Academic Job archives

Jonathan Goodwin:

Around last year at this time, I became interested in what the archived editions of the MLA Job Information List could tell us about how the profession has changed over time. The MLA provided page-scans of all the JILs going back to 1965, and Jim Ridolfo used commercial OCR software to make them searchable. Once the documents were searchable, finding the first occurrence of various key words and graphing their frequency over time became feasible. One detail that became clear to me as I read each single issue of the JIL was that the formats differed enough to make graphs of relative frequencies somewhat misleading. Some of the editions are three times the size of others, and even normalizing over years doesn’t necessarily help here. So this image, for example, of the relative frequency of “shakespeare” in the JIL, needs additional interpretation: