The Whole World is Watching

Due to bad scheduling on my part, I'm not able to make it to Chicago, as planned, to take part in John Holbo's session on e-publishing, also featuring blogging mega-stars Adam Kotsko and Scott Eric Kaufman. I'm already far behind on a couple of things and travel would make it worse. Even if I would get to hang out with the blogging mega-stars.

(How I do love that expression. As the saying goes: In the blogosphere, everyone is famous to fifteen people.)

The session is part of the conference of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, which is sometimes called the cultural right's counter-institutional equivalent of the MLA. I'm not really sure this description is valid at any level.

A few years ago, I signed up for the ALSC listserv to get a feel for whatever the group might be offering as an alternative to the MLA. I then spent months trying to get unsubscribed. This had nothing to do with politics.

Discussion on the list consisted solely of personal feuds with no substantial content whatever. It was an endless, lackidasical, and utterly pointless round of exchanges in a pissing match between two or three guys who might have wanted to blame their problems on Marxist-feminist deconstructive nihilism, at some point, but seemed to hate each other at least as much as they did those Marxist-feminist deconstructive nihilists.

I had signed up expecting something like the conversation you could imagine between Russell Kirk and Hugh Kenner about T.S Eliot. Instead, it was pretty much Beavis and Butthead for people who'd read Dante.

At that point, I started entertaining the idea of joining ALSC to form a radical caucus. We could hold sessions on Lenin's essays on Tolstoy, maybe. The idea that the MLA is full of left wingers is, from what I have seen of things, a joke, unless you confuse certain forms of etiquette and demeanor with politics. And the notion that ALSC is some kind of right-wing alternative to it is not much more credible, since it has no power and, worse, no real program.

The only thing the group has going in its favor is that it has somehow turned into an appendage of The Valve. Frankly that blog does more for ALSC than ALSC could ever do for it.

Man, do I wish I were in Chicago.

October 12, 2007 10:23 AM | | Comments (2)



The strangest thing about the ALSC is how little the panels differ from those of the MLA. At both places you can hear New Historicist readings of Shakespeare, you hear people worrying about the growth of creative writing programs, and you hear people grumbling about their colleagues.

The real difference is one of scale: the ALSC fit into one boutique-y hotel, while the MLA will sprawl over half of Chicago. Also, the ALSC crowd is noticably older than th MLA crowd, and somehow manages to be even whiter.

I'd once been warned that the ALSC was "a clear and present danger" to the academy. I wish all dangers we're warned about turned out to be so mild and tweedy.

That's interesting to know. Speaking of mild and tweedy, reports that MLA is dominated by people trying to out-hip Andrew Ross are greatly overstated. What I enjoy about MLA is that it may be the one week of the year during which I do not feel sartorially challenged.

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