Once every two or three years, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the sidewalks of New York are filled with bearded men in corduroy jackets and crewcutted women in polyester pantsuits loudly pronouncing the words metataxis, logocentric, paralogic, non-referential, and hermeneutics at one another. There can be no surer sign that the holiday is over and the MLA has descended.

Any organization capable of publishing an almost completely unreadable journal can be relied upon to mount an intolerably dreary annual conclave. The MLA did not disappoint. For dullness with a difference, or (as Derrida would put it) difference, few of the six hundred ninety-three sessions listed in this year’s convention program could have topped number 47, “Representation and its Discontents:...


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