MLA ‘07: an unexpected rush

Chicago-town has strange weather. I got in on Thursday to a dry, near-freezing city very similar to Boston – but yesterday there was a wet-snow storm that was gorgeous, diagonal and swirling, out the huge hotel windows but left almost no snow on the ground. That’s lake effect for you.

I’m here for the annual convention of the Modern Language Association. MLA is an odd beast. With about ten thousand attendees a year, I’m pretty sure it’s the largest humanities conference in North America. (I’d be curious to find out that I’m wrong! If you know of a larger one, tell me.) It’s of necessity impersonal, and filled with stressed-out people interviewing for jobs, sitting in one committee meeting after another, taking every advantage of being in the same town as far-away colleagues to cram in as much geeking-out about their favorite geeky topics as they can, losing sleep in the process.

OK, that last part is true of any academic conference. But still, MLA isn’t generally thought of as an exactly enjoyable event.

This year, though, the organizers seem to have gone all out in promoting digital humanities sessions. The poster/demo session I was in, “Electronic Literature: Reading, Writing, Navigating,” was mentioned in the Winter 2007 newsletter – a big deal, considering the thing goes out to 30K members. The result was a rush: the hour-and-fifteen-minute session was packed with people, and I didn’t get to see my colleagues’ work until the very end because pesky people were coming up and being all interested in RolandHT (poster, 1MB, and teaching modules, 31K, both PDF files) .

I loved every minute, of course. The whole thing left me flyin’, feeling much like I do at Digital Humanities conferences. This was both unusual in the context of MLA, and a welcome respite from the past few months’ job search both in and out of academe. So, if you’re reading this and were there: thank you! If you have any further thoughts on the project, please comment here or email me, username vika at this domain.

I’ll post a few session notes later on. For now, breakfast.

One Response to “MLA ‘07: an unexpected rush”

  1. MLA ‘07: Friday (1 of 2) @ words’ end Says:

    […] Friday! Friday was a big day for electronic literature and the digital humanities (see this earlier post). A great session to go to was “New Reading Interfaces,” presided over by Rita Raley […]


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