The MLA is deeply saddened by the passing of Mario J. Valdés, former president of the MLA and director of the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. Valdés was a distinguished scholar, colleague, and leader whose ambitious and wide-ranging contributions to the study of literature are recognized as landmarks of comparative literary history. His commitment to humanistic inquiry was indisputable: in the 1960s Valdés and his wife Maria Elena traveled to Franco’s Spain, where they secretly photocopied the papers of the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno and smuggled them to Canada by mail. Valdés’s publications included not only works on Unamuno but essays and books on phenomenology and hermeneutics in literary studies. After becoming director of the Centre for Comparative Literature in 1978, Valdés brought a series of outstanding literary scholars to the University of Toronto, including Paul Ricoeur, Fredric Jameson, Tzvetan Todorov, Gérard Genette, and many others, helping to establish the Centre’s international reputation. In addition to his term as president of the MLA in 1991, Valdés was a member of numerous committees, including the Program Committee (1992–95) and the Nominating Committee (1998–99). You can read more about his life and career here.
The Modern Language Association mourns the passing of former MLA president Louis Kampf, distinguished professor emeritus of comparative literature and gender and women’s studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Kampf is the author of On Modernism: The Prospects for Literature and Freedom (1967) and the coeditor, with Paul Lauter, of The Politics of Literature: Dissenting Essays on the Teaching of Literature (1972). His essays appeared in The Nation, Radical Teacher, PMLA, and other scholarly journals. Kampf served on the editorial boards of the Feminist Press, Signs: A Journal of Women and Culture, and Radical Teacher. He also served on the MLA Program Committee and the Committee on Resolutions. Kampf was a political activist and was the director of RESIST, a peace and social justice organization formed in 1967 in support of draft resistance to the Vietnam War. The Louis Kampf Writing Prize in Women’s and Gender Studies, now in its twenty-fifth year, was started at MIT in 1995–96 to honor Kampf and to reward high-quality undergraduate writing in women’s and gender studies. Kampf was elected second vice president of the MLA for 1969, which led to his presidency in 1971.
Congratulations to the seven MLA members among the winners of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships announced in April 2020. The projects recognized include storytelling in a transmedia era, the history and theory of “sexual aim,” and the making and use over centuries of early modern fiction.
Guillermina De Ferrari, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Field of study: European and Latin American Literature
Kate Flint, University of Southern California
Field of study: Fine Arts Research
Patrick Jagoda, University of Chicago
Field of study: Film, Video, and New Media Studies
Benjamin Kahan, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Field of study: Literary Criticism
Bernadette Meyler, Stanford University
Field of study: Constitutional Studies
Lawrence Rosenwald, Wellesley College
Field of study: Literary Criticism
Helen Solterer, Duke University
Field of study: Medieval and Renaissance Literature
In a newly published report, the MLA Task Force on Ethical Conduct in Graduate Education calls on administrators, departments, and faculty members to embrace “student-centered graduate education informed by an ethics of care.” The report, which emerged out of a 2018 survey of MLA members conducted by the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee and subsequent discussions at the 2019 convention, addresses member concerns about students’ financial and professional precarity, pervasive power imbalances between faculty members and graduate students, and related problems. To confront long-standing issues in graduate education—such as precarity, bias and favoritism, harassment, mental health, faculty members’ lack of responsiveness, and workplace exploitation—the report makes nine recommendations, including collaborative advising, the categorical rejection of harassment and discrimination, the creation of equitable workplaces, greater mental health support, and more professionalization opportunities oriented toward diverse careers. You can read the report on the MLA Web site.
Congratulations to the twenty-two MLA members who are among the winners of the National Endowment for the Humanities grants announced in April 2020. Their projects include the development of an online directory of libraries, museums, and archives containing sources on Hispanic history in the United States; the creation of a minor in future studies; the implementation of a place-based curriculum in applied humanities focused on human-centered land use and historic preservation; and a study of cultural representations of the Korean War.
Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
Matt Cohen, University of Nebraska, Board of Regents
Project Title: Walt Whitman Archive Infrastructure Revitalization
Project Description: Revitalizing the digital architecture of the Walt Whitman Archive to make it easier to search and use the materials on the Web site. Specific improvements would include changing the programming framework; creating a machine-readable interface for the Web site’s code, images, and metadata; revising files to improve the metadata; and leveraging existing metadata through a new search engine.
Patricia Fumerton, University of California, Santa Barbara
Project Title: Early English Broadside Ballads: Local and Global
Project Description: The continued development of the English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA), with the addition of 1,178 pre-1701 printed ballad sheets from 101 institutions in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In addition, the applicant would catalog 923 tune titles and approximately 18,200 woodcut impressions and would enhance access to the entire ballad collection through the project’s new Web site, EBBA 4.0.
Nicolas Kanellos, University of Houston
Project Title: Survey of Small Historical Societies, Libraries, and Museums for Hispanic Materials and Their Management
Project Description: The planning and development of an online directory of libraries, archives, and museums containing sources on Hispanic history and culture in the United States, from the colonial era through 1960, with a focus on small institutions in the South and Southeast.
Chon Noriega, University of California, Los Angeles
Project Title: Religion, Spirituality, and Faith in Mexican American Social History, 1940s–Present
Project Description: The arrangement, description, and selected digitization of archival collections pertaining to the role of religion in Latino history. Included are nine collections totaling 237 linear feet, among which are 12,000 photographs that would be digitized.
Humanities Connections Planning Grants
Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University
Project Title: Towards a Digital Health Humanities Curriculum: Tools and Strategies Project
Description: The development of a digital health humanities curriculum for undergraduates.
William Bridges, University of Rochester
Project Title: The Humanities and the Study of the Future
Project Description: A one-year planning grant to create a minor and three-course cluster in future studies.
Humanities Connections Implementation Grants
Kathleen Hanggi, Doane University
Project Title: Implementing a Certificate in Integrated Humanities Program
Project Description: A three-year project to implement a new general education certificate program in integrated humanities for psychology and biology majors.
Amy Woodbury Tease, Norwich University
Project Title: Building a Humanities-Centered Interdisciplinary Curriculum to Foster Citizen Scholars
Project Description: A three-year project to implement a new team-taught curriculum integrating humanities with the sciences and professional fields.
Holly Tucker; Elizabeth Meadows, Vanderbilt University
Project Title: An Experiential, Place-Based Curriculum for Historic Preservation and Humanities-Centered Land Use
Project Description: A two-year interdisciplinary curricular project to implement an experiential curriculum in the applied humanities.
Sophie Esch, Rice University
Project Title: Animals and Armed Conflict in Contemporary Literature from Latin America and Africa
Project Description: Writing one chapter of a book on animals and the experience of war in Latin American and African literature.
John Hay, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Project Title: The First Person in America: The Identity of the Narrator in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. Novel
Project Description: Writing four chapters of a book on the evolution of the narrator in nineteenth-century American fiction.
Michael Hill, College of William and Mary
Project Title: Chinese and Arabic Literatures at the End of Empire, 1850–1950
Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on intellectual and literary exchanges between Egypt and China in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Emily Hyde, Rowan University
Project Title: Postcolonial Modernism and the Visual Book, 1947–1968
Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the modernist illustrations and visual imagery of postcolonial novels in English.
Jeehyun Lim, SUNY Research Foundation, University at Buffalo
Project Title: Unforgetting the Korean War: Cultural Representation and Memory, 1950–2017
Project Description: Writing of a chapter and related article for a book examining cultural representations of the Korean War.
Kirk Melnikoff, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Project Title: Bookselling in Early Modern England
Project Description: Archival research leading to a monograph on bookselling in early modern England.
Ingrid Nelson, Trustees of Amherst College
Project Title: Ambient Media in Chaucer’s House of Fame
Project Description: Research leading to a book on the way that Chaucer discusses aural and textual media such as spoken word and manuscripts in his literary texts, and the ways in which he conceptualized the circulation of media and culture.
