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 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

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.

Florence Howe, Former President of the MLA, 1929–2020

Florence Howe portraitThe MLA mourns the passing of former MLA president Florence Howe. A pioneering scholar of feminism, Howe began her career in the 1950s and carved out a space for the discipline of women’s studies at a time when academia was overwhelmingly dominated by men. In 1970, she cofounded Feminist Press with her husband, Paul Lauter. What began as a small operation run out of their house in Baltimore quickly became an indispensable feminist institution that published or republished works by Zora Neale Hurston, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Alice Walker, among many others. Feminist Press continues to publish through the City University of New York and is celebrating its fiftieth birthday in 2020. Howe was the author and editor of numerous books and articles, including Myths of Coeducation, a 1984 volume of her selected essays on the rise of women’s studies. In addition to her myriad contributions to scholarship, Howe was active in the civil rights movement. She organized against segregation in Baltimore in 1963 and traveled to Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964, where she helped open the Freedom School for Black Children in the basement of a Jackson church, an experience she wrote about for the Harvard Educational Review. Aside from her term as eighty-third president of the MLA in 1973, Howe served on the Commission on the Status and Education of Women from 1969 to 1971. You can read more about Howe’s life and legacy here.

Help Shape PMLA

Special features are clusters of essays on a topic of wide interest that appear under the rubrics Theories and Methodologies, which addresses a timely issue or recent work of scholarship, and The Changing Profession, which takes up new and emerging fields in the humanities. 

Under new procedures, each fall members will be invited to submit clusters of essays for the special features, and all submissions will receive thorough review and feedback. In keeping with the journal’s new statement of values, the PMLA Editorial Board encourages submissions that represent a variety of viewpoints and that seek to bring timely, emerging issues, areas of study, and works to the attention of the journal’s readership; to put scholars in dialogue with one another; and to expand the scope of the fields represented in the journal. 

To learn more about the new procedures for special features, visit the PMLA submissions page.

MLA Members Receive 2020 NEH Grants

Congratulations to the fifteen MLA members who are among the winners of the National Endowment for the Humanities grants announced in July. Their projects include a group biography of five female members of the American transcendentalist movement; institutes on Frederick Douglass and Zora Neale Hurston; and the creation of a vital digital humanities infrastructure, including digital editions of literary works, a digital publishing platform, and an institute on natural language processing for humanities scholars.

Maram Epstein, University of Oregon

Project Title: The Early Modern Vernacular Novel in China and Japan

Project Description: A four-week seminar for sixteen higher education faculty members to study early modern vernacular literary works from China and Japan, in the context of the growth of global commercial markets and urbanization in these countries.

Randall Fuller, University of Kansas

Project Title: Bright Circle: Five Remarkable Women in the Age of Transcendentalism

Project Description: A group biography of five female members of the American transcendentalist movement: Mary Moody Emerson (1774–1863), Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804–94), Sophia Hawthorne (1809–71), Lidian Jackson Emerson (1802–92), and Margaret Fuller (1810–50).

Matthew Gold and Douglas Armato, CUNY Research Foundation, Graduate School and University Center

Project Title: Digital Publishing for Open Pedagogy

Project Description: Expanding the technical infrastructure in the Manifold digital publishing platform to enable the creation and publication of free open educational resources in the humanities.

Thomas Hahn, University of Rochester

Project Title: Middle English Text Series

Project Description: Preparation for print and digital publication of six volumes of medieval literary texts (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries) and implementation of an updated digital interface to enhance and expand user access.

Ayesha Hardison, University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc.

Project Title: Hurston on the Horizon: Past, Present, and Future

Project Description: A three-week institute for twenty-five higher education faculty members on the life and works of author Zora Neale Hurston.

Noah Heringman, University of Missouri, Columbia

Project Title: Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Project Description: Completion of an open-access digital edition of volume 3 of Vetusta Monumenta (Ancient Monuments), an eighteenth-century collection of engraved prints and essays published by the Society of Antiquaries of London from 1718 to 1906.

Paul Israel, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Project Title: Edison Papers Digital Book Edition

Project Description: Preparation for publication of volumes 10, 11, and 12 of the selected papers of the inventor Thomas Edison (1847–1931), covering the years 1890–1905.

Andrew Janco, Princeton University (Haverford College)

Project Title: New Languages for NLP: Building Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Humanities

Project Description: An institute to help humanities scholars learn how to create linguistic data and apply statistical models to new languages.

