The Modern Language Association’s Job Information List (or JIL, as it’s referred to) came out last week. On a personal note, it was interesting and fun to read through the ads this year — a kind of giddy excitement like I had last year, only this year my giddiness is for my friends on the market (yes, jobs are few, but it’s still an exciting time) instead of my own, and my giddiness isn’t as dampened by anxiety of being on the market.
But! More interesting, a couple things about the JIL and job ads in general have provoked a bit of comment/controversy. The first is that some ads have explicitly stated they are looking for candidates with degrees granted after a certain year (they have since been revised), which many (myself included) consider discriminatory against those who earned their PhD years ago but have been adjuncts continually looking for tenure-track jobs yet still publishing, or who took time off to parent yet have still been productive and involved in the field. The second is that MLA seemed to have promised the JIL would be open and free (at least, that’s how their initial announcement was interpreted), but they really meant that the print version that comes out a couple times a year would be, not the initial, searchable list. The searchable list still requires MLA membership or departmental membership in the Association of Departments of English.
Which led to all sorts of responses. First, the techno-political, someone downloaded the ads and made an open-source option available.
Third, the longer ruminations and critiques: Dave Parry has a great post about the closed accessibility of the list, explaining that its closed status is clearly about making money and suggests that the MLA make the database open (and even an API so that others can use the data, in visualizations say). Alex Reid makes some excellent suggestions in a blog post about how the categories used in the JIL for searching don’t tell us a lot about the jobs available, and that a better way to categorize jobs is needed. Collin Brooke provides a critique of the database itself for its static job listings that could be re-imagined with metadata that make them more searchable and usable.
And Jim Ridolfo created this map of rhet/comp jobs and where they’re available in this world.
All (especially the blog posts) worth checking out.
Update: Tim Lockridge weighs in on the MLA job list, arguing that it’s not in the MLA’s best interest because other open-source distribution methods will arise that will reduce this revenue stream.