Jon T. Coleman: Not Quite Bulletproof, Or How to Rise in Academia

Roundup: Talking About History

Jon T. Coleman is a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. His latest book, "Here Lies Hugh Glass: A Mountain Man, a Bear, and the Rise of the American Nation," is just out from Hill & Wang.

To rise in academe and reach the high ground where review committees stop questioning your record and deans quit pondering your trajectory, where students applaud when you close out the semester with your lecture on the War of 1812 and Stephen Colbert invites you on his Report to plug your book, one must cultivate an entry-level superpower.

Save your supersonic speed, your laser-beam eyeballs, and your ability to communicate with sea life for emergencies and holiday parties. Instead concentrate on blocking projectiles. To get a job, to surmount third-year review, to receive tenure, to advance to full professorship, to merit a Wikipedia page that you didn't write yourself, all you need to be is bulletproof. And if you want a Kevlar career, do as I say, not as I did. For while I excelled at thwarting some bullets, I had zero talent for dodging the countless shots I administered to myself.

As with most things scholastic, bulletproofing starts in print. In my field, two articles published in reputable history journals marks you as a hard-to-ding graduate student. Once employed, the progress of your book (based on your dissertation research) measures your indestructibility....

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