Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Looking for a new university...

56,000 Light-Years in Diameter, 60 Million Light-Years Distant
Jobs are available if you're willing to move...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Now that my contract position with Korea University is nearing its end, I've gone on the job market, which means undergoing interviews over this break, even on the day after Christmas -- and at a Christian university, at that! In England, that day's known as Boxing Day, in honor of St. Pugnacious, I suppose, so I expect to be a bit feisty.

Some people don't like interviews, but I enjoy them. I wouldn't say that I do especially well at them, for I'm the sort of individual who likes to ponder an uncomfortably long time before responding to a serious question -- and interviews are serious, right? -- so I might sit and think for ten whole seconds before I speak ... which tends to make folks a tiny bit nervous:
"Didn't he hear us?" they're thinking. "Or is he insane?"

"Of course I hear you!" I exclaim. "I can even hear your thoughts!"
That always gets some nervous smiles. I think that they're in awe of my prescience. But to return to my point ... I like interviews because for a brief time, I get to feel important. People are asking me earnest questions and actually listening to what I say.

Be honest, how often does that actually happen?

Anyway, because I'm again job-hunting, I'm casting my net broadly in the hope of netting several offers. So, I'm even returning to offprints of articles that I wrote years ago for religious studies in the probably vain hope that I'll land a position in that area.

So for your disinterest, here's a ten-year-old passage from my article "Society as Cosmos: Mary Douglas's Analysis of How Societies 'Naturalize' Themselves," which I wrote for Australian Folklore: A Yearly Journal in Folklore Studies (Journal No. 12, August 1997), reviewing the 1996 edition of Mary Douglas's Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology, which is a work on cultural anthropology, by the way, not some New Agey encounter with astrophysics:
A example of the clash of elaborated code with restricted code occurs in a passage from A. S. Byatt's novel Babel Tower, in which a middle-class intellectual Frederica Potter has married an upper-class, landed-gentry businessman Nigel Reiver. Their marriage is a linguistic failure:

"[Nigel] is not a verbal animal .... [W]hat he says ... is dictated by the glaze of language that slides over and obscures the surface of the world ..., a language ... quite sure [of] what certain things are, a man, a woman, a girl, a mother, a duty .... [Such l]anguage ... is for keeping things ... in their places." (A. S. Byatt, Babel Tower (Chatto and Windus, London: 1996), pp. 38-39)

Nigel speaks the restricted linguistic code characteristic of a 'positional' family (Douglas, p. 24), one in which the members have 'ascribed role categories' (Douglas, p. 24) that determine identity and duty:

"If ... [one] asks 'Why must I do this?' the answer is in terms of relative position. Because I said so (hierarchy). Because you're a boy (sex role). Because children always do (age status). Because you're the oldest (seniority)." (Douglas, p. 24)

Frederica, however, comes from a 'personal' family (Douglas, p. 27), one in which 'the autonomy and unique value of the individual' is emphasized (Douglas, p. 27). Thus Frederica's complaint at her ascribed role:

"'You can't see me, you've no idea who I am, I am someone, I was someone. I am someone, someone nobody ever sees anymore --'" (Byatt, p. 38)

Frederica no longer experiences herself as a unique individual with value of her own; instead, any value that she now has is due solely to her ascribed role.
I suspect that a lot of us Westerners working in Korea feel rather like foreign 'Fredericas' confronted by Korean 'Nigels,' for we generally come from 'personal' cultures emphasizing 'the autonomy and unique value of the individual,' whereas Korea is a 'positional' culture emphasizing 'ascribed role categories.'

But you're wondering what all this has to do with my search for a job teaching religious studies since the above passage sounds more like cultural anthropology applied to a critical analysis of literature. Briefly put, the larger article deals much more with religion than literature, and Mary Douglas is a big scholar in the field of comparative religion and the cultural analysis of religious systems, especially concerning things like the holy, the common, the impure, and the pure.

All of which are dear to my heartfelt yearning for learning...


At 7:07 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

Instead of seeing you as a juggler, I see you with a lute.

Is England the farthest away?

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Either way, I'm terribly Medieval...

England ... farthest away from where I now am?

Maybe. I'll have to check a globe and see if it's halfway around the world...

... and now back from checking. England's not so far if one flies over the arctic, but truly antipodal is southern Brazil (assuming that I want to remain a landlubber).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:24 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

Boxing Day is to do with giving boxes/gifts after Christmas. I thought (for years) it was to do with boxing because there was a lot of sport on television on this day and my father liked the boxing, but no. In the light of that, do not be too pugilistic, and i hope that you get a gift of a job after your interviews.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Eshuneutics, for the holiday wish for my success.

As for Boxing Day, I was pretending ignorance. I visited England for Christmas about 5 times in the early 90s and thus learned of Boxing Day and the various theories.

But I prefer my own St. Pugnacious...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:51 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, I just realized why you asked about England. I'm not undergoing an interview there, so my reference was misleading. I spent several Christmases in England and thus always think of Boxing Day in reflecting on December 26th.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:10 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

HJH, I didn't know where to put this comment, but since you mention KOREA in this post, I chose this place.

In the WSJ on December 22, 2006 (Page A12) there's an article, Concerted Front, that argues our problems dealing with North Korea stem from dealing with it as Stalinist/Communist rather than "race-based nationalism." I would love to have your thoughts on the issue. (The full online article requires a subscription.)

At 4:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CIV, the article looks interesting, but I don't have a subscription. You seem to have read the article, so you might be able to fill me in (or send it to me).

B. R. Myers -- whom I've never met though he teaches at Korea University (but at the other campus) -- is an interesting fellow. He knows Korean very well and is an expert on North Korea, among other things.

From the introduction alone, I'd say that his analysis is plausible, but I'd have to see the details to be sure, for I sometimes find myself disagreeing with some of the finer points in what he has to say.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:02 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Well, you don't exactly make your email address obvious. But I think I found one that works. We'll see if you get the article.

Your university really ought to buy you a subscription to the WSJ online, or allow you to access it through their library.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CIV, your email reached me. I'll take a look soon.

Through the library, I probably could access the WSJ, but I'm at home, where I don't know how to access the university site ... which is probably my own fault.

Jeffery Hodges

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