Just a few more thoughts on the upcoming meeting, for a contrasting view. Young’uns, graduate students and Baby Docs alike, listen up: AMS national meetings ARE your party. Go hear papers, chat with people, go to your interviews, bring plenty of copies of your CVs and articles to distribute. Shoulders back, head high, friendly, professional smiles and positive attitudes in place, even unto late Saturday night. This is your field, and these are your playmates, and you don’t have time to get intimidated.
A child is getting on the merry-go-round. S/he puts one leg on, grabs one of the bars, kicks off on the ground repeatedly until s/he has, so to speak, enough lift-off to mount. That’s you—keep kicking off until you have enough momentum to get on! If you have any introverted tendencies, leave them at home. You are here to partake, to network, to exchange ideas, and to make connections. You are not here to get depressed, feel inferior, or get intimidated. Get intimidated on your own time. Instead, get your game face on and your tail on the field. If someone takes you out at second with a cheap slide or cuts you down with a chop-block—Phil’s post links my unhappy memory of one such—sod ’em. (Dr. Cameron from House: “I hate sports metaphors.”) Get up, dust yourself off, and plunge back into the academic/professional fray.
An observer tells me that she thinks that AMS-LA has the best program in years. Surely you can find something to attend, and think about? Is it fantastic? A model. Not so much? Maybe that’s reassuring for when you submit your proposal next year. This is your discipline; where do you fit?
Now, a few random reactions to “A Martian View of American Musicology.” I’ve never been in JAMS, though I’ve been rejected more than once and have served as outside reader a few times. I hope to get in some day, but won’t stew in bitterness if I don’t; JAMS has never been the only game in town. “Imperial,” as this little sheet has it? Puh-leeze. “Accessible only to heroes who can stretch arguments to unreadable lengths”? I see unfamiliar names there. Look, it’s a journal, with human editors and human readers…thus, no more or less flawed than any other journal. About the so-called divide between senior and junior scholars: I don’t think I ever thought like this. My father (a retired English professor) watched my early activities and archly opined that hot young’uns always have the advantage over “fusty old profs.” Yeah, I thought, but we’re not employed. Perhaps we were both right, since with employment comes…duties, and you can just forget those focused days of writing and research. So the dance proceeds. You get employed—somehow!—and accomplish some things, but grow ever more desperate to accomplish others, and . . . mercy, you’re a Full Professor already, and are expected to “take a leadership role” and “mentor junior faculty” and all that. Fair enough, I suppose, but one still fantasizes about serious time devoted to one’s own work. Did I miss the window? Maybe it will happen in retirement? Again: this is not a perfect system, but sullen resentment and anonymous sniping is not likely to help. My own work has never been fashionable (performance practices, not-particularly-political work on musical exoticism) but I found a publisher, journals, etc. Persistence did not hurt.
So: the Wagnerian assumption that the challenges you face are proof of a vast conspiracy aimed at solely at you is not a good thing. Pissy anti-academism, full of chimerical stereotypes, faux-high-minded resentment, and glib calls for “reform” from behind the cloak of anonymity, is likewise a non-starter. (N.B.: Of course, I don’t deny that many of us, at low points, have felt singled out—but as Phil pointed out, you get the job and things change.) I can’t recall having followed or seen “one-two professors surrounded by submissive students and hungry protégés,” but that didn’t spell my professional doom. Nor, in fact, did getting in a public shouting-match with someone in a prime-time paper slot when I did not yet have a tenure-track job. Moral: Just get on with it.
Then there’s the anonymous author’s smarmy envoy: “Be not afraid of change”? Oh, come on. Be not afraid of actually playing the game.
Personal note: It’s likely to be a bit crazy for me this year; we’re going en famille, and are among the many boat people staying in another hotel, fighting transportation issues, negotiating competing family commitments, etc. At least my paper will be over after the very first slot—bad in terms of crowd, good in terms of my state of mind for the rest of the meeting.
Wishing everyone a wonderful, fulfilling, invigorating meeting!