MLA Publishes New Guidelines on Evaluating Publicly Engaged Humanities Scholarship

The MLA has just released new guidelines to help departments, institutions, and faculty members in languages and literatures value and assess public humanities work. Created by the MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Valuing the Public Humanities, the document seeks to acknowledge the importance of scholarship that reaches audiences beyond the university and that demonstrates the value of the humanities in the world. Providing a framework for those evaluating public humanities scholarship in hiring, tenure, and promotion contexts, the guidelines also raise key questions for those seeking to undertake public humanities work. Because public humanities scholarship often engages with communities, the guidelines put ethical concerns at their core, at the same time engaging with the fundamental questions that drive a peer-review process. We encourage you to read the guidelines and to consider these strategies for putting them to use:

  1. Use the guidelines to review your department or college bylaws regarding promotion and tenure and to identify gaps where public humanities scholarship might go undervalued or unidentified.
  2. Circulate the guidelines among faculty members and suggest the creation of a subcommittee reporting within promotion governance structures to ​draft an evaluation rubric for promotion and tenure that addresses public humanities scholarship informed by the “Guiding Questions for Assessing Public Humanities Scholarship.” How can such a rubric highlight how public humanities scholarship can further the core values of the department? How can this rubric help to advocate for faculty members?
  3. Review your hiring practices. Are there channels for job candidates to report public-facing work? Identify ways that your hiring process could inquire directly about or center public humanities scholarship. For program leaders: meet with faculty members to discuss what work they are involved in that does not easily fit within promotion requirements.
  4. Establish a peer-review network at your institution. Create opportunities for intra- and cross-institutional exchanges, including off-campus partnerships, where faculty members share their work, provide feedback, and foster connections using the prompts in the guidelines. Can these exchanges generate suggestions for external reviewers with knowledge bases in the public humanities who have successfully navigated processes for promotion? Can they facilitate ethical collaboration?
  5. Make spaces (virtual or physical) for faculty members to share and disseminate their work beyond the classroom or peer-reviewed journals, like a public humanities showcase. Find opportunities to celebrate and engage with work that might not otherwise be acknowledged in formal reviews.
  6. Find opportunities to involve students in ways that help make the case for valuing faculty advising, mentorship, and community-engaged and collaborative scholarship.

Sylvia Molloy, Former President of the MLA, 1938–2022

b/w photo of Sylvia Molloy applauding

Photo by Lagniappe Studio

The MLA is deeply saddened by the passing of the Argentine writer, literary critic, translator, and teacher Sylvia Molloy, who was born in Buenos Aires in 1938 and died on 14 July 2022 in New York at the age of 83. She was well-known as one of the most influential scholars of Latin American literature and culture. Molloy graduated with her PhD in comparative literature from the Sorbonne in 1967. She was Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities Emerita at New York University, where she taught Latin American and comparative literatures and where she created the MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish, which was the first program of its kind in the United States. Molloy also taught at Yale University and Princeton University and was the first woman to gain tenure at Princeton. She was a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. Over the years, Molloy held a range of positions with the Modern Language Association, including serving on the PMLA Editorial Board (1988–92) and on the Executive Council (1994–97), before becoming president of the MLA in 2001. She was an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from New York University and was awarded the title Doctor Honoris Causa from Tulane University. Molloy was recognized for being one of the pioneers in addressing issues of LGBTQI+ culture in her literary works and in exploring autobiography as a genre. She wrote numerous novels, essays, and critical works, including Hispanisms and Homosexualities (1998, with Robert McKee Irwin); her first novel, En breve cárcel (1981), which became a queer-literature icon; Varia imaginación (2003); and many others.

Contribute to an MLA Options for Teaching Volume on Afro-Brazilian Literature in a Diasporic Context

The volume Options for Teaching Afro-Brazilian Literature in a Diasporic Context, edited by Cristina Ferreira Pinto-Bailey and Paulo Dutra, is now in development in the MLA Options for Teaching series. To learn more about the volume and how to propose an essay, please visit the MLA website. Please send abstracts and CVs to the editors by 30 September 2022.

