MLA Endorses Twenty-First-Century Federal Writers’ Project Act

The MLA has strongly endorsed the Twenty-First-Century Federal Writers’ Project Act, proposed by Congressman Ted Lieu and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez, which would establish a grant program in the Department of Labor to assist unemployed and underemployed workers whose careers have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like its predecessor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Federal Writers’ Project of 1935, which documented the Great Depression, the new project aims to create opportunities for writers and researchers to engage in the crucial work of recording the immeasurable and lasting impact of this historic period on the United States.

Paula Krebs, the executive director of the MLA, whose proposal for a new WPA sparked a collaboration with Congressman Lieu’s office, affirms this bill’s importance and enormous potential, maintaining that

COVID-19 has had profound effects on the employment of writers and researchers in this country, and Congressman Lieu’s bill would serve the double purpose of collecting the stories of the pandemic for use by future generations and also putting back to work many of the nation’s most talented writers and researchers, whose careers have been devastated by the effects of the pandemic. Students and researchers benefit daily from the work made possible by FDR’s Federal Writers’ Project, and, with the passage of this bill, the same will be true for future generations looking to study the impact of COVID-19 on American culture and history.

Introduced on the eighty-sixth anniversary of the founding of the original Federal Writers’ Project, this legislation, as the American Council of Learned Societies’ president, Joy Connolly, asserts, “is urgently needed in helping us understand what we have been through and guiding us through the next steps in moving forward.”

MLA Members Awarded ACLS Fellowships

Congratulations to the five MLA members among those awarded 2021 American Council of Learned Societies fellowships, which support outstanding scholarship in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The projects recognized include a book about free verse as a racialized construction that created barriers for Black and Indigenous poets and critics and another about renowned authors who were also transformative teachers and educational activists and whose experiences in public universities fundamentally altered the course of American literature.


Georgia Henley, Saint Anselm College
Project title: Memory on the Margins: Reimagining the Past in the Medieval Anglo-Welsh Borderlands

Erin Kappeler, Tulane University
Project title: The Songs of White Folk: Anti-Blackness, Settler Colonialism, and the Invention of Free Verse

Jay David Miller, University of Notre Dame
Project title: Quaker Jeremiad

Danica Savonick, State University of New York, Cortland
Project title: Insurgent Knowledge: The Poetics and Pedagogy of Toni Cade Bambara, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich in the Era of Open Admissions

Erin A. Spampinato, Colby College
Project title: Awful Nearness: A Literary and Cultural History of Rape, 1740–1900

MLA Members Receive 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships

Congratulations to the seven MLA members among the winners of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships announced in April 2021. The projects recognized include Eavesdropping: The Poetry of Blind Listening; migrant testimony, aesthetics, and resistance in the current European refugee crisis; and Islamic jurisprudence and culture in the crypto-Muslim communities of early modern Spain and Portugal.


Vincent Barletta, Stanford University
Field of study: Medieval and Renaissance History

Tarek El-Ariss, Dartmouth College
Field of study: Literary Criticism

John S. Garrison, Grinnell College
Field of study: English Literature

Stephen Kuusisto, Syracuse University
Field of study: Poetry

Tracie Morris, University of Iowa
Field of study: Poetry

Laura Otis, Emory University
Field of study: English Literature

Debarati Sanyal, University of California, Berkeley
Field of study: European and Latin American Literature

Propose an MLA Volume

The MLA book program is always eager to hear your ideas for books you would like to propose. We are especially interested in three areas at the moment:

  • our series of MLA Guides, which are companions to the MLA Handbook. These short single-authored volumes are intended to support students in developing skills they need in undergraduate study. The first volumes are on digital literacy and research in literature. We are open to your recommendations and proposals for volumes on other topics.
  • Spanish-language works for the MLA Texts and Translations series, including texts from Latin America, Spain, and any other locations. Single works and collections in any genre are welcome. We prefer new translations of works that are in the public domain and not already easily accessible.
  • further volumes in composition and rhetoric, including both edited collections and monographs

Feel free to contact the acquisitions editors at with your ideas and inquiries.

