stealth trip to southern california

We are definitely switching broadband providers as today marks one full week without access and no answers to our calls of complaint. Dialup speeds, combined with end-of-semester grading, account for my light blogging of late.

Soon I’ll be heading to southern California (shhhh! don’t tell anyone), not really for the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, but because many of my friends and (it turns out) fellow bloggers will be there for the conference. In fact, I’m leaning towards skipping the conference altogether, although the book exhibit is always worth a look.

Meanwhile, as Matt and KF point out, there’s a tempest brewing over at Invisible Adjunct about a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that, as happens with tiresome frequency, pokes fun at panel and paper titles on the convention program.

I don’t feel all that worked up about the whole thing, although I understand why others are more upset. Here are my thoughts:

  • Making fun of panel and paper titles? Wow, that’s a pretty deep consideration of the work we do in the study of language and literature. Nosiree, not shallow at all.
  • Why not go to the annual meetings of more specialized groups in the discipline (scholars who work in the Renaissance, say, or humanities computing, or rhetoric) and see what kinds of papers are delivered there?
  • Draw some conclusions about the representative nature of that handful of papers you’ve focused on.

  • Why not look at large annual meetings of other academic/professional organizations and see what kinds of papers they give? What is it about the study of language and literature that attracts such attention in a way that engineering, religious studies, and psychology do not? Is it because everyone who can read assumes they ought to be able to understand what we do without any specialized training?
  • Why assume that scholars in our discipline need to work so hard to make people outside our discipline understand what we do, but assume that scholars in other disciplines should be let off the hook? Why assume that people outside our discipline should not have to work to understand what we do?
  • Why not write an article that takes into account the fact that the MLA meets in large North American cities every year (San Diego, New York, New Orleans, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Chicago), and that most of the attendees do not live in or spend significant amounts of time in large North American cities? Perhaps this has an effect on how they comport themselves, how much money they have to spend there, assumptions they’re making about their audience?

There’s an interesting article to be written about the MLA. I’ve yet to read it.

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