Cameron Leader-Picone, Kansas State University

Project Title: Making a Statement: Gordon Parks’s Gift of Photographs

Project Description: Planning for a 2,950 square-foot temporary exhibition, a catalog, and a website exploring the life and work of the multidisciplinary artist Gordon Parks (1912–2006) and his relationship with his home state of Kansas.

Daniel Mosquera, SUNY Research Foundation

Project Title: Passion Plays of Eighteenth-Century Mexico: Nahuatl and Spanish Festival Performances under the Eye of the Inquisition

Project Description: Preparation for publication of a digital edition of ten colonial Mexican Passion plays and contextualizing historical documents.

Andrew Newman, SUNY Research Foundation, Stony Brook

Project Title: The History of Literature Instruction in American Schools

Project Description: A two-week seminar for sixteen English teachers (grades 6–12) on the history of literature instruction in the twentieth century.

Clara Pascual-Argente

Project Title: The Story of Apollonius of Tyre: An Edition and Translation of Two Medieval Iberian Texts

Project Description: Preparation for publication of a critical edition and translation of two medieval Iberian texts: the thirteenth-century verse romance Libro de Apolonio (Book of Apollonius) and Vida e historia del rey Apolonio (Life and Story of King Apollonius), the latter printed in 1488 and illustrated with thirty-five German woodcuts.

Guy Raffa, University of Texas, Austin

Project Title: Dante’s American Afterlife

Project Description: Research and writing of a book on the influence of Italian poet Dante Alighieri (d. 1321) on American culture.

Howard Rambsy, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Project Title: Frederick Douglass and Literary Crossroads

Project Description: A one-week institute for twenty-five schoolteachers on Frederick Douglass and African American literary studies

Results of 2020 Ratification Vote

Voting on the 2020 ratification ballot concluded at midnight (EDT) on 7 August. Members ratified the election of Kamau Brathwaite, Amit Chaudhuri, Richard Flanagan, Susan Howe, M. NourbeSe Philip, Lev Rubinstein, and Luis Valdez to honorary fellowship in the association. Support for the candidates ranged from 84% to 90% of the members who voted in that section of the ballot. All seven candidates will be invited to accept the honor.

Members also ratified the 2020 Delegate Assembly’s approval of one constitutional amendment that clarifies the deadlines and procedures for the consideration of motions, creates a new category called “emergency motions” for motions occasioned by events that take place after 1 September, and explains the deadlines and procedures for the consideration of such motions. 93% of the members who voted in that section of the ballot supported the amendment. The amendment, which takes immediate effect, has been incorporated into the text of the constitution at the Web site.

Contribute to an MLA Approaches Volume on the Works of Jorge Luis Borges

The volume Approaches to Teaching the Works of Jorge Luis Borges, edited by José Eduardo González, is now in development in the MLA series Approaches to Teaching World Literature. Instructors who have taught Borges’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. The deadline for completing the survey and submitting an essay proposal is 30 September 2020.

2020 MLA Bibliography Fellows

The Modern Language Association congratulates the 2020 MLA Bibliography fellows who will serve from 2020 to 2023. The MLA International Bibliography staff members work with approximately one hundred field bibliographers, from all parts of the world, who cover subject areas, journals, and languages that cannot be indexed in the New York office. Each spring, five to ten fellowships are awarded to field bibliographers who, on completion of their fellowships, receive a stipend of $500 and a certificate during the awards ceremony at the MLA convention. For more information on bibliography fellowships, please visit the MLA Web site or contact Chriselle Tidrick at

Congratulations to the following:

  • Mohamed Abdulla, faculty member, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University
  • Olga Bezhanova, associate professor, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Joseph Culpepper, postdoctoral fellow, Concordia University, Montreal
  • Nancy Henaku, writing center consultant, Michigan Technological University
  • Melissa A. Hofmann, associate professor – librarian, Rider University
  • Shashibhusan Nayak, academic counselor, Indira Gandhi National Open University
  • Troy Wellington Smith, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley
  • Rihuan Sun, independent scholar
  • Kevin Windhauser, PhD candidate, Columbia University
  • Mostafa Younesie, independent scholar

Mario J. Valdés, Former President of the MLA, 1934–2020

Valdes leans against a desk in an empty classroom

Photograph by Colin Faulkner

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.

Louis Kampf, Former President of the MLA, 1929–2020

Louis Kampf at the 1968 MLA Annual Convention

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.