Monday, January 12, 2015



Dissertation crunch time week, day 1: got my email inbox down to zero.


I attended, for the first and perhaps last time, the Modern Language Association convention last week. Everything they say about this enormous, bloated conference and the humanities scholars who attend it is true, I think. It's huge, and weird, and kind of full of itself. It was also pretty fun and I got some free books. Here's a rundown.

WEDNESDAY: The day before the conference began, I took part in something called the MLA Subconference. You can find a manifesto written by the organizers here; basically it is a kind of alternative/"underground" (probably the wrong word) conference for scholars in MLA fields (i.e., English departments and other humanities fields) who have an activist/labour-movement/anarchist/leftist bent. I don't know if I have any of those things, but I care about a lot of the same things they care about, so I was happy to be there. I presented on a project a classmate and I are doing on 'predatory' open access journals, which is a topic that needs a lot more scholarly attention. I hope to be able to share more of this work soon, but in the meantime there is a video of it here starting at about 17:30.

THURSDAY: I saw Suresh Canagarajah speak about his Translingual Practice book, which I have read parts of, so his talk wasn't really new to me, but it was nice to get some more insight into how writers deploy "non-standard" English in academic texts, particularly high-stakes ones. I also caught the tail end of a panel on "the future of the History of English" which was really interesting in that it showed how very traditional English language scholars (e.g. medievalists, or people who study Old English, or people who study very old texts in English, and so on) are dealing with the explosion of interest in world Englishes. It made me remember the history of English course I took in college fondly, and made me wonder if I'd ever be qualified to teach such a thing. (I don't know if I could!)

I also saw a great group of talks on using digital tools in the classroom -- presentations that mercifully did not follow the apparent MLA tradition of just standing up and reading an essay, which is just unbearably dull. There was one about "digital storytelling" that I found pretty overwhelming and cool at the same time. It made me think about the possibilities of multimodal/digital/social composition in, say, FYC.

The highlight of the day was dinner with my friends in the TESL writing group, along with Dr Canagarajah, who graciously agreed to meet with us. It's not a stretch to say that many young applied linguists -- particularly those who are NNESs or from outside North America -- see him as a kind of mentor, and our group is no different. He gave use some valuable advice on writing and publishing in our field. I also got to eat butter chicken poutine, which was totally worth it and I would do again.

FRIDAY: In the morning I went to a panel on "making room" for rhetoric and writing studies in the MLA. This was too much MLA inside baseball for me as someone who has been outside the world of English departments (and "English" as a discipline torn asunder by territorial fights between literature, creative writing, and composition, among others), though I did come away learning that the MLA is interested in publishing books on rhet/comp. My favorite session was probably the one on Students' Right to their Own Language (the famous 1974 CCCC/NCTE resolution) which got at some very interesting things regarding the history of Basic Writing scholarship, the place of multilingual comp pedagogies in pre-service composition teacher training, and the implementation -- if such a thing is possible, or desirable -- of SRTOL in the classroom. It seems like a resolution that was passed with good intentions but which is widely viewed with suspicion by teachers, and maybe even students!

SATURDAY: Saturday I had my first and only "MLA interview" -- the infamously nervous-making first-round job interview in a fancy hotel room -- I  went down to the Fairmont hotel and took the elevator up to the 6th floor where I had a preliminary interview for a tenure-track job. It went quite well, I thought, but I think I'll remain taciturn about it for now.


I'm setting aside this week to work, work, work on my dissertation and a few other things. If it goes well, I'll post an update on Friday. If not, I'll just slink away quietly...