THE PRESIDENCY of the MLA is a short-term office, perhaps designed to represent the usual academic attitude to official positions. As president, I have had the honor of writing begging letters to some of you, but the title of PMLA, which I might assume on the analogy of the Royal Academy, is otherwise engaged, and chairing half a dozen meetings does not, even in these instant-administration days, leave much of an odor of charisma behind. I understand that in the recent election campaign President Ford's advisers tried to take advantage of the fact that the American system does not distinguish between the head of state and the head of government. They felt that, if an incumbent President would just stand there, his impressive position would have the best chance of being confirmed by the vote. But the MLA does distinguish the two, and Bill Schaefer will remain the head of government after the head of state has vanished into limbo tomorrow night, like one of the divine kings in The Golden Bough, who hears the grinding of axes in the background as soon as he has failed to satisfy one of his wives. However, the ritual banquet on his body and blood has been commuted to an allegory. He is required only to make the equivalent of a speech from the throne, a speech that is an expression neither of royal will, as in Tudor times, nor of government policy, as now, but is rather an effort to express a collective consciousness, to gain some perspective on this confused and crowded assemblage.