Thursday, January 8th, 2015...11:39 pm

Blogging #MLA15: Day One

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The 130th annual convention of the Modern Language Association began for me on a medieval-Renaissance note.

If Dante Alighieri were alive today, commercial air travel would be one of the storeys of Mount Purgatory. Not the Inferno, mind you, because no matter how awful the experience, it will eventually end.

My travel day started at 5:00 a.m. when I awoke to travel to Bradley Airport (serving Hartford) in plenty of time. I was very early; my plane (on a three leg itinerary from Hartford to DC, DC to San Franciso, and San Francisco to Vancouver) was very late. As a result, an agent at the gate, Tamme McCarthy, spent nearly half an hour with me trying to find alternatives (Hartford to Chicago, Chicago to Vancouver). She is the only good thing that I can say about United Airlines.

The only benefit to being stranded in O’Hare while United offered up excuses about “equipment” and “air traffic control” was that it gave me an opportunity to chat with two distinguished scholars in early-modern studies, Arthur Kinney (Thomas W. Copeland Professor of Literary History at UMass Amherst) and Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (Emeritus William R. Kenan, Jr. Research Professor of History and Literature and of English at Harvard).

When I finally arrived at my hotel in Vancouver and my head hit the pillow at 2 a.m. (5 a.m. for my body still on Eastern Standard Time), I realized that I have gone without sleep for 24 hours.

So I gave myself six hours sleep, and went down to breakfast, where I was joined by Nigel Smith (the William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature at Princeton), and our conversation ranged over ancient medicine, medieval devotional literature and mysticism, and seventeenth-century thought and politics.

My task for the morning was to set up in the MLA exhibit hall the booth for the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (for which I serve as secretary-treasurer) featuring sample copies of the journals of many of our member editors. A queer eye for the straight booth.

Later in the afternoon, members of the CELJ executive committee met to talk through our two sessions at this convention, as well as to discuss session topics for the convention in January 2016. Then in the evening at our awards ceremony celebrating distinction among journals and their editors, one was struck by the energy, the commitment to intellectual excellence, and the openness to innovation.

Dinner here in the hotel, and so to bed.



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