September 03, 2003

Don't Worry Be Happy?

Remember Margaret Marquis and Brent Shannon, the unemployed academic couple who claimed that it's all worth it? Here's a sample to refresh your memory:

Because we know that at the end of 300 pages, Darcy will still marry Elizabeth, and at the end of 200 pages, Pheoby will still be listening, yet we will have noticed an infinite number of things that we never noticed before. And that's worth years of education and thousands of dollars in student loans and no tenure-track jobs.

I wrote a blog entry about this couple's column in mid-July, in which I criticized their insistence on the nobility of poverty. Many readers tended to agree. And at least a couple of commenters also took exception to the couple's rather condescending treatment of their parents.

I'm happy to report that Margaret Marquis' mother has responded in a letter to the editor of the Chronicle (5 Sept. 2003; subscription required):

We're happy they got published in The Chronicle. Really. But, as Mother 1 (letting the cat out of the bag), I'll be even happier if Margaret Marquis and Brent Shannon, my daughter and son-in-law, will be able to find two academic positions at the same institution or at least in the same town ("We're Happy. Really.," The Review, July 18). Having been in higher education for almost 30 years, I am aware of the meager employment prospects in the humanities, and all too aware of the pittance earned by adjunct faculty members awaiting the ephemeral full-time position to materialize -- issues that my loved ones brush off far too cavalierly, in my opinion.

As I watch my TIAA-CREF account, I wonder if I will be able to support these two while they find the full-time, permanent positions that match their teaching interests...

Good for you, Linda Marquis (or should I say, Madam Chair of the Department of Accountancy?)*

*Linda Marquis' self-description.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at September 3, 2003 04:44 PM

"Support these two?" Obviously, I wasn't giving Margaret and Brent enough credit. They've managed to get their infinite noticing subsidized.

Posted by: ogged at September 3, 2003 06:16 PM

What a perfect follow-up to that piece!

Now, will the pie-eyed young academics respond in turn?

Posted by: Rana at September 3, 2003 09:59 PM

Ha! Do keep us posted on further developments.

Posted by: language hat at September 4, 2003 10:11 AM

This is just one of those perfect plot twists. Every single one of us really ought to have seen it coming, but as far as I can recall, none of us did.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at September 4, 2003 11:22 AM

While I suspected that these two were being supported either directly or indirectly by their parents, I'm amazed that
said parents continue to support them---despite the insulting tenor of the article (but then again, since being an academic
often requires one to become a martyr, perhaps the mother, an academic herself, sees her financing her feckless child as
part of her own martyrdom).

Posted by: Liz at September 9, 2003 03:52 PM

Just wanted to let you know that Brent and I really have been admiring the thoughtful comments about our Chronicle piece - you raise some very valid concerns. I would like to correct my mother's only misstatement in an otherwise accurate letter to the editor regarding our optimism - she has not supported either of us financially in any way since I was an undergraduate (although we would certainly be grateful if she had - then we wouldn't be paying off scads of student loans like every other graduate student out there).

Posted by: Margaret Marquis at November 10, 2003 01:23 AM

"I wonder if I will be able to support these two while they find the full-time, permanent positions that match their teaching interests..."

Margaret M.,
Perhaps it wasn't a misstatement on your mother's part, but a misreading on our part. That is, your mother doesn't actually say that she has been supporting you, but rather expresses concern that she may have to.

In any case, I hope your mother's concern proves unfounded and that you and your husband find teaching positions.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at November 13, 2003 11:06 AM