Bethany Nowviskie

  • Published: Jan 7th, 2011
  • Category: higher ed

mambo italiano

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(Below, you’ll find remarks I contributed to an MLA panel discussion from which a case of pneumonia kept me away. The text was read in my absence by Steve Ramsay. I’d like to thank Steve, not only for that, but for cheering me through my disappointment at missing the conference by providing the earworm I now pass on to you. And here’s a promise: when I stop coughing and get my breath back, I’ll record the talk — and sing like I was a-gonna, at MLA.)

This is a call, in a session on the “history and future of the digital humanities,” for us to take instead a steady look at our present moment. I will offset immediately any concern that the intervention I mean to make in today’s conversation is as grim as we are perpetually reminded Our Present Moment to be, by telling you that these remarks are being published on my blog under the title, “Mambo Italiano,” complete with links to a clarion-cutesy Rosemary Clooney, an offensive clip from The Simpsons, and some French guy dancing with low-rent Muppets.

I’m at home in bed. Your grim reality at present, at the 2011 MLA convention, is that shockingly few of the job-seekers you’ll meet this week in elevators and at cash bars have a prayer of securing the stable faculty positions for which they have trained. Still others have been made to feel ashamed of discovering divergent desires on what was meant to be a straight and narrow path to tenure. A look toward the future of digital humanities requires that we be clear-eyed about the crisis facing our graduate students and the hundreds of unemployed and under-employed academics attending this conference right now — and about the impact their working conditions and career trajectories may have on DH and on the broader humanities.

To these people, and to faculty in a position to shape the graduate curricula that produce more and more of them, I say:

Hey goombah!
I love-a how you dance rumba.
But take-a some advice, paisano,
Learn-a how to mambo.
If you gonna be a square, you ain’t-a gonna go nowhere.
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Creative Commons License This site uses a heavily modified version of Bryan Helmig's Magatheme. Work at by Bethany Nowviskie is always CC-BY. Want to know why? The falling letters are by Wayne Graham. He kindly made them to replace a set I designed in Flash in the late 1990s and had in place for more than 17 years. Not a bad run! Ave atque vale.