MMLA 2012 and conference parlor invitations: RSVP

Last weekend I presented at the 54th Annual MMLA Conference in Cincinnati for the first time. I delivered a paper from my developing MA project in the Teaching Writing in College section, on a panel themed “(Re)Defining First Year Composition” – a variation of debt, the conference’s theme. A hearty thank you to Andre Buchenot for chairing the panel. I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss my work to a representative sample of “outside” folks. It was sort of novel to be the sole student (re)presenter from EMU.

lone student presenter

Spending the weekend with literature folk. I left with questions of disiplinarity and where/when/through what we converse and share ideas, especially having given a paper on conceptual borrowing and imagining through metaphor. Where are these inbetween spaces? Intermedias and intermediaries? Is the new Burkean parlor the conference venue – the hotel or convention center lobby and hallway? Or is this “unending conversation” metaphor unbegun? Sometimes I wonder, as I scan the faces that (don’t) populate the room. Not to crash the literature party, or be a party pooper, I will note feeling this way at 4C’s as well, and even more so not getting accepted to present at 4C’s next spring. Who is on (gets to be on) the conference guest list?

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

Is this parlor: a waiting room, an oil painting, a haunting echo in mahogany paneling, a members only clubhouse, a conversation in an elevator, a paperbound journal, a divided department, a history, a mythology, a snapshot, a missed connection?

répondez s’il vous plaît

Please, as notice of attending, or as regrets.

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2 thoughts on “MMLA 2012 and conference parlor invitations: RSVP

  1. I suppose today’s parlor is a network (Burke’s ghost winces, I’m sure, or at least his metaphor wobbles, at being insufficient so soon). And then, like houseplants, all networks are not equal in their thriving, in their ecological felicity.

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