I’ve decided that academic conferences are an even stranger breed of get-together than the cocktail party. I happened to know or know of a number of people at the one this weekend, but they didn’t always know me (I was a long-ago student of theirs, I read their book, etc.), so I frequently found myself standing near two people who were busy talking shop a bit indiscreetly. Then, of course, I’d wander by another group, the aspiring grad students who were hoping someone would come along and point out Professor So-and-So, whose work they’d read but whom they couldn’t identify in person. Lots of murmurings about the job market, about the “future of the profession,” and a talk or two about the future of modernist studies (which I took notes on merely to give Sydney a good laugh; those kinds of talks are always amusing for those not in the field). Given the massive size of so many English conferences (the major meeting of the profession will take up 10 huge hotels in a major city), I was glad to be in a slightly more intimate setting, and with so many panels I wanted to attend!
I did feel slightly like Superman, though, playing both mom and academic this weekend. I’d stand around in heels and dress clothes for a few hours and then run up to my room, put Katherine in the backpack, and head out for a walk around town with my family. Once when we came out of the elevator and into the lobby there was a sizable crowd waiting to go up and they let out a collective “Awwwww” when they saw the pink head peeking out of my jacket. And then there was a big laugh. But I didn’t have to force my way out of the crowd!