Monday, October 10, 2011

MSA 13

It seems that the era of liveblogging is over, at least for me. In fact I barely tweeted, thanks to my janky phone. But I had a blast at MSA, as usual; I particularly enjoyed a talk by Karen Leick on Gertrude Stein's reception in the 1960s (the whole panel was great, in fact) and Benjy Kahan's provocative talk on climate and temporary homosexuality.

I felt that my own panel, "Against Innovation," went very well, despite a minor a/v fail; Stephen Ross and Joel Burges gave rich and interesting talks—Stephen's a metacritical meditation on haunting in modernist studies in several registers, and Joel's a clever look at the formalization of obsolescence in Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox. Ted Martin was our panel chair and kept things moving along admirably, and the people who showed up to the panel asked smart and difficult questions.

Beyond all the talks, of course, it was wonderful to see old friends and meet new people. MSA always wisely supplies ample breaks between panels and free-flowing coffee, which make for great conversations. I'm coming away from this MSA with lots of energy for my book, new readers for some unbearably delayed work in progress, and the general excitement of being reminded that I'm not the only one interested in these things.

I also came to the decision over the weekend that I should make a habit of posting my conference talks to the web, which is something that lots of people already do. I haven't done it in the past for a variety of familiar reasons—not feeling as though the idea were well enough developed or the talk well enough written; or the thought that I might develop the talk into an article one day.

Well, I'm starting to think better of these fears (let's call a spade a spade). It's not going to shock anyone that twenty-minute conference talks tend to be a little undercooked, for one thing. It's true, my conference talks aren't always well wrought urns. I think I can live with this revelation about my scholarly practice being made public. (By the way, my conference talks are also intentionally informal in tone—I believe I use the phrase "random garbage" in this one, for instance. I consider this a feature, not a bug.)

And as for thinking I might develop an idea—sometimes I do and sometimes I don't—but mostly I don't. And in this particular case, I'm pretty sure I won't. I have an article in the works that's related to the talk I gave at this year's MSA, but quite different in focus.

So, in short, here's my MSA 13 talk: "The Time-Sense: On Stein's Repetition."

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