Chiara Mengozzi

Department of Romance studies, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague

Name, department, and area of expertise.

My name is Chiara Mengozzi and I teach literary theory and Italian literature at the Department of Romance Studies (Faculty of Art, Charles University), where I also direct the doctoral seminar in English for all students enrolled in the romance literatures program. By training I am a comparatist, dealing with different literary traditions of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I deal with various topics, all transdisciplinary in nature, such as migrant writings, postcolonial literatures, the relationship between science and literature, the transformations of literatures and disciplinary relations at the age of climate crisis. I also serve as a president of Francophone research network OFFRES (Organisation francophone de formation et de recherche en sciences sociales) that annually organizes Summer universities on interdisciplinary topics for postgraduate students from more than 15 countries.

My story (what am I doing in the Czech Republic?).

I moved to the Czech Republic for family reasons in 2012, and while devoting myself to publishing my first book, I began studying the Czech language intensively (for a year, without interruption, I studied 5 hours a day, 5 days a week). I won in 2013 a position as an assistant professor specializing in French literature at the University of Hradec Kralove. For a part-time position that involved 9 hours of teaching per week, I earned 6000 crowns net. I can very honestly say that when I received my first paycheck I burst into tears. Despite the difficulties, I did not stop believing in this work; I always wanted to teach and do research. Therefore, I swallowed the salary toad and moved forward trying to prove myself as an international researcher and a passionate teacher. 

Are the salary conditions at the university decent and sufficient?

Decent and sufficient? No kidding, please. Working at the university demands an all-encompassing dedication.. There’s no respite: you prepare courses, teach, do research, write papers, proofread and evaluate other people’s papers, edit journal issues, answer countless emails, pass entrance and final exams for every course of study, organize conferences and summer schools, proofread dissertations, help your Ph.D. students become researchers, solve administrative problems, attend innumerable meetings. The physical and mental charge is enormous. To this we must add the preparation of international projects, which has become a vital necessity because without those our salary is not enough to buy food and support a family. Can you imagine another public sector job where employees are the ones who seek funding to conduct their own work? 

Is my career at risk?

Our careers are always at risk. Unless you secure a permanent contract, and at university you can get one long after you turn 40, not only are you precarious but you have to constantly prove yourself. That’s a lot of effort. It’s clear that this can also lead to a lot of satisfying fulfillments because studying and writing means always pushing your limits a little bit further. That’s why we keep doing this work.

Have I ever considered changing my place of work?

When you have a young child and a family, you can’t send out job applications worldwide in search of better opportunities, even though my CV frankly would allow me to do so. That said, no, I don’t want to change my workplace, I want Charles University to become a worthy place to work and where its employees are rewarded for the significant scientific contributions and positive societal impact they make…