Tittle Tattle

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Once again it’s almost that magical time of year – that’s right, time for the convention catalog of the Modern Language Association to thud into faculty mailboxes all over the country. And that means it’s also time for that annual squabble in which some journalist or another rattles off the most ludicrous paper titles he can find, and some self appointed white knight of academia issues a retort that pretends those papers aren’t ludicrous.

As I am both an aspiring academic, and a journalist all too inclined to the easy joke, I have a foot in both camps – indeed, judging from my own paper title, “Scandalous Searches: Rhizomatic Authorship in America Online’s Unintentional Narratives,” I am uniquely positioned to mock my own pretensions. But to engage in such pointless (and schizophrenic) squabbling would be to continue the content-free back and forth that passes for”cultural debate” in much of our national media – and, worse, to miss the really ripe targets that such events have on offer. Why take time to scour the list in search of some poor jargoneer’s overcomplicated last-minute cobbling, when there’s such low-hanging fruit as the social-event list, with entries like Monday night’s “Cash Bar Arranged by the Marxist Literary Group”?

At conferences, as in life, the simple pleasures are the most savory.

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