Monday, 01 January 2007

Notes from the MLA, Part I (X-posted from The Valve) Horace writes: Like many academic bloggers, I found myself sitting in the audience today for the packed “Meet the Bloggers” panel at MLA. I won’t grumble too much about how [the “Meet the Bloggers"] panel filled the room while my 8:30 panel drew only five of my own friends and colleagues. Horace can take comfort in the fact that only one other panel I’ve ever proposed has been accepted—and that conference was in Trieste. More to the point, I doubt so many people would’ve attended a panel on “Evolutionary Theory and Theories of Development in 19th Century Fiction.” “Meet the Bloggers” held up a mirror to a phenomenon, whereas my hypothetical panel would’ve only reflected my own narrow range of interests and attracted far less attention. Put another way, “The Press“ may have shown up for Sean McCann, Stephen Schryer and Andrew Hoberek’s panel on C. Wright Mills the New Class in post-WWII literary culture, but as McLemee noted in his most recent column: For some topics, 15 people is a lot. Just this morning, for example, I saw a blog post that started by asking, “What is the future of phenomenological geography, and why is this question even important?" The size of the audience is less important than the quality of the feedback you receive from it. An auditorium guarantees little. Not that I can complain about the quality of the feedback I’ve received, mind you, only the quantity. I’ve been stumbling into conversations about the panel for a couple of days now, but have yet to address half of what’s been said. (For the record, I’m perplexed by how few people are discussing John’s talk. He called for the radical transformation of the discipline and insulted everyone with an investment in the current system. Maybe that’s the problem. Calls for radical transformation and gratuitous insults seem so, what’s the word, perfunctory? Someone should spread the word: John’s weren’t.)

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