Post Academic

What to Bring–and Not Bring–to MLA

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on January 5, 2011
Tags: , ,

We’re probably getting to this a little late to be tipping you as to what to bring with you to MLA 11 in LA, since many folks are either here or on your way.  But just in case you’re furiously packing and happen to be online at the same time, here are a few essentials you might want to take with you westward — unless you happen to one of the peeps tweeting about going to MLA with only carry-on luggage!  (FYI: For the latest helpful, not-so-helpful, and absurd MLA tweets, search #MLA11 when you’re on Twitter.)

"Morrow Pivot II" by Cjacobs627 (Public Domain)

BRING your computer: I mentioned a while back that it might not be a bad idea to leave your computer at home and be unencumbered with extra baggage–literally and figuratively–for MLA.  OK, I lied: Do bring your computer, because no one is ever 100% prepared before arriving at MLA.  In addition to logging onto Post Academic, of course, you can use your laptop to do practical things like looking up people on the search committee, skimming their writing via JSTOR via your school library network, finishing up any docs you need for the interview, and finding where the nearest FedEx Office (aka Kinkos) is so that you don’t hafta pay the ridiculous hotel “business office” printing rates.  If nothing else, your computer is a security blanket, so don’t be without it now!

BRING your sample syllabi: Speaking of sample syllabi, always bring ’em to interviews, whether solicited or not.  Search committees always get giddy over them and it gives you something concrete to talk about, kinda like a script that lets you control the flow of the discussion at least a little bit.  I always do up fake real ones that fit the quarter or semester schedule the school is on, but the best is real real syllabi you’ve taught.  Why?  You don’t have to make things up, you don’t have to put books on that you actually haven’t read and might be asked about, and you have actual teaching experience to talk about.  Sample syllabi are great however you slice it, as long as you don’t out-think yourself and sweat too many of the details.

BRING a pad of paper and pen: Go old-school by bringing a pad and pen, preferably in that portfolio you got from our Xmas gift list.  Come prepared by bringing some questions for the search committee which show you’ve done you’re homework.  It’s also important to show that you’re interested enough in the minutiae of the job that you’re taking notes, from teaching load to distribution requirements to whatever arcane curricular ephemera that every school is proud of.  Have something on paper to follow-up on, which can also help you catch your breath in the middle of an interview.  Also, it might help jog your memory when you’re inevitably playing rewind in your mind after the face-to-face.

DON’T BRING books: We talked about this already.  Trust me, you won’t have time to glean the plot points of all the book you haven’t read but feel you should’ve.  Just avoid talking about them by not putting them in your sample syllabi on in your dissertation spiel.  You’ll have plenty of things that you know a lot about to talk about anyway.  Plus, save luggage space to bring books home from the MLA book fair, if that floats your boat.

DON’T BRING a heavy jacket: Hey, it’s Los Angeles, not Philly or Chicago.  I know, it’s been raining more than ever in So Cal this past month, but it’s really not that cold for most of you from Midwest and East Coast winter climates.  It looks like the weekend will be in the 60s, so you definitely don’t need that cold weather coat you brought for all those other MLAs.  A nice coat will do or you could even go to your interview in just your suit for a change!

BRING a sense of perspective: Everyone is stressed out and, being language types, we read way too much into everything.  You’ll be nervous and paranoid about strangers thinking that they have their own agendas, and maybe even look sideways at your bestest friends–believe me, I’ve been embroiled more friend drama at MLA than anywhere else, between folks feeling slighted by not hanging out and others getting bent out of shape comparing job interviews.  Try not to let everything get to you and remember that you’re probably acting just as weird as you think everyone else is!

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