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MLA Talk 2012: “Dissing the Dissertation”

The following is a slideshow of the presentation I delivered at the 2012 MLA. The talk itself is described here:

MLA Considers Radical Changes to the Dissertation, by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 1/9/2012

[tubepress video=e6UrOLFJrf4]


  1. Thanks Richard. You and me both. What kind of response did you get from your MLA audience on the injunction about needing to learn to write for the web?

    • The whole q and a focused on KFitz’s double admonition to “do the risky thing” and or but “make sure someone has your back.” I think Sid Smith was particularly eloquent on the topic of institutionally-induced timidity. I didn’t know anyone in the working group personally two years ago; I learned a ton from them and particularly admire the membership’s collective commitment to walking the walk. (KFitz, for example, walked away from tenure to take on the job at the MLA . . . )

      At the event itself, as in the comment section at Inside Higher Ed, there were the usual snarky asides (“books have been around for centuries, sir, and they’ll be here long after all these gadgets have ended up in the dustbin of history,” daub eye, bow to thundering applause). Finally, though, I no longer take the bait. So, I stayed quiet.

      Without the Inside Higher Ed piece, I would’ve persisted in characterizing my own remarks as a tree falling in the forest. But, because of the piece, I rigged together the silent movie version of my presentation. I didn’t think to record what I said–in its ghostly afterlife, the preso seems to be doing well 🙂

      Was grateful for your contribution to the WPA-list on time-to-degree. And Doug Hesse’s. So, in sum, unexpectedly buoyed by what I had originally thought was the usual lead-ballonish remarks by your humble narrator.


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