Friday, January 13, 2012

MLA 2012 for medievalists

The annual convention of the Modern Language Association is the central meeting for North American scholars in all fields of literary studies each year, and sometimes a frustrating event for medievalists in German studies. Both SGRABL and the MLA division on German literature to 1700 sponsor relevant sessions, but the result is often three interesting sessions scheduled at the same time, as often as not just when you have another conflicting event, followed by hours with nothing that really appeals to you. Which is just as well - at some point, you have to find time to look through the book exhibit.

But it's always interesting to see what your colleagues are working on, and there were several great papers this year. Since I couldn't make it to all the sessions I wanted to see, I'll only mention one paper that I particularly enjoyed:
  • "Difficulties in Paratext, Relief in Translation: History and Fiction in Early Modern (German) Novels," Jan Hon, Ludwig Maximilian Univ.
Jan's paper examined the historical development of paratexts in Melusine in Czech translation. Gérard Gennete's concept of paratext has become critical for the study of early printing, but Genette's discussion of historical development is not very useful, so we need more work like Jan Hon's. His dissertation sounds like a very interesting project. Now I wish I had gotten to the conference early enough to catch the first session where he spoke, which had several papers I would have liked to see, but the semester has started and classes needed to be taught.

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