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Oct. 29th, 2012

A few jobs have "25 pages max" or the like in the ads for writing samples. My only non-co-authored article is too long. My options:

Send the piece of shit 20-pages-in-Word diss-chapter-excerpt that needs more work to even be a slightly organized snapshot of what I'm doing and which still might not be clear to non-medievalist readers?  I honestly don't know if I can make it *not* hurt my application in time to even use it, but there are good reasons to work on it that aren't directly related to a single job (mainly that I have been struggling to scrape together the money to eat and pay the rent and have not worked on my dissertation in about 6 weeks, I feel completely dead in the water, and I have lost both the thread and my taste for this entire endeavor and honestly feel like the last five years of my life have been a huge, fatal mistake from which I will never recover. Whether or not that's true, the resulting cessation of work on my diss is not good, and *anything* is better than not touching it right now. I do need to finish this stupid degree and to do that I have to get moving again).

Or send the PDF of my article that clocks in at 33 pages in journal formatting including endnotes/references? (I've been sending that with every app that doesn't specify a page limit.) It's 27 pages not counting endnotes. Will that get my app tossed, or do I have leeway because it's basically an electronic offprint from a journal?

Or send the more polished, unusual, slightly provocative, definitely more accessible but apparently divisive draft of the article that, in review, got one "hate it," (from a specialist in romance), one "definitely publishable but not for this journal," (from not-a-specialist in romance), and one "should not be published anywhere because the author relies on [published] critics who have a shallow understanding of the trajectory of french romance" (from I don't know who, but as he took issue with some of my translations, it must have been a specialist in Old French romance)? This is the Chretien de Troyes article. As a contribution to the field, it's worthless; that reviewer is actually right about the bedrock of the argument. Medievalists of a certain pedigree hate it (the last review, from a journal that's been around forever and is a bit more "traditional" than the first journal, was so harsh that I've shelved it and am not sending it anywhere else). It's an exercise, an imaginative flight. As an example of academic prose, it's passable but not my best. As a memorable piece that comes up in conversation later, it's a winner, even if the major claim doesn't stand up to the we-are-suspicious-of-theory-and-this-piece-is-an-example-of-why crowd - it makes a bold claim, it's unusual, and people always mention it later. I got mobbed at Leeds after I gave a talk on it (well, comparatively speaking, just a wee mob really - still, I was repeatedly approached about it).  It's also completely uncharacteristic of my current "we need to understand what this word meant" philological/semantic work (it was honestly a lark - an exercise in "using theory" in the sort of way that gets criticized a lot in medieval circles -- and I only sent it out to journals because I was encouraged to do so despite my misgivings, which have since been echoed back to me by reviewers. I have seen worse "theoretical flights" in print, but the "day" for that type of thing has passed, I think).

The dissertation sample is definitely the worst of the lot. Which by itself I guess makes me unemployable. Honestly, though, I make $8 an hour at a fucking part time job right now. I just don't have a lot of time I can afford to take away from clocked-in stuff (I am $500 shy of making my monthly rent which is due in four days), so i'm leaning towards sending the article offprint. I'm not a stronger candidate on paper this season than I was last season, anyway, and I haven't registered for MLA because I don't have the money. If I got an interview I don't know what I'd do. I can't get there, I can't register, and I would have to sleep on a park bench even if I managed to hitchhike to Boston.

ETA: And I still only have two letters of reference, lolz. My attitude has gone from "well, I'll do what I can and hope for the best" to "fuck this whole circus in the neck with a cactus."


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 29th, 2012 04:49 am (UTC)
Send the best work. Length, I always figure, is a guideline. If they don't like the work, the won't read it, no matter how many pages. If they do like it, they won't stop at some arbitrary number.

And should you do end up going to MLA, don't register. Last year, I discovered that replacement badges are $8. So when a friend wanted in to check it out, I just pocketed my badge, went to the desk, and bought an $8 replacement badge for my friend. Nobody looks at the names anyway. Just find someone willing to get a replacement badge. Hell, I'll do it.

