Monthly Archives: December 2011

What’s Going On at MLA

Ted Underwood has a very smart response to Stanley Fish’s recent article in the New York Times, in which the latter characterizes digital humanities as an “insurgent” successfully overturning postmodern theory.  Underwood takes Fish’s characterization to be flattering for digital humanists (although off base, for persuasive reasons); Rosemary Feal, however, astutely points to the article’s crankiness in her twitter summary: “I see you on my lawn, kids.”

Having read all the comments to Fish’s article so far, I think we could summarize them as follows: “why are these people talking about things we don’t understand and why aren’t they talking about literature, language, and learning like they are supposed to be doing?”

Oddly, however, the Presidential Forum, with 70 linked sessions, is on “Language, Literature, Learning.”  These sessions overlap with many other interests, including digital humanities, but nevertheless they all explore the very topic that commentators seem to find so lacking at MLA.  This central theme does not make its way at all into Fish’s trend round-up.  Perhaps it would make a very dull column to report that thousands of scholars will converge to renew their fascination with language, literature, and learning, sharing their research, insights, and commitment to higher education.

How do we more accurately communicate what is really going on and liberate ourselves from these (dated?) Oedipal narratives?