Comment on Two Delegate Assembly Resolutions

At its meeting on 7 January 2017 in Philadelphia, the Delegate Assembly approved two resolutions that the Executive Council has forwarded to the membership for a ratification vote. Before the vote is conducted, MLA members are invited to comment on the resolutions on the MLA Web site (log-in required) until 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on 17 April. (Note: The ratification ballot will be available to those who were members on 7 January 2017, the date of the Delegate Assembly meeting, and whose membership is current as of 17 April.)

Executive Council Statement about MLA Resolutions

As commenting opens on two resolutions approved by the Delegate Assembly in January, the MLA Executive Council has issued a statement about the resolution process. At its February meeting the council reviewed the resolutions for any constitutional, legal, or fiduciary issues posed by the resolutions’ language and voted to forward the resolutions to the membership for a vote. Nevertheless, the Executive Council and the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (DAOC) recognize “that the current resolution process has begun to take up far more than a reasonable share of the organization’s resources, putting an undue burden on the MLA staff as well as on the members who volunteer their time to represent their colleagues on the Delegate Assembly, the DAOC, and the Executive Council.” In response, the council has established an ad hoc committee to examine the resolution process and the ways the MLA might speak out about matters of concern to members. Read the full council statement on the Executive Council blog.

Help Select Cultural Excursions for the 2018 Convention

Are you interested in participating in an MLA-sponsored excursion during the 2018 convention in New York City? If so, let us know if you have a specific suggestion or contact and which types of excursions you’d be interested in: art galleries or museums, libraries, science or natural history museums, food and wine tastings, or architecture tours. Post your preferences here by using the Leave a Reply button below, or send an e-mail to Stacey Courtney. Thank you for your feedback, and we look forward to seeing you in New York!

MLA Denounces Executive Order on Immigration

A new statement by the Executive Council denounces the 27 January executive order that temporarily bans citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, suspends all refugee admissions, and indefinitely bars the entry of Syrian refugees. The order has thrown lives into turmoil, undermined cultural exchange and academic freedom, and threatened core principles of the United States. Reaffirming its 2013 Statement on the Importance of Unrestricted Travel for Scholarly Exchange and the right to freedom of travel outlined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the MLA urges the Trump administration to rescind the order and “to pursue border and immigration policies that protect the open exchange of ideas and honor the dignity of all people.” Read the full statement.


Nominations for Prize Committees

Would you like to help choose the winners of the MLA’s publications prizes? The Committee on Honors and Awards makes appointments to the prize selection committees every spring. Members who would like to suggest themselves or other members for appointment to particular prize committees may do so by 28 February by sending a message to The following information should be included: name of the committee, name of the member suggested, affiliation, department, rank, field(s) of specialization, a short listing of professional activities and of books and major articles published, and a brief statement of the person’s qualifications. Members should consult the list of publication prize committees to determine expected vacancies. Please note that suggestions for appointments are not carried forward from year to year; they are compiled anew for each appointment cycle.

MLA Issues Statement on Watch Lists

The Executive Council of the MLA has issued a statement condemning watch lists and blacklists, such as Canary Mission and Professor Watchlist, which “create opportunities for harassment and intimidation of those they name. By encouraging silence, they deprive scholars of academic freedom.” The statement reaffirms the MLA’s commitment to upholding “the rights of all its constituents to exercise their freedom to engage in political speech and nonviolent political action in the course of their work.”


Apply for an MLA Bibliography Fellowship by 1 April

The MLA International Bibliography is accepting applications for three-year field-bibliography fellowships. MLA field bibliographers examine scholarly materials and submit citations and indexing information for the bibliography. Open to all MLA members, the 2017 fellowships will run from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020.

The MLA provides materials and training and waives registration fees for fellows attending training sessions at the MLA convention. On completion of the fellowship, fellows receive a $500 stipend and a certificate at the convention awards ceremony. In addition to performing a valuable service for the profession, field bibliographers receive institutional recognition while enhancing their knowledge of the field and honing their research skills.

For more information and to submit an application, visit the MLA Bibliography Fellowships Web page. Applications are due 1 April 2017.

In Memory of Robert Scholes, 1929–2016

The Modern Language Association mourns the passing of Robert Scholes, former MLA president and Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at Brown University.

A founder of Brown’s semiotics program, now the Department of Modern Culture and Media, Scholes was a leading figure in the fields of semiotics and structuralism. In 1966, he and Robert Kellogg published The Nature of Narrative, regarded as a classic of literary studies. A veteran of the Korean War, Scholes taught at the University of Virginia and the University of Iowa before moving to Brown, where he taught from 1970 to 1999. His scholarship and teaching touched on a wide array of literary genres, from the works of canonical modern authors like Joyce and Hemingway to science fiction and comic writing. His many publications include Textual Power, which was awarded the MLA’s Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize in 1986; The Rise and Fall of English; and Fabulation and Metafiction.

Scholes received the ADE’s Francis Andrew March Award, given for distinguished service to the profession of English at the postsecondary level, in 2000 and served as president of the MLA in 2004. He also served as president of the Semiotic Society of America and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998.

Delegate Assembly Meeting

At its meeting on 7 January in Philadelphia, the MLA Delegate Assembly voted on three regular resolutions and one emergency resolution. The assembly voted to move forward for consideration by the entire MLA membership a resolution to refrain from endorsing the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and an emergency resolution calling on the MLA to endorse the American Association of University Professors statement “Higher Education after the 2016 Election.”

The MLA Executive Council must now examine each resolution to determine if any constitutional, legal, or fiduciary issues are posed by its language. The council will then either forward the resolution(s) to the membership without modifications or with nonsubstantive modifications or determine that it is unable to forward the resolution(s) for reasons set forth in the MLA constitution.

If the council forwards one or both resolutions, all MLA members will be able to vote in 2017 after a monthlong commenting period. Resolutions must be ratified by a majority vote in which the number of those voting for ratification equals at least ten percent of the association’s membership.

MLA delegates did not approve a resolution to endorse a boycott of Israeli institutions. They voted to postpone a resolution to condemn attacks on academic freedom in Palestinian universities.

In a letter to MLA members, Rosemary G. Feal, the MLA’s executive director, expressed her appreciation for the thoughtful and engaged discussion leading up to the vote.

A longer summary of the Delegate Assembly meeting will appear in the Spring MLA Newsletter, and a complete report will be published in the May 2016 issue of PMLA.

2018 Presidential Theme: #States of Insecurity

Diana Taylor, the 2017–18 president of the MLA, has chosen #States of Insecurity as the presidential theme for the 2018 MLA Annual Convention in New York. Human beings have long lived, told stories, danced, cried, written, made art, learned, taught, debated, and theorized in moments of insecurity caused by events as varied as war, plague, famine, conquest, and enslavement. States of insecurity, in fact, have animated some of our most enduring cultural productions and informed our values. This theme invites reflection on how our intellectual, artistic, and pedagogical work helps us think through the crises of our time. What strategies do the humanities offer for navigating our current crises: political volatility, fluctuating financial markets, fear-mongering media, and increasingly hateful acts and rhetoric that contribute to a general sense of malaise? #States of Insecurity asks those in the academy to draw from their experiences to identify and denaturalize the elements that contribute to states of insecurity. How can faculty members, administrators, students, and staff members strengthen our institutions; reaffirm the value of open inquiry and dialogue; and secure academic access and freedom for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, and immigration status? We can begin by reexamining our own epistemologies, disciplines, technologies, and organizational and governing structures. What does the pursuit of knowledge mean when students are indebted and faculty members lack job security? How do we conduct research in a political and media climate in which facts don’t matter? The academy cannot be separate from the political, economic, and ideological turmoil of our time: #States of Insecurity calls on academia to uphold its role as a place of critical and historical reflection, inquiry, and intervention. To solicit contributions for a convention session that engages with this theme, you may post a call for papers on the MLA Web site until 28 February 2017. Session proposal forms for the 2018 convention will be available online by early March.