• College Ready Writing

    A blog about education, higher ed, teaching, and trying to re-imagine how we provide education.


Not at the MLA But Still Engaged

Even thought I wasn't in Seattle, I was able to still engage, learn, and participate.

January 8, 2012


If you have a blog post or backchannel archive related to MLA 2012, please share it in the comments. Even better, if your presentation is available online, please share as well.

Looking back, not going to the 2011 MLA conference was the best thing that ever happened to me. The two posts that I wrote/published about that experience (one on attending the MLA virtually through Twitter and the other about being on the outside looking in on Digital Humanities) tripled the number of site visits for the month of January (as opposed to the previous few months), mostly because of the timely nature of my posts and appropriate use of hashtags. It also clearly increased my visibility as a blogger, as my site visits consistently remained at or near that higher number for the first six months of the year.

(Lesson to bloggers trying to develop a larger audience: timing is everything. That, and smart use of hashtags on Twitter and leaving links to your posts the comments of other blogs/articles.)

I really did want to go to Seattle this year, but our family’s finances really hurt my chances. I also didn’t really find any panels that I could legitimately fit myself into (or at least submit an abstract and hope for the best). The deadline to submit abstracts came and went and I resigned myself to not being there again this year, even though I there were tons of interesting, engaging, and (perish the thought!) useful panels, presentations, and workshops.

It got worse as the date approached and my Twitter timeline was once again filled with excited tweets about preparing for the conference. But it wasn’t only that; people on my Twitter timeline were expressing their disappointment that I wasn’t going to be there. This may seem trivial to some of you, but for me it was a strange and new occurrence; I’ve been to two MLA conferences, one to interview, one to present, and I have not once ever met up with anyone I knew except for my supervisor. As I wrote last year, the MLA conference has always been a bit of an alienating experience for me, like high school all over again, knowing there is cool stuff going on but lacking the cultural capital to access them. People were now seeking me out, essentially inviting me to the party?

Now, I’m more determined than ever to attend next year in Boston. I’m going to be scouring those CFP looking for where I can submit an abstract, but I’m also going to use my Twitter contacts to try and pull together a panel of our own making. For the first time in my career, I feel like I belong there and by extension, here in higher education more generally. I’m not sure if I suffered from Imposter’s Syndrome or just was generally too self-conscious of my own awkwardness, but it’s slowly receding. Paradoxically (and not ironically) it started when I embraced not fitting in and no longer caring what other thought of me that I started to belong.

I know it’s cliché, but it’s the truth. Be who you are. It’s terrifying, maddening, but ultimately there are people out there who will embrace you. And when they do, it’s fantastic.

I archived, using Storify, a few of the MLA panels and one AHA panel related to the humanities job market. Here they are:

As I wrote above, please share your backchannel archives or post-MLA blog posts. Even better, if your presentation is available online, share it here in the comments, too.


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