1. Davis regards the MLA as an "advanced bureaucracy," an
imaginary formation that exists alongside a real state which
plays a crucial "normalizing role in the dispersal and
distribution of information, the creation of hierarchies within
disciplines. . .and the lubrication of gate-keeping functions in
the peer review process." It also promotes "star academics" (200)
on one end of the professional spectrum and compels younger
academics on the other end to endure its sundry dominations,
including that "most exquisite moment of domination--the job
interview." (199) In asking the MLA to behave even more
"professionally" than it does atr present, I do mean to ignore
neither Davis's critique nor his vision of what "new"
professional organizations might look like and how they might
2. The inclusion in the report of so many comments by John
Guillory and David Laurence, head of the ADE, is somewhat
surprising, as Laurence's name does not appear on the cover of
the report in a listing of CPE members, nor is he mentioned in a
similar listing of committee members on pp. 8-9 of the report.
To be sure, other MLA officials are quoted in the body of this
document, but not with such frequency so as to imply an
unannounced membership on the committee.
3. Here the CPE refers to Guillory's "Preprofessionalism: What
Graduate Students Want," and Spacks's "The Academic Marketplace:
Who Pays Its Costs?". The latter of these essays, one might
recall, was especially controversial as Spacks argued that the
profession itself, not graduate students or job seekers, pays the
highest cost for this "pre" or "precocious" professionalism.
4. Cain's thesis should not be taken as eccentric. Indeed, at
last year's MLA convention in Washington, I appeared on a panel
on the future of the profession in which one of Cain's colleagues
expressed similar opinions. When asked what issue today posed
the gravest threat to the profession, she responded quickly,
"Graduate students don't know enough about literature."