[KS] Korean forum / MLA (another update)

Henry Em henryem at gmail.com
Fri Jun 6 11:50:14 EDT 2014

Dear colleagues,

It seems almost certain that starting in 2016 a Korean (Language,
Literature, and Culture) forum will be established in the MLA. A sufficient
number of MLA members have signed the petition.

These tasks remain: several members of the Korean forum will have to
volunteer to serve on the founding executive committee, and they have to
submit a letter of application (2 to 5 pages) over the summer.

In my first email to this list I characterized the MLA as Euro-centric, but
becoming less so. That was a simplistic characterization.

The question of what’s marginal and not so marginal (in the MLA, in the
broader academe) is actually not so straightforward. Moreover, it’s not
just a matter of assessing which fields are becoming less popular, and
which fields are becoming more vibrant. It’s also a matter of the
privileging theory over, say, the category of national literature, or even
literature itself. (The creation of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean forums
repeats an older pattern.)

But to simplify, again, I've copied below some numbers that offer a broader
snapshot of the MLA – with the assumption that these numbers tell us
something about how languages and literatures are taught and studied
(primarily in the US, even though the MLA has members in over 100

If I’m not mistaken, the MLA currently has 4,162 members. It has 88
divisions, and as of June 6, 2014, a not-so-random sample of EXISTING

Twentieth-Century American Literature

1,222 members

Women’s Studies in Language and Literature

1,182 members

Postcolonial Studies in Literature and Culture

1,053 members

Ethnic Studies in Language and Literature

603 members

Black American Literature and Culture


Twentieth-Century Latin American Literature

489 members

Late-Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century English Literature

479 members

Gay Studies in Language and Literature

439 members

Shakespeare <http://commons.mla.org/groups/shakespeare/>

420 members

Twentieth-Century Spanish Literature

297 members

Mexican Cultural and Literary Studies

273 members

Twentieth-Century French Literature

247 members

Chicana and Chicano Literature

233 members

Twentieth-Century German Literature

213 members

American Indian Literatures

190 members

Asian American Literature

184 members

Arabic Literature and Culture

142 members

East Asian Languages and Literatures after 1900

131 members

East Asian Languages and Literatures to 1900

71 members

German Literature to 1700

(division with fewest members -- 52 members)


>From among *35 prospective forums*, membership as of June 6, 2014:

Prospective Forum: TM Literary and Cultural Theory

(most signatures) 89 members

Prospective Forum: LLC Korean

40 members

Prospective Forum: LLC Japanese since 1900

23 members

Prospective Forum: LLC Japanese to 1900

19 members

Prospective Forum: LLC Modern and Contemporary Chinese

13 members

Prospective Forum: LLC Ming and Qing Chinese

10 members

Prospective Forum: LLC Pre-14th-Century Chinese

7 members

Prospective Forum: LSL Heritage Language Teaching and Learning

(fewest signatures) 5 members

Note: In the MLA Commons, members can join many forums (groups), but can
sign just five new forum petitions. All existing Divisions and Discussion
Groups are being “updated” to forums.

So, what is the significance of a Korean forum being established in the
MLA? Who can say at this point.

The Korean forum will (probably) have two guaranteed panels at the MLA
convention (starting in 2016). Before and after participating in the Korea
panels, you would be able to go to panels organized by over 100 different
forums, from Asian American Literature to Women’s and Gender Studies.

Perhaps this also can be said: in comparison to the AAS, the MLA would
provide a different kind of intellectual space, a different kind of
experience, a different kind of engagement. That is to say, I think
scholars of Korean Literature would find it advantageous to have both the
AAS and the MLA as venues.

Shifting back to larger questions, teaching in Korea I feel the "crisis of
the Humanities" so much more keenly, because there is such a clear
(commonly accepted) hierarchy of student (and parents') preferences: e.g.
the business major over the study of history or literature.

As we are all well aware, there are many worrisome trends: increasing
student debt, declining number of tenure-track positions, majority of
courses being taught by non-tenure track faculty, dismal employment
prospects for college graduates, etc.

So in the larger scheme of things the establishment of a Korean forum in
the MLA is probably not so significant. Well, I guess that might depend…
Can a panel (several panels), a paper (several papers), make an impact?


Henry Em
Associate Professor, Korean History
Yonsei University Underwood International College
Veritas Hall B, Room 425
Gwahakno 85, Songdo-Dong, Yeonsu-Gu
Incheon 406-840, Korea

Mobile: 82(country code)-*(0)10-7232-2626*

Office: 82(country code)-(0)32-363-4153
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20140607/f0bd8184/attachment.html>

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list