Here's an article by someone who doesn't think too much of the direction of much medieval studies, with lots of members of the medieval blog-o-net-sphere-thingy featured prominently in the rogues' gallery.
My own session gets a mention, "One session was entirely devoted to medieval blogs, including a paper comparing the works of Geoffrey Chaucer to the blog 'Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog.'" Unfortunately, the writer clearly did not attend the session, because if she had, she would have A). known that the Chaucer paper wasn't given, and B). been so overwhelmed by the power of my paper that all thought of other sessions would have been washed from her mind.
Seriously, though, Allen has a mishmash of complaints of varying degrees of validity. [Warning: Academia talk to follow. Non-scholars may want to nap rather than read the rest of this post] Regular readers of the Wordhoard know that I share her concerns about certain types of cultural studies, since they apply a cultural Marxist paradigm to a pre-capitalist world. Nor am I a big fan of scholars who do "transgressive" work just because it's "transgressive" -- first of all, since it'll get you tenure, it isn't all that transgressive,* and second, it's stupid to do anything just because it's transgressive.
Her complaints about medieval history getting crowded out by literature may be valid, though honestly there's so much historicism, I'm not sure how you could tell. It seems to me that straight history and straight lit are hard to find because of all the crossover -- and in any case, Kalamazoo is exactly the kind of conference at which you do crossover work because you can rely on scholars of all disciplines to be there.
And what of her depiction of the dance? It's right on the money, but what of it? Yes, it's silly; yes, it's frivolous; yes, it's undignified -- but did anyone ever claim otherwise? After a few days of really dense scholarship, cheap white wine, and plotting new scholarly projects with your colleagues, the dance is a wonderful tonic before boarding your plane and returning to a campus where you languish in obscurity.
Allen, though, has smooshed a lot of different complaints together. Overall, she seems not to like postmodernism -- which is fine by me, because I live in this postmodern world with an ethic provided to me by TS Eliot (and a little help from Boethius). It is wrong to assume, though, that a scholar who does work on postmodern topics necessarily does not do "traditional" medieval studies. For starters, you can't even take your first baby steps in most medieval scholarship without having some sort of arcane knowledge of dead languages or medieval economic structures or Church politics or whatnot. Doing bridge work between medieval and non-medieval topics does not betray medieval scholarship any more than Allen's popular articles betray her own research. Are we to assume that because she writes on political topics, or because she attended the Congress and did not present a paper, that she does not actually do any real research on medieval and Byzantine history? Of course not.
Is this a dark age for medievalists? As I've argued before, if we don't do a better job at bridging the gap between the academic and popular, it will be one. Kalamazoo, however, is one of the places where the light of medievalism still shines bright. If you go to K'zoo looking for absurdities, you will surely find them among the 3k medievalists there, but if you go, like most of us, seeking out solid scholarship on important issues, you'll find even more of that.
*True transgression would be to do scholarship supportive of the Bush Administration, as that kind of thing could get you fired despite tenure. Unless you're taking actual, real risks, don't believe your friends when they say how "courageous" you are. You ain't, bub.