The MLA’s Mission
The Modern Language Association promotes the study and teaching of languages and literatures through its programs, publications, annual convention, and advocacy work. The MLA exists to support the intellectual and professional lives of its members; it provides opportunities for members to share their scholarly work and teaching experiences with colleagues, discuss trends in the academy, and advocate humanities education and workplace equity. The association aims to advance the many areas of the humanities in which its members currently work, including literature, language, writing studies, screen arts, digital humanities, pedagogy, and library studies. The MLA facilitates scholarly inquiry in and across periods, geographic sites, genres, languages, and disciplines in higher education that focus on communication, aesthetic production and reception, translation, and interpretation. Through the Association of Departments of English and the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages, the MLA also supports the work of department chairs and directors of graduate studies.
The MLA Today
Founded in 1883, the Modern Language Association of America is one of the world’s largest scholarly associations; it has almost 25,000 members in 100 countries. MLA members host an annual convention and other meetings and sustain a wide-ranging print and electronic publishing program that includes books, journals, style guides, and an international bibliography. Drawing on studies and reports produced by the MLA staff and MLA committees and collaborating with related organizations, MLA members engage in a variety of advocacy projects that pertain to the association’s mission. Members pursue advocacy projects and scholarly initiatives by communicating with their elected officers (president, first vice president, second vice president); with their elected representatives on the Executive Council and their regional elected representatives; with colleagues who have been elected to the field-based executive committees; and with the MLA executive director and the staff liaisons to the MLA’s committees.
Major Recent Accomplishments of the MLA
The creation of an innovative scholarly communication platform, MLA Commons, launched in January 2013. Members collaborate on projects, publish blogs, engage in conversation with other scholars, discuss committee work, and make professional connections.
The substantial revision of the MLA’s intellectual structure. Over the course of three years, members participated in discussions—many of them on MLA Commons—about both new and long-established fields in the association to revise the structure for the first time since 1974.
The publication of the Report of the MLA Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature in May 2014. The report recommends ways to make graduate training more relevant by rethinking the doctoral dissertation, reducing time to degree, and expanding career horizons.
The MLA’s Strategic Priorities
The MLA Executive Council, with advice from members of the Delegate Assembly, members of MLA committees, the executive director, and members of the MLA staff, has defined three strategic priorities for the year 2014–15. They are the focus for research, discussion, and planning in three council subcommittees:
The Humanities Workforce. This planning subcommittee, chaired by Second Vice President Kwame Anthony Appiah, focuses on expanding the career horizons of scholars and teachers trained in humanities disciplines and on improving the working conditions of humanities teachers employed by postsecondary educational institutions in the United States and Canada. This subcommittee builds on the recommendations made by the Task Force on Doctoral Study, which released its final report in May 2014, and on past activist work with the Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession and with other organizations. Executive Director Rosemary G. Feal explains some of the goals of this subcommittee in her column for the summer 2014 issue of the MLA Newsletter.
The MLA’s Reach. This planning subcommittee, chaired by First Vice President Roland Greene, is concerned with current and future initiatives both to educate MLA members and allies about the association’s range of activities and to expand the association’s membership. Several strategies come under this heading: rethinking the MLA’s self-representation to its constituencies; considering new membership categories; and continuing the internationalization initiative, which includes the association’s first conference overseas, to be held in Düsseldorf in June 2016 and intended to strengthen connections with members residing outside the United States and Canada.
Collaborations on K–16 Education. This planning subcommittee, chaired by MLA President Margaret Ferguson, works to improve communication among postsecondary humanities educators concerned with literacy instruction—in English and in other languages—and colleagues in primary and secondary schools in the United States and Canada. The subcommittee seeks to strengthen its alliances with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Recently, the subcommittee has focused on educating MLA members about the new Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) and on developing strategies for supporting primary- and secondary-school teachers who are attempting to interpret and implement the CCSSI in ways informed by their knowledge of their students’ intellectual and social needs. Those interested in information and perspectives on the CCSSI can visit the MLA Commons Common Core Standards Initiative Discussion Group.