On the off-chance that any of the academics among you might want to throw in some thoughts on this, here's a copy of my draft. I know it's insanely long, but I can't figure out what to cut. I'm fretting lots about this, especially since last year, my letter/cv elicited no interest in interviews at all. Feedback would be good. But don't say anything too harsh about it, please -- I'm feeling tired and fragile today, and might just cry.
I'm sure that statement inspires confidence in my abilities as a professor. :-/
You can also download my C.V., if interested.
[search committee address]
October 27, 2004
I am applying for the position of __________ as advertised in the MLA job list. I will receive my Ph.D. in English Literature / Creative Writing from the University of Utah in December 2004. I have been awarded a Steffenson-Cannon Fellowship in the Humanities, a Neff Fellowship in English, the Scowcroft Prize in Fiction, and have published fiction in a variety of venues, including two forthcoming books from HarperCollins: Bodies in Motion (my dissertation collection, to be published July 2005) and The Arrangement (a connected novel, to be published July 2006).
My dissertation project combines my theoretical interest in post-colonial criticism with my literary/historical interests in South Asian and diaspora literature and culture. Bodies in Motion traces a family line from America back to Sri Lanka through four generations, to 1947, the year the British left, and then comes forward again to America through a different, related family line. In the process, the stories examine post-colonial and feminist concerns, particularly focusing on the difficult intersections of individual desire and social/familial duty. My primary academic interest is in post-colonial theory, though I am also strongly interested in Asian-American lit., modern American lit., queer theory, and the intersection of all of these structures with magical realist and fabulist narrative structures.
The strong literary and critical focus of my Ph.D. coursework and comprehensive exams, coupled with my creative dissertation (the novel), has prepared me to teach both creative writing workshops (fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction) and literature courses dealing with a variety of historical periods and theoretical approaches. The year I spent as an adjunct professor at the University of Utah before beginning my Ph.D. has also given me extensive experience with undergraduate composition and business/tech writing classes, including web design projects. In addition to my teaching at Utah (composition, business writing, intermediate creative writing), I have taught composition at two other institutions, and taught a variety of creative writing regional workshops from the beginner to advanced levels; I have recently received a one-semester appointment as a visiting professor in the Vermont College low-residency M.F.A. program, teaching fiction. While my primary interest is in teaching fiction, I would be particularly interested in developing new courses in Asian-American literature, the epic, creative non-fiction, publishing, media studies, magical realism, or speculative literature, and I would enjoy the opportunity to teach upper-level and/or graduate courses.
I would be pleased to submit a detailed statement of my teaching philosophy upon request; generally, I favor an intensive-writing approach, where the students prepare many short pieces and frequently collaborate and critique each others work; I find that the process of critiquing often teaches them as much, or more, as their original drafts do. I emphasize the value of revision, and I prefer to focus on larger structural issues earlier in the semester, saving the fine-tuning for later in the course. Overall, I strive for a transparent pedagogical approach; I find that the clearer I can be about my goals for an individual assignment, the more likely the students are to understand and achieve those goals. I am particularly interested in a multicultural, non-sexist approach.
My experience as a founding member and subsequent interim co-chair of the University of Utah Humanities Graduate Conference Committee has given me an opportunity to work closely with administrators, professors, and other graduate students to develop and produce an annual international interdisciplinary conference, supervising all aspects from fund-raising to materials design to academic paper selection and conference presentation. I am currently serving on the board of DesiLit (www.desilit.org), a new organization building support for South Asian and diaspora writers; we are planning Kriti, a three-day South Asian and diaspora literature festival in Chicago, for the fall of 2005. I am deeply committed to projects which bring literature to the broader reading public, and which offer writers the opportunity to further develop their work in the company of their peers. I would enjoy the opportunity to be involved in departmental committee service and program development.
Finally, I have professional editorial experience as the editor-in-chief for the Hugo-nominated online magazine, Strange Horizons. In the four years I served as editor-in-chief, I oversaw all aspects of publication, including fundraising, committee work, and weekly editing, both online and in print. As the founder of the magazine, in September 2000, I raised an initial $15,000 from individual donations, and the same amount each successive year, while supervising a staff of thirty-plus volunteers, serving an audience of over 5000 readers. My academic interests in speculative fiction and research involve currently serving as a referee for the journal Foundation; I also served as a juror for the 2002 Tiptree Award, given to works which expand our cultural concepts of gender. And since January 2004, I have served as Director of the Speculative Literature Foundation, an organization which works to promote literary quality in speculative fiction, through the use of grants, awards, and service programs.
[Chicago-specific paragraph:] Please note that I currently live in Chicago; my partner is a tenure-track professor in mathematics at the University of Illinois. I am planning on attending MLA, but would certainly be available for an in-person interview in Chicago if that would be more convenient.
Letters of recommendation are available upon request. Thank you for your time and attention; I look forward to hearing from you.
Mary Anne Mohanraj