Guidelines for the Series Teaching Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Goals of the Series

The series Teaching Languages, Literatures, and Cultures was created in response to recent transformative changes in the fields of foreign language instruction, literary scholarship, and cultural studies. These changes range from the professional and institutional to the disciplinary and political. The series aims to help instructors meet new challenges by examining how teaching languages, literatures, and cultures intersects with theory, research, curriculum and program design, and pedagogical practices. The series is intended to reach specialists and nonspecialists and to create cross-specialty dialogue among members of the profession.

The Publications Committee looks for innovative work by those who teach various languages; by language-teaching specialists; by researchers and scholars in literature, culture, and language; and by those from other disciplines, such as art, history, religion, or political science, who teach in a foreign language or teach foreign cultures. Volumes in the series address a range of issues in the fields of language and language acquisition. The committee welcomes proposals for volumes by a single author or editor or by coauthors or coeditors.

The Development Process

There are three stages in the development of a volume in this series: a proposal, a prospectus, and a manuscript.

To ensure that all volumes are consistent with the philosophy and objectives of the series, the MLA staff editors and the members of the Publications Committee play an active advisory role in the preparation of each volume. The staff editor assigned to the volume is available to the volume author(s) or editor(s) for consultation at all stages in the planning and writing of the volume.

Editors' and Contributors' Membership in The MLA

Editors

Editors must be members of the MLA when the prospectus is submitted for consideration and at all later stages of the project’s development, through publication. 

Contributors

Contributors to a volume must be members of the MLA when the final, approved manuscript is submitted, through publication.

Waivers of membership requirement

At the discretion of the general editor of MLA publications, waivers of the membership requirement may be granted for nonscholars and scholars who work in disciplines other than language and literature. Editors’ requests for waivers must be made before the prospectus is submitted, and contributors’ requests for waivers must be made before the manuscript is submitted.

The Proposal

Persons interested in authoring or editing a volume in the series should write to the office of scholarly communication (scholcomm@mla.org) stating their interest and outlining their qualifications for the task. Letters of inquiry should include a curriculum vitae of no more than five pages for the prospective author(s) or editor(s).

If a proposed volume seems desirable for the series and the prospective author(s) or editor(s) appropriate for the task, a staff editor will invite a formal proposal. The proposal should address such questions as content focus, the relation of the proposed volume to existing publications, and its target audience. Although the final content of a volume depends to some extent on the comments and suggestions from readers of the proposal and, if applicable, the essay proposals received at the prospectus stage, the proposal for the volume should indicate a tentative organizational plan, including possible titles for sections and individual chapters or essays, and, for edited volumes, indicate names of scholars who would be appropriate contributors. In preparing the proposal, the prospective author(s) or editor(s) should consult published volumes in the series.

The staff may decline the proposal, return the proposal for revision, or accept the proposal for development into a full prospectus for consideration by the Publications Committee.

The Prospectus

If the volume proposed is an edited collection, when a prospectus has been invited, a notice is sent to MLA members and appears on the MLA Web site inviting interested scholars to submit essay proposals; in addition, an e-mail message announcing the development of the volume may be sent to members of the MLA forums most closely associated with the study of the volume’s topic. The volume editor(s) places similar notices in other appropriate venues and plays an active role in seeking and selecting prospective authors. 

The full prospectus submitted to the MLA should include the following components:

  • an introduction that is an advanced stage of what would form the introduction to the manuscript (see Elements of the introduction)

  • an unannotated version of the table of contents (i.e., a simple list of the volume’s components, as in a published volume)

  • an annotated table of contents, presenting detailed and specific one- or two-paragraph descriptions of each proposed chapter or essay, the contributors’ names and academic affiliations (for edited volumes), and the projected length of the chapter or essay (number of words)

  • for edited volumes, a list of proposed essays that were submitted but not chosen, along with the reasons for not including them

The lengths of individual essays may be uniform or may vary. But in deciding on the number of contributors, the volume editor(s) should be careful to keep in mind the maximum length of the complete manuscript (excluding the index but including the list of works cited): 90,000 words. In addition, essays should be organized in meaningful groups with appropriate headings. (Previous volumes in the series should be consulted for ideas on ways to structure the volume.)

Elements of the introduction

The introduction to the prospectus should be an advanced stage of the full introduction to the manuscript and must include the requirements listed below, or they will not be sent to the Publications Committee.

  • Rationale for the volume: Discuss why the volume is needed, why it was undertaken, and why teachers should read it.

  • Purpose of the volume: Explain the aim of the volume.

  • Conceptual framing of the volume’s topic: Discuss issues and scholarly controversies relating to the topic of the volume, whether pedagogical, curricular, institutional, cultural, historical, political, or theoretical.

  • Structure of the volume: Explain how the volume is organized and why.

Evaluation of prospectus by the staff and by the Publications Committee

The prospectus will first be read by staff members, who may require revision. Then, it is sent to outside readers. Editors will be able to respond to the readers’ comments before the Publications Committee sees the prospectus.

