my last academic conference

Last year I went to the Northeast MLA conference in Montreal and was utterly bored by all the panels i attended.  With the exception of my fellow Anais Nin colleagues’ work, every paper i heard was uptight, taut like skin that hadn’t yet adjusted from a new facelift.

or something.

the point is, it was excruciating.

each sentence the presenters spoke was like a string of autoerotic spasms that left the audience catatonic, drenched in academic ejaculate.  or maybe more accurately, as if each presenter was picking his own boogers and then analyzing their shape and color for us.

so i proposed a panel for the following NeMLA convention: Experiments in Hybrid Essay.

and here i am a year later in new brunswick, NJ.  we just got done with our session.  it was very refreshing!  people are hungry for new forms.  it’s only the old and stodgy, pessimistic and politically straight that think hybrid forms are so radical and incomprehensible, inappropriate, and incongruous with “serious” academic work.

each of the presenters on the panel delivered beautifully-written, potent and powerful pieces.  smart, solid, and filled with nuance.

last night, at the conference’s opening event, i got the feeling that i didn’t belong–everyone dressed in suits, straight-looking, older… when anyone dared to look at me, it was with a discriminating (in both senses of the word) eye.

but today i am happy to report that i’m relieved by the turnout.  the crowd today is peppered with a small handful of queerish-looking women with complex fashion senses, dyke-tastic struts, and brave haircuts.

but academic conferences always make me feel like i’ve landed on another planet (a feeling i’m getting used to with all the moving around i’ve been doing)– these conferences are really alienating.

here’s the question of the day: why don’t queers talk to each other in straight places??  you’d think we’d be more eager to find and befriend fellow homos.  but no.  we don’t even give each other knowing nods.  i’ll bet they feel alienated, too.  maybe they will be at the “LGBT Caucus” tomorrow.  then it will be safer to meet.

i still want to teach, but this conference world is no longer enticing to me.  when asked what school i’m going to or teaching at, i take pride in saying that i am not attached to any institution.


About thedoubleequal

TheDoubleEqual is interested in Anais Nin, Smut and subtext, Queer literature, Intersections of oppression, Jewish communities, Memoir, Poetry, All art, Subways, and Violent spiritual awakenings. View all posts by thedoubleequal

3 responses to “my last academic conference

  • Michael Faris

    This is why I like rhetoric and composition over lit: there’s a lot more play and less formality. I’m at Cccc in Atlanta right now and it’s wonderful. I hope you met queers at the caucus! Miss you!

    • thedoubleequal

      it’s good to know that academics isn’t comprised entirely of drones. what do you think it is about rhet comp that encourages innovation more than lit?
      glad you’re having a good conference!

  • Michael J. Faris

    This is how I explained the lit/composition conference difference to someone: MLA developed because a bunch of men had huge egos. CCCC developed because writing teachers needed support from each other. Perhaps this is unfair, but it’s useful for me in understanding the rigidity of MLA and the collaborative nature of CCCC.

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