What are the pros and cons of trying to become an English professor in Toronto for a fiction writer (and how feasible is it)?
posted by skwt to Work & Money (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
—I'm 28 years old, between my 1st and 2nd year of a 3-4 year MFA in creative writing in Alabama. I will be either 30 or 31 when I finish.
—I'm from Kingston ON and have spent the majority of the time between the ages of 18 and 27 in Toronto. I went to the University of Toronto for undergrad. Pretty much all my friends live in Toronto. My network is here (I'm back for the summer). I like it here a lot and I would like to settle down here eventually. The 3 years between ages 18-27 that I didn't live in Toronto I spent traveling all over the world, and, between those experiences and my current experience in Alabama, I feel like I've had enough of moving around and would like to settle down in Toronto—ideally, as soon as I'm done my MFA.
—my main ambition/interest is writing fiction, but I'm aware the odds are against me making a living off that (ever) and basically non-existent 2-3 years from now. And I've been reading things that suggest that the "don't do a humanities PhD" meme that's been going around applies only the the US and not Canada, and furthermore that an associate professor in the humanities in Canada makes something like $110-130K/year.
Which leads us to:
—If I was going to try to become a prof and so do a PhD, I'd like to do it in Toronto, which I think would mean either at UofT, York, or Ryerson (or Humber? or George Brown?) although I know a guy who's doing a PhD at Western but lives in Toronto, so perhaps something like that would be possible. McMaster or Waterloo might be okay.
—My undergrad grades aren't amazing, and my transcript looks kind of weird: in my 3rd year I did sort of poorly and then dropped out, and came back to finish the degree a couple years later. My marks when I came back are good and in English in particular are all As. My GRE scores, which I wrote to apply to American colleges, on the other hand, are very high, but googling seems to indicate Canadian universities only care about GRE scores for international students. My grades at the University of Alabama are very good, so far.
—Unlike some fiction writers, I like theory a lot and am good at it. I have a solid background in philosophy and (mostly pretty untheoretical) English from undergrad, and am getting I think a decent grounding in more theoretical kinds of English classes (narratology/cultural studies) at grad school. Although I'm learning this stuff in the US and so it's US-focused, I read Canadian lit studies stuff on my own time. I'm not sure what I would potentially like to focus on if I did a PhD, and I know (or assume) you don't necessarily have to specifically Canadian focus just because you're studying/teaching English in Canada, but I do happen to have an interest in Canadian writing and the Canadianness of Canadian writing, so I figure that can only be a good thing.
—However, as I said, writing fiction is my main interest/ambition. I have no particular ambition to be a great critic, and, although I think I'd be good at it (one professor last semester said I should try to publish the essay I submitted to that class), I'm worried it would consume all my time and energy and leave me with no time/energy to write fiction. HOWEVER, any other job may (and in fact has in my own past experience) eaten up my time/energy just as much, possibly even moreso. Part of what attracts me to the idea of being a professor is the possibility that it may be one of the least draining jobs I could get; I'd also probably enjoy it more than almost any other job; and it would keep me in the world of people who care about books and writing, which I'm finding, down in Alabama, to be a good thing for my writing.
1. Do you know what the job market is like for English professors in Toronto?
2. What about other academic fields that aren't "English" but are related? The York Centre for Culture & Communication comes to mind. Job prospects going that route?
3. How difficult would it be for me to get into a PhD program at UofT or York, my grades being what they are? (3.27 CGPA in undergrad, I believe; let's assume for the sake of argument straight As throughout my MFA.)
4. How is the funding for English PhD students in Toronto/Canada? How is it in the US?
5. If I could get into a (prestigous? non-prestigious?) American PhD program, would that help me get a job in Toronto (/Canada?), or would I be seen as not having the relevant CanLit knowledge to teach English in Canada? (Or, conversely, how bad of an idea would it be to go to a US school if that was the only way I could get funding?)
6. If I decided I wanted to try to do this, are there things I should be doing in the next 2-3 years, while I'm finishing my MFA, that would better prepare/qualify me for this career path? The faculty at Alabama have already said "try to take as many literature [as opposed to workshop] classes as possible and get good grades in them."
7. Or.... bonus question, bypassing the PhD thing altogether, do you know what the job market is for teaching creative writing at the university level in Toronto, something I could presumably do with just my MFA? (I assume much smaller, which is why I'm thinking about the whole PhD/English professor route.)
Oh, and when I'm done my MFA I will have at least 4 literature grad classes under my belt, probably more like 6 or 7, and will have taught ENG101 (intro composition), + probably 1 or more 200/300-level lit classes, + probably 1 or more 200/300-level creative writing classes.
I realize this is a somewhat obscure/hyperlocal+specialized question. Any help appreciated. Thanks.