MLA 2009

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.

For more on MLA09, see also: Amanda French on Twitter and the MLA, with Spinal Tap metaphors; Kathleen Fitzgerald's take on the whole experience; Mark Sample's archive and word cloud of MLA tweets.

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.)

5 Responses to “MLA 2009”

  1. Rosemary Feal says:

    If some people were baffled to see a librarian in attendance, others –especially those who have formed the new discussion group on library issues within the MLA– would rejoice. This is a growing interest group within the MLA.
    Rosemary Feal

  2. Amanda says:

    Oh, I’d heard about that group — there was a lot of discussion on it in the ACRL’s group for literature subject librarians — but I didn’t know it had officially formed yet. Good to know! I’ll keep an eye out for future panels related to it (though I still think I’ll save my travel dollars next winter).
    And thank you for all the tweets during the conference, by the way! It’s really refreshing to see the MLA taking notice of social media rather than dismissing it out of hand.

  3. For me, hanging out with a librarian in the book exhibit was a great highlight of my time at MLA. It’s nice to talk to awesome people, but also get perspective on what is going on in other related fields (especially given I have considered an MLS on and off for a few years).

  4. Amanda says:

    Thanks! It was nice talking with you, too, and it’s always cool to hear from other people who’ve thought about having a foot in both worlds. Though (re the MLS) I should probably issue the disclaimer that library jobs only look abundant when compared with faculty jobs in the humanities. (Then again, practically anything would!)

  5. Yep, I remember us talking about that at the book exhibit. I’m focusing more on the #alt-ac jobs right now in my search…