Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Academic jobs as arts jobs

Because I'm buried in essays and exams after spending my fall break cavorting in New England, I bring you someone else's thoughts on positioning oneself for an academic job. (Because hey: man and woman is one flesh, right?)

The most useful point, I think, is the central one: that these days tenure-track jobs are most analogous to arts jobs--which is to say, the odds of success are about as likely for recent PhDs as they are for aspiring actors, novelists, and concert pianists. That's not exactly a comforting comparison, but one that illuminates why the relationship between talent and success is so imperfect.


Brian W. Ogilvie said...

Some years ago, Timothy Burke described the academic job market as a "tournament economy": a few people will win and get great, cushy jobs like their grad school profs; some will wind up with acceptable jobs that bring satisfaction and enough money to pay the bills; and most will eke out a living or move on to something else. The arts are like that, too.

Flavia said...


Yes, that's right (and thanks for the link).

There's are the celebrities, the working actors, and the struggling actors (who either eventually break through to one of the other levels or who leave the profession--or just keep a hand in, like the locals who take on unpaid community theatre parts now and then).

undine said...

This analogy is so true, especially with your emendations above. It was the reason for my "A Chorus Line" hatred (which I even wrote about way long ago on the blog). This and the tournament analogy are becoming more and more apt.