The Modern Language Association convention was a weirdly schizophrenic experience for me this year. On the one hand, I got in more happy reunions with friends (from both offline and online) than I've had in the whole rest of the year put together. There were cheesesteak expeditions with the perpetually awesome digital humanities crowd, and drinks with friends I hadn't seen since I left Ann Arbor, and gelato with more recent friends, and chance encounters with lots of old acquaintances. I went to a mixture of panels on digital humanities topics and panels on book history and textual studies, which turned out to be exactly the right mix for where my interests are now; I did go to a few panels on the early modern lyric, but that was more for old times' sake. Among the standout panels were "Links and Kinks in the Chain: Collaboration in the Digital Humanities" and "Book History Matters," both of which gave me a ton of food for thought.
On the other hand, there was the pervasive sense of gloom and doom. The dire news about job non-prospects in the humanities was on everyone's mind. The book exhibits felt smaller and fewer than usual. One of my Twitter friends, Brian Croxall, posted his MLA talk in absentia because he couldn't afford to attend in person — a talk that got picked up by both Bitch Ph.D. and the Chronicle of Higher Education. After a while I started feeling something akin to survivor's guilt: it felt wrong, in some weird way, to have gotten out but to be there in Philly happily schmoozing while things are so grim for so many.
I don't think I'll be at the next couple of MLAs, to be honest, unless I end up giving a paper, and there are other conferences I'd rather try for. It's good to keep up with the profession, especially now that I'm a literature subject librarian; but I don't see the schizophrenic weirdness going away any time soon, and I kept getting the impression that people were baffled to see a librarian in attendance. Sad but true.
And with that we return to your regularly scheduled poetry and operablogging. (I'm going to the Met's HD broadcast of Der Rosenkavalier next weekend! One of my favorite operas of all time! And I wish they were also broadcasting their production of Ariadne auf Naxos, because I have just discovered the wonder that is Sarah Connolly, who's in it as the Composer. We love the trouser mezzos here at chez Household Opera, yes we do.)