A) The panel titles for the MLA Conference never get old. The longer the title, the greater the number of parens or slashes, the more fixing-Hartford the title, and (especially) the more “and its discontents”, the harder I laugh. I enjoy the three-concepts-plus-four-modifiers of “Fragmented Lives, Hybridity, and the Politics of Identity in South Asian Muslim Women’s Writing.” Who doesn’t enjoy chiasmus fighting for space with Twitter-trimmed author names a la “Naming character, characterizing names: Onomastic studies of M Twain, H Thrale and T Morrison”? On the other hand, short titles that pander to my baser instincts – “Pinter and booze” “Dirty Chaucer,” and “Early American Sex”  “Shame” – seem so much better, as if human beings would be involved.

B) I’m all of 5’6”, and I’ve been short my entire life. This is to be expected when your mother is 5’0”, your father is 5’8”. Add in a smoking family, parental unemployment, and the usual working-class environmental disadvantages, and there was really no way I was going to get near the average height for a white American male, 5’10”.

C) To combine A and B, I must walk carefully, since I don’t want to come off like I’m dismissing LGBTQ and/or disability concerns and/or people who have done fat studies, which I am not. To avoid being less of an asshole, let me begin with a question that I ask in all seriousness: Why isn’t there a “short studies”? If I act like an asshole, there’s a pop-psych diagnosis: I have a Napoleon Complex. Let’s check on the definition Wikipedia provides: “characterized by overly-aggressive or domineering social behavior, and carries the implication that such behavior is compensatory for the subjects’ stature. The term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives.” What’s terrifically odd about this is that the same behaviour from someone who is the same as me in every way but height (let’s imagine such a person exists) would not have a similar “[Person] Complex.” I guess there’s still the matter of compensation, but a taller person’s complexes have interior causes. A short person’s stuck with their physical state as their motivation. The prevalence of the Napoleon Complex as a shared heuristic seems to presume a lesser degree of psychological complexity.

Consider the role height plays in American politics: If you were to write a novel or make a film about a politician, their height would signify, more for a male politician than a female one, since female politicians have to fight against a whole phalanx of appearance-level shittinesses before getting to something as pedestrian as height. That is to say, height is an under-investigated social construction like so many others. Clearly, height swims in the gender/race/nation/sexuality stream (let me have my hypothetical), but I wonder if there’s a self-aware but still interesting MLA panel in it.
(updated to improve things)

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