Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kalamazoo 2009 and a Changing Discipline

In a few blog posts from this year's Kalamazoo, people have noticed shifts taking place in the discipline.

At Unlocked Wordhoard, Richard Nokes observes:
Naturally, the field is always slowly shifting around; for example, one old lion of the field told me that when he was in graduate school, he was considered a radical for writing a dissertation on prose rather than poetry. What is different today is that the media of legitimate scholarship is changing. Once upon a time, places like the Wordhoard were considered at most a salon, but today they seem to be approaching a new form of legitimate publication.

These changes are both terrifying and exhilarating. On the one hand, I wouldn't want some smart-aleck comment I've made about a high school video version of Beowulf being considered a publication on par with my manuscript research, or my work on popular reception of the medieval. On the other hand, the quickening pace of the field is invigorating, when in some cases you get articles published in months rather than years, and feedback is almost immediate.

Over at In the Middle, Jeffrey J. Cohen marks the changes, too:
This year the ITM bloggers undertook no daytrip to Celery World. We did not, as we have done previously, spend time together dedicated to brainstorming the possible futures of this blog. We never even raised such a conversation as a possibility.

I wondered if that didn't mean something. Blogs have limited lifespans. Technologies flourish and then subside. Facebook is the new Blogger, and maybe Twitter is the new Facebook. With 1,182 posts since 2007, we've had a good run at ITM. Maybe everyone has simply moved on to their next projects, or at least to projects that must take precedence over a blog: a new journal, a new institute, a new book, a dissertation -- to name only a few of the things that preoccupy us. We've been together long enough for some fractures to be evident, for the changes time brings to move us into spheres that are not as concentric as they might once have been.

Then again, we did spend a great deal of time together at Kalamazoo: never just the four of us, but always enjoying each other's company within a larger group. Maybe we did not set apart time to talk about ITM because we have grown so comfortable with each other that we do not need to worry about the future, about the what next. Perhaps we have the confidence to know that future is already secure.

Perhaps we have everything we need in this moment now.

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