Tag Archives: annual convention

One Thing I Learned at MLA 2019

Committee members share a few takeaways from MLA 2019, Chicago:

“This was my third MLA. I presented in Austin in 2016, attended the New York conference in 2018, and presented twice–oddly enough, in back to back panels!–this year in Chicago. I’ve presented on panels and coordinated panels at MLA, and one of the presenters in one of my panels this year suggested we all meet for coffee or lunch the day before to coordinate. This was so helpful to me. I got to meet the folks I was presenting with, and I felt more comfortable the day of. We were also able to coordinate our talks in advance. That meant we minimized overlap and found authentic transitions between talks to make them seem linked. I think this made our panel feel more cohesive. Not all panels can do this, I know, but if you are placed on a panel, I’d highly recommend suggesting a quick coffee meet up beforehand. It could be 20 minutes in the hotel lobby; it’s amazing what a few minutes and a few friendly hellos can do for your confidence and organization.”    — Kristina Reardon

“MLA 2019 in Chicago was my second MLA, and it felt like it too. Last year’s MLA in New York was my first and it was certainly overwhelming, though I was neither interviewing nor presenting. The sheer amount of people in one place and the fast pace of the in-between panel walks can be disconcerting the first time around. I parked myself in the Graduate Student Lounge for the most part and limited myself to only attending 2 panels throughout the whole conference. This year in Chicago, however, I knew what to expect and planned accordingly. I picked out in advance the panels I wanted to attend, and I tried to schedule meetings with former colleagues in such a way that I was able to do everything I wanted. Having gone through my first MLA last year made this year’s so much better and easier to navigate. If at all possible, I highly recommend attending an MLA before you have to present or interview. Getting the major conference jitters out of the way ahead of time might just pay off in an unexpected way. ”    — Andrés N. Rabinovich

“One thing I learned at the MLA Conference this year is the importance (and pleasure!) of meeting other scholars at the conference. By attending different events, going to panels, and talking to people in the exhibit hall and in the grad lounge, I was able to meet a number of graduate students, professors, publishers, and other conference attendees with whom I had some fascinating and enlightening conversations. For example, I learned some great tips about applying to jobs from a first-year assistant professor, and I talked with another group of scholars about ways to incorporate our research interests into our classrooms. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from others, get advice about my research and career, and generally just make some new friends and connections! For future conferences, I plan to bring cards with my information on them to hand out to others, as several individuals had them, and they seem like a great way to share contact info without having to awkwardly take out my phone or search for a notebook and pen to write things down. I also noticed that some of the booths in the exhibit hall had contests where you could enter your card and win something, so it wouldn’t hurt to be able to enter those!”        — Kayla Forrest

“One of the things I noticed immediately when looking through the program of this year’s MLA Conference is the astonishing diversity and scope of the sessions. The sessions cover a huge range of topics, methods, issues and perspectives of the humanities. I think one of the rewarding challenges of being a young scholar in the contemporary humanities is exemplified in the conference: there is an astonishing breadth of work being done! One can be both overwhelmed and stimulated as one selects which panels, workshops and events to attend. I found helpful practical sessions on academic writing and navigating the difficult terrain of journal submissions, as well as sessions related to my research interests. One thing that was particularly helpful as I navigated the intensity and size of my first convention, was attending an evening event hosted by my university that made me feel a familiar sense of “home” in a new place.”   — Amir Hussain

“After going to about ten MLAs—enough that this was my third MLA Chicago!—I’m starting to learn that as the committee meetings and coffee chats and book parties pile up I absolutely have to save a little bit of time for myself. I love conferences and seeing friends, but I’m getting too old to work, network, and spend time with people I really want to meet or to catch up with from brunch through late-night drinks for days on end!  (I almost always come home from the MLA with a cold, and the reasons for it are obvious). So hopefully next time I’ll remember that I’ll have a much better time if I leave a little bit of time for myself. If I don’t do all the things I want to do, there’s always next year. And this level of conference over-intensity is just one more manifestation of the compulsion to try to do it all, which I think most of us are always fighting. Being selective is always better than saying yes to everything—at least in the long run.”     — Meredith Farmer

Eats and Attractions near the Convention

There are plenty of coffee shops and eateries near the MLA 2019 convention.

Following is a variety of budget-friendly options (variably priced from $ to $$). This list is not an endorsement of any particular place, rather it is a compilation of places nearby to the convention. Local-to-Chicago options have embedded links to their website.

