Since I began my editing job a little over a year ago, I have begun learning a little about a lot of history that I had previously never experienced. While my editing has included a variety of smaller projects as diverse as the interests of the institute’s fellows and recent alumni, my main area of responsibility is editing a new series on consumption history. Two volumes are under contract, and a third will be very soon, but I’ve been forcing myself to sit on my hands and not go into details here until things are actually published.
Meanwhile, I have begun to wonder how I might integrate what I’m learning about modern consumer societies into my teaching. Connections sometimes come up spontaneously in class, but maybe I could do something more meaningful. Well, in the past I have used Emile Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames (aka The Ladies’ Paradise), which I first encountered as a teaching assistant for Sandra Horvath-Peterson. And next fall I will use Uta Poiger’s Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany in a survey of modern Germany. But how could I approach the issue more systematically (when I am able to make some time for reflection)?
I enjoy teaching and doing research; however, as an adjunct professor, there is usually only ever time to do the former. There is honor in that, and teaching is fun, but this kind of life also entails serious pecuniary worries that are not conducive to the life of the mind that we academics so value. Thus, I was thinking about what I could do outside the university.
Now I have found one surprising answer. Pleasantly, I can continue working with historians, and, at the same time, I am able to combine history with another strand in my biography, working with English. And I can do these things in an environment where a lot of German is spoken, integrating yet another element of my life into my current position. I feel very fortunate to have begun working as an editor at the prestigious German Historical Institute (GHI) in Washington, DC, whose many activities include academic publishing. The job is officially only 30 hours per week, so I shall also continue to teach, but on a much reduced scale. Having the ability to continue doing so also makes me feel fortunate.
With this new employment situation, it is quite possible that I will be able to talk once again about a little research in my free time later this year, but that remains to be seen. First things first—doing good work for the GHI and doing justice to my students, of whom I have many, since I began another Western Civ. section before being offered the new position.