Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Self & Narrative

I've been trying to wrap my mind around Hall's Introduction in terms of my own academic self & its narrative journey over twenty-five years in the classroom. I've had some trouble doing this since I find Hall's style a little vaporous. I have also been reading the introductions you have all posted with great interest--what a range of academic experiences!--& trying to see how my narrative compares.

I will begin with a confession. Reading Hall & the posts here so far, I have come to see that my academic self has consistently sought security. That is, one of the values that has driven my career is the desire for security, both professional & economic. I stand in awe of people who have left secure positions to test themselves in new & uncertain circumstances. I will not go into the whole psychoanalytic song & dance about a working class background & strange family life, except to say that such things were obviously formative. That said, I pursued a crazy-ass route to security, deciding that I would devote my life to poetry. After a nine-year undergraduate career at the University of Washington, I applied to one graduate program: Iowa, considered the best at the time & still highly rated. I got in & prospered. I was not the most talented member of my class, but I was the most driven & enthusiastic.

I got my MFA in 1980, which was about the worst possible moment to be graduating into the ranks of those supposedly qualified to teach. I didn't really expect to teach immediately, though I had long thought of myself as a teacher.

Fast forward through a job as a journalist & several of adjunct gigs. My first book is published & I get an offer from my current school for a TT job teaching undergrads at a tech school. I take it, but keep applying for jobs. Two years into my new TT job, I am a finalist for a job in an MFA program in the Midwest. The Chair all but tells me I Have the job when he drives me to the airport after the interview. Except I don't get the job. I go back to being the one poet at a tech school get tenure & get promoted to full prof ahead of several colleagues who were already tenured associates when I arrived as a beginning assistant. But that failure to get the job teaching in a grad program has defined my academic self more than I like to think about.

Interestingly, another "failure," not being chosen to Chair my department, has resulted my making a complete reevaluation of my priorities & has led to a creative & intellectual explosion over the last few months.

I want to address several of Hall's ideas in more specific fashion, but I'll wait until tomorrow.