Signifyin' at the MLA

Each December, several thousand literature professors pry themselves away from the comforts of home and flock to the annual convention of the Modern Language Association, held during the final week of the calendar year. It is a winter tradition -- not as ancient as Hanukkah or Christmas, but older, at least, than Festivus.

Reporters from the local press attend, then publish articles that invariably cite two or three outrageous titles of scholarly papers presented at the meeting.