2022 Presidential Theme: Multilingual US

Barbara Fuchs, the 2021–22 president of the MLA, has chosen Multilingual US as the presidential theme for the 2022 MLA Annual Conven­tion in Washington, DC.

The MLA can play a crucial role in imagining and supporting a linguistically diverse commons, to make language a tool of inclusion rather than exclusion. For those who care about the humanities, exploring and promoting multilingualism is one of the most significant contributions we can make to a diverse public sphere. At the same time, reconstructing multilingual roots productively complicates the history of the nation-state—particularly for the United States but also for many other polities, especially settler nations whose indigenous and interimperial pasts have been occluded. Our theme for the year is thus contemporary and historical—an invitation to highlight the importance of contemporary multilingualism, while attending to the complex histories and erasures that have led to our present condition.

Multilingualism occurs in many spaces, both within and beyond the university. In keeping with the admirable recent focus of the MLA on the public humanities, I want to emphasize not just scholarly and pedagogical practices of multilingualism but the ways that MLA members can support a rich ecology of languages in their communities as in their institutions. How can our expertise promote multilingualism across civic spaces—in schools, in public libraries, and in cultural, political, and artistic arenas? How do we make room for linguistic diversity not as an accommodation but as a constitutive feature of the commons?

Sessions for the convention may wish to focus on language justice; multilingualism in poetry, theater, and other forms; strategies for multilingual access in various settings; multilingualism and the public, urban, and digital humanities; multilingual medical humanities; multilingualism and history; pedagogic approaches to multilingualism, including at the K–12 level; translation, interpretation, and activism; bilingual education; multilingual approaches to national literatures; preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages; sign languages and embodied communication; scholarly collaborations across languages and disciplines; public humanities projects that engage multiple languages; and more.

Visit the MLA website to post a call for papers for the 2022 convention.

ADE and ADFL Award Winners Announced

Congratulations to Stacey Lee Donohue, who will receive the Association of Departments of English’s Francis Andrew March Award, and to Pauline R. Yu, who will receive the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages’ Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession. Donohue, a professor of English at Central Oregon Community College, has served as president of the ADE and on numerous MLA committees and working groups. Yu served as president of the American Council of Learned Societies from 2003 to 2019, where she worked to promote the humanities and the study of world languages and cultures. The awards will be presented to Donohue and Yu during the MLA Awards Ceremony, which will take place on 9 January.

Photo of Pauline R. Yu

Pauline R. Yu

Photo of Stacey Lee Donohue

Stacey Lee Donohue

Contribute to an MLA Approaches Volume on the Works of Benito Pérez Galdós

The volume Approaches to Teaching the Works of Benito Pérez Galdós, edited by Liana Ewald, David George, and Wan Tang, is now in development in the MLA series Approaches to Teaching World Literature. Instructors who have taught Galdós’s works are encouraged to contribute to the volume by completing a survey about their experiences. Information about proposing an essay is available at the end of the survey.

Theodore Ziolkowski, Former President of the MLA, 1932–2020

The MLA mourns the passing of Theodore Ziolkowski, former president of the MLA and Class of 1900 Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. Ziolkowski was a renowned Germanist and comparatist, a prolific author, a musician, and an athlete. He was born into a multilingual family in Alabama in 1932 and exhibited precocious scholastic abilities, earning his bachelor’s degree from Duke University in 1951 at the age of eighteen and his master’s degree, also from Duke, one year later. Alongside his academic achievements, he was a formidable football player and an accomplished jazz trumpeter, playing music professionally into his early thirties. He received his PhD from Yale University in 1957 before teaching briefly at Columbia University and then at Princeton, where he spent the majority of his career. He was the author of dozens of scholarly tomes on German and comparative literature, including Dimensions of the Modern Novel: German Texts and European Contexts (1969) and Virgil and the Moderns (1993). His book Fictional Transfigurations of Jesus received the National Book Award in 1972, as well as the MLA’s prestigious James Russell Lowell Prize. He served as president of the MLA in 1985.

Remembering Doug Steward, Director of the Association of Departments of English

Doug Steward Doug Steward, associate director of programs and director of the Association of Departments of English (ADE), died suddenly on 5 November, at the age of fifty. Doug had been central to the ADE since 2003, and he became director in 2017. He did extensive work in support of English departments, graduate students, and, in particular, students and faculty members of color. He was meticulous and passionate in his work, and he was instrumental in making the profession more humane and equitable. Doug’s colleagues and the faculty members he worked with over the years miss him tremendously and will long remember his smile, his graciousness, and his love for life.

