the Journal of Women’s History at Binghamton University in gender and global history:

The Journal of Women’s History and Binghamton University are excited to welcome applications for a new postdoctoral fellowship exploring the intersections of gender and global history. Beginning in the fall of 2015, this one-year in residence appointment carries a stipend of $45,000, plus benefits. The successful applicant must teach one course per semester and present one university-wide public lecture; all remaining time will be devoted to scholarly research and writing.

Candidates must complete all requirements for the PhD by 1 July 2015, or have received the PhD no earlier than the fall semester of 2011.

The search committee encourages candidates whose research explores the embodied histories of the global past, considering women as historical subjects as well as gender and sexuality as historical systems. We are especially interested in scholars who spatial framework transcends national borders to focus on the movement of gendered bodies in transnational arenas, whether through migration, trafficking, travel, imperial politics, slavery, or other processes of exchange. Please note that Binghamton is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer committed to diversity. Women, minorities, and members of underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply.

The postdoctoral fellow will join a vibrant community of scholars working on women, gender, and sexuality at Binghamton University, which has a long tradition of supporting scholarship in this field. In 1974, Binghamton’s history faculty created one of the first PhD programs in women’s history in the United States. Binghamton also houses the Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender and in 2010, became the editorial home of the award-winning Journal of Women’s History, the first journal devoted exclusively to the international field of women’s history. The JWH promotes comparative and transnational approaches to the history of gender, sexuality, and women’s experiences.

Continue reading

History versus literature: a ceasefire at last?

bookgunDoes it seem to you that in the past few years, we’ve reached a kind of rapprochement among historians and literary scholars?

The last time I had a long-term fellowship–which I’m embarrassed to admit was I was fifteen years ago already!–it seemed to me that there was a great deal of hostility between historians and literature scholars.  This was at the Newberry Library in the winter and spring of 1999, and I recall a number of not-very-helpful comments from literature people to historians along the lines of “you can’t say this!!!”  Similarly, there were rude interjections from historians, who would inform a literature scholar that “you can’t do that!!!”

I remember being lectured by an only-slightly-senior colleague in an English department about my reading of captivity narratives, and when I complained about what I heard as pretty unhelpful advice to another literary scholar, I was informed that I was “just being defensive.”  (And maybe I was.  But why was that?  Was it because I was being talked to like I wasn’t an expert in my own field and I hadn’t won a long-term fellowship on my merits?  Ya think???)  I remember the frustration of a literary scholar who was writing a book about representations and historical experiences of a particular subject in both colonial America and the modern (20th century) U.S., and was skipping the entire nineteenth century who was informed by historians at the Newberry Library a few years later that “you can’t do that.”

Clearly, the historians were disturbed by the implications of her argument for their sacred cow, Change Over Time, but as a literary scholar she doesn’t need to worry about that, just as I as a historian didn’t have to write my book like a literature scholar would. Continue reading

Tomorrowland is today! On fresh starts, feminist protest, and the citizens of Greater Shut-upistan

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It looks like I completely failed to blog a single word last week.  Once this blog starts to feel like another job, I’ll pull the plug, so in the meantime I’ll enjoy my off-line life when I will!  I hope you’re all having lovely winter breaks/holiday seasons/time away from the classroom/unstressful time with family and friends.

Two weeks ago, I sent my book off to begin its long and winding journey to eventual publication.  So now what do I do with the rest of my sabbatical?  I’ve got some fun ideas that I want to explore that have to do with women’s bodies, material culture, fashion, and citizenship in the Early U.S. Republic, and there are more sources at the Huntington Library than I can probably process in the next five and a half months.  But I can dream, can’t I?

While it may seem perverse, I hope that I don’t see any readers’ reports for at least a few months, because then I won’t feel obligated to respond to them and make a plan with an editor.  I want some time to dream and play, and to think about the second half of my scholarly career.  Tempus Fugit, my friends.  I’ve now written two books that several people told me I couldn’t write, shouldn’t write, and/or was stupid to write because everybody already knows that, nobody cares, and I should just stop talking about my ideas. Continue reading

A Very Special Christmas

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Christmas trees on the beach are A Thing here.

Because it’s 65 degrees and sunny I refuse to admit that Christmas is one week away.  The stress of the holidays just does not exist for me this year.  (This is also probably due to the fact that I’m not working my usual day job, and the fact that my book is off to the editor now, so this is a Very Special Christmas for me!)  For the past six weeks, I’ve been walking around Pasadena and San Marino thinking, “isn’t that cute?  They think it’s Christmas!”   Continue reading