A while back my best friend Bob sent me an email in which he responded to a comment I made a few weeks back about always ending as the "professor" at the teaching jobs I've taken on. I was working on writing back to him finally, just now, but realized this could be a more general comment on the "state of Jared's life." So here goes…
Bob wrote the following:
I wonder whether your multi-lingual, bi-continental, bi-millennial career of being nicknamed “professor” means that you should actually become one? I know you have trepidations about how much backlogging you’d have to do to start a degree in a new field, but shit, if you got a doctorate in anything, you could probably market yourself to teach anything else, perhaps in some cool, alternative-type institution and/or exotic locale. I don’t know how many such places actually exist, but I do seem to detect a trend within academia away from specialization towards more interdisciplinary courses, majors, and so on. Not sure I really know what I’m talking about—perhaps I’m just unwittingly fantasizing about my own dream job.
He's right, of course. I should become a professor – I've always thought that's where I should be headed. But getting a PhD is not trivial – especially when one is as unfocused and vaguely dilettantish as I seem to be. Last fall, as part of my relocation back to Minnesota, I made an extended self-examination around the idea of returning to graduate school.
I audited a doctoral-level seminar with an old professor I really liked on the topic of good old Cervantes, who occupied the position of honor in my abandoned doctoral dissertation proposal when I was in the Spanish Lit program at the Univ of Pennsylvania. This audit experience merely confirmed the fact that, as much as I love Cervantes and the whole lit-crit game, it's not what I would want to do a PhD on at this point in time.
I had some interviews and conversations with another old professor at the U of MN, who had been my undergraduate advisor and is now attached to the Philosophy Department, wondering if I would do a program in that subject area. But as much as it attracts me, it's difficult for me to nail down what, exactly, I would do in the field of philosophy. I'm not really a philosopher as much as a philologist… but we just discarded the philology line in the previous paragraph.
How about linguistics? I could see doing this, sometimes. And certainly, that's the subject area that dovetails best with my current pursuits – teaching and learning language(s). In an aside, I had a fun moment in a class today, as I demonstrated for my terminally bored teenagers a few moments of my experience on their side of the hagwon divide (i.e. my Saturday Korean class): I did one of those back-and-forth dialogues, where I played both student (myself) and the teacher (my Korean language seonsaengnim), and demonstrated conclusively that I, too, could be profoundly clueless in the face incomprehensible linguistic input.
OK. No answers. Just thinking "out loud" here.
I'm having some ramyeon and boricha and listening to Minnesota Public Radio's morning show at eleven at night. More later.