You may wish to refer to these pages while you are submitting your proposal. Click here to open the special-session proposal form (note that this form will open in a new browser window).
General Special-Session Questions
Participants and Participation
General Special-Session Questions
What is a special session?
A special session is a session that has been organized and proposed by an individual MLA member, as opposed to a session that has been organized by an MLA committee, division, discussion group, or allied organization. Special-session proposals are reviewed by the Program Committee, whose job it is to decide which proposals will be approved for the convention. For complete information on the procedures for proposing a special session, please refer to "Procedures for Organizing Meetings at the MLA Convention."
Can I propose a special session if I am not an MLA member?
No. Only current MLA members may propose a special session.
What is a call for papers? Is it required for organizing a session?
A call for papers invites MLA members to submit presentations for possible sessions. A call for papers is not required, is not an announcement of your special-session proposal, and has no bearing (positive or negative) on the evaluation of your special-session proposal. Calls for papers are posted online.
How can I submit a call for papers?
Calls for papers must be submitted through the MLA Web site. Session organizers may submit calls for papers from 1 August to 1 March. All calls for papers must be no more than 35 words in length, including the session title, a brief description, submission requirements (papers, abstracts, word or page limits), and submission deadline (most are listed as early to mid-March). Your name and contact information are not included in the word limit. Calls for papers will be posted on the Web site as they are submitted and will be removed in late March.
Does the title of my special session have to be the same as the title of my call for papers?
Yes. Members who place calls for papers should acknowledge receipt of proposals and notify members whether their proposals could be included in the session.
What is the deadline for proposing a special session?
Special-session proposals must be submitted no later than the 1 April proposal deadline. Proposals that are incomplete, submitted after the deadline, or not submitted on the special-session form will not be accepted.
When will proposal forms be available?
The special-session proposal form is available on the MLA Web site from January to the 1 April proposal deadline. The proposal form is designed to be completed online and submitted electronically; it is not a form that can be downloaded or mailed in.
How can I propose a special session?
Visit www.mla.org/ssp_main to find information about proposing a special session, to view examples from successful proposals, to take a tour of the proposal form, and, when available, to submit a special-session proposal. Your user name and password are required to access the form. If you have questions regarding your user name or password, visit www.mla.org/login or e-mail the MLA membership office (email@example.com).
After accessing the proposal form, follow the prompts and complete each section. Every page gives you the option to save and finish later or to continue to the next page. The final page ("View Special-Session Proposal") allows you to review the information that you have entered and make corrections. Be sure to print a copy and keep it for your records. Once your form is complete and you have reviewed its contents, click Submit. Once you submit your form, you will be unable to access it again to make any changes.
The proposal form is designed to be completed online and submitted electronically; it is not a form that can be downloaded or mailed in.
How can I propose two special sessions?
Each MLA member may propose only one special session per convention.
How can my colleague and I propose two connected sessions?
Special sessions are individual proposals and are evaluated as such. The Program Committee attempts to approve sessions on a wide range of subjects and approaches, taking care not to approve too many sessions on the same topic. Multiple special sessions on the same or similar topics will compete against one another. Because of subject conflicts, scheduling conflicts, and the Program Committee's attempts to include sessions on a wide variety of subjects and approaches, we are not able to accommodate connected or related special sessions.
How can I get help with my proposal before I submit it?
Members who wish to receive comments on the "Detailed description of session" section of their proposals should send drafts to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 1 March. The executive director or one of the Program Committee members will review your draft proposal and provide comments and suggestions no later than 20 March.
How can I make sure that my proposal will be accepted?
There is no way to guarantee that your proposal will be approved. The MLA has compiled all special-session-related materials on the Web page "Proposing a Special Session." We encourage you to visit the page to read detailed information about proposing a special session, to view examples from successful proposals, to take a tour of the proposal form, and to learn about the scoring guidelines used by the Program Committee. Also available on that page are the articles "What Makes a Successful Special-Session Proposal?," which was written by a former Program Committee member, and "Why Was the Session I Submitted Accepted for the Convention?," which was written by the executive director.
