MLA Awarded Million-Dollar Mellon Grant to Support Teaching at Community Colleges

The MLA is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant of one million dollars by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen the teaching of English at access-oriented institutions (AOIs). Between 2019 and 2021, the association will organize nine regional summer institutes for those who teach at AOIs and those who would like to make their teaching careers at them.

Over the next three years, the grant will allow 144 doctoral students and instructors at AOIs (community colleges and other colleges that prioritize access over selectivity in admissions) to participate in weeklong summer institutes in different regions of the United States, conduct pedagogical research projects the following semester, and present their work at an MLA Annual Convention. Two MLA Teaching Institutes will be held in 2019, three in 2020, and four in 2021. Graduates from the program will be awarded an MLA Certificate in Reading-Writing Pedagogy at Access-Oriented Institutions.

The MLA Teaching Institutes are part of the MLA’s efforts to develop regional professional-development programming and to promote the humanities at institutions that prioritize access. AOIs enroll many first-generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, and students of color—groups that are often discouraged from pursuing the humanities.

The first of the Mellon Foundation–funded institutes will take place in the summer of 2019 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University of Washington, Seattle. The instructors will be Stacey Donohue, professor of English at Central Oregon Community College and the former president of the Association of Departments of English; Howard Tinberg, professor of English at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts; and Nicole Wallack, senior lecturer-in-discipline in English and comparative literature and director of the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia University.

The planning for the creation of the MLA Teaching Institutes was supported by a grant from the Teagle Foundation, awarded in March 2018.

MLA Members Receive 2018 NEH Grants

Congratulations to the twenty-two MLA members who are among the winners of National Endowment for the Humanities grants announced in December 2018. The projects recognized include a book-length study on how United States technology companies and the Chinese government are changing global relationships and a project to digitize the archives of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, an important early African American literary and cultural society.

Digital Projects for the Public: Discovery Grants

Deanna Shemek, University of California, Santa Cruz

Project title: Virtual Studiolo

Project description: The design and production of a 3-D environment re-creating Isabella d’Este of Mantua’s (1474–1539) art and music “studiolo” for use with virtual reality headsets, laptops, and visualization walls.

Jonathan Zwicker, University of California, Berkeley

Project title: Tokyo’s Long Nineteenth Century: A Cultural Atlas of the City, 1787–1923

Project description: Development of an online cultural atlas of the city of Edo/Tokyo in the years 1787–1923.


Angela Bennett, University of Nevada, Reno

Project title: Manuscript Orientations: Mediation, Meditation, and the Movements of Piers Plowman

Project description: Preparation of a digital publication that compares and analyzes the over fifty manuscript versions of the Middle English poem Piers Plowman (c. 1370–90).

Hall Bjornstad, Indiana University, Bloomington

Project title: The Crowning Example: Louis XIV and the Crisis of Royal Exemplarity

Project description: Research and writing leading to publication of a book on the French king Louis XIV (1638–1715), showing how the concept of absolute monarchy gave way to the modern understanding of the individual and of individual rights.

Martha Cutter, University of Connecticut, Storrs

Project title: The Lives and Afterlives of Henry Box Brown, the Slave Who Mailed Himself to Freedom

Project description: Completion of a book-length study on the life and abolitionist legacy of the nineteenth-century performer and slave Henry Box Brown (d. 1897).

Scott Herring, Indiana University, Bloomington

Project title: The Aging of American Modernism

Project description: Completion of a book-length study on American modernism and the late-life work of prominent avant-garde figures Djuna Barnes (1892–1982), Tillie Olsen (1912–2007), and Charles Henri Ford (1908–2002); and lesser-known figures Samuel M. Steward (1909–93), Ivan Albright (1897–1983) and Mabel Hampton (1902–89).

Nathalie Hester, University of Oregon

Project title: Inventing America in Baroque Italy: Columbus, Vespucci, and New World Epic

Project description: Research and writing leading to publication of a book on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian epic poems about the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

Aynne Kokas, University of Virginia

Project title: Border Patrol on the Digital Frontier: China, the United States, and the Global War over Data

Project description: Research and writing leading to a book-length study on how United States technology companies and the Chinese government are changing the global relationships among individuals, governments, and markets.

Josephine Lee, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Project title: Blackface and Yellowface: American Theater and Racial Performance

Project description: Research and writing of a book-length study on the relationship between yellowface and blackface acting and representation in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American theater.

Michael LeMahieu, Clemson University

Project title: Reconstructing Civil War Memory in American Literature after Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Project description: Completion of a book-length study on literary representations of the Civil War after Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

L. Lerner, Franklin and Marshall College

Project title: Italy Out of the Ghetto: A Catholic Nation in the Jewish Mirror, 1789–1910

Project description: Writing leading to the publication of a book-length study of the role religion and politics played in the formation of Italian national identity in the nineteenth century.

