BLC Travel Grant Report

From October 10-12, 2013, I attended the sixty-seventh annual Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (RMMLA) convention held in Vancouver, WA. The RMMLA is a regional MLA convention only by name. In reality, the convention surpasses the regional limits of the Rocky Mountains by including wide-ranging scholarship and academics from the entire country as well as various parts of the world. This year’s participants came from Canada, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and all parts of the U.S.

The diverse scholarship at the convention enabled fruitful exchanges between many colleagues. Once more, RMMLA offered a number of regular and special sessions on language pedagogy, applied linguistics, writing pedagogy, and topics in literary and cultural studies. French studies were very well represented by such topics as Francophone Literature of Africa and the Caribbean, French Cultural and Literary Theory, Cioran’s Romanian and French Oeuvres, French Literature After 1800, and Representation of Immigration in French and Francophone Literature and Cinema, to name a few. Among the special sessions, one panel stood out. The session “Quand la littérature joue avec les media–When Media Puts on a Literary Show” consisted of two strong interdisciplinary presentations, where one involved film representations of novels by Marguerite Duras, and the other one considered representations of North African immigrants in France in the media and in a contemporary novel by Yassir Benmiloud, Allah Superstar. While the interdisciplinary approaches of the two papers were highly innovative, they also inspired me to think of this methodological approach in teaching language and literary texts.  Indeed, visual and media studies continue to be an inspiration for scholars interested in pedagogy.

I continue to be impressed by the significance and the session time attributed to pedagogy at the RMMLA convention. Indeed, like many other disciplines represented at this convention, the area of pedagogy continues to grow by including wide-ranging topics. This year, it included a number of sessions that were particularly informative, such as the panel on Teaching Composition, two sessions on Teaching Foreign Languages, a session on Technology and Distant Education, and a session on Issues in TESOL and Second Language Acquisition. It is inspiring to learn from scholars from a variety of disciplines who are working in innovative ways on improving instruction. The informative presentations on pedagogy included papers on approaches to teaching writing and composition by using technology, media and propaganda images; strategies for building literacy by writing reviews; approaches to building English language learners’ fluency by actively engaging the students in listening and comprehension and the editing process.

For many years, RMMLA has been hosting the Women in French (WIF) association, which in 2013 was represented by the remarkable nine sessions! Among the different WIF panels, those of particular appeal were the two panels on Performing Gender, as well as a session on Intertextuality and Feminine Voices in French and Francophone Literature. By the 2013 convention, the area of pedagogical studies had grown so much that it became the subject of a WIF panel as well. The excellent “Teaching Women in French” session included a paper on new approaches to teaching gender at two distinct language and culture classes, and another paper focusing on teaching Francophone women writers using Pinterest and related online tools. The literary and pedagogical discussion continued at the Women in French reception, held on Friday, October 11, 2013. The reception welcomed a high number of scholars across disciplines, all of whom were warmly welcomed by the WIF association president, Dawn Cornelio.

The convention welcomed Ray Siemens from University of Victoria as its keynote speaker.  His talk “Digital Humanities? Digital Literary Studies? Framing a Response to (Inter)Disciplinary Change” addressed the variety of digital works and collections accessible in digital format, suggesting that the humanities might find one possible way of surmounting their ongoing struggles by turning to digital sources. Siemens further invited scholars to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, a week-long professional development opportunity supported by MLA Commons, to be held at the University of Victoria, British Columbia in June 2014.

Once again, I returned to Berkeley re-energized by the intellectual exchanges at the RMMLA. I look forward to returning to the convention next year and would like to sincerely thank the Berkeley Language Center for its generous support and its commitment to lecturers’ professional development.

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