Summer goals — Or, Goal #1: Not to have goals

This summer two factors — namely, continuing to get a paycheck and not yet being on the tenure track — have combined to give me remarkable freedom. The only thing that I really have to do is develop the Global Christianity course, which will take significant work but won’t require the whole summer by a longshot. I am probably also reaching the point of diminishing returns when it comes to pre-tenure-track publishing, given the two books coming out next year. I do have a handful of article ideas that I could probably work up relatively quickly, and I would like to do one just to show, as my advisor says, that I haven’t retired.

For the most part, though, this is my first major opportunity to do concentrated reading since I finished my exams. I’m trying to let my interests guide me and so am not setting myself a strict list — but I do know that I want to do further research in Judaism, and for that I’m starting with a list of recommendations Bruce gave me when I was trying to figure out how to develop courses in the area. I’m hoping to go through some 2nd Temple stuff as well, as time allows, primarily the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

Aside from the global Christianity stuff, I’d also like to get into postcolonial theory (which will help for that course and for doing the feminist theology course again next year) and just generally “catch up” on things that I’ve been neglecting. This summer might actually see me engaging with Deleuze, for example, and I’ve also picked up a copy of the oft-mentioned Hegel Contra Sociology by Gillian Rose. The books that I currently have bookmarks in are Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism and The Messianic Idea in Judaism (the latter of which I put on hold until I finish the former, because nearly all the essays I have left are on Hasidism, which I didn’t know very much about) and Talal Asad’s Formations of the Secular.

I also want to work on my Greek, primarily by working my way through the authentic letters of Paul. I’ve done them roughly in reverse order of length, so at this point I’ve gone through 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon, and I’ve started 2 Corinthians. I’m hoping to go over all of them at least twice, and then perhaps I’ll start going through the rest of the NT, too. I already feel more confident on Greek from doing it nearly every day, but at some point I think I’ll need to go through a grammar again to really solidify everything.

So overall, viewed from a career perspective, I’m taking advantage of this limbo period to really solidify language skills and engage with new bodies of literature, which will provide a firmer foundation for future research and teaching. From a human perspective, I’m enjoying having a chance to just read.

7 thoughts on “Summer goals — Or, Goal #1: Not to have goals

  1. Adam, could you share for a continental European what it is that makes the difference between being on a tenure track, & being on a pre-tenure track (no hidden messages, I just try to understand).

  2. The three main types of academic employment here (other than fellowships) are adjunct work, contract work, and tenure-track. Adjuncts are hired on a class-by-class basis. Contract faculty are hired full-time for a given period — this is where I am. I initially had a one-year contract, and that’s been extended into next year as well.

    Neither adjuncts nor contract employees can normally be granted tenure, which is for practical purposes a guarantee of perpetual employment (i.e., it’s very difficult to fire a tenured professor, though not impossible). For that, you have to secure a tenure-track job, of which there are relatively few.

    When you do obtain such a job, there is a probationary period where you have to prove yourself worthy of tenure. The requirements differ among institutions — for instance, at Kalamazoo College, where I currently am, they lay considerable stress on teaching, but you’re also expected to publish a decent amount, as appropriate for your field. The probationary period is usually about five years, at the end of which you get a tenure review, when the institution makes the decision whether to grant tenure or not.

    So to explain the logic behind my activities this summer: Given that I’m not in a probationary period for tenure and given that I’ve already published a considerable amount, it makes sense for me to spend this time mostly doing things other than publishing, to make sure I’ll have enough publication ideas to meet the requirements if I do manage to find a tenure-track job.

  3. Asad’s book has been appearing in footnotes all over the place in my recent reading so I plan to pick it up tomorrow. I’ve also heard nothing but good things about Gillian Rose (a dear friend of Rowan Williams too) but have read her only minimally in “Mourning becomes the Law,” which I recommend if you haven’t read it.

  4. Hey Adam, thanks, that was enlightening. I am sorry I have given you occasion to sicken ben. So you have to announce that you want to go for tenure, it is not something that one comes around to you and says: “He, you should be tenured because we need you to keep up the good stuff.”

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