Truth & MLA

A muted quote (notice which part is not in “” and which part is not a cliche) from the University of Boston:

“I support speaking truth to power,” said Rzepka, but that requires truth, he added.

MLA debates resolutions this week. “Defenders of the original version faulted Nelson’s version for being even-handed.”  Rhetorician and president of the AAUP, Nelson knows trends; if he’s becoming “even-handed” perhaps MLA is moving toward an accommodation with what we might describe as reality. Anyone who saw Nelson’s debate with Horowitz and has noted his scholarly interests has seen a man quite political, not particularly thoughtful but extroverted & cheerful. If Horowitz is the street corner Bolshevist polemicist that got religion, Nelson is the establishment bore, radical in an appropriately establishment manner. That someone so immersed in cliches calls for equal treatment of Zionists and Anti-zionists may mean the wind has turned. Or his cliches are out of date. I’m hoping for the former.

MLA meets from Dec. 26-30. The dates of this huge but not very coveted convention may “signify,” as an MLA participant would put it, much about the organization’s attitude toward Christmas & family, though pragmatic & economic. My husband’s years as an officer in subsidiary organizations, the job hunt from both sides, papers given & panels chaired – now by our sons-in-law as well – have led to many a hurried Christmas holiday. These holidays also remind us of what has happened to a discipline in which we both found pleasure and purpose – and led to a marriage based on that shared interest.  Today it has been thirty-three years and our children continue their work in related fields. I hope in thirty years their marriages will be interwoven with studies that have come to new appreciations of the works that gave us so much pleasure.

My husband’s Christmas gifts included Anthony Kronen’s Education’s End, Windschuttle’s The Killing of History, Alan MacFarlane’s Marriage and Love in England 1630-1850, John Ellis’ Literature Lost, and, of course, Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought. Of course, he’s only read the first two but has been reading steadily since they were unwrapped. Our marriage, like most I suppose, has miscommunication and buried grudges. It is not wonderful. Nonetheless, we still share interests.

We had a meeting of minds years ago in transformational grammar; Chomsky has been absorbed by subsidiary interests, but those deep structures worked for us. And I must pause, note a gratitude to an old AAUP president who was my freshman English teacher and passed on his love to so many of us in that old class. Gratitude should be empowered to cross the superficial boundaries of agenda and politics. We owe much to those who somehow ended up on the other side of the line that didn’t seem to be there thirty years ago.

2 thoughts on “Truth & MLA”

  1. I am reminded of Edmund Wilson’s essay in which he hit back at MLA for making a scholarly mockery of a standardized set of texts for American literature. He titled his piece “The Fruits of MLA.”

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