MLA Members Awarded Mellon/ACLS Fellowships

Congratulations to the five MLA members who have been awarded 2022 Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowships, which support early-career scholars in the humanities and interpretive social sciences in the final year of PhD dissertation writing. This program, which makes its sixteenth and final set of awards this year, is made possible by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.


Andy Alfonso, Princeton University

Alex Alston, Columbia University

Sophia Mo, Columbia University

Sarah Preston, University of Oregon

Joseph Wei, University of Virginia

MLA Members Receive 2022 Guggenheim Fellowships

Congratulations to the eleven MLA members among the winners of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships announced in April 2022. Many of this year’s fellows’ projects directly respond to issues like climate change, pandemics, Russia, feminism, identity, and racism. Noting the impact of these annual grants, Edward Hirsch, President of the Guggenheim Foundation, said, “The work supported by the Foundation will aid in our collective effort to better understand the new world we’re in, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going.”


Bénédicte Boisseron, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Field of study: Literary Criticism

Heather Clark, University of Huddersfield

Field of study: American Literature

Charlene M. Eska, Virginia Tech

Field of study: Medieval and Renaissance History

Stathis Gourgouris, Columbia University

Field of study: Literary Criticism

Daniel Hack, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Field of study: Literary Criticism

Yona Harvey, University of Pittsburgh

Field of study: Poetry

Jeffrey Masten, Northwestern University

Field of study: English Literature

Matt Reeck
Field of study: Translation

Paul Saint-Amour, University of Pennsylvania

Field of study: Literary Criticism

Esther Schor, Princeton University

Field of study: Intellectual and Cultural History

John Zilcosky, University of Toronto

Field of study: Literary Criticism

MLA Members Receive 2022 NEH Grants

Congratulations to the twenty-one MLA members who are among the winners of the National Endowment for the Humanities grants announced in April 2022. Their projects include a curriculum integrating humanities and data science through experiential learning; research and writing leading to a book about the literary and cultural legacy of Bartolina Sisa, an Indigenous revolutionary woman in colonial Bolivia; a three-year project incorporating humanities content into preprofessional courses; and much more.

Elizabeth Alsop, City University of New York

Project Title: The Cinema of American Director Elaine May

Project Description: Writing leading to a book about film director Elaine May (1932–) and her four feature films, A New Leaf (1971), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), Mikey and Nicky (1976), and Ishtar (1987).

Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University

Project Title: Humanities and the Digital Future of Health and Healthcare

Project Description: A three-year project to implement a half major in digital health humanities.

Brooke Conti, Cleveland State University

Project Title: Religious Nostalgia from Shakespeare to Milton

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on religious nostalgia in English literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Tara Daly, Marquette University

Project Title: Back to the Future: Bartolina Sisa (d. 1782) and Living Indigenous Archives in Modern Day Bolivia

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book about the literary and cultural legacy of Bartolina Sisa, an Indigenous revolutionary woman in colonial Bolivia.

Shannon Draucker, Siena College

Project Title: How Musical Science Shaped Representations of Gender and Sexuality in British Literature, 1850–1914

Project Description: Research and writing towards a book on Victorian authors’ understanding of music and musical science, 1850–1914.

Matylda Figlerowicz, Harvard University

Project Title: Becoming Lady Light: The Revolutions of Nahua Intellectual and Model Luz Jiménez

Project Description: Research leading to an intellectual biography of Luz Jiménez (1897–1965), an Indigenous model to artists and informant to anthropologists working in post-Revolutionary Mexico.

Jane Garrity, University of Colorado, Boulder

Project Title: Integrating Humanities and Data Science

Project Description: The development of eight new courses integrating humanities and data science through experiential learning.

Amanda Golden, New York Institute of Technology

Project Title: Editing the Poems of Sylvia Plath

Project Description: Research and writing an expanded, annotated edition of the collected poems of American author Sylvia Plath (1932–1963).

Lisa Hager, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 

Project Title: Transgender Victorians: Reconceptualizing Gender Identities in Nineteenth-Century British Literary Culture

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book theorizing Victorian gender identities through literature and authorial biography.

Molly Hiro, University of Portland 

Project Title: Core Humanities: Integration through Curriculum, Campus, and Community

Project Description: Planning for the creation of new interdisciplinary Core courses and for a humanities hub to serve as the home of the new curriculum.

