Sunday, December 30, 2007


I'm back from MLA, trying to figure out how to unwind a bit (although blogging is clearly part of the strategy, no?). Willow and the kids are still with her brother on the west coast, so I've got a day or so to myself. There is a good bit to process from MLA, which overall was a lovely conference:
  • I haven't really blogged about the blogger meetup, except for on the comments at a couple of other places, but suffice it to say, I had a great time. Not only were there about 20 bloggers, some of whom I'd never had the pleasure of reading before, so it was also a way to learn about some great new blogs. But it was also nice to reconnect with the few folks I'd met before in real life, particularly Dr. Crazy and Flavia, whom I met last year. Flavia, Sisyphus and I were the last stragglers, rolling on until the wee hours talking about lord knows what (I might remember were it not for the many manhattans). There are so many great tings about meetups like these, names to faces and all, but I like particularly to be reminded that we're not just these sort of mythical professional personae, but we're also people who can usually carry on great conversations in person, whether about the profession or whatever else.
  • Interviews were good, and I have to say I love hearing about so many new ideas and books and approaches to teaching, and all that stuff. I really wish there were a better way to do this process, one that was less stressful for everyone involved, but it's hard to even imagine such a thing. Still, when the pressure is off (from this side of the table), it's a lovely experience, and just wish that there a way for candidates to really experience that. I know I never did, because of what was at stake in the performance, but there is joy to be experienced there.
  • Panels are such a crap shoot. You never know about the quality, or where you're going to find something interesting or useful. I found one panel I went to to see a friend do a talk to be extraordinarily stimulating, though I knew little about the subject, but the panel on drama that I hit right after was a disappointment. A grad student in our department was on a panel where he was the only grad student, but his paper was also the only one that had any polish to it, and struck me as the most interesting of the lot. The weirdness, the broadness of the conference has often left me intellectually cold, and then every once in a while a great talk will light me up like a christmas tree. I've begun to find that it's often better to go support someone you know give a talk over taking a risk on a panel for its content, since so often the content comes up short.
  • I'm beginning to like the idea of writing at conferences. I brought my laptop again, and worked on the paper that I had that flurry of inspiration at the last conference I was at, and I did a lot of good revision/ filling in holes where I had only left notes, etc. I am optimistic about the direction of the paper, though it still feels like kind of a one-off. Still, better writing than I've had at home lately, a good 5 or 6 hours of writing.
  • Hotel fitness centers suck.
  • For whatever reason, I found for the first time, my opportunities to eat alone to be really nice. With so much to process this conference, the down-time was nice. I think I'll always prefer the conviviality of a dinner with friends or colleagues, but I didn't dread the alternative this trip the way I often do.
  • Part of the reason I ate alone a few times was that at least two of the connections I'd hoped to make were de-railed because I gave out my home number instead of my mobile number. I checked messages at home last night, and realized (red-facedly) why everyone had been standing me up!
  • What a great city Chicago is. From the fron of my hotel, I could basically see the shot of the Marine Center (is that the name) that appears on the cover of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and around the corner was a chocolate shop/ cafe that took my daily mocha to amazing new heights. I was totally bummed when they were closed late on Saturday for me to pick up a box of truffles for Willow. But really, the combination of activity, big gorgeous architecture, but also wide avenues with plenty of air really made Chicago feel like a fantastic city. It was my first real visit to the downtown area, and I'm eager to find myself back there sometime soon.
OK, off to make myself a nice omelet for dinner, and then maybe an early bedtime.


Dr. Virago said...

You mean these Wilco buildings? I wonder how many other MLA attenders are also Wilco fans and how many of them, like me, simply refer to them as "the Wilco buildings."

And wish I hadn't had to drive back to the NW suburbs the night of the meet-up. I would've loved to have hung out until the wee hours with you, Flavia, and Sisyphus, whom I hardly said hello to, which I regret deeply. (You and Flavia were smarter than I -- you circulated.)

And can I just say again, I *loved* your tie and shirt combo, especially with that dark blue velvet blazer. I wish I could get Bullock into colors and textures like that.

Liz said...

The buildings are called 'Marina City,' I think they are mostly apartments and offices.

Sisyphus said...

Ditto on the excellence of that blue jacket!

It was great hanging out with you; Flavia and I will be able to blackmail you of course with all that you don't remember re. the Manhattans!

And I'm still totally impressed by the conference writing! I couldn't even take notes on the ideas I was getting during a panel without distracting myself.

JBJ said...

The chocolate shop/cafe was a nice touch--I think we ended up going at least twice.

jo(e) said...

Chicago is one of my favourite conference cities. I was tempted to go to the MLA this year just to hang out with bloggers, but the timing of the conference sucks for anyone with lots of family commitments.

Horace said...

Oy. Was it bad enough that blackmail could be involved? I shudder to think. But at least I was wearing the blue velvet (thanks for the compliments!).

As for Chicago, I'm totally looking for an opportunity to get back, hopefully with Willow, next time.