Thursday, March 19, 2009


Well, I'm back, and with bad news, alas.

My application for promotion to Full Professor was turned down by the college committee at DePaul--and not just turned down, but soundly, firmly, grimly, unequivocally spanked. Not enough publishing in peer-reviewed venues, not enough leadership in committees and DePaul undertakings: come back, they said, when you've fixed those flaws, and you'll have a proper case.

Now, as you can imagine, I'm quite disappointed, and not a little humiliated. On the other hand, my hunch coming out of the interview was that things had gone awry, and everything the report ended up saying was something I'd feared that weekend. I had time, that is, to get used to this in advance.

The nice thing about missing out on a promotion, as opposed to tenure, is that nothing really changes. I still have my job, my benefits, my future in the profession. All my current projects will keep chugging along; if anything, they'll have a bit more steam. Had I known I was headed down the wrong path all these years, I'd have set some different priorities: less NEH work with teachers, fewer lesson plans online, more traditional publishing, more time in the trenches of some committee, etc. Clearly I'll have to set some of that aside until the promotion comes through, which is annoying, but there's plenty of time for it after.

After my son's Bar Mitzvah, two weeks ago, I had the odd feeling that something had come to a close, or maybe full circle. My father's death almost 8 years ago was keenly on my mind, and all the changes that came right after it, both personal and professional. (Four years of near total writer's block, for one thing.) This promotion was supposed to be based on the work I'd done in that time, and one message I take away from the no vote is that I took a bit of a detour back then, and it's time to get back on the main highway. I'm struck by how many new ideas for projects have popped into my head in the past 24 hours. Not new ones entirely, but spin-offs, expansions, and the like, of the sort I used to do quite routinely, just to be efficient. (In grad school, I never wrote a paper without submitting it somewhere, for example.)

If you're out there (and not many of you are), and you do work on modern / contemporary poetry, help a prof out. What recent articles or books would you recommend I look at to inspire me as I head back into the fray? (RECENT is the key word here. I'm always inspired by re-reading The Pound Era, but Hugh Kenner cuts no mustard nowadays. Need to relearn the idiom, as much as anything.

And, since one might as well have fun with such a moment, here's Chrissie Hynde with the song of the day. Wish me luck, folks, as I take what's coming to me.


Anonymous Soprano said...

I don't think I've commented here before, but I do read your blog, and I just want to say that I can commisurate with how crappy that "denied" feeling is -- but I am sure you'll find your way.

I am a little sad, though, that universities aren't embracing new technology and mediums, seeing them as important as traditional methods.

Laura Vivanco said...

I imagine that you've been putting mulch and compost round the roots of the tree of modern poetry, and you've been planting out the seedling of modern romance studies. They'll grow and flourish, and when they do, you can take some of their fruits to the committee and this time they'll be more impressed.

Some people just have faster-fruiting varieties of careers than others.

Gary Schmidt said...

Terribly sorry to hear about that, Eric. For what it's worth, I put in many richly deserved "good words" on your behalf. And I hope you know that all your work for NEH seminar participants does not go unappreciated. That might be cold comfort right now, but rest assured that your love of poetry (and contributions to others' love of it!) has made a significant impact.

E. M. Selinger said...

Thanks, Gary. The committee had fine words for my work as a teacher, but they didn't buy the argument that the NEH seminars should count as the equivalent of publication, or even as service to the University. They were teaching, and that was the end of it.

Given that response, it's unlikely that I'll do another seminar (after this summer's, I mean) until I get the promotion. I'm sorry to set them aside, but if they need to see peer-reviewed publications and committee leadership work, I'll need to set aside time for those, and that time will have to come from something they didn't value as highly. (I wish I didn't sound spiteful as I wrote that--I don't mean to be. I'm just trying to set new priorities, following their lead.)

E. M. Selinger said...

And thanks for responding, O Anonymous Soprano! I'll think of you as I blog now...good to know someone's out there (as I said in my last post).

Danielle Mari said...

Oh how very sad... and not a little absurd. I wonder if the University would communicate to its prospective students that it values number of publications over productive and valuable teaching in its faculty. I'm guessing that's not what the brochures say. I'm extremely sad to hear, though totally understand why, you have to set aside NEH seminars in order to dance the academia two-step.

For what it's worth- your seminars have completely changed and evolved my own teaching. My students love poetry now- whereas before my summer with you and the other teachers, they feared and hated it.