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Modern Language Association of America


Founded in 1883, the Modern Language Association (MLA) of America is the largest society of humanists in the United States. Its mission is to promote study, criticism, and research in the modern languages and their literatures and to further the common interests of teachers of these subjects.

Programs and Publications

The MLA's programs are designed to serve the scholarly and professional interests of its members. The association publishes two journals: PMLA, a distinguished scholarly journal, appears six times per year; Profession is an annual that carries committee reports, association surveys, and articles on a range of professional topics. Established in 1922, the MLA International Bibliography provides an annual classified listing and subject index of more than 50,000 books and articles about film, folklore, language, linguistics, and literature that are published worldwide. It is available in print and electronic formats. The reference work began to cover publications about rhetoric and composition and the teaching of language and literature with the 2000 edition. The MLA's book publication program meets the needs of students, teachers, and scholars through several series: Approaches to Teaching World Literature, Texts and Translations, Introductions to Older Languages, Options for Teaching, and Teaching Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Well-known to students are the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, A Re-search Guide for Undergraduate Students, and the Literary Research Guide. The Job Information List, which is available in print and electronic formats, offers up-to-date descriptions of employment opportunities in postsecondary English and foreign language departments.

The MLA convention, which takes place each year from December 27 through 30 and attracts between 8,000 and 9,000 participants, gives members opportunities for scholarly exchange on a wide range of topics. The association is also committed to collecting statistical information about the field. Recent studies examine enrollment trends in foreign languages, the use of part-time faculty members in English and foreign language departments, employment opportunities for new Ph.D.s, and the characteristics of successful college and university foreign language programs.

The MLA houses the Association of Departments of English (ADE) and the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL). These organizations arrange summer seminars for chairs of English and foreign language departments, develop standards for the field, and publish the ADE Bulletin and ADFL Bulletin, which serve departmental administrators.

In 1997 the MLA introduced What's the Word?, a 29-minute weekly radio series that was available by 2001 on 125 National Public Radio stations and through Armed Forces Radio. The series showcases scholars in the field. Its purpose is to demonstrate how the study of languages and literature enriches people's lives. Sample topics include "Literature of the Sea," "Shakespeare Then and Now," "Film Couples," "Post-Apartheid South African Literature," "The Blues as Literature," and "Sermon Traditions."

Organizational Structure

Seventeen MLA members are elected to serve on the executive council, which has fiduciary responsibility for the association and selects the executive director, approves the annual budget, and appoints committees. A larger elected body, the delegate assembly, meets at the annual convention and considers a range of issues affecting the profession and the association. The assembly recommends actions to the executive council. MLA committees and staff members develop and implement the association's programs.

The MLA is a constituent society of the American Council of Learned Societies and an associate member of the American Council on Education. The MLA maintains membership in two advocacy coalitionsthe National Humanities Alliance and the Joint National Committee for Languages. It is also a member of the Fédération Internationale des Langues et Littératures Modernes.

Membership and Financial Support

Membership in the MLA is open to any individual interested in advancing the goals of the association. The association has 30,000 members and supports its programs through publication revenue, library subscriptions, annual dues, and registration fees for the annual meeting. An endowment fund is valued at $1.1 million.

History and Development

The MLA was established in 1883 by forty college teachers who wished to encourage the study of the modern languages in U.S. colleges and universities at a time when the role of the classical languages was beginning to decline. Initially, MLA members established a journal for the publication of research in the field and organized an annual meeting to discuss scholarly and pedagogical issues. As the study of the modern languages grew increasingly important in both higher education and the schools, the MLA also grew.

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Modern Language Association. 2002. <>.

Phyllis Franklin

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