Please note the following:
It is very important that in part 4 of your proposal ("Session and Participant Details") you explain the focus of your proposed session in reference to existing scholarship, how your proposed session builds on the existing scholarship, why you chose the speakers and presentations you did, and how those speakers will work within the session.
The Program Committee tends to accept only those proposed sessions that are supported by a strong written proposal and not those that solely feature a timely subject, a worthwhile cause, or a prestigious speaker.
Proposals that are not submitted on the MLA proposal form, that do not contain all the requested information, or that contain participants who are not MLA members (or have not been granted waivers of membership) by the 7 April deadline will be at a disadvantage.
For complete information on the procedures for proposing a special session, please refer to "Procedures for Organizing Meetings at the MLA Convention" and visit the Proposing a Special Session page on the MLA Web site.
Will I receive confirmation that my proposal was received?
Yes. A confirmation e-mail will be sent to you after you have completed your online submission. Please make sure that your e-mail service is set up to receive messages from the MLA domain (mla.org) so that the confirmation e-mail is not stopped by spam-blocking software.
When will I hear if my proposed special session has been accepted?
The Program Committee meets in early May to review proposals. Letters regarding the committee's decisions are sent to session organizers by early June. The MLA will contact only the session organizer regarding the outcome, so it is the responsibility of the session organizer to inform session participants of the committee's decision.
Can I appeal the Program Committee’s decision on my session proposal?
Because of constraints on the number of sessions that can be held at the convention, members of the Program Committee carefully review and score all session proposals, accepting only those that receive the highest scores (see scoring rubric). Its decisions on session proposals are final, although submitters are welcome to revise their proposals for the following year (see FAQ below).
My session proposal was not accepted. How can I receive feedback on my proposal?
The Program Committee cannot provide specific details or feedback on all the sessions that were not accepted. If you plan to resubmit your proposal for the following year’s convention, you can request assistance with the revision. To receive feedback, send your request along with a revised proposal description to email@example.com no later than 1 February, and include the reference number that was listed on the notification letter. The executive director or one of the Program Committee members will review your revised proposal as well as your original one and provide comments and suggestions.
Participants and Participation
Can I give a presentation or act as presider for a session I am proposing?
Yes, you may list yourself as presider, panelist, or respondent for the session you are proposing if you feel that this arrangement creates the best possible session. But please keep in mind that you can have your name in the Program no more than twice, so that if you preside and give a presentation in one session, you cannot participate in another session.
Is the session organizer the same person as the presider?
Not necessarily. The session organizer is the person who has organized and submitted the session and is listed on the form as the contact person who will receive notification of whether the session has been accepted. The session organizer's name will not appear in the Program unless that person is also participating in the session. The presider will introduce the session and the speakers at the session and is responsible for directing the session, enforcing time limits, and providing the required fifteen-minute discussion period. The presider's name and affiliation are listed in the Program. Session organizers may list themselves as presiders for their sessions, but it is not a requirement.
Are there any time requirements for sessions?
Each MLA session is one hour and fifteen minutes long. The Delegate Assembly has approved the policy that there must be a fifteen-minute discussion period at the end of each session.
How can I structure my session within the allotted time?
There are three session types: formal sessions, roundtables, and workshops. There is a section on the first page of the proposal form under "Meeting Information" where you can select the session type. When you select Formal Session, you will be asked to provide not only participants' names and affiliations but also presentation titles; when you select Roundtable or Workshop, you will still be asked to provide the participants' names and affiliations but not the presentation titles.
How many presentations can be included in a formal session?
Since fifteen minutes must be reserved at the end of each session for discussion, the Program Committee strongly recommends that a formal session include no more than three presentations. If you plan to have more than three speakers, it is helpful if you explain how the session will run and why that best suits your session. Proposals that appear not to leave adequate time for the fifteen-minute discussion period may be at a disadvantage.
How many presentations can be included in a roundtable session?
A roundtable session is composed of brief presentations and group discussions instead of formal paper presentations. The sessions may consist of up to eight participants, including presiders and respondents. Fifteen minutes must be reserved at the end of a roundtable for discussion, and proposals that appear not to leave adequate time for the discussion period may be at a disadvantage.
