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Stephanie Insley Hershinow, 2012, English

I graduated from the English PhD program at JHU in 2012. I am a specialist in eighteenth-century British literature and the history and theory of the novel. As a graduate student, I went on the job market for two years, first a “trial run,” during which I sent out just a few applications, then a more comprehensive search the following year. Because my husband was also in the JHU English department (we had met during our previous MA program), we knew we would have to cast our nets widely in order to find compatible positions. I’ll leave Dave to tell his story in his own profile, but I’ll say that ultimately it took us eight years on the job market to find stable jobs in the same city. While my path can look quite straightforward, there have been plenty of paths-not-taken along the way.

In that second year on the market, I was offered a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis as well as a tenure track job at Baruch College, City University of New York. In that post-2008 moment, it truly felt like I had won the lottery; now, my good fortunate seems even harder to believe. The Baruch job had been a late listing, with a (then, quite rare) virtual interview, so I received the offers at nearly the same time. Fortunately, my colleagues at Baruch allowed me to take the postdoc before beginning my position. Because the postdoc could only be held with degree in hand, I had to quickly schedule a defense and complete a lot of writing in the late spring of 2012. During my postdoc, on “Form and Formalisms,” I reworked a lot of that hastily written material, while also placing a couple of chapters of my dissertation as journal articles. Working with colleagues in an interdisciplinary setting helped me rewrite much of my dissertation for a wider readership.

After my year at Rutgers, I started my job at Baruch, where I was granted tenure in 2020. I had never heard of Baruch when I applied for the job, but I’m now grateful that I found my way here. When I applied, I highlighted my work with non-humanities majors, suggesting that my experience with pre-med and engineering students would translate to the job of teaching the many business majors at Baruch. My immersion in expository writing was also a huge advantage, not only during the interview process but also in my early years on the job. I teach in my field, but I also cover an eclectic range of material, from first year writing to world literature, from Gilgamesh to Gurnah. I’m proud to work at a public school (I was a public school undergrad and a first generation college student), and I love my students. My department is supportive, and I’m grateful for my union.

Yet, in some ways, this isn’t the job I imagined for myself: I don’t advise graduate students, and I’m the only faculty member in my discipline in my department. I have wonderful colleagues, but I realized quickly that I’d need to find a group of scholars in my field to support my work toward the first book. Early on, I found the Columbia Seminar in Eighteenth-Century European Culture, an interdisciplinary group based at Columbia but drawing from scholars across NYC institutions. I became an active member and now co-chair the seminar, organizing talks from scholars around the world. Recently, I assumed the co-editor position at Digital Defoe: Studies in Defoe and His Contemporaries, an open-access journal I’m hoping to grow in scope and reach.

My scholarship centers on the early novel in English, but I credit my time at Hopkins for helping me to think outside of period boundaries and to ask questions that might have transhistorical answers. I published my first book, Born Yesterday: Inexperience and the Early Realist Novel,in 2019, having signed the contract when I was nine months pregnant with my first child. The book makes the case for an alternative theory of the novel ungrounded in the logic of the Bildungsroman. My work has usually shuttled between eighteenth-century studies and Romanticism, but it was a reader’s report for the manuscript that encouraged me to expand a short reference to Austen into a fuller reading of Emma. That reading (and, I’m guessing, my incessant tweeting about my book) caught the eye of an editor at W.W. Norton, who asked me to edit new editions of Emma and Sense and Sensibility, which will be out in the next couple of years. I’m currently at work on a second monograph, about legal and literary conceptions of personhood, which I’m calling “Personal Effects.”