Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Gillespie, Nick. "Who's Afraid of the MLA?" TCS DAILY December 27, 2007.
No academic conference draws more smirks and bitch-slaps than the annual Modern Language Association convention. Held every December 27-30, the MLA convention pulls together upwards of 10,000 literary scholars ranging in status from rock-star professors feeling the love of their intellectual acolytes to starving, hysterical grad students desperate for any position in a perennially tight job market. This year's meeting, which is taking place in Washington, D.C., features almost 800 panels and presentations, ranging from Tuesday's "Women and Devotional Writing in Early Middle English" (the first literature panel listed in a program as thick as a phone book) to Friday's finale, "Gypsies in European Literature, Culture, and the Arts." In between are meetings of groups devoted to Andre Gide, Margaret Fuller, William Carlos Williams, and seemingly every other author with more than a haiku to his name; endless job interviews in which those nervous grad students throw off more flop sweat than Thomas Jefferson contemplating a just god; and, not uncoincidentally, more cash bars than there are in heaven (or at least Brooklyn). Despite its preeminence within academic literary and cultural studies, the MLA convention is the Rodney Dangerfield of such confabs, getting little or no respect not just from right-wingers who reliably scoff at the unmistakable left-wing bent to the proceedings but from liberal mainstream media who eye the jargon-choked pronouncements of the professoriate with equal helpings of disdain, derision, and dismissiveness. . . . To read the rest of this article, go to http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=122705A; For part 2, go to http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=122805B; For part 3, go to http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=122905B.