Yesterday on the plane I got to play the fun game: Who's going to MLA? Woman across the aisle from me reading Michel Houellebecq in French? Check. Guy in front of me in Ray-Bans with a word-find puzzle book? No. Tall guy from in skinny jeans and carrying a black bag? Could go either way...but when I saw him walk right past the ticket machines at the BART station, I concluded that he was a local.
It's Sunday, and I had my first two interviews this morning (the next two are tomorrow, also in the morning. I like this whole afternoons-free thing). The first one was The Big Scary; I was really glad to get it out of the way early, but given how much more together I felt in the second interview, I'm not sure that that was the most rational sequence. Essentially, though, I feel as if I've spent the morning re-defending my dissertation, only to much less sympathetic audiences than my actual committee. It's funny--the first year that I was on the market, every question was about teaching. Because, you know, I hadn't like taught anything. Now, when I have plenty to say about teaching, nobody wants to hear about it. Go figure.
I'm not going to say anything about how I think that the interviews went, because I know that that's futile. (Besides, in my pre-academia days, it seemed like every interview that went well went nowhere, while the ones I thought I'd bombed turned into jobs, so I'm not sure how valuable post-mortems are.) It was kind of nice to have people ask me tough questions about my work, however--even though I'm not sure how well I answered all of them. I miss feeling institutionally supported as a scholar, I think.
Another thing that's striking me about this round is how much better I am in the interviews than I was in my first year. I thought that I did well in my interviews my first time out, but looking back, I was vague and spoke in abstractions and didn't get very many follow-up questions. Last year, which is for some reason really hazy in my memory, was definitely better--but I hadn't taught a medieval lit course yet and my "future research" project was totally inchoate (and virtually indistinguishable from my diss). This year, I think that I'm being a lot more specific and concrete in my answers to questions, and I also feel relatively composed. None of this might mean a damn thing if I slip up and say something unreflected and stupid (which I think that I did in Big Scary--OK! No post-mortems!), but at least I have a better sense of what it means to be faculty than I did in the first year. Or the second, even.
Nonetheless, I am not loving the MLA, as I never have loved the MLA. I'm insecure about my lame-ass institution; I can't find anyone I know (nor did I do a remotely good job of setting up fun reunions, other than joining in on tomorrow's meet-up--my roommate, who was my social link to my grad school, bailed at the last minute); and, while I just had a nice lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in years, I'm likely to be eating most meals alone. Much as I love conferences--and I do!--they always make me feel kind of lonely and unsure of myself. And unpopular! Most of all unpopular. Maybe if I had some hipster glasses...?