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Changing Course
November 10, 2011 - 9:35pm

I tweeted this earlier, but so often major life (or in this case, career) decisions happen without fanfare in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday sitting alone in your office. The decision itself is seismic, but it was the little decisions, as well as the right timing, that lead to such an important shift. This may all seem a little hyperbolic (and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of such things), but much of my academic career has been either what I’ve understood as a “natural progression” or a direct response to an overwhelming need. Deciding to change directions is a pretty big deal.

When I decided to do my MA rather than get a job as a technical writer immediately after my BA, I was turning my back on what I thought I was going to be doing for the immediate future. But I knew what I was doing was the right thing. But from then on, I didn’t really give much thought to what I was doing, career-wise; I did what everyone expected me to do and mostly what everyone told me to do. I published, I went to conferences, I wrote a traditional dissertation, applied (and didn’t get) grants. And when it came time to find a job, I marketed myself as someone who could teach writing because I knew comparative Canadian literature wouldn’t get me a job.

Now, I’m where I was at the end of my BA, wondering what I should be doing next. I could keep going the way I have been, teaching writing, publishing my research in traditional ways, hoping someday that maybe I’ll get a tenure-track job. Because despite what I have written, I, too, hold out hope that I’ll receive that approbation of my peers through a tenure-track position. But if the comments I received in my two posts from this week tell me anything, it’s that that’s not going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

So now what?

I think about many of the professors and scholars that I read and admired throughout my graduate education. These men and women wrote about literature that was considered marginal (Canadian literature), in ways that disrupted traditional disciplinary boundaries (talking about French and English Canadian literature at the same time? And how they are translated? Or in radically feminist ways?), and all of the foundational work was done by people who had no “training” in Canadian (or Québécois) literature. Because of them, Canadian literature is a legitimate sub-field of study (well, at least in Canada). They worked to advance our knowledge and our understanding in an environment that didn’t value what they were reading, writing, and teaching.

Sound familiar?

This week, I sent off the last of ten articles I have written in the past year. More than half have already been accepted for publication. I spent all summer doing research and writing thanks to a grant. But, I am exhausted. No more submitting anything, not for a while. The book I am editing is slightly delayed because the author isn’t available for an interview until the New Year. So I have a little bit more time on my hands, and a lot less stress weighing down on me. My semester in winding down, the perfect time to reflect on what I want to do next semester. My peer-driven classes are going well, but I’m a little disappointed that we aren’t using more digital tools. Next academic year, I want to make sure that is an important component. But that means I have to learn the tools myself.

Which lead me to my epiphany: I’m going to work to become a digital humanist. I can see myself being that kind of academic, that kind of scholar. It makes sense to me and for the kinds of research I am interested in doing and how I can imagine sharing it. And, I’m not going to lie, it just looks like a lot of fun, the kind of intellectually challenging and yet creative and playful type of scholarship that I love. Plus, why learn all this cool stuff for teaching and then not use them myself or think critically about them?

I wrote a little less than a year ago what it felt like to be on the outside of the Digital Humanities looking in. It’s taken this long, but I’m done being on the outside looking in. As I announced on Twitter, 2012 will be dedicated to learning about Digital Humanities, and how I can re-imagine both my classroom and my research. As I have done with everything else since I’ve started blogging, I’ll be sharing my progress here, complete with observations, links, resources, failures, frustrations, and ultimately (hopefully) successes. Don’t worry, I’ll still write about all the stuff I’ve been writing about.

I asked on my old blog if I really wanted to change directions at this point in my career. The answer is most definitely yes. So if anyone has any (constructive) advice or wants to be a mentor, let me know in the comments or find me on Twitter

 

 

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