Post-MLA Wrap-Up

I’m still recovering from this week’s MLA convention here in DC. I think my panel went well enough, especially given the connections my co-panelists and I were able to make with each other. But the non-stop conference activity over the last four days, including frantically finishing my paper, has certainly caught up with me. And the strange non-time of conferences, of spending hours in window-less hotel conference rooms, has also wreaked havoc on my internal clock. Conference time paradoxically slow and fast, with entire days sweeping by quickly, but also incredibly slow, especially in those nervous minutes immediately before a job interview.

While I’m thinking about it, I do want to point to Inside Higher Ed’s coverage of the MLA, specifically their discussion of the MLA delegate assembly’s decision to pass a resloution opposing the two David Horowitz campaigns to pass legistaltion that would limit the academic freedom of professors.

The resolution is a slight alteration of the original proposal, which, according to IHE, described the Student Bill of Rights as promoting “the teaching of ‘conservative’ ideas that cannot win support through their own merit.” Several of the respondents to the article have complained that the passage provides evidence of left-wing cluelessness run rampant in English departments, but I do think the changed resolution shows that a more pragmatic position prevailed. Michael Bérubé is right to note the removed clause was “deeply problematic” because of the its assumptions Horowitz’s intentions.

Another problem is that the “consertavive ideas” clause re-establishes an us-against-them model that is both unproductive and misrepresentative. The false polarization of “left” and “right” can place limitations on thinking in the first place as people seek to identify with the model. But it’s also misrepresenttaive in that it assumes that all people of a certain category (or professional body) share the same beliefs and values. That being said, I think the removal of the clause illustrates that the MLA delegate assembly can work fairly well, as the more pragmatic and less problematic version of the proposal was affirmed.

I’m less pleased with the lack of a resolution supporting the striking graduate students at NYU, but I may save my comments on that topic for another post.

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