Tuesday, January 8, 2013

MLA 2013

The Modern Languages Association annual convention in Boston this year featured lots of sessions about the digital humanities, scholarly communications, libraries and collections, book history, textual studies and editing, as well as the usual sessions focused on literary theories, thematics and histories. It was maybe one of the best conferences I have ever been to.

  • Loved the session on "The Literary Lab," even though it turned out to really be about DH center-type lab, not the laboratory as a paradigm for the classroom (which is why I went). 
  • A roundtable on "The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities" was the source of much subsequent debate. You can read a summary in the Chronicle here.
  • "The Digital Humanities and the Future of Scholarly Communication" included amazing talks by Matt Kirschenbaum, Cathy Davidson and Bethany Nowiskie; this panel was one of the special sessions related to the conference theme, "Avenues of Access."
  • Michael Berube's Presidential address focused on the precarious place of adjuncts in the profession and the dismal outlook for grad students.  He also talked about disability and disability studies.  All these topics were linked, again, to the "Avenues of Access"  theme.  It was quite moving, and the Q & A featured a lot of folks simply thanking him for shining the spotlight on these issues. 
  • Two good sessions sponsored by the discussion group Libraries and Research in Languages and Literature: a roundtable on "how many copies is enough" re: print collections and a provocative roundtable about joint degrees in library science and literature.
  •  A session that is going to help me with the Crane exhibition, on William Morris and late 19th century arts and crafts publishing.
My sessions were well-attended and I was pleased to get a lot of positive feedback.
  • First, for a panel called "Crossed Codes: Print Dreams of the Digital Age, Digital's Memory of the Age of Print," I gave a paper on extra-illustration largely based on materials at Garrett and the Peabody.  Looks like it will be published in Textual Cultures this fall.  
  • I also organized a "master class" session called "Two Tools for Student-Generated Digital Projects: WordPress and Omeka in the Classroom," in which two practiced user-teachers, Amanda French and George Williams, led hands-on instructional activities to a group of about 50 people new to these technologies.
 Gabrielle Dean