Until I studied the poetry of William Blake, I always thought that it was obvious that he was referring to the terrible cotton mills of Northern England when he spoke of “those dark Satanic Mills”. I used to think it was ironic that we sang the hymn Jerusalem with such gusto at my Northern English secondary school (which was established by the wealth of Northern industrialists). But it’s a beautiful hymn; I love it. [In an aside, my iconoclastic mother and I have a fantasy of writing an exposé of the industrialist capitalist credentials of the founders of the school called Exposing the Founders. Heh heh heh!]
However, I later learned another theory about the “dark satanic mills”. Blake could have been referring to Oxford and Cambridge, as mills which turned out battalions of students who thought in a certain way (and did not think outside the square). I’m not going to get into a debate about the openmindedness or lack thereof in universities today (that’s a topic for another day). But I am going suggest that universities are also dark satanic mills in another sense, more akin to those nasty cotton mills: they treat young sessional employees with disdain and contempt.
I read an interesting blog post today, written by an English academic, about the way in which English universities treat their sessional staff. Sigh! Sometimes I fantasise about going back to the UK to study, but obviously I’d be in no better position there. And the weather would be terrible. At least I actually get paid in time here.
I still don’t know whether my contract for next year will be renewed or what my position is. The university is full of left-wing rhetoric: feminist ideals, treating people well in the workplace…you know the spiel. Well, that’s all very nice, but it’s all just so much hot air as far as I’m concerned. I am a intelligent hard-working woman, with a young child to look after. Prime candidate for a bit of feminist help and support, methinks? Nope. I’m sitting here in limbo, waiting for someone to have the decency to get back to me and indicate (a) if I will have a job next year and (b) what I will be teaching if I do have a job. Time for me to remind the university of their espoused ideals, I think (in the nicest possible way, of course, let’s not forget that I’m David to the university’s Goliath).