Modern Language Association

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"PMLA" redirects here. For the Australian literary award, see Prime Minister's Literary Awards.

The Modern Language Association of America, often referred to as the Modern Language Association (MLA), is the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature. The MLA aims to "strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature."[1] The organization includes over 26,000 members in 100 countries, primarily academic scholars, professors, and graduate students who study or teach language and literature, including English, other modern languages, and comparative literature.[1][2] Although founded in the United States, with offices in New York City, the MLA's membership, concerns, reputation, and influence are international in scope.[1]


The MLA was founded in 1883, as a discussion and advocacy group for the study of literature and modern languages (that is, all but classical languages, such as ancient Latin and Greek).[1] According to its profile featured by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), "The Modern Language Association is formed for educational, scientific, literary, and social objects and purposes, and more specifically for the promotion of the academic and scientific study of English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and other so-called modern languages and literatures."[2]

Officers and governance[edit]

The officers of the MLA are elected by its members. The 2015 president is Roland Greene, and vice president is Kwame Anthony Appiah, who will advance to president in 2016.

The MLA is governed by an Executive Council, elected periodically by its members, according to the MLA Constitution (official MLA website).


The MLA publishes several academic journals, including Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (abbreviated as PMLA), one of the most prestigious journals in literary studies, and Profession, which is now published online on MLA Commons and discusses professional issues faced by teachers of language and literature. The association also publishes the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, a guide that is geared toward high school and undergraduate students and has sold more than 6,500,000 copies. An eighth edition is forthcoming in spring 2016. The MLA Style Manual is geared toward graduate students, scholars, and professional writers; the third edition was published in May 2008. The MLA produces the print and online database, MLA International Bibliography, the standard bibliography in language and literature.[3]

The MLA's official website features the MLA Language Map, which presents overviews and detailed data from the United States 2000 Census about the locations and numbers of speakers of thirty languages and seven groups of less commonly spoken languages in the United States and Canada.

Since 1884 the MLA has held a national, four-day convention. Beginning in 2011, the convention dates moved to the first Thursday following 2 January. Approximately eight to twelve thousand members attend, depending on the location, which alternates among major cities in various regions of the United States. The MLA Annual Convention is the largest and most important of the year for scholars of languages and literature. Language departments of many universities and colleges interview candidates for teaching positions at the convention, although hiring occurs all year long. The organization's Job Information List (JIL) is available online for members.[4][5][6][7][8]

In addition to its job-placement activities, the convention features about 800 sessions, including presentations of papers and panel discussions on diverse topics (special sessions, forums, poetry readings, film presentations, interdisciplinary studies involving art and music, governance meetings) and social events hosted by English and language departments and allied or affiliated organizations.[1] There are also extensive book exhibits in one of the main hotel or convention center exhibition areas.

In later years the association has highlighted issues such as race, gender and class in its professional deliberations. Kimball and Kramer argue that this was part of a "rampant politicization of literary study that the MLA has aggressively supported" in American colleges and universities, including elevating popular culture to a position of parity with great works of literature as subjects for classroom study, and other "radical" postures.[9]

Regional associations[edit]

There are several regional associations that are independent of the primary MLA, and which host smaller conventions at other times of the year:

  • Midwest Modern Language Association
  • Northeast Modern Language Association
  • Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association
  • Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association
  • South Atlantic Modern Language Association
  • South Central Modern Language Association

Affiliated and allied societies[edit]

Association of Departments of Foreign Languages

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e About the MLA",, Modern Language Association, 9 July 2008, Web, 25 April 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Modern Language Association of America", in "ACLS Member Learned Societies" (Directory), American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), 2011, Web, 31 January 2011.
  3. ^ "eReviews: MLA International Bibliography,", Library Journal, September 1, 2012 
  4. ^ Burton, Antoinette (2003). After the Imperial Turn: Thinking with and through the Nation. Duke UP. p. 90. ISBN 9780822384397. 
  5. ^ Formo, Dawn M.; Reed, Cheryl (2012). Job Search in Academe: How to Get the Position You Deserve. Stylus. p. 4. ISBN 9781579225384. 
  6. ^ Wood, Maren; Brock Read (16 September 2014). "Are More MLA Faculty Jobs on the Way?". Chronicle Vitae. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Flaherty, Colleen (21 December 2012). "English Down, Languages Up: Report reveals divergent trends in modern language job market". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Hume, Kathryn (2010). Surviving Your Academic Job Hunt: Advice for Humanities PhDs. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 21. ISBN 9781137068293. 
  9. ^ Farewell to the MLA", Roger Kimball and Hilton Kramer, New Criterion, February 1995. Web.

External links[edit]