Sarah Nelson, University of Idaho
Project Title: The Correspondence of Italian-French Noblewoman Marie Mancini (1638–1715): A Digital Edition
Project Description: Research and writing leading to digital publication of the transcriptions, translations, and annotations of approximately twenty-five letters written by the Italo-French noblewoman Marie Mancini as well as the creation of the project Web site.
Elizabeth Rivlin, Clemson University
Project Title: Shakespeare and the American Middlebrow: Reading Publics, 1878–Present
Project Description: Research and writing a history of how American individuals and organizations have engaged the plays of William Shakespeare since the late nineteenth century.
John Shank, Regents of the University of Minnesota
Project Title: A History of the French Académie Royale des Sciences, 1495–1746
Project Description: Research and writing leading to publication of the first volume of a planned three-volume history of the French Royal Academy of Sciences from 1495 to 1746.
Bryan Sinche, University of Hartford
Project Title: Self Publication and Nineteenth-Century African American Literature Project
Description: Research and writing of one chapter of a book on self-published writings by African Americans in the nineteenth century
Leah Vonderheide, Oberlin College
Project Title: Cinema of Indigenous Maori Filmmaker and Actress Merata Mita (1942–2010)
Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book about Merata Mita (1942–2010) and her film and television work in New Zealand over three decades, from the context of global cinema and feminist film practice.
In March, the MLA created an emergency grant program to offer support to contingent faculty members hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants will help part-time faculty members who are without health or other benefits and face unexpected expenses or a loss of income because of this crisis.
To support the grants, the MLA launched a fundraising campaign, including a matching challenge from the MLA Executive Council, former MLA presidents, and the Teagle Foundation. Through the generosity of individual donors and sponsors, we have raised more than $100,000, which will enable the MLA to fund all of the 203 eligible applicants.
Thank you to everyone who donated and to Duolingo, EBSCO Information Services, the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity, and the Teagle Foundation for their grant and sponsorship support. Your contributions are making a difference.
Although the 2021 convention will be shaped by the current crisis and may look different from what we anticipated, we are looking forward to the opportunity to bring MLA members together again in January and are working toward this goal. Many members have already submitted session proposals, which the Program Committee will review in May. We have also increased the number of just-in-time sessions and will invite your submissions for these in early August. The convention reflects the best intellectual energies of so many MLA members, and we are committed to creating a substantial platform to facilitate that exchange while ensuring the safety of our community. Please check here and on MLA 2021 page of the Web site for the latest updates on the convention, and we hope to see you in Toronto.
The volume Teaching Food in Literature, edited by Jeff Birkenstein, 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 Web site. Please send abstracts and CVs to the editor by 7 September 2020.
The MLA is seeking a new editor of its flagship journal, PMLA. The term of the current editor, Wai Chee Dimock, ends in June 2021, and the new editor’s term, a three-year appointment, would begin 1 July 2021. Responsibilities include reviewing submissions, leading meetings of the editorial board, writing an editor’s column and selecting the content for each issue, and commissioning material and updating features and formats for the journal. The MLA offers the editor significant support from the staff, as well as resources for networking on behalf of the journal, including participation at the association’s annual convention.
The ideal candidate has a capacious intellectual vision and is conversant with developments in a wide range of fields. PMLA is a membership journal, and it is vital that the diversity of MLA members and their work be represented in the journal.
The editor should be able to work innovatively within the structures of the MLA and PMLA and to communicate and collaborate well with staff members and authors.
The editor must be a member of the MLA and preferably have had some experience with PMLA (as an author, a reviewer, or a member of the advisory committee or editorial board) or substantial editorial experience with another peer-reviewed scholarly journal in the field.
Please send your suggestions, along with background information on the people you suggest, to email@example.com by 22 July 2020.
The volume Approaches to Teaching the Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Sean Heuston, is now in development in the MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature series. Instructors who have taught this work 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.
You are also invited to submit essay proposals for a new volume in development in the Options for Teaching series, Teaching Anglophone South Asian Diasporic Literature, edited by Nalini Iyer and Pallavi Rastogi. Abstracts must be submitted to the editors by 1 August 2020.