I wish I had helpful suggestions on travel and rooms.
Oct. 29th, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
I agree. I would send the pub. Always send the best writing. They are not going to check page length then toss your app - or if they do? They'll be tossing it anyhow for the missing letter. Chances are excellent they won't though and you want your strongest writing in. I would not reformat it either.

Hell, I once sent in a teaching portfolio binder, completely un-requested by the college, and I got the job. So don't assume you can't push the envelope a bit.
Oct. 30th, 2012 12:09 am (UTC)
re. "always send the best writing" - I'm not sure it's quite that simple. See, this is def. the best scholarship. But it's not necessarily the best prose for this rhetorical context. It's dense, involves Latin and Aquinas, and has some passages that require very careful reading (in part due to my prose, in part due to the subject matter, in part due to places where the argument hinges on a latin translation - I'm not saying "it's too sophisticated for mere mortals," I'm just saying it is NOT what anybody wants to read when they have a big stack of other stuff to read. It is a very unfriendly piece in places - I had to reread paragraphs of it to follow my own argument when I reread it this summer, and I spent four years writing the damn thing. So I think, like any act of communication, it's a question of audience, purpose, and genre.

Unfortunately, I just don't have a lot of polished stuff to choose from that is the right length, so I have to make educated guesses and try to figure which imperfect option is the best given the parameters. If I had a stack of articles to read, I'd want to read something that grabbed me before page 5. Chretien does. Milton does not. So it's a choice between "engaging, bad argument" or "painful, good argument."

Also, this job does not want letters yet, but on the jobs that do, I'm sending last year's letter from that person and I'm going to fake horror about a document mixup if it comes up. Hopefully he'll have an updated letter before the season is over. If not, well, I did what I could with what I had control over, though it sure would be nice to not be going in on the back foot even with recommendations :/ Makes it all seem like a total waste of money - at best I'd be a marginal "maybe" and something like a dense writing sample or a late/outdated letter is going to knock me right off the pile of maybes. I don't know, man, this really seems totally hopeless, and it's like I got behind somewhere (probably somewhere in my 15th or 25th semester hour of language courses), and just cannot catch up now. It sucks.
Oct. 29th, 2012 06:39 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 30th, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
Honestly, I reread the article yesterday and I think I probably should send an easier piece, at least to the places unlikely to have an early modernist or medievalist on the search committee. The article is a hard slog. The other piece is a lot more engaging a lot earlier on. Too bad the argument is garbage :)
Oct. 29th, 2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
25 pages is not much for a writing sample. Can you edit two pages out of the Word version of your article and send that, noting that it was published in a slightly longer format in whichever journal?
Oct. 30th, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
Hahaha... no way. Well, maybe, if I had six months. It took me four years to get it down to 33 pages :-) If I were going to put that much time into it, I would be better off spending that time on the diss.
Oct. 29th, 2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
ME's job market guide says take the number of pgs excluding citations/footnotes and allow for +/- five in either direction. I have a 20 pg version and a 30 pp version (discounting endnotes/wks cited) and I send the 20p for 15-20 and the 30pp for the rest.

PS: More than happy to hook you up w/ replacement badge. Also, I don't know how much PDS $ I have left but my parents offered to cover the rest so you are more than welcome to stay in my room.

Edited at 2012-10-29 05:35 pm (UTC)
Oct. 30th, 2012 12:16 am (UTC)
That is very helpful, thanks (and again I wonder why there can't be a little more ME around in a few more places).

*Thank you.* I don't think my chances of an interview are very good, but I feel a little less "damned if I do" now :-) See, I think I have PDS money left over, at least a little - it's just that I don't have the money to book anything ahead of time and wait to get repaid. But if the GS doesn't balk at dealing with receipts that involve splitting rooms, then I could conceivably repay the cost of room share later. I just can't pay it up front :/
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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