• Just Visiting

    A blog by John Warner, author of the story collection Tough Day for the Army, and a novel, The Funny Man, on teaching, writing and never knowing when you're going to be asked to leave.


To "Quit Lit" or not to "Quit Lit." What Was the Question?

Thoughts on a tricky genre.

September 13, 2015

I’ve been thinking about quit lit, because haven’t we all?

I am generally agnostic about the genre. I do not object to its existence any more than I would object to any category of personal writing, and I’d be lying if I hadn’t occasionally indulged in the composition of a version of my own quit lit piece in my head over the years.

There’s a person or two I’d like to tell a thing or two, I tell ya!

If the purpose of quit lit is to shine a light on systemic problems in education with an eye towards remedying those problems and fostering solidarity among exploited labor, then you can even call me a fan.

That said, there are some characteristics of some of the “quit lit” writings I have sampled that strike me as counterproductive to those aims.

First, a disclaimer or two. These thoughts are personal and general. You can safely assume that I am not talking about some specific person or essay. If you think the shoe fits, feel free to try it on, but that’s not my intent.

Second, with the use of “you,” please assume I’m talking to my future self about what I want to make sure my own hypothetical, probably never-to-exist quit lit essay seeks to communicate.

Third, this is not an attempt to silence[1] anyone who wants to add their voice to the world. I don’t have that power.

I don’t even want that power[2].

1. If your quit lit essay is the first and last time you have publicly voiced concerns about the systemic problems in academia, and you then promptly disappear from the discussion, you have written a “Pointless bitching” essay.

2. If your quit lit essay primarily tells the story of someone of relative privilege (tenured, accomplished, etc…) moving to a position of equal or greater privilege (consulting, start-up, comfortable retirement), you just wrote a “See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya” essay.

3. If your quit lit essay primarily discusses the unbearable politics, backbiting, and general petty behavior of academics, how you’re mad (or sad) as hell and you just can’t take it anymore, and we really need to do something about all this terrible stuff before the entire academic enterprise collapses, I can only say, welcome to the whole wide world. You just wrote an “I have a job,” essay.

4. If your quit lit essay laments how different academia is from the unfettered life of the mind and pursuit of knowledge that you were expecting prior to entering the tenure track, you wrote a “Why didn’t anyone tell me unicorns don’t exist?” essay.

5. If your quit lit essay fails to acknowledge that academic labor should see itself in solidarity with all labor, and that we aren’t insulated by our degrees or status, then I don’t believe you’re thinking all that deeply about the issues that confront everyone who works for a wage in this country. You wrote an “I’m whistling past the graveyard” essay.

6. And finally, if your quit lit essay focuses on how you can’t stand to spend another moment interacting with “lazy,” “unfocused,” or “unprepared” students, thank you for your service, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out[3].



[1] I do not use “quit lit” as an effort at “tone policing.” I use it as a descriptive term that is already in wide usage to signal the genre of writing I am discussing.

[2] At least not all the time.

[3] This will be my personal definitive proof that it’s probably past time to leave the party.


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