The American Historical Association is pleased to announce that Jill Wharton, a Mellon postdoctoral fellow, has joined our staff for the 2017–18 academic year.
Wharton comes to the AHA from the University of Notre Dame’s “5+1 Fellowship” program. This initiative, funded in part by the Mellon Foundation, guarantees a postdoctoral appointment to candidates in Arts and Letters who finish their degree requirements in five years. While fellows usually serve on campus in a variety of teaching, editing, publishing, and administrative capacities, Wharton is the first to secure an appointment off campus in a position designed to prepare a visiting scholar for employment outside the academy.
Wharton’s interest in working with the AHA is an extension of both her central intellectual commitments and emergent professional preoccupation with how humanities scholars might structurally reimagine what comprises doctoral training—a process in which she identified the AHA to be a major player. “Far too often,” she says, “PhD earners have been advised to tacitly ignore the hiring crisis and persevere along the faculty track in the face of what we have, in our courtesy, called ‘overwhelming’ odds.”
Given that thousands of exceptionally talented scholars have by now tuned in and turned off the logic of professoriate-or-bust, Jill counts the “internship” dimension of Notre Dame’s 5+1 program as the front line for what can—and should be—a liberating process of discovering how to use a terminal degree differently. Knowing that a 10-month appointment would follow the completion of her dissertation was also, Wharton recalls, an excellent incentive to finish: “The fellowship allowed me to dedicate significant portions of my final doctoral year to intensive research, writing, and editing without the horror of a predictably dry run on a weak job market overshadowing those efforts.”
Wharton’s own intellectual formation has migrated between the fields of history and English literature for a decade, really from the earliest stage of her undergraduate education. As she worked through the process of constructing an archive for her dissertation, Wharton realized that reconstructing the perspectives of the mid-20th century Irish and American authors she studied along lines of class and regional distinction would provide the through-line of her work. Ultimately, focusing on how planter-modernists cultivated a politics of cultural triumph (out of societal defeat) pulled the aesthetic and political considerations of her writing together into a transatlantic literary mode.
While at the AHA, Wharton will, in part, assist Emily Swafford, AHA’s manager of academic affairs, and Dylan Ruediger, Career Diversity coordinator, in producing a substantial corpus of Career Diversity resources, including informational literature for both graduate students and faculty. She echoes Swafford and Ruediger’s key observation that such initiatives should be seen as profoundly integral to departmental culture. “The skills of communicating beyond the conventions of ‘academic English,’ or understanding how to employ statistical and digital literacy into your professional analyses while developing the intellectual assurance to move outside your area of expertise, are as crucial to forging careers outside the academy as they are consonant with the highest levels of faculty performance,” she says.
Wharton is delighted to be working on Capitol Hill and we welcome her to the AHA townhouse.