Late Spring News

This will probably be my last post until August. First, some information about upcoming events:

  • The Collège de France is holding a two-day international colloquium, Philosopher au XIIe siècle, at the end of May (Paris, May 29-30, 2017).
  • There’s a conference on Knowledge as Assimilation, ranging over ancient and medieval material, co-sponsored by the Rationality in Perception group in Helsinki and the Representation and Reality group in Gothenberg (Helsinki, June 9-11, 2017).
  • The University of Bonn is holding a conference this summer, on “Time and Modality. Medieval and Contemporary Perspectives” (July 20-22, 2017). Immediately before the conference (July 17-19), they’re running a summer school in conjunction with themes from the conference. The application deadline for the summer school is May 31. Details on the summer school here.
  • The Thomas-Institut has sent out its call for papers for the 2018 Cologne Mediaevistentagung. The topic is The Library: Spaces of Thought and Knowledge Systems. The submission deadline is August 15, 2017. See details here.

Next, some information about people:

  • Nate Bulthius, a recent Cornell PhD, is interviewed at the APA blog, where he discusses in some detail his perspective on studying medieval philosophy.
  • Thomas Ward, currently at Loyola Marymount, is moving to Baylor University, starting this coming fall. With John Haldane already there, as well as Francis Beckwith, and with Tim O’Connor joining the department as well, this makes Baylor quite a prominent option for graduate study in medieval philosophy.

And then some links, both, as it happens, pertaining to Scotus:

  • Tobias Hoffmann’s very useful Scotus bibliography is now available here, where it continues to be updated.
  • Thomas Williams has just come out with an extensive collection of English translations of Scotus’s ethical work (OUP 2017). In addition to the book, there is a website, here. On the website, there are additional translations, links to some of Thomas’s papers, and a remarkable unpublished essay that makes the case for why the Vatican edition of Ordinatio III.26-40 is “so frequently bad that no responsible scholar can rely on it.”

Finally, jobs:

  • There’s a three-year postdoc position at the above-mentioned Helsinki project, Rationality in Perception: Transformations of Mind and Cognition 1250-1550. The application deadline is May 29, 2017. Details here.
  • There’s a two-year postdoc advertised in Munich, connected to the project Natur in politischen Ordnungsentwürfen: Antike, Mittelalter, Neuzeit. Quoting from the ad, “The central concern of the project is the medieval reaction to the ancient idea that God’s rulership to the universe is comparable to that between a political ruler and the state that s/he governs.” The application deadline is June 1, 2017. Details here.

Positions in Cologne and Munich

  • The Thomas-Institute is advertising a junior professorship in medieval philosophy, focused on the Latin history of science in the Middle Ages. The position is affiliated with the Averroes Edition project, and so requires expertise in text editing. The application deadline is April 25, 2017. Details here.
  • Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus is advertising a three-year PhD position, for a Latinist or Arabist. Application deadline is May 31, 2017. Details here.

New Postdoc, and Job Roundup

St. Andrews is now advertising a three-year postdoc on editions and translations of fourteenth-century logical texts. Details here. Application deadline is February 17.

Here too is a summary of the medieval positions that were listed on philjobs this past fall. This is for those readers who might like to have a summary report, but who were blissfully able to ignore the job market as it unfolded.

1. Sacred Heart University
Junior Faculty
AOS: Medieval or Early Modern
AOC: Open

2. Seattle University
Assistant Professorship
AOS: Medieval
AOC: Open

3. Seton Hall University
Assistant Professorship
AOS: Medieval or Ethics (but must be qualified to teach upper division medieval philosophy)
AOC: Feminist Philosophy

4. Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Old Dominion University
Islamic Studies – Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies (Tenure-track or similar)
AOS: Islamic Studies
AOC: Medival Philosophy/Philosophy of Religion

5. University of Southern Maine
Assistant Professor of Philosophy (Tenure-track or similar)
AOS: Philosophy of Religion, Comparative Religion
AOC: Medieval Philosophy, Islamic Philosophy, Asian Philosophy

6. Providence College
Assistant Professor (Tenure-track or similar)
AOS: Medieval Arabic Philosophy
AOC: Open

7. NUI Maynooth
Assistant Lecturer (Fixed term)
AOS: Medieval Philosophy, Logic, Philosophy of Religion
AOC: Moral and Political Philosophy

Job Market #3

My last guest post on this topic comes from Turner Nevitt, who received his PhD from Fordham in 2016 and is now an assistant professor at the University of San Diego.

