*****Earlier this month, the Modern Language Association held its annual conference in Seattle. Several sessions were open to the public. So I went up on Thursday night and spent Friday at the conference. (Many thanks to the Seattle Brengans for room, board, and good times.)
Here are some photos from the Kingston ferry dock.
I didn't get much sleep the night before the conference, and I discovered that when I'm tired I can't understand directions. I lived at the help desk. Here's a photo of part of the lobby area with one of the conference workers helping an attendee who isn't me, for once.
Being in such an academic environment was both invigorating and bemusing. Before one session, I heard a woman behind me mutter something about "the politics of periodism." I couldn't decide if I was more tickled by the fact that there are people who can say things like "the politics of periodism" and Foucauldian without blinking—or by the fact that I knew what she was talking about.
Some of the sessions were academics presenting papers on minutiae that I suspect you can only appreciate if you're already studying those particular subspecies of English literature. I felt relief that I wasn't a doctoral student (and gratitude that other people are willing to be doctoral students and let me pick their brains).
I stumbled into my favorite session of the day by accident. (I had intended to go to a session on Harold Pinter, only to realize that session was on Saturday. Did I mention that I can't read directions when I'm tired?) Author Richard Van Camp's session was so good, I worked up enough courage to ask to have my photo taken with him.
Speaking of awesome writers... here's the Chinese poet Xi Chuan answering an audience question.
The man next to him is his official (written) translator, Lucas Klein. A poem would be read in Chinese, and over half the audience would laugh or nod. Then those of us who spoke only English would eagerly wait for the translation so we could find out what everyone else was reacting to.
I left the conference feeling revitalized and with an even bigger to-read list. (Special thanks to Scott who talked to me during lunch and gave me some great suggestions.)