Scripps Hosts 109th Language Conference

Scholars of ancient and modern languages and several areas of cultural studies will gather at Scripps College this weekend for the 109th annual conference of the Pacific Ancient and Modern Languages Association (PAMLA), the western branch of the Modern Language Association (MLA), which is a national organization for professors of English and other languages. Each year, the conference draws professors and graduate students predominantly from the West Coast of the United States, but also from the East Coast and foreign countries, to share ideas and showcase research.

In 150 sessions over the course of the weekend, professors will present 450 papers on a variety of subjects. Language and literature scholars will be in attendance, as well as professors of African American Studies, Asian Studies, Film Studies, LGBT Studies, Folklore Studies, Medieval Studies, Women’s Studies, Autobiography Studies, and Critical Theory.

“[The conference] is one of the most varied in the humanities that takes place annually on this side of the country,” said Eric Haskell, a Scripps French professor who is helping to organize this year’s conference and who was the keynote speaker at the event last year. “It’ll be a time when people meet to exchange ideas, but also [a time] to see their friends who—like them—are associated with colleges like this and larger than this.”

“It’s a terrain for trying out new ideas,” he added.

This year, ten professors from Scripps, five from Pomona College, and two from Claremont McKenna College (CMC) will present papers at the conference. According to Haskell, most of the material that will be presented at the conference will be published.

The conference opens at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5 and will end at 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6. According to Scripps Associate Dean of Faculty and French professor Thierry Boucquey, the conference will be free and open to all students and faculty of the 5Cs.

“[5C students and faculty] don’t have to sign up,” he said. “They can just look online at the program, look at sessions that might interest them, and then just go—it’s as simple as that.”

According to Boucqeuy, who was the president of PAMLA last year and is on the executive committee this year, most attendees will have to pay a registration fee, but 5C students and faculty will be allowed in for free because Scripps is hosting the conference.

Scripps Classics professor Ellen Finkelpearl, who was on the organizing committee for this year’s conference, said she was hoping students would attend.

“I’d love to have students come to the sessions and ask questions and be involved,” Finkelpearl said. “I don’t think it’s very intimidating.”

“It’s a great chance for students to come and hear some talks right here on the home campus,” she added. “I hope that students will come.”

Students who were planning to attend the conference expressed excitement about the number of scholars and the disciplines that will be discussed.

“I feel like it’s a really great opportunity for me to learn about different subject areas,” said Michelle Gloster SC ’12, a foreign languages student. “I’m definitely excited about it.”

According to conference organizers, this year is not the first time the conference has been held at Scripps. It was also held at Scripps in 1998 and 2003, and has been hosted by Pomona once before. Boucquey said organizers had planned to hold the conference at the University of Washington this year, but those plans fell through.

“I volunteered Scripps because there was no other site available,” he said. “And [everyone] said, ‘Yeah, we’d love to go there.’ “

“Everybody loves to come to the Claremont Colleges anyway, [and] that’s probably why we have so many people registered,” Haskell added. “Just walking around campus, these campuses are beautiful, and you don’t get lost.”

Around 600 people are registered to attend the conference, the largest number since 1985. In previous years the conference has drawn an average of 350 to 400 attendees.

“I think L.A. is always a bigger draw… but we’ve never had 600,” Boucquey said.

Students interested in attending the conference can visit the PAMLA website to view the complete conference schedule. All sessions will take place in Scripps’s Balch Hall or the Humanities Building.

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