If the staff feels the prospectus is ready, the Publications Committee will evaluate it and review what topics the volume plans to cover and how the author(s) or editor(s) envision the whole project in the light of the essay abstracts that have been included. The committee may approve the prospectus, approve it with required changes, ask that it be revised and resubmitted, or reject it and decline to develop the volume any further.

For edited volumes, editors are reminded not to invite contributors to submit their essays until the prospectus has been approved by the Publications Committee.

Policy on previously published essays

The planned volume should not contain previously published material. We also discourage the practice of adapting essays in these volumes from previously published work. If authors or contributors to edited volumes wish to base their essays on work they have previously published, they must make this known in the essay abstract, give full bibliographic citation of the previously published work, and explain why the proposed essay should not be passed over in favor of a completely new one. The finished chapters or essays must not duplicate any language from previously published work. Chapters or essays that do not conform to these requirements may be dropped from the volume.

If a chapter or essay based on previously published work is accepted, contributors must show that they have copyright or have permission in writing from the publisher of the previously published work and include a permission statement with the essay.

Permission to quote from students’ writing

It is the MLA’s policy that authors obtain permission from students to quote from their writing. The MLA staff will, on request, supply a form that contributors can use to obtain such permission. Editors should remind their contributors to obtain permission before including quotations from students’ writing in their essays.

If the prospectus is approved

Once the Publications Committee has voted to approve the prospectus, advance contracts will be issued to the volume author(s) or editor(s). These advance contracts will stipulate the delivery date and conditions for the full manuscript, including the review processes that will follow delivery of the full manuscript, noting that final acceptance is dependent on the successful peer review and committee approval of the full manuscript.

The Manuscript

For edited volumes, the volume editor(s) invites contributors to submit their essays only after approval of the prospectus. Editor(s) should send to each invited contributor guidelines specifying the nature of and intended audience for the volume, the length of the essay desired, the style and format to be followed, the deadline for submission of essays, and so on.

Contributors should be informed that the volume editor(s) and the MLA reserve the right to request revision of or reject essays that do not conform to the guidelines or that fall below the quality expected.

Adherence of chapters or essays in the manuscript to the prospectus abstracts

The finished chapters or essays in the manuscript should correspond to the abstracts submitted. Because the approval of the prospectus depends on the structure of the volume outlined by it and on the topics to be covered in the chapters or essays, if the finished essays differ markedly from the prospectus abstracts, this may be grounds for rejection of the manuscript.

Introduction

The manuscript’s introduction should thoroughly address all the elements listed above in Elements of the introduction [link to above].

Preparing the manuscript

In preparing manuscripts, authors, editors, and contributors should follow MLA style as outlined in the most recent edition of the MLA Handbook—namely, documentation should consist of parenthetical references in the text that refer the reader to a list of works cited at the end of each essay, and endnotes should be used sparingly and mainly to elaborate on content, not to furnish publication information. Editors should ensure that submitted manuscripts follow the guidelines in Directions for Preparing Manuscripts.

Authors and editors should be aware of their responsibility to obtain permission to reproduce material beyond fair use (see MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing 2.2.13–14). Authors or contributors must assume the costs for such permissions, if any. Written permission to quote from students’ writing must be provided at the manuscript stage.

Authors or editors of volumes on works in non-Latin scripts, such as Arabic or Chinese, will receive guidelines from the MLA staff on the appropriate use of the original script, transliteration, and translation in quotations, in-text references, and the works-cited lists. Editors should convey these guidelines to contributors when inviting them to submit their essays.

For edited volumes, before submitting the manuscript, the editors should compile and insert, after the final essay, a section, “Notes on Contributors,” that contains brief biographical information on each contributor. The MLA staff editor will provide editors with a form that can be used to request biographical information from contributors. The complete manuscript, including all material but the index, should not exceed 90,000 words.

Evaluation of manuscript by the staff and by the Publications Committee

The manuscript is reviewed by a staff editor. If the staff sees substantial problems with the manuscript, it may require revisions before being sent to consultant readers for their evaluation. Editors will be able to respond to the readers’ comments. When the staff feels it is ready, the complete manuscript is presented, along with the readers’ reports and the response from editors, to the Publications Committee for a decision on whether to publish. The committee may approve the manuscript, approve it with required changes, ask that it be revised and resubmitted, or reject it and decline to develop the volume any further.

If the manuscript is approved

After the committee approves a manuscript and the staff has reviewed the final version of it, the manuscript is transmitted to the MLA for copyediting, design, and production. At that time, contributors receive contracts. If contributors do not sign and return contracts by the due date set by the MLA, the MLA reserves the right not to publish the contribution.

The authors or editors of a volume receive royalties. Authors or editors and contributors receive complimentary copies of the volume and other benefits.

Production and Publication

During production of the volume, authors, editors, and contributors are asked to review the relevant parts of the copyedited manuscript and at least one stage of proofs. When page proofs are available, authors or volume editors prepare an index of names for the volume (the index contains names only, not subjects—see Guidelines for Preparing an Index of Names).