How do I list more than one presider for my session?
Usually only one person serves as presider for a session. If you feel that your session requires two presiders click Add Copresider to access a pop-up box with space for the name and affiliation of the copresider. Do not try to include the information for both presiders in the space allotted for one presider; this may create errors in your submission.
Is it possible for two presenters to share one presentation at my session?
Yes; you may have copresenters on your panel, provided that they are able to give the presentation in the allotted time. There is a link located next to the presentation title and above the affiliation for each speaker position. If you click Add Copresenter, you will access a pop-up box with space for the name and affiliation of the copresenter. Please do not try to include the information for both copresenters in the space allotted for one presenter, since this will create errors in your submission.
Is it possible to list more than three presenters for my session?
You can add presenters to your session by clicking Click Here to Add More Presenters on part 2 of the form ("Session Participants"), below the name of the third participant. A pop-up page will allow you to add presenters and presentations to your panel. If you plan to list more than three speakers, it is helpful if you explain how the session will run and why having more than three presenters best suits your session. The Program Committee strongly recommends that there be no more than three principal presentations in a session, and proposals that do not appear to leave adequate time for the required fifteen-minute discussion period at the end of their session may be at a disadvantage.
Are there any participation restrictions?
Yes. So that as many members as possible may have the opportunity to be active in convention programs, a member may be listed only twice in the Program. Giving a presentation, serving as a roundtable panelist or as a respondent, or presiding at a session leads to a listing in the Program. The two listings may occur in a single session or in two different sessions. No more than two panelists from the same institution may participate in a session.
One of my panelists is a member, but when I entered the name, the system indicated that the person's name could not be found. What do I do?
Session participants' names must be input exactly as they appear in the MLA membership database. If a member's name is not input exactly as it is listed in the database (including capitalizations, middle names, initials, etc.), the computer will not recognize the name as a member. Sometimes accents in the name or a change in affiliation may confuse the system even if the name is typed correctly. You may select "nonmember/not sure" if there are any questions and continue submitting your proposal. Once we receive the proposal forms, we manually check the membership status of all session participants and e-mail the organizers if there are any membership questions. Our manual check supersedes any questions that the system may have raised.
What will happen if one of my session participants is not a current member?
Only current MLA members (or those whose membership requirements have been waived) may be included in your special-session proposal. To be listed in the Program, session participants must be MLA members by the 7 April deadline. If a session participant is not a member (and the waiver requirement has not been met) by the 7 April deadline, your proposal will be reviewed by the Program Committee without that person's name or contribution to your panel. If your proposal is accepted and the nonmember subsequently joins the MLA, you can request to have that person's paper listed in the Convention Daily, which is distributed at the convention.
May I submit temporary names and presentation titles now and finalize the information if the session is accepted?
No. All the information that you provide in your special-session proposal form should be complete, and the information contained on the "Final Program Copy" section should appear exactly as you would wish it to appear in the Program if your proposal is accepted. Session and presentation titles cannot be changed once they have been submitted. The names you include as presider, respondent, and speakers should be the names of the people who will be participating in those positions for your session at the convention. You should have commitments from all the session participants before submitting your special-session proposal. Special sessions are approved on the basis of the proposals submitted, so any late changes made to the names of your session participants could result in cancellation of the approved session.
How can I invite a nonmember or VIP to be a session participant?
If the potential participant is a nonscholar or works in fields other than language and literature, you may request a waiver of membership for that person. Please see the following FAQs for additional information.
What is a waiver of membership?
At the discretion of the executive director, waivers of membership may be granted to nonscholars and scholars who work in fields other than language and literature. MLA members, including those in the emeritus category, are not eligible for waivers of membership. A waiver of membership may be granted to an individual once every five years. Session organizers and presiders are not eligible for waivers of membership. For additional information on waivers of membership, please refer to "Procedures for Organizing Meetings at the MLA Convention."
How do I request a waiver of membership for one of my participants?
