In preparation for this occasion, I have taken the opportunity to read a number of the addresses by my distinguished predecessors as presidents of MESA. I am aware therefore that it may be a somewhat unusual introductory gesture on my part to open my address with a few secret details about the process whereby I find myself standing in front of you all this evening.
When I was initially contacted about putting my name forward as a candidate for the presidency of MESA, I immediately responded, as I now recollect, “But I’m a literature scholar.” That admittedly feeble attempt was instantly rebuffed by a vigorous assertion of the fact that literature is a significant field within this organization, but would I please not launch into a disquisition on any of the mu‘allaqat, nor even of a novel by Naguib Mahfouz. Now, finding myself at the proverbial cross-roads, I decided to play what I thought would be my trump-card: “But I’ve only been cited on Campus Watch three times!” Yes, we know, came the response; that is pathetic, but you’ve still got some time. Just try a bit harder, can’t you?