This article considers the all too common experience of precarious employment in higher education, but under a unique set of circumstances: a three-year postdoctoral fellowship and residency in a stately home in the English countryside. The author explains how she harnesses the pedagogical possibilities of her precarity by operating a policy of radical honesty with her students, both inside and outside of the classroom. As a Victorianist, she petitioned to teach texts, including Jane Eyre, that allowed her to explore contingent academic labor with her students and compare the plight of the nineteenth-century governess—poorly paid, forced to lead an itinerant existence, and subject to dismissal when she outlived her utility—to the conditions that many academics currently face. She invites her students to share their struggles, and for her part, she frankly shares the difficulties of being a precarious academic, in the hopes of creating a place of mutual understanding, support, and solidarity.

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