Sarah McKibben, University of Notre Dame

Project title: Tradition Transformed: Bardic Poetry and Colonialism in Early Modern Ireland, 1560–1660

Project description: Completion of a book-length study on Irish bardic poetry and British colonialism in Early Modern Ireland.

Anne-Helene Miller, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Project title: The Formation of a Francophone Identity in Fourteenth-Century Literature

Project description: Research and writing leading to publication of a book on the development of fourteenth-century French literary culture.

Elizabeth Miller, University of California, Davis

Project title: Mining, Ecology, and Literature, 1830–1930

Project description: Research and writing leading to a book-length study of mining and extraction in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century literature.

Whitney Trettien, University of Pennsylvania

Project title: A New History of the Book in Seventeenth-Century England

Project description: Preparation of a digital publication analyzing seventeenth-century English books that were assembled from texts and images of other printed sources.

Travis Wilds, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Project title: Empire of Exactitude: Life, Literature, and the Physical Sciences in Post-Enlightenment Paris

Project description: Writing leading to the publication of an intellectual history of how the sciences triumphed over the humanities in the Paris academy (1780 to 1815).

Humanities Initiatives: HBCUs

Dana Williams, Howard University

Project title: Reviving the Bethel Literary and Historical Association in the Twenty-First Century

Project description: A project to digitize the archives of an important early African American literary and cultural society and to carry forward its legacy through interdisciplinary public lectures and forums.

Sherida Yoder, Felician University

Project title: Interdisciplinary Humanities Program on the History and Culture of Paterson

Project description: The development of an interdisciplinary and place-based humanities minor that focuses on the writers, musicians, and artists of Paterson, New Jersey.

Awards for Faculty

Nathaniel Cadle, Florida International University

Project title: American Literature, the Romantic Revival, and the Rise of Modernism

Project description: Preparation for publication of a book about the relationship between United States literary modernism and the Romantic Revival (c. 1880–1920), with consideration of works by Edith Wharton, Henry James, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

Cooperative Agreements and Special Projects (Challenge Grants)

Holly McBee, Dickinson State University

Project title: Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program Endowed Chair at Dickinson State University

Project description: An endowed chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program at Dickinson State University.

Common Heritage

Rhondda Thomas, Clemson University

Project title: Digitizing African-American Heritage in the Greater Clemson, South Carolina, Community

Project description: A two-day digitization event to collect materials regarding the underdocumented contributions and stories of African Americans at Clemson University and from the surrounding community.

Rachel Price, Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound

Project title: Digital Video Rescue

Project description: The development of procedures and tools designed for the preservation of digital video (DV) recordings, a highly fragile format used widely in the mid-1990s through 2000s, documenting local heritage, oral histories, arts performances and a variety of other cultural events and activities.

Suggesting Members for Committee Appointments

In February 2019 the Executive Council will make appointments to seventeen standing committees of the association. These committees and the outgoing committee members will be listed on the committee suggestion page through 4 February, the deadline for making a suggestion. To suggest yourself or another member of the association for a committee, respond to the three prompts on the suggestion page and then complete the short information form. Please note that suggestions for appointments are not carried forward from year to year; they are compiled anew for each appointment cycle.

Winners of New MLA Grant Programs Announced

The MLA launched two new grant programs in 2018 to promote innovative teaching projects and enhance career development opportunities for part-time faculty members. Both grants are funded by the MLA fund-raising campaign Paving the Way: For the Future.

MLA Humanities Innovation Course Development Grant

The winning projects include an undergraduate general education course that draws on the multidisciplinary expertise of black studies faculty members and a course in which students will gather oral histories of Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.

Congratulations to the following:

Ricia Chansky, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Project title: “Puerto Rican Lives after the Hurricane”

Jennifer Gipson and Gilles Bousquet, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Project title: “Intelligence Ex Machina? Machine/Human Interactions in Film, Literature, and Culture from the French Revolution to the Age of AI”

Maria Lima and Lytton Smith, State University of New York, Geneseo

Project title: “HUMN 222: Black Humanities”

Irina Gendelman and Jeff Birkenstein, Saint Martin’s University

Project title: “From the Beginning: Indigenous Storytelling of Food and Medicine”

Katherine G. Trostel and Elizabeth Kavran, Ursuline College

Project title: “From Rustbelt to Revival: Exploring the Legacy of Segregation, Inequality, and Social Justice in Cleveland through the Lens of the Anisfield-Wolf Canon”

For more information on the Humanities Innovation Course Development Grant, visit the MLA Web site early next year.

Professional Development Grant for Part-Time Faculty Members

“It is simple but really makes a difference,” as one applicant described the MLA’s new professional development grant program. Faculty members who earn the majority of their income from teaching part-time at a college or university are eligible for these $1,000 grants, which may be used for technology purchases, continuing education, research or conference travel, and other expenses related to career development.

