Help Me, Gertrude

(With sincere apologies to Gertrude Stein.)

Position that is in wood. A research called philosophy shows shudders. In the job letter there is falling whereas the reference has no cut of all the fallings. It is not cheese except when it is and when it sleeps. To consider a lecture, a dissertation abstract, when it is cooked is so anxious, and not mildly, shows the force of application and a reason. A recommendation always inside a conundrum, meaning an embarassment, belongs to the deadline and the time that makes time of reference change visibly. Burnt abstract applies behind curriculum. A letter makes cheese for an eyesight casserole and an exchange. The instruction is to stop: there was not yet December for the sample and the hotel. There are not crashes beyond tape and food or the bar. When we talk we know that teaching is green for dentistry and nodding. There are flowers that are projects.

I’m on the market this year, so I’m suddenly extraordinarily self-conscious in my public prose, and Stein’s pushings at the boundaries of syntactic sense feel more apt than ever. And, yes, job season is why I’ve been so quiet lately. I’m a solid candidate, I hope — solid progress on the diss, great advisor, innovative research agenda, some pubs, lots of service and administrative stuff, good teaching cred — but when I try to talk about that in the job letter, I feel a little bit smarmy. Like I’m puffing up my chest and pasting on a big grin. When I asked my Imaginary Colleague about this, she smiled and called the job letter “an unfortunate genre,” and had a few more things to say about writing pedagogy and narrative theory.

Imagine my surprise. I’d thought that my Imaginary Colleague only did post-1945 American Fiction.

Help Me, Gertrude

2 thoughts on “Help Me, Gertrude

  • October 16, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    Well, be positive, but not puffy. There’s a difference between being positive and enthusiastic and being self-congratulatory . It is kind of artificial, though, in that good manners train us to use restraint and not be a blowhard. So, show that you know what you know.

  • October 17, 2005 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks. I know, and I’m not saying that the genre demands puffiness or self-congratulation — in fact, my Imaginary Colleague observes that your point about what good manners do is essentially what I seemed to be attempting to get across. And of course underneath there’s the coming-together of the demands of capital and the demands of affect in the rhetorical practice of genre (job letter or otherwise), as Bill’s excellent recent posts hint at.

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