Contribute to a New MLA Volume

You are invited to submit essay proposals for a new nonseries volume tentatively titled Getting to the Finish Line: New Directions for the Dissertation Process. Edited by Gretchen Busl, Kristina Reardon, and Courtney Ferriter, this collection will address the practical and theoretical underpinnings of dissertations that look like something other than a single-authored scholarly monograph, exploring both the process and product of the dissertation as it moves into new conceptualizations. Proposals must be submitted to the editors by 15 May 2021.

1 April Deadline for MLA Bibliography Fellowship Applications

The deadline to apply for a three-year field-bibliography fellowship from the MLA International Bibliography is approaching! MLA field bibliographers examine scholarly materials and submit bibliographic and indexing information for citations in the bibliography. Open to all MLA members, including graduate students, the 2021 fellowships will run from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2024.

Field bibliographers perform a valuable service for the profession and receive institutional recognition while deepening their knowledge of the field as well as their research skills. 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.

For more information and to submit an application, visit the MLA Bibliography Fellowships page.

Contribute to an MLA Approaches Volume on Sherlock Holmes Stories

The volume Approaches to Teaching Sherlock Holmes Stories, edited by Tom Ue, is now in development in the MLA series Approaches to Teaching World Literature. Instructors who have taught works that feature Sherlock Holmes 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.

J. Hillis Miller, Former President of the MLA, 1928–2021

Portrait of J. Hillis Miller

Photo by Jeremy Maryott

The MLA is deeply saddened by the passing of J. Hillis Miller, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Comparative Literature and English at the University of California, Irvine. Born in 1928 in Newport News, Virginia, Miller received his BA from Oberlin College in 1948 and his PhD from Harvard University in 1952. His dissertation, The Symbolic Imagery of Charles Dickens, was the basis of his first book, Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels (1958). Miller taught at Johns Hopkins University from 1952 to 1972 before taking a position at Yale University, where, along with colleagues Paul De Man and Geoffrey Hartman, he was a foremost proponent of the Yale school of deconstruction. After fourteen years at Yale, Miller headed west to the University of California, Irvine, where he spent the remainder of his career. A consummate scholar with a remarkable range of interests, Miller published on Victorian literature and poetry, twentieth-century literature, deconstruction, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis, among other topics. His notable 1986 presidential address to the MLA defended literary theory and deconstruction against criticisms from the right and the left. Miller was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Philosophical Society. In 2005 the MLA recognized his considerable accomplishments with its Award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement.

MLA Members Receive 2020 NEH Grants

Congratulations to the twenty MLA members who are among the winners of the National Endowment for the Humanities grants announced in December 2020. Their projects include a study of how digital methods in the humanities may reflect racial biases, a book about the influence of blindness on the writing of John Milton, the establishment of a digital humanities center at San Jose State University, and much more.

Hilary Binda, Tufts University

Project Title: Civic Humanities and Decarceration

Project Description: Course revision and curriculum development in civic studies and in programs for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students.

Marlene Daut, University of Virginia

Project Title: Awakening the Ashes: An Intellectual History of Haiti

Project Description: Research and writing leading to an intellectual history of Haiti from 1804 to the 1950s.

Megan DeVirgilis, Morgan State University

Project Title: The Female Vampire in Hispanic Short Fiction at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: A Critical Anthology

Project Description: Writing and translation activities culminating in a critical anthology of Latin American short stories exhibiting Gothic aesthetics.

Amrita Dhar, Ohio State University, Columbus

Project Title: John Milton’s Blind Language

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the influence of blindness on the writing of English author John Milton (1608–74).

Aparna Dharwadker, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Project Title: “Alternative Modernities” and the Modernization of Urban Theatre in India

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book about urban theater and modernity in colonial and postcolonial India, from 1850 to the present.