My first year on the job market, while still ABD, I applied for about 30 tenure-track jobs. I got three first-round interviews, two on-campus interviews, and one job offer. That might seem like an encouraging thought: it only takes one job offer to have a career in philosophy. But the reality is that most people on the job market nowadays will never get a job offer. Philosophers my age (millennials) should consider themselves a lost generation: most of them will not get academic employment. I did my best to accept this fact before I went on the market. I spent years resigning myself to the very high likelihood that I would have to leave the profession.

Accepting that I likely wouldn’t get an academic job helped me to distance myself from my job search. While I continued to see philosophy as intrinsically valuable, I came to see a career in philosophy as merely instrumentally valuable—just one among many ways that I might find to support myself and my family. This instrumental view of the market enabled me to consider an important question: Under what conditions am I willing to stay in the profession? On reflection I realized that I was not willing to make my family wait for more than three years while I tried the market, I was not willing to move my family cross country from one visiting position to another, and I was not willing to teach a heavy load for meager pay at a community college.

This approach to the market affected my entire job search. I sent out fewer applications, spent less time tailoring them to the hiring institutions and departments, worried much less about my search, and was a lot less miserable than most people I knew looking for a job. If you’re going on the market, I encourage you to do the same. Accept that you likely won’t get an academic job, decide what you are and aren’t willing to do to stay in the profession, and then try your luck.

Luck: that’s what it takes to get an academic job in philosophy. Yes, you need a good cover letter. Yes, you need a strong CV. Yes, you need stellar teaching evaluations. Yes, you need an impressive writing sample. Yes, you need awesome letters of recommendation. But at the most those things will get you a few first-round interviews; they won’t get you a job. Yes, you need to present well in your interviews. Yes, you need an effective teaching demonstration. Yes, you need a brilliant job talk. Yes, you need to be a god among academic philosophers. But that still won’t get you a job. Olympus is over-crowded. There are just way too many highly qualified candidates for way too few jobs. That’s why we should stop thinking of a successful search in terms of faring well on the market, and start thinking of it in terms of being well on the market.

And the most important factor to being well on the market is relating well to your job search.   The second most important factor is relating well to other people during your search. While the support of friends and family is indispensable, being well on the market (and perhaps even faring well) has a lot to do with the culture among graduate students in your department.

I was fortunate to have an incredibly supportive community of fellow students looking for jobs, encouraged by an incredibly supportive jobs placement officer. We all met once a week to help each other prepare to go on the market. We shared ideas and resources about every aspect of the application process. We read each other’s job application documents (CVs, teaching statements, research statements, etc.). We watched each other’s teaching demonstrations and job talks. We practiced our three-minute dissertation spiel and our five-minute dissertation spiel. We reflected on the mock interviews we did with other faculty. We read each other’s works in progress, which we were all trying to get accepted for publication in time for the next jobs season. And so on.

I don’t know what I would have done without this community of support, and I don’t know how anyone survives the academic job market without one. If you’re going on the market, I suggest you find such a community. If there isn’t one already in place in your department, then form one yourself. If there aren’t enough students in your department, then go to other departments. The care of such a community can help to redeem even the most disappointing job searches. I hope your job search won’t end in disappointment. But if it does, I hope you’ll be able to look back and say that you did your best with the best of friends.

Job Market #1

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post a series of solicited guest posts on the job market in medieval philosophy. First up is Ashley Dressel, who received her PhD from the University of California Irvine in 2014 and is now an assistant professor at the College of St Scholastica.

It’s job market season: that most wonderful time of the year! The market is an unforgiving leviathan and this is not a post that claims to explain how to defeat it. Rather, it is a post wherein I reflect on my own experiences (three seasons back). Take from it what you will.