 

Coffee 

Peet’s Coffee ($) (400 Michigan Avenue #120)

Starbucks ($$) (333 Michigan Avenue and 444 N Michigan Ave)

Dunkin’ Donuts ($) (404 N Wabash Ave)

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee ($) (535 N Michigan Ave)

Caffé Rom (180 N Stetson Ave #107)

 

Food

Café

Corner Bakery Café ($$) (444 N Michigan Ave)

Wildberry Pancakes and Café ($$) (130 E Randolph St)

 

Sandwiches

Snarf’s Sandwiches ($) (180 N Stetson Ave)

Jersey Mike’s Subs ($) (203 E Ohio St)

Yolk Streeterville ($$) (355 E Ohio St)

 

Fast Food

McDonald’s ($) (233 N Michigan)

Chick-fil-A ($) (177 N State St #1a)

 

Health

LYFE Kitchen ($) (270 E Ontario St)

 

Restaurants and Taverns

Billy Goat Tavern ($) (430 N Michigan Ave)

Beacon Tavern ($$) (405 N Wabash Ave)

Giordano’s ($$) (130 E Randolph St)

Coco Pazzo Café ($$) (212 E Ohio St)

 

Grocery

Trader Joe’s (44 E Ontario St)

 

Popular Attractions 

Lastly, here are a few popular destinations within reasonable distance from the convention:

Navy Pier (600 E Grand Ave)

Chicago Water Tower (806 Michigan Avenue)

Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St)

American Writers Museum (180 N Michigan Ave)

Free job counseling at the annual convention

CSGSP member Shane Peterson has written a helpful guide to using the free job counseling at the MLA convention.

The lack of feedback one receives while “on the market” can be frustrating. Ever wonder what the committees are thinking when they look at your documents? I know I did. Here’s your chance to find out!

The Basics: Bring a copy of your cover letter and/or CV for review by an experienced departmental administrator. Make an appointment in advance at the Job Information Center (located in the Imperial Ballroom, level B2, of the Fairmont). Appointments last 25 minutes and will take place on January 10 and 11 from 10:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. And best of all: it’s completely free of charge!

My Experience: During my first job search, I remember wondering whether I was doing something wrong. The longer I waited for interview requests, the more I began to second-guess myself and my application materials. I had received detailed feedback from faculty members and students in my graduate program and read plenty of books and articles on the subject, but were we all overlooking something? Or were other candidates a “better fit” or simply further along in their dissertations or professional careers? For me, the free job advice session provided at least three benefits:

1. Fresh pair of eyes: Having someone who doesn’t already know you look at your CV and cover letter can be enlightening. The advice session helped me be more specific in my cover letter and work on framing my dissertation in a more widely accessible manner.
2. Networking: Don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet a senior professional in your field and enjoy their undivided attention. I chose to meet with a faculty member in a neighboring field to simulate how modern language departments and/or specialists in other fields might react to my application materials. In the end, I made a contact and discovered that we had two professional connections already.
3. Peace of mind: It’s nice to hear “really, your documents look fine” from someone outside your home department and institution. And if there is a problem, it’s better to catch it now when there’s nothing at stake! For me, the reassurance that my letter and CV were generally in good shape was the best part of the job advice session.

And don’t forget: You don’t have to be on the market to use this free service. If I had it to do over again, I would have gone the year before my first job search. It’s never too early to start thinking about how to communicate your academic persona in an effective manner.

Tips for first-time graduate student attendees

The first time you attend the annual MLA convention can be a bit overwhelming — I attended for the first time in 2013 as a second year Ph.D. student. The CSGSP recommends trying to attend the convention at least once before the year you go on the job market. Even if you aren’t presenting, consider attending in your final year of coursework or the year you take your comprehensive exams. Having a basic familiarity with the general format and feel of the convention can help you feel less anxious during the year you attend for interviews (we all know interviews are stressful enough!). Consider organizing a trip with other Ph.D. students with whom you can share hotel and transportation costs. Responding to CFPs for our committee’s two guaranteed sessions each year can be a great way to get your foot in the door.

The CSGSP has some suggestions for first-time attendees who are not interviewing at the convention:

  • Don’t burn yourself out. The first thing you must realize is that it’s impossible to attend all of the hundreds of amazing sessions. It’s equally impossible to spend all day, every day, attending session after session from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pace yourself, eat regular meals, stay hydrated, and don’t forget to get some fresh air.
  •  Support your friends and colleagues. Are other members of your department, former professors, and friends presenting at the convention? Be sure to attend their panels. No one likes presenting to only a handful of people in the audience and seeing a familiar face can put presenters at ease.
  • Check out panels both in and out of your field. Some sessions will be an exceptional gathering of key scholars in your field, but also don’t be afraid to check out panels in fields you are less familiar with.
  • Attend panels relevant to graduate students. Each year, the CSGSP puts together a handy list of sessions of particular interest for graduate students (posted here).
  • Dress the part. Even if you’re not presenting, you’ll still want to dress business casual. Wear appropriate and comfortable shoes though, because you’ll be doing a LOT of walking.
  • Visit the graduate student lounge. Often. Not only is the lounge a place where you can sneak away from the hustle and bustle of the main convention areas, but it’s also a space where you can meet CSGSP members and other graduate students. They’re your future colleagues, so take advantage of networking opportunities. The lounge usually has refreshments and small snacks too.
  • Consider business cards. There are several websites where you can create small, inexpensive business cards to bring with you. They allows for quick and easy exchanges of contact info.
  • Attend the presidential address. The president often addresses pressing concerns facing the future of English and foreign language departments and presents information on what the MLA is doing to respond to them.
  • Explore the city. The annual convention is held in wonderful cities such as Boston, Chicago, and, in 2015, Vancouver, Canada. Block out some time for sightseeing, wandering, shopping, or trying some fantastic restaurants.
  • Most importantly, have fun! The convention is a fantastic time. You will hear inspiring scholarship, meet wonderful new people, and come away inspired.