MLA Executive Director Advocates for Fair and Equitable Treatment of Contingent Faculty Members

On 30 January, Paula Krebs, the executive director of the MLA, testified at a Committee on Higher Education and Committee on Civil Service and Labor hearing on contingent labor issues at the City University of New York (CUNY).

Krebs recognized the efforts of the City University of New York to address inequities in working conditions for part-time faculty members through its pilot program for multiyear appointments for adjuncts as well as new CUNY contracts, which recognize the office hours and professional development hours of part-time faculty members. These are an important step in the right direction, but she emphasized that much more needs to be done. 

Krebs spoke to the specific issues faced by faculty members in language and literature departments, which rely heavily on non-tenure-track faculty members. She noted that, as of fall 2017, just 43 percent of college and university courses offered in language and literature were taught by tenure-track faculty members. The rest of the courses are taught by teachers who do not have the job security or protections that come with tenure and who often face last-minute cancellations of their classes. This creates income insecurity, forcing instructors to juggle jobs to make ends meet. Moreover, when these faculty members are denied a long-term commitment from the university, they cannot make a long-term investment in their students, as mentors and advisers, compromising students’ experience as well as retention rates.

The MLA, Krebs noted, strongly advocates for more equitable hiring practices, contracts, and compensation of part-time faculty members and for making every effort to convert an optimal number of part-time positions to full-time—preferably tenure-track—positions. Read Krebs’s full testimony and the MLA recommendations she discussed, including the MLA’s “Statement on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Members,” “Final Report of the MLA Committee on Professional Employment,” and recommendations on per-course compensation.



Contribute to an MLA Volume on Teaching Emotions in World Literature

The volume Teaching Emotions in World Literature, edited by Andreea Marculescu and Charles-Louis Morand-Métivier, 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. Abstracts and CVs are due to the editors by 15 August 2020.


Apply for an MLA Bibliography Fellowship by 1 April

The MLA International Bibliography is accepting applications for three-year field bibliography fellowships. 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 2020 fellowships will run from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2023.

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.  Applications are due 1 April 2020.

MLA Members Named National Humanities Center Residential Fellows

Among this year’s National Humanities Center Fellows are seven 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.

Donnelley Family Fellowship

John Levi Barnard, University of Illinois, Urbana
Field of Study: Environmental Studies
Project Title: “The Edible and the Endangered: Food, Empire, and the Biopolitics of Extinction”

William C. and Ida Friday Fellowship

Marianne Constable, University of California, Berkeley
Field of Study: Rhetoric
Project Title: “Chicago Husband-Killing and the New Unwritten Law”

Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams, Jr. Fellowship

Harris Feinsod, Northwestern University
Field of Study: Comparative Literature
Project Title: “Into Steam: The Global Imaginaries of Maritime Modernism”

Robert F. and Margaret S. Goheen Fellowship

Pamela Lothspeich, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Field of Study: Asian Studies
Project Title: “Lila Affects: Power, Masculinity, and Sociality in a Vernacular Theatre”

NEH Fellowship; Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship

Martha Rust, New York University
Field of Study: English Language and Literature
Project Title: “Item: Lists and the Poetics of Reckoning in Late Medieval England”

John E. Sawyer Fellowship; Walter Hines Page Fellowship of the Research Triangle Foundation

Shuang Shen, Penn State University
Field of Study: East Asian Languages and Literature
Project Title: “Cold War and Sinophone Literature at the Borders”

Luce East Asia Fellowship

J. W.-L. Wee, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Field of Study: English Language and Literature
Project Title: “Imagining Cultural Asia: Art Exhibitions, Popular Culture, and a Regional Contemporary”

2021 Presidential Theme: Persistence

Judith Butler, the 2020–21 president of the MLA, has chosen Persistence as the presidential theme for the 2021 MLA Annual Conven­tion in Toronto.

The humanities is now compelled to fight for its own survival and to mark the path for persistence during intensely challenging times. Humanities scholars are especially alert to the precarity of our profession, the university, and the prospects for our students as we face contingency, attacks on academic freedom, increased anti-intellectualism, and the dominance of market values. As civil rights are suspended for individuals blocked at borders and climate change threatens the earth, how do we uncover and create practices of persistence that lead to new conditions of life in and outside the academy? As a collective potential, persistence is not primarily individual heroism. It is a force, figure, and concept bound up with endurance, survival, defiance, resistance, creating, and flourishing.

Sessions at the convention may wish to focus on the future of the humanities; the institutional and political conditions of our professional lives; contingency and pedagogy; literature and science, including the humanities and climate change; social movement literature; indigenous writing; LGBTQI literature and visual culture; black and Latinx poetry, literature, and history; disability studies; literatures of loss, resistance, and survivance; student persistence, especially of first-generation college students; potential extinction of lesser-known languages and implications for language teaching; university studies; prison writing; poetry, oral history, and life writing in the context of historical struggles against economic exploitation, apartheid, systemic racism, colonial powers and occupation; border and migration studies; performance studies; Romantic poetry, for the present; the mixed legacies of vitalism and materialism; utopia and dystopia studies; philosophy and literature; and the role of creative and critical work in the humanities in transforming public worlds.

Visit the MLA Web site to post a call for papers for the 2021 convention.



The MLA Will Partner with Cambridge University Press to Publish PMLA

The MLA is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement for Cambridge University Press to publish the association’s flagship journal, PMLA.

Cambridge University Press, a part of the University of Cambridge, is the oldest publishing house in the world.  The publisher of 350 research journals, the press works to further the university’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research.

Cambridge will partner with the MLA to publish the journal from 2021. Under the arrangement, the MLA will retain full oversight over the selection of PMLA content and the intellectual direction of the journal, continue to manage the journal’s rigorous peer review and editorial processes, and appoint the editor and board.

Paula Krebs, Executive Director of the MLA, said, “The MLA Executive Council and I are excited about the possibilities of this partnership with Cambridge University Press. The collaboration will expand the journal’s global reach and offer substantial resources for authors, editors, and readers.”

Mandy Hill, Managing Director of Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press, said, “This partnership brings together two organizations with long-standing commitments to the humanities. In combining our strengths, we aim to allow the journal to continue to sustainably adapt to the changing landscape, reaching and remaining relevant to the vast global community of literary scholars.”

Keep an eye out for more information about the partnership in the coming months.