MLA Bibliography Honors Fellows

The MLA International Bibliography congratulates the 2020 Fellowship Award recipients:

  • Brian Flota, humanities librarian, James Madison University
  • Carmela Mattza, associate professor of Spanish, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
  • Amanda L. Watson, librarian for English and comparative literature, New York University

The fellows, who have contributed to the bibliography from 2017 to 2020, will be awarded a certificate of accomplishment and a check for $500 and will be recognized during the 2021 MLA Awards Ceremony, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, 9 January.  We offer our sincere thanks and appreciation for their service to the MLA International Bibliography!

MLA Executive Council Statements on COVID-19 and Higher Education

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, higher education faces unprecedented challenges, with significant consequences for institutions, faculty members, and students. In its statements about the pandemic, the MLA Executive Council has appealed to institutional leaders to uphold their central mission and support faculty members, staff members, and students in their vital work in the humanities—now and as colleges and universities continue to face the pressing issues of this crisis.

Below is an overview of statements related to COVID-19, issued or endorsed by the MLA Executive Council. Click on the statement names to learn more.

In March 2020, the Executive Council approved a statement drafted by the MLA, calling on colleges and universities to implement practices that will ward off disastrous consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for graduate students; contingent faculty members, including adjunct, postdoctoral, non-tenure-track, and graduate instructors; untenured faculty members; and international scholars and students. It was endorsed by twenty-eight other organizations or their executive committees.

In March 2020, the MLA Executive Council added the MLA’s endorsement to this statement, which was drafted by the American Sociological Association and endorsed by thirty-five other organizations. It calls on all institutions of higher education to consider appropriate temporary adjustments to their review and reappointment processes for tenure-line and contingent faculty members during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

In April 2020, the MLA Executive Council added the MLA’s endorsement to this statement, which was drafted by the American Sociological Association and endorsed by thirty-two organizations. It states, in part, “In the context of COVID-19, we recommend that institutions make temporary adjustments to timelines for student progression and completion, including revising funding timelines as appropriate.”

In June 2020, the Executive Council approved this update to the MLA’s “Statement on COVID-19 and Academic Labor” to address the health risks that faculty members, students, and staff members are facing while working and teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the MLA encourages institutions to take into account the gendered inequities, socioeconomic inequities, and the needs and constraints of marginalized communities, particularly BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students and faculty members working during this time.

In August 2020, the Executive Council approved adding the MLA’s signature to this statement, drafted by leaders of academic organizations, libraries, and research centers. It calls on “all leaders of institutions of higher education to uphold the central importance of the humanities and the social sciences” as they “make important decisions that will shape the institutions under [their] stewardship for years and perhaps generations to come.”

In September 2020, the MLA Executive Council approved the MLA’s endorsement of a resolution, written by the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials, regarding challenges in the collection development ecosystem for Latin American and Caribbean studies, brought about by COVID-19 and the associated budgetary restrictions.

New Resource for Teaching Literary Research with the MLA Bibliography

The MLA has just released “Literary Topics,” the fifth subject-area module for use in conjunction with our free teaching resource Understanding the MLA International Bibliography: An Online Course. The other four subject modules are “Film, Television, and Radio,” “Folklore,” “Linguistics,” and “Rhetoric and Composition.” The subject modules build on the general database search skills taught in the online course, so students should complete the online course first.

The “Literary Topics” module provides detailed guidance on performing searches on specific literary works and authors as well as on broad topics. The module also contains sections on understanding search results, using the MLA Thesaurus, and how to search for scholarship that uses particular theoretical approaches or methods of analysis.

The course usually takes students around ninety minutes to complete, and the “Literary Topics” module takes around forty-five minutes. Both are asynchronous learning objects that can be done at students’ convenience online. Progress is saved, and students receive digital badges to certify their completion of the course and the subject module. Students can sign up for the course and module at https://mla.moonami.com/. Only an e-mail address is required to register. Students will need access to the MLA International Bibliography through their library’s website to complete all aspects of the course. An instructor’s guide is available at https://style.mla.org/bibcourse/.

Growing Humanities Commons

Launched in 2016 as an expansion of MLA Commons, the Humanities Commons platform now serves more than 20,000 users who can share their work, create sites, and connect with scholars around the world. To support the continued growth of the network, hosting of Humanities Commons will be moving from the MLA to Michigan State University, and its development will be overseen by MESH Research, a research and development unit of the university.

The platform will soon be the home to additional membership organizations, including the Association of University Presses, the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Art Libraries Society of North America. In addition, colleges and universities will be able to become members. To support this expansion, Humanities Commons will be joined by disciplinary hubs dedicated to the social sciences and to STEM fields. All of these hubs will be united by a new top-level hub, the Commons, that will aim to foster cross-disciplinary collaborations.

To learn more about the move and expansion, including how this change will affect the network’s terms of service and privacy policy, please visit Sustaining the Commons.