Courtesy of the New York Times:
Every year more than 10,000 literature scholars gather at the end of December for the convention of the Modern Language Association, the 120th of which begins today in Philadelphia.
Past conventions have yielded papers with titles that were rife with bad puns, cute pop-culture references and an adolescent preoccupation with sex, from “Victorian Buggery” to “Bambi on Top” and the tragically hip “Judith Butler Got Me Tenure (but I Owe My Job to K. D. Lang): High Theory, Pop Culture, and Some Thoughts About the Role of Literature in Contemporary Queer Studies.”
The convention has become a holiday ritual for journalists, as routine as articles on the banning of Christmas crËches in public places, and every year a goodly number of those scholars tempt journalists to write articles, like this one, noting some of the wackier-sounding papers presented.
…What any of it has to do with teaching literature to America’s college students remains as vexing a question to some today as it was a decade ago. There is, in fact, something achingly 90’s about the whole affair. The association has come to resemble a hyperactive child who, having interrupted the grownups’ conversation by dancing on the coffee table, can’t be made to stop.
As I’ve written before, articles like this are fundamentally dishonest.
[Update: comments taking place at Crooked Timber]