January 7, 2013, 12:28 pm
Boston â€” The last MLA session I attended brought together several major themes of this year’s conference: technology, graduate education, and alternative careers. Paul Fyfe introduced the panelistsâ€”a mix of faculty and graduate studentsâ€”as â€śscholars who are actively creating the institutional conditions needed for any new curriculum to succeed.â€ť
Matthew Jockers, co-founder with Franco Moretti of theÂ Stanford Literary Lab, explained how the digital humanities had evolved organizationally from a desire to answer new kinds of research questions. For example, a normal graduate seminar might cover 10 novels; Jockers â€śassignedâ€ť more than a thousand novels to reimagine literary history on a different scale using what is now commonly called â€śdistant readingâ€ť as a complement to the more familiar practice of â€śclose reading.â€ť
According to the Literary Labâ€™s Web…
January 6, 2013, 12:26 pm
Boston â€” Michael BĂ©rubĂ©â€™s address at this year’s Modern Language Association convention was one of a handful of times that I felt some real solidarity in the profession against the exploitation of the majority of our students and colleagues.
Back in the 90s, BĂ©rubĂ© helped make it possible to talk about academeâ€™s labor practices through writings such as Higher Education Under Fire (1994) and The Employment of English (1997).Â I remember that BĂ©rubĂ© â€”along with Cary Nelson and Paul Lauterâ€”was prominent among a small group of faculty who gave moral support and leadership to graduate students, like me, who were questioning the legitimacy of an educational system that talked about â€śthe life of mindâ€ť while using its students to teach thousands of composition courses on the cheap.Â If we didnâ€™t like it, we were told that we could go look for jobs as Hollywood…
January 5, 2013, 11:14 am
Boston â€” The digital humanities continues to gain to prominence at the Modern Language Association, but it seems like it might be reaching the top of its growth curve.Â There was even some talk of what will happen after the â€śDH bubbleâ€ť bursts.Â Mark Sampleâ€™s annual list of DH-related sessions notes that there are 66 sessions this year, a slight increase over the 58 that were held last year (with 44 and 27 in the two previous years).Â Itâ€™s still only 8% of the total number of sessions, but the prominence of DH may owe a lot of its visibility to social media and the excited attention it has been given by regular media. At the same time, there seems to be a growing backlash against DH, right on schedule.
In â€śLiterature is Not Data: Against the Digital Humanities,â€ś Stephen Marche, writing in The Los Angeles Review of Books, attempts to place DH outside of the traditional …
January 4, 2013, 10:04 am
My younger self would be surprised that I look forward to the annual convention of the Modern Language Association.
When I started going to the MLA, I was a new graduate student and didnâ€™t know anyone. I wandered around the vast hotel (now mixed up in my memory with The Shining), attended sessions, and perused some booksâ€”I was learning a lot about the professionâ€”but said hardly a word to anyone during those four days; it seemed like there was no way to initiate conversation. Everyone was talking in an unfamiliar code.
The conference seemed hierarchical, too, and anxieties about the job marketâ€”and the severe cost of attending the eventâ€”only compounded what I remember calling â€śMLAlienation.â€ť I am sure one of the reasons I became engaged with the academic-labor movement toward the end of the 1990s was the desire to belong to a community within the MLA.
A lot has…