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The Politics of Sex at Academic Conferences

February 5, 2008

It’s been a while since I last checked in to The Well Wrought Urn.  There’s much to talk about in the land of academia, but since I’ve been away at a conference, and I have conferences on my mind, I thought I’d share a Call for Papers from this year’s MLA Convention in San Francisco.

Conference Sex.  Sex at the MLA? Practices of it, politics of it; its presences in LGBT discourse; how to theorize any or all of these together, apart; with, without queer studies.  Abstracts by 1 Mar.

Hmmm.  It looks like we’ve got an early front-runner for the “panel most likely to be mentioned in the New York Times’s annual satirical dismission of English studies” award.  (See Andrew Delbanco’s brilliant review essay, “The Decline and Fall of Literature” for more on this dubious award).

I’m getting started on my abstract right now.


From → Bad Writing

One Comment
  1. Lisa permalink

    Sean Morris and I chaired a 1999 panel that drew derisive attention from The New Republic for this reason. It started out as “Economies of Shit” until SAMLA asked us to soften the title. (Did they actually use the words “more genteel”? I can’t recall.) So it became “Economies of Excrement,” which, in addition to sounding more technical, has the advantage of alliteration. The panel was very good, actually, including Bruce Boehrer (from FSU), who’d been doing a lot of work on alimentary imagery in Shakespeare and Jonson. There was also a great paper on “Bastards of Dung: Flemish Excrement and the English Imaginaton” by Pete McCluskey, now at MTSU.

    I was in the POT office when a reporter from TNR called and asked, “Is this really happening?” The tone was some combination of “you can’t be serious,” “is this what English studies have come to?” and “please say this panel is still going foward” (likely because TNR wanted some fodder). At the time it freaked me out but now I just think it’s funny. Needless to day, when the article came out there was ample opportunity for us to exclaim indignantly, “Can you believe this shit?!” And so on. The irreverance was high with us.

    A part of me regrets adding fuel to the fire of the satirical dismissal of English studies, and a part of me just enjoys the freedom to put together a set of papers like that. It was a really good panel.

    Speaking of adding fuel to the fire, and of fodder, note that it before or around 2005, major news outlets elected to entitle articles about methane emissions’ contribution to global warming things like, “Saving the World from Cow Farts.”



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