Amy Earhart, Texas A&M University, College Station

Project Title: Digital Humanities and the Infrastructures of Race in African American Literature

Project Description: Research and preparation of a digital publication studying how digital tools and methods employed for literature studies may reflect biases built into the technological infrastructure.

Tara Fickle, University of Oregon

Project Title: Behind Aiiieeeee!: A New History of Asian American Literature

Project Description: Research, writing, and digital development of a book examining the publication history of the first anthology of Asian American literature, Aiiieeeee!

Teresa Fiore, Montclair State University

Project Title: Memoria Presente: The Common Spanish Legacy in Italian and Latin American Cultures

Project Description: A course revision project resulting in a digital repository of materials to facilitate cultural comparison in Italian language instruction for Spanish speakers and oral testimonies of Italian-Latino/a bicultural identity.

Michael Hill, William and Mary

Project Title: Reading Distance: Chinese and Arabic Literatures at the End of Empire, 1850–1950

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the connections between intellectual “enlightenment” in China and Nahda (i.e., awakening) in the Middle East from the nineteenth to the first half of the twentieth century.

Neil Hultgren, California State University, Long Beach

Foundation Project Title: The Universe in British Fiction, 1885–1930

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on British speculative fiction of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Ann Kibbie, Bowdoin College

Project Title: Obstetrics and the Disabled Maternal Body in Nineteenth-Century Great Britain

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the medical dilemmas of treating pregnant women in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Jinah Kim, California State University, Northridge

Project Title: Against Forgetting: Memory, Care, and Feminist Arts across the Transpacific

Project Description: Writing resulting in a book-length study of Korean diasporic practices memorializing the “Comfort Woman” experience.

Rachael King, University of California, Santa Barbara

Project Title: Hidden Archives: Race, Gender, and Religion in UCSB’s Ballitore Collection

Project Description: A two-year project on the digitization and examination of abolitionist materials to be included in experiential learning and curriculum development.

Lakshmi Krishnan, Georgetown University

Project Title: The Doctor and the Detective: A Cultural History of Diagnosis

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the intersection of medical diagnoses and detective literature in England, France, and the United States from the nineteenth century to mid–twentieth century.

Eduardo Ledesma, University of Illinois, Urbana

Project Title: Visually Impaired Filmmakers and Technologies of Sight

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book about visually impaired filmmakers and the experience of blindness through film.

Annete Lienau, Harvard University

Project Title: Sacred Language, Vernacular Difference, and Counter-Imperial Writing from the Arabophone to the Asian-African (Nineteenth–Twentieth Centuries)

Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on how Arabic became a counter-imperial and transregional language that connected African and Asian in the nineteenth–twentieth centuries.

Matthew Miller, University of Maryland, College Park

Project Title: Automatic Collation for Diversifying Corpora: Improving Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) for Arabic-Script Manuscripts

Project Description: Refinement of machine learning methods to improve automatic handwritten text recognition of Persian and Arabic manuscripts and make these sources more accessible for humanities research and teaching.

Renata Miller, CUNY Research Foundation, City College

Project Title: Building a Digital Humanities Minor at the City College of New York Project Description: A three-year initiative to develop and pilot a minor in digital humanities at City College, to be housed in the Division of Humanities and the Arts.

Shannon Miller, San Jose State University

Project Title: Grounding the Digital Humanities at San Jose State University

Project Description: Establishment of a Digital Humanities (DH) Center at San Jose State University’s (SJSU) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, including the installation of a virtual machine and computing node to expand the current digital infrastructure. The DH Center will serve both SJSU students and the San Jose community.

Melanie Walsh, Cornell University

Project Title: Anticipating the Reception of Contemporary NLP in Digital Humanities

Project Description: The development of an open-source toolkit and workshop series that will begin to address these fundamental barriers to the adoption of BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) by humanities scholars interested in large-scale text analysis.