Phi Beta Cons

Alternative Groups

In surveying the academic scene, especially the humanities, one can easily get carried away by the negative. But there are spots of light, and they deserve more attention. One is the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, a scholarly organization founded around 20 years ago. It started as an anti-Modern Language Association, when arguments over the canon, politicized curricula, and race/class/gender themes reached the public eye. But for the last few years, the ALSC has settled into a fairly apolitical identity, and its members come from all across the spectrum. What characterizes it most importantly is a focus on literary study as a practice with its own integrity–not disconnected from political and social matters, but not exhausted by them either.
The annual convention is in San Francisco this year, in October, and the list of panels gives an idea of the outlook. We have discussions of John Donne, Graeco-Roman lyric, science fiction, literature in K-12 classrooms (I’ll be on that one), and many others, along with several seminars with a dozen or so speakers speaking for around 5 minutes each.  The discourse isn’t aimed at specialists, but at anybody with an abiding interest in literary history and experience.
For more information, the web site is

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