The basics: I applied for eleven positions while ABD. Advised not to do a full search at that stage, I targeted only tenure-track positions squarely in my areas of expertise (AOS Medieval with AOCs I could genuinely claim). I was contacted for four preliminary interviews and almost a fifth. In the latter case, the chair of a search committee asked if I could produce (in a short time span) more strong letters of rec from well-known medievalists – I did my best in the time given but was not equipped to adequately fulfill the request. I then had two phone interviews, one Skype, and one at the Eastern APA. Three led to fly-outs and the first two fly-outs led to job offers, both at small Catholic liberal arts institutions. I turned down the third fly-out (a controversial decision, I know) because it was clear to me that I would not choose that position. In the end, I chose a t-t position with a 3/3 load in Duluth, MN, and am inordinately glad to have done so.

What seemed to work:  In addition to the usual things (i.e. obtaining strong letters of rec, crafting a solid writing sample, constructing a massive teaching packet, and seeking robust feedback and advice), because I only applied to eleven jobs, I spent a near masochistic amount of time researching each department and school. This involved reading syllabi, looking at faculty members’ research, trying to determine if the institution was going through changes or challenges, trying to get a sense of each department’s ethos and pedagogy, etc. Wherever I thought I could connect aspects of my experience and interests to those of the hiring department or institution, I did so. I don’t know how much of a role all of this played in the success of the process, but since it was so time consuming, I prefer to believe it made all the difference 🙂 .

All three schools offering fly-outs were teaching-focused (precisely the sorts of institutions I secretly hoped to find myself at), and offered fewer research resources and much less funding than I was used to. Despite this, I did not downplay my interest in continued research in interviews. I just made sure to think ahead about the ways I might be able to do my work at that institution and ways to relate my work to my teaching. Of course, I brought plenty of teaching-related anecdotes as well, including ones about teaching situations I had faced poorly so I could explain what I had learned from the process. Finally, I tried to think ahead about how to talk with an interdisciplinary audience, as smaller institution search committees often include some non-philosophers.

Mistakes were made: Even when one is applying to only a few jobs, the market is time consuming. I expected that first job search to be a flop, and when it was not, I often neglected my dissertation to focus on the search. This is a source of great regret. While I completed in time, the last few months were a desperate, carpel-tunnel inducing, sprint to the finish line. I defected on commitments, weakened bridges I’d built, and created an unfair strain on all involved. I defended on a late July morning, packed that afternoon, and set off driving to Duluth the following day. Yes, I wound up in a job I love, but I still cannot express how strongly I would caution against allowing this to occur.

Aside from that failing, I’ll highlight one more clear mistake I made. My very first first-round interview was high stakes – an unlikely shot at a unique position at a stellar institution. The chair of the committee and I set a time for a pre-interview check-in, our first opportunity at real contact, and I failed to recognize that the time set needed to be adjusted for the time difference between our institutions (three hours). I received the call when I did not expect to and, in my panic, dropped my phone, answering the call with my leg on the way to Target. Add that first impression to very high nerves during the interview itself and, needless to say, I did not make it past the first round.

Concluding thoughts: While support and strategy helped immensely, I do not believe market success follows a pure and predictable formula. After being at my institution for a couple of years, I think I better understand that infuriating, ineffable, unspoken job requirement we hear so much about: “fit”. I fit at my current institution. My personality, academic priorities, the way I think and talk about my students and my work… they fit here in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. Some of these were surely apparent to members of the search committee during the interviews, and I don’t know what to say about this other than that I’m glad I didn’t misrepresent myself in those interactions. I feel very fortunate to have found myself in a place where, at least right now, I feel valued and at home.

Even when things are going uncommonly well, being on the market is awful. It was hard to enjoy even triumphs (‘I got an interview!’) through the dense fog of anxiety, relentless peacocking, and despair. If you are stuck in that fog presently, I hope that it lifts soon, and that when it does, you find yourself in a place and position where you “fit” and feel valued as well.

Job and Study Opportunities

Anyone looking for a job in medieval philosophy will know to check philjobs.org, and so I generally don’t bother to report on those (so far few) announcements here. But here are some things worth noting:

Post-Docs in Gothenburg

I’m coming out of summer hibernation for the sort of news that really matters: some very attractive postdocs that have just been posted by the Representation and Reality group in Gothenburg. There are four positions, two in Latin and two in Arabic.  Note that the deadline for application is June 15. Links to the descriptions of all four positions can be found here.