A Queer Girl Goes to the MLA: One talk, no interviews, but still plenty of time for the GAY BAR & girl cruisin'

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A Queer Girl Goes to the MLA: One talk, no interviews, but still plenty of time for the GAY BAR & girl cruisin'

Editor's Note: The MLA, or Modern Language Association, hosts hundreds of eager academics and academic conference-goers at its annual convention. In the below piece, a young faculty member tells of her exploits at the multi-day convention (this year in Seattle), which is home to hundreds of scholarly panels and the illustrious, and few, "interview" for highly prized academic positions. 

Wednesday, Jan. 4, 12-midnight: An old rented house in a post-industrial American university town.

Judging by Facebook, many of my friends seem to be at the convention already. Roommate plans with some grad school acquaintances fell through—they didn’t get any job interviews—so I have a huge, expensive hotel room all to myself. But if by some miracle I get laid, it will totally be worth the money.

Conference wardrobe/grooming session is underway. I don’t have any interviews; applied for 2 jobs and was flat-out rejected from both. So at least I’ll be able to funk it up a little with my MLA look: I pack the crocheted tights my advisor nixed last year as inappropriate for job interviews—because, you know, of the inevitable correlation between crocheted legwear and S-E-X? “You don’t want to look frumpy, but you don’t want to look sexy, either,” was her wardrobe advice. “You won’t look frumpy. But you do have to be careful about looking sexy; that’s your risk.” Which, I say, is better than the other way ‘round! My good-luck charm, a silver ring that a girl I never saw again left in my bed one night in L.A. Black lace panties, in case somebody sees.

I could write my paper, or I could dye my roots and bleach my moustache hairs… Only 15 people tops will come to my panel, but everyone I say hi to will see me; and now that I live out in the hinterlands and am missing all the cool queer theory talks at Rutgers and CUNY, this is the only glimpse anyone will catch of me all year. I cannot be one more MLA conference attendee with bad roots and a 5 o’clock shadow. I just can’t. Dye and bleach it is. 

This first semester of my first job out here away from New York City has been hard.  It’s a great job and I’m damn grateful for it—I get to teach about gender and sexuality; my department is known for its venerable history in the field and its hot, radical students. 

Comments [3]

Virginia Denada's picture

not your schoolmarm's citation manual

Haha, yes!  The Modern Language Association, http://www.mla.org, is the massive professional organization of post-secondary teachers of languages and litearature, mainly (tho not exclusively) in English and mainly (tho not exclusively) in North America... They publish the MLA style guide which you probably had to follow in your highschool English papers (Denada 1).  They also have this massive cattle-call of an academic conference, with 100s upon 100s of panels on every issue of literature scholarship and pedagogy you could (or can't) imagine.  And if you want to get a job teaching literature, your fortunes will probably at some point find you in a super-awkward HOTEL ROOM job interview being scrutinized by a hiring committee.  It's like the largest, all-pro book club in the universe and the lamest prostitution ring EVER, rolled into one.  :)

Marcie Bianco's picture

you may have just inspired me

you may have just inspired me to re-enter the academic ring, Virginia.

Marcie Bianco's picture

The MLA, for unknowing

The MLA, for unknowing readers, is the Modern Language Association -- the convention for which is held yearly, where hundreds upon hundreds of college educators flood a convention center to give talks (on 'panels') about arcane topics and to be interviewed for potential academic positions. Pomp and circumstance all the way....thoughts, Virginia?