Margerye Kempe at MLA

Via Cosma Shalizi, Margerye Kempe channels Chaucer (or herself) in this account of this year’s MLA.

In the seson of Cristemasse, thys pore creatur and caytyf did fynd herself in a straunge launde. For sche had maad passage to Ba’alt-Ymoor, the which citee she thoghte was yn the launde of the Sarazines ner the citee of Jerusalem. And she had gret compuncion and wepynge for the synfulness of her ignorance of geographie, for Ba’alt-Ymoor was in no wyse close to tho placez wher ower Lorde dyed on cross, but was in sted across a gret see and ytself was a place of passinge foulness wher ffolke did etyn only of the crabbes that walked on the floor of the bay Chesupyk and did watch the filmes of Johannes des Eaux (Pink Flamingoes did frighten her gretly). And thys creatur was sore afreyd of the synneres of that place and so sche went forth northewardes on the heighway XCV. Yet the way was long and her feet ached swich that she threw off her manohlo blahnikes and sat by the syde of the heigh way wepynge. And this was on the feest of Seynt John. As thys creatur lay in contemplacyon, sor wepynge for the peyne of her feet sche prayid to ower lorde for deliverance from this launde. And ower lorde seyde to her, “A, dowter, why wepest thou for the peyne of thy feet for thou knowst how soore my owene feet were woundid on mount calvarie? And therfor to bringe the to spiritual helth and contemplacioun I shal sende thee on a desperaat tryal and a terribil oon amonges devils and hir ministeres and necromanceres. For thou shalt fynde a tan volvo that schal be ful of clerkes and thes clerkes shall taak thee to the moost terribil place on al the erthe.” And the creatur seyde, “A, Lord, what ys this place so terribil?” And the lord seyde to her, “It is callid MLA.” And ther cam gret thundirkrakkys – thogh cleer was the daye – in the maner of a film of James Cameron.

And right so it befel in dede that a volvo did pulle up and a voys from it seyd, “You going to Philadelphia?” And thys creatur seyd, “I go to MLA,” and the voys seyde that MLA was part of Philadelphee and thus sche cam with hem. And in the volvo was a cumpany of thre yonge scolers, to wit I woman and II men. And thys creatur spak to them and seyd, “Tell me what maner ffolk ye aren.” And oon the men seyd, “My dissertation addresses the pressing question of the relation of the Owl and the Nightingale to the paradoxes of materiality and to changing ideas of spirituality at the same time that it questions what I would call outmoded models of allegoresis. Essentially, I propose that this heavily mediated text engages with debate poetry not as a generic exemplar but rather vis-a-vis an interstitial combination of truth claims and bestiary passages about cephalopods.” And thys creatur was soore confusid, and sche prayid to ower lord and wepid gret teares for the passioun of the child Jesu who had been born in a maunger to taak awey the synnes of all ffolke and also to deliver her from MLA. And alle the cumpany did wepe with her vntil the ladye who drof the van schouted at the oothirs and seyd, “Could you please be quiet? I’m trying to listen to the sparknotes for ‘Beloved.’” And thys creatur knewe litel of thes wyse clerkes wyth whom sche travilid and she askid what maner ffolk thei weren. Oon the men was named Genderstudyes and the othir man was named Medievaliste and the woman was named Americaniste-but-really-Faulknerstudyes. And thei were from Bigresearchuniversitee.

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