The first group of winners will use the grants for conducting research at an archive, purchasing a laptop needed for online teaching, and presenting at the MLA International Symposium in Lisbon. We are pleased to congratulate the twelve winners:

  • Vincent Adiutori (Chicago, IL), research travel
  • Jessie Casteel (Houston, TX), conference travel
  • Sarah Coluccio (Flushing, NY), research travel
  • David Copenhafer (Brooklyn, NY), open-access publication of the author’s scholarship
  • Eda Dedebas Dundar (Kirkland, WA), technology purchase
  • Shu-Ting Kao (Taipei City, Taiwan), conference travel
  • Michelle Sharp (Eagan, MN), conference travel
  • Maria Stracke (Philadelphia, PA), professional training or certification
  • Monroe Street (Brooklyn, NY), professional training or certification
  • Leah Van Vaerenewyck (Wrentham, MA), conference travel
  • Graydon Wetzler (La Jolla, CA), conference travel
  • Christine Woody (Ridgewood, NY), technology purchase

Find out how to apply for the next Professional Development Grant for Part-Time Faculty Members grant cycle.

MLA Members Named National Humanities Center Residential 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 benefit from the center’s seminars, lectures, and resources. The MLA commends them for their contribution to humanistic scholarship.

Hurford Family Fellowship

Gretchen Murphy, University of Texas, Austin
Field of study: English language and literature
Project title: “Disestablishing Virtue: Federalism, Religion, and New England Women Writers”

John Hope Franklin Fellowship

Trudier Harris, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Field of study: American literature
Project title: “Ungraspable? Depictions of Home in African American Literature”

H. Abrams Fellowship

Ted Underwood, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Field of study: English language and literature
Project title: “A Perspectival History of Fiction in English, 1800–2008”

Contribute to a New MLA Volume

You are invited to submit essay proposals for a new nonseries volume in development, Teaching and Studying Transnational Composition, edited by Christiane Donahue and Bruce Horner. Proposals must be submitted to the editors by 31 December 2018.

You are also invited to submit essay proposals for a new volume in development in the Options for Teaching series, Teaching the History of the Book, edited by Matteo Pangallo and Emily Todd. Proposals must be submitted to the editors by 17 December 2018.

National Humanities Alliance Webinar: How to Build Relationships with Members of Congress

On 15 November at 3:30 p.m. EST, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) is hosting a Between Two Bookshelves Webinar on how to build strong relationships with members of the new Congress.

Among the panelists will be Leigh Whittaker, legislative assistant to Representative David Price (D-NC), and Kristen Adams, associate director of federal relations at Cornell University, who will contribute their expertise to discussions on how to

– raise the visibility of humanities funding as members of Congress set their priorities;
– collaborate effectively with campus government relations officers; and
– advocate effectively in-district through meetings and events.

Because the MLA is a member of the National Humanities Alliance, MLA members have free access to NHA webinars and resources. RSVP to attend the webinar.

MLA Members Awarded ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowships

The Modern Language Association congratulates the four MLA members who were awarded American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Fellowships in 2018. Their various projects include a coauthored book on Transylvania’s geopolitics and a Web site and art exhibition on how power and privilege influence data science and visualization.

Anca Parvulescu, Washington University in St. Louis
Project title: Comparatizing Transylvania: Rurality, Inter-Imperiality, and the Global Modernist Market

Lauren Klein, Georgia Institute of Technology
Project title: Data Feminism

Lisa Voigt, Ohio State University, Columbus
Project title: The Epistemology of the Copy in Early Modern Travel Narratives

Stephanie LeMenager, University of Oregon
Project title: To Speak of Common Places: A People’s History of Oregon’s Public Lands

Herbert Lindenberger, Former President of the MLA, 1929–2018

The MLA is deeply saddened by the recent passing of Herbert Lindenberger, who served as president of the MLA in 1997. An accomplished teacher and scholar, Lindenberger published on a variety of topics, including historical drama, opera, critical theory, aesthetics, and the Holocaust. Before founding Stanford University’s comparative literature program in 1969, he taught at the University of California, Riverside, and at Washington University in St. Louis. Lindenberger committed eleven years of service to the MLA as a member of several committees, including the PMLA Editorial Board, the Committee on Professional Employment, and the Committee on Amendments to the Constitution. He also served as an MLA trustee from 2002 to 2014.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Earlier this year, the Executive Council forwarded a proposal for constitutional amendments to the Committee on Amendments to the Constitution. The amendments clarify the scope and force of resolutions and motions and make changes to the association’s resolutions process. The next step in the amendment process is for the Delegate Assembly to consider the proposed amendments at its meeting during the January 2019 convention in Chicago. The official notice of the proposed amendments, including the texts of the amendments, has now been posted on the Web site.