The request must be made on the "Request for Waiver of Membership" form, available at the end of your special-session submission, and submitted by 1 April. You may also access the electronic form through the convention section of the MLA Web site (www.mla.org/convention). You will need to have your MLA membership ID and password available to access the electronic form. If the waiver is not approved, the participant may still become an MLA member by the 7 April deadline to participate in your session. For additional information on waivers of membership, please refer to "Procedures for Organizing Meetings at the MLA Convention."
How can I request funding for a participant?
Limited funds are available each year to provide partial assistance to persons who are not MLA members and who would not normally be expected to attend a professional meeting in the field of language and literature. A waiver of membership must first be approved before a request for funding may be made. Funding requests made on the "MLA Fund Request" form must reach the MLA convention office by 15 April and must explain how the participant would enrich the program. You can access the funding request form through the "Thank You" page at the completion of your waiver request.
Travel grants are available for advanced graduate student members, non-tenure-track or unemployed members, and regular or life members residing outside the United States and Canada. For more information about travel grants, please visit www.mla.org/award_finasst or contact Annie Reiser (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What should I do if I cannot participate in my session?
Please let your session organizer know immediately. It may be possible to arrange for a replacement. Please note that papers normally cannot be read in absentia (whether by Skype, videoconferencing, audio delivery, or presentation by surrogates). Presenters who are unable to attend the convention because of unforeseen emergencies are reminded that they may include a link to their presentations in the online Program.
What should I do if a panelist in my session cancels?
Please contact the MLA convention office immediately (email@example.com). Information about a valid replacement will be included in relevant publications as time permits.
What should I do if I (as session organizer) need to cancel my session?
MLA sessions should only be canceled if nearly all the participants are unable to attend the convention. In such a situation, please contact the MLA convention office immediately (firstname.lastname@example.org), so that convention attendees can be informed of the cancellation. You should also inform all the participants in your session of the cancellation.
Who is responsible for requesting audiovisual equipment, and what is the deadline for that request?
The session organizer is responsible for including all audiovisual requests for the session in the designated "Audiovisual Equipment" section on the special-session proposal form at the time the proposal is submitted. All audiovisual requests must be submitted by 1 April. It is the session organizer's responsibility to obtain all audiovisual requirements from the session participants before submitting the special-session proposal. Late requests cannot be accommodated.
When I submitted my proposal, the system replaced punctuation marks and underlines with typos and symbols. What should I do?
There are often punctuation errors that occur in the submission of the electronic forms, and the Program Committee members are advised of this possibility. Because of browser issues, text that is pasted instead of typed into this form may lose punctuation, line breaks, and other formatting. Retyping lost information into the form should correct most omissions. The Program Committee members will disregard any odd punctuation or symbols in their review of the special-session proposals. You may also type an underline mark before and after a word or sentence to indicate that it should be in italics (e.g., _Hamlet_ to indicate Hamlet).
How can I make changes to my proposal after it has been submitted?
All special-session proposals must be complete and correct at the time they are submitted. Special sessions are approved on the basis of the proposals submitted, so any substantial changes could result in cancellation of the approved session. If your session is accepted, the information printed in the Program (participants' names and affiliations, session title, and presentation titles) will be taken directly from the "Final Program Copy" section of your proposal. Any information not included in this section of your proposal form may be omitted from the Program, so please review it carefully. Please also be sure that you have accurately described your audiovisual needs and any accessibility requirements before submitting your proposal. The final page of the online proposal form ("View Special-Session Proposal") allows you to view the information that you have entered and make any necessary corrections before final submission. Make sure to print out a copy of this page for your records. Once you submit your electronic special-session proposal form, you will be unable to access it again to make any changes.
Our society would like to apply for allied organization status, and one of the prerequisites is to have special sessions accepted at the MLA convention. What do we need to do?
This requirement was established in part to demonstrate the applying organization's ability to create sessions that would withstand the MLA's proposal-review process. The Program Committee does not give special consideration to sessions that are proposed as part of the allied organization application process. Your proposal should focus on the merits of the particular proposed session and should not be used to promote or advertise your organization. All special-session proposals must follow the same submission requirements and are subject to the same review processes. Please refer to "Proposing A Special Session."