While I was in San Francisco for the MLA, I had lunch with my advisor from American. He told me that his wife had come with him one year to MLA but had decided not to attend in subsequent years. When you walk into the lobby of the main conference hotel, she said, you can smell the desperation.
And that, unfortunately, is true. The MLA is just so enormous, and so full of graduating PhDs and postdocs looking for tenure-track employment, that it is difficult to ignore the mounting stress and panic attacks, the sweaty people lining the hallways in the local hotels, frantically reviewing syllabi and test questions before their interviews, the women in uncomfortable heels and men in uncomfortable ties casting furtive looks behind them before they mention a school, scholar, or possible job opportunity. Because you are constantly surrounded by people who could drastically alter your career path.
To avoid the stress, I holed up in my hotel room between my two interviews and only attended three panels. And even that was a little stressful. At the first panel I attended, I realized halfway through that I was sitting next to the search committee for a job that I really wanted but, unfortunately, didn’t have the opportunity to interview for. I was tempted to clear my throat noisily and strategically angle my nametag — hoping they would notice me, somehow realize by looking at my shoes or my charming doodle of a sailboat that they were missing out by not hiring me. But, of course, I cowered instead. Then went back to my hotel room, ordered pizza, and foolishly watched an hour and a half of Jon and Kate Plus Eight. I will never get that hour and a half back, and I am all the poorer for it.
But the interviews themselves went pretty well, I think. One surprisingly well. And I will refrain from further comment until the entire situation resolves itself. But I think I at least have a shot at campus visits, at one school in particular. So send good vibes my way.
Also, I learned that U. C. Knoepflmacher at Princeton is a wonderful person. I met him at the SEL breakfast because he is on the board, and he is so approachable and smart and kind. He took the time to sit down with me and really discuss my dissertation and his own work. It’s always great to meet someone whose whose work you admire.
And his name is Uli. How can you not enjoy the company of a man named Uli?