MLA Preview 2013

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again. Accuracy in Academia is off to cover the Modern Language Association’s annual convention. This is the largest gathering of English professors on the planet.

Thousands of professors will flock to Boston to hear about the very latest cutting edge courses. Among the presentations we are looking forward to are these:

  • “Hey, Girl: Replication, Signification, and the Radical Democracy of Memetic Theory.” (Maybe we’ll even find out what memetic theory is.);
  • “The Pleasure of Maps and the Anxiety of Influenza.” Compared to influenza, maps are a pleasure but we anticipate an academic discourse on it; and
  • “Empty Shells and the Undead Past: The Figure of the Zombie in Recent Literary-Critical Discourse.”

By the way, that’s only in one of the first panels.  It’s competing with many others including one that features a presentation on the “New Materialism at the Bottom of the Sea.” (Apparently Finding Nemo  and The Little Mermaid only scratched the surface.)  In turn, both of those panels may lose audience interest to one on Early American Sex that includes sections on:

  • “Intimations: Queer Subculture and Social Vision in the Antebellum Novel;”and
  •  “Joseph Smith in Love: Polygamy, Indigeneity, Sovereignty.”

To be fair, as you might expect Chaucer and Shakespeare are not in terribly short supply at the MLA, albeit frequently with a modern twist, e.g.,  “Dirty Chaucer,” and “Shakespeare and Selfhood: New Keywords.”  Nonetheless, literature enthusiasts might be perplexed by the inclusion of panels such as the one on Fantasizing Stardom with speeches on “The Emotional Life of Stardom: On- and Offscreen Intimacies,” and “The Stars Down Below.”

And that’s just the first hour of the first day. The conference stretches on for three more days so we’ll be in Beantown for a fortnight.  During that time, more than a thousand professors, adjuncts and graduate students will give addresses at 786 panels. We will catch as many as we can.

Choosing which ones to attend is a tricky undertaking with choices such as:

  • “Typewriters to Tweeters: Women, Aging, and Technological Literacy;”
  • “Hip Hop Archives;”
  • “Digital Griots;” and
  • “What Are Little Girls Made Of? Children’s Bodies and Digital Media as New Frontiers of Materialist Feminism.”

As well, there is the entire panel on Serial Television Across Boundaries:

  • “Space and the Open Serial: Form and Movement in Trollope’s Barchester Novels and Northern Exposure;”
  • The Singing Detective and the American Iterative;” and
  • “Haunted by Seriality: The Formal Uncanny of Mulholland Drive.”

And that’s just the first day.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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