Ashton Lazarus, University of Utah

Project Title: Sensation and Renunciation in The Tale of Genji

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the Japanese literary classic The Tale of Genji (c. 1011), focusing on the tension between the allure of sensory experience and Buddhist distrust of the senses.

Joseph Mansky, University of Oklahoma

Project Title: Plays, Libels, and the Public Sphere in Shakespeare’s England

Project Description: Research and writing towards a book on the use of libels on the English stage in the 1590s.

Shaun Myers, University of Pittsburgh

Project Title: Black Anaesthetics: African American Narrative beyond Man

Project Description: Research and writing of one chapter of a book on Black women writers and the techniques they used to obscure blackness in the 1970s and 1980s.

Sarah Noonan, Saint Mary’s College, IN

Project Title: Launching a Digital and Public Humanities Minor

Project Description: The development of an interdisciplinary minor in digital and public humanities.

Jessica Richard, Wake Forest University

Project Title: Maria Edgeworth Letters

Project Description: Planning for the creation of a fully searchable corpus of Maria Edgeworth’s letters through crowdsourced transcription, expert annotation, and TEI encoding. Her letters are held at twenty-six libraries across the United States and United Kingdom, and this would be the first effort to unite them digitally.

Andrew Rusnak, Community College of Baltimore County, Essex

Project Title: Contextualizing Humanities Education for All 

Project Description: A three-year project incorporating humanities content into preprofessional courses.

Emily Rutter, Ball State University

Project Title: White Allyship in Contemporary Black Media 

Project Description: Research and writing of a book about the ways in which directors and screenwriters centralize complex Black protagonists while also training the gaze on would-be white allies.

Alexandra Valint, University of Southern Mississippi

Project Title: Wheelchairs, Crutches, and Disability in Victorian Literature 

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on prosthetics and mobility aids in Victorian literature.

Leslie Werden, Sioux City Morningside University

Project Title: Rooted: Integrated Humanities and Agriculture 

Project Description: A three-year project to implement an agricultural humanities minor.

Ashley Williard, University of South Carolina, Columbia

Project Title: Disruptive Minds: Madness in the Early French Atlantic

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book exploring seventeenth- and eighteenth-century conceptions of madness in France and its Atlantic colonies.

Adrian Wisnicki, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Project Title: COVE: Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education

Project Description: Development of the Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE) with three areas of focus: implementation of more robust data standards for long-term use; expansion of content with over eighty titles concentrating especially on noncanonical and global literatures; and enhancements of the COVE website to facilitate pedagogically focused digital humanities work with literary texts.

MLA Members Named National Humanities Center Fellows

Among this year’s National Humanities Center Fellows are three members of the Modern Language Association. Each fellow will work on individual research and will have the opportunity to share ideas in seminars, lectures, and conferences at the center. The MLA commends them for their contribution to humanistic scholarship.

  • Irving Goh (Languages and Literature, National University of Singapore): Living on after Failure (Luce East Asia Fellowship)
  • Patricia A. Matthew (Languages and Literature, Montclair State University): Gender, Sugar, and the Afterlives of Abolition (Anthony E. Kaye Fellowship)
  • Cedric R. Tolliver (Languages and Literature, University of Houston): Spook(ed): African American Literature, National Security, and the Fictions of Statecraft (M. H. Abrams Fellowship)

MLA Members Awarded ACLS Fellowships

Congratulations to the four MLA members who have been awarded 2022 American Council of Learned Societies Emerging Voices Fellowships, which support early-career scholars whose voices, perspectives, and broad visions will strengthen institutions of higher education and humanistic disciplines in the years to come. This year the program will award more than $3.7 million to support 60 scholars, many of whom are facing significant disruption to their research and career ambitions due to the widespread social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Maria Beliaeva Solomon, University of Maryland, College Park

Eleanor Paynter, Cornell University

Matthew Reeck, Saint John’s University, NY

Brandy E. Underwood, California State University, Northridge

Resources for Humanities Professionals in Response to the Invasion of Ukraine

The MLA has collected resources shared by its members and by members of the ADE and ADFL communities in response to the invasion of Ukraine. We encourage you to help us develop this list of events, teaching materials, and other resources by sending your suggestions to Lydia Tang, the MLA’s head of world language programs.