Happy New Year, everyone. Like a lot of people I know, I was not sorry to see the back of 2009, a year in which some very unpleasant things–personal, financial, global–occurred. There were good moments, too, which I try to remember to be grateful for–catastrophes narrowly avoided, for instance, and some fiction published.
Even though a new year is supposed to be a clean slate, a fresh start, there’s always some lingering business from the old year to wrap up. I finished the year, as I have for the last 5 years, at the Modern Language Association’s annual conference. The 2007 conference nearly broke my spirit. The 2008 confab, held in San Francisco, was better, even if I did blow out my knee climbing up Nob Hill in the wrong pair of shoes.
And the 2009 gathering, held in Philadelphia? The humanities job market gets gloomier all the time, but the meeting was a good one. Happy, even, in its hyper-theorized way. The official theme this year was translation, but the digital humanities made a robust showing. The unlikely star of the conference was a visiting assistant professor who couldn’t afford to attend in person but whose paper on contingent-faculty hell, read in absentia, rocked the academic Twittersphere and provoked a lively conversation that’s still going on, mostly on blogs now, a week after the conference ended. And Twitter itself, and the way it and other social media added layers of conviviality and interaction to the proceedings, added another story line to the narrative arc of the conference.
All in all, a good MLA, maybe even a very good one, and one that marked a turning point in scholarly communication, at least from where I stand. There won’t be an MLA meeting in 2010, because the conference is moving to January. Thank god. Something to look forward to next year.
Meanwhile, enjoy 2010, everybody. I hope it treats you and yours well.