The Constitution of the MLA states that its purpose is “to promote study, criticism, and research in the more and less commonly taught modern languages and their literatures and to further the common interests of teachers of these subjects.” We therefore have an obligation, as scholars, to pursue political goals that address “our common interests as teachers,” such as advocating against the casualization of the academic workforce. We should not however subordinate scholarly institutions, be it our classrooms or the MLA, to partisan political goals to which any of us, individually, may be devoted: we should pursue such goals as members of the civic community, not as scholars in a professional association. Those who would impose a sectarian political platform on the MLA will harm it and weaken its ability to act on behalf of the profession. Those who misuse the classroom for advocacy invite censorship or risk censoring their students. Those who insist on boycotts will exclude their opponents from the association. Those who seek to punish or silence colleagues for their political positions violate the principle of free speech and undermine the moral and intellectual power of the academy.

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Is The Music Man\’s \”Gary, Indiana\” song shockingly misplaced satire?

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    Gloria Lee McMillan

    Anyone who has passed through Gary, Indiana, in the last thirty years and watched its tragically slow motion decline can only wonder when a Southwestern US theatre company mounts a new production of Meredith Wilson\’s 1957 Broadway Musical The Music Man which includes the song \”Gary, Indiana\”–the purported home of Harold Hill, a con man.  This musical may speak to the current rhetorical situation for some, but for others who know the tragedy of the disenfranchisement and poverty of the real Gary, a horrible feeling of cognitive dissonance occurs.  Those who know the real Gary, Indiana, may find the satire of con men (including political figures) misdirected at Gary, whose African American population is close to 90% and who are certainly not directing the show at any national level.

    The response to satiric sub-texts and barbs in this current rhetorical situation may need to involve some kind of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Tom Stoppard play) type of re-imagining of The Music Man to reveal broader and more structural inequity in society than the simple discovery that some presumably industrial munchkins are easily led astray by the Wicked Witch of the Gary smokestacks.  More than a strictly academic textual response, something on the order of Monty Python seems to be called for.

    Any round table participants on this project are most welcome.

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