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  • Draft Proposal, 11 September 2013 (947 comments)

    • Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 11th, 2013

      Since Canadian keeps a group, shouldn’t this one be “. . . Other Than British and NORTH American”?

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 11th, 2013

      There is no mention that I see of the American Literature Section. What is to become of it?

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 11th, 2013

      Portuguese is lumped in with Iberian–less important than Catalan or Galician–except as it appears in Brazil and other Non-European places under the Luso heading. Does that make sense?

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 11th, 2013

      The ethnically based groups in the American category seem arbitrary. Italian and Jewish but not Irish? African and Asian American include Diasporic but Jewish American does not? All of these groups have greater weight than The American South or other regional groups? I would rather see the divisions made on the basis of period and region. (I have similar concerns in other areas.)

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 11th, 2013

      “Southern Literature” was the literature of the American South, wasn’t it? “Regional” under Comparative Cultural Studies is . . . what? The literature of regions not already listed?

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 11th, 2013

      Chicana/o is a subset of Latina/o. Is there a real need for both groups?

      Comment by Anna M. Klobucka on September 12th, 2013

      Keeping “Luso-Brazilian” as it always was and renaming the discussion group as “Global Lusophone” is inappropriate and confusing. “Global Lusophone” would NOT exclude Brazil and Portugal in any geocultural framework I can imagine. Assuming the discussion group on “Lusophone Literatures Outside of Portugal and Brazil” is being upgraded to a division, this would be a perfect opportunity to reconfigure both divisions — perhaps chronologically (say, 20th & 21st Cent Global Lusophone and Global Lusophone before 1900, since there are always so many more people working on the former). But I can’t quite tell from this list what exactly is going on in terms of division/discussion group status.

      Comment by Robert Simon on September 12th, 2013

      Several of us on the Luso-Brazilian division(s) are wondering where Portugal fits, and if it would be possible to propose at this point either a division on Portugal or request the rationale for its apparent exclusion. Thanks!

      Comment by Robert Simon on September 12th, 2013

      If the purpose is to include all Portuguese speaking regions, then Anna’s proposed reconstitution of these divisions makes logical sense and I support it. If, on the other hand, the purpose is to make “Iberian” represent Portugal as well as Spain, dividing Iberia by nations rather than states (which would almost explain then the separation of Catalan and Galician from the Iberian), then I feel this needs to be stated clearly for an informed conversation to occur as this may pose a conflict for a good many Luso-focused researchers.

      Comment by Robert Simon on September 12th, 2013

      If you mean that “Iberian” is equivalent to “Castilian speaking”, then I would humbly suggest the division be renamed as such. If you mean to include Portugal in the “Iberian”, I would be cautious as Catalan and Galician (whose literary cannon are not always written in said languages, by the way) would also qualify under this nomenclature. This could engender more confusion than desired.

      Comment by Elizabeth Bell Canon on September 12th, 2013

      I don’t object to the renaming of the group, but I am somewhat concerned that there is no distinction with regard to time – it doesn’t focus on global English in the present day.

      Comment by Jesús Rodríguez-Velasco on September 12th, 2013

      In general I share the concern regarding Portugal. Not only because it seems to be excluded, but also because “Iberian” has replaced “Hispanic” and “Spanish”, but the content has not changed, and looks like, here, “Iberian” is just another name of Spain.

      Comment by Jesús Rodríguez-Velasco on September 12th, 2013

      Although I understand that “book” includes both printed and not printed, I think it is misleading. Manuscripts and manuscript studies are nowhere to be found, but manuscripts are central for cultural communication even in cultures that use the printing press (or similar artifacts). The related group also focuses on print and digital, but nothing about manuscripts.

      Comment by Richard Neupert on September 12th, 2013

      Would a new category of FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE FILM be possible, or would cinema papers be included within 20th & 21st and/or Francophone?

      Comment by Luiz Fernando Valente on September 12th, 2013

      As I have repeatedly stated from the very beginning of this process, to equate Iberian with Castillian has no intellectual or historical basis, and is quite offensive to the other languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula, including Portuguese. As far as I am concerned, that equation is unacceptable. My comment applies to the other so-called “Iberian” groups.

      Comment by John Young on September 12th, 2013

      This strikes me as a welcome and indeed overdue change overall, but I’m not exactly certain where to locate the field of editing–including both theoretical and practical concerns–within this new map. It would seem to lie somewhere between “Book History and Print Culture” and “Library and Archival Studies,” while also of course overlapping with “Digital Humanities.” I would suggest revising at least one of those category titles to include a phrase like “textual scholarship,” or perhaps simply to add “Editorial” to “Library and Archive Studies.”

      Comment by Thomas H. Luxon on September 12th, 2013

      I’m not clear about what’s being proposed here—two groups in British Renaissance, one called “16th-Century British” and another called “17th-Century British” plus a Shakespeare group that already exists?  Is that what’s being proposed?

      Comment by Donna M. Campbell on September 12th, 2013

      I applaud the hard work that went into this reconfiguration and believe that several of these newer groups (“Digital Humanities,” for example) and the transnational turn in several cases  accurately reflect the state of the discipline.

      However, the grouping of “Late-19th- and Early-20th-Century American” and “Late-19th- and Early-Twentieth-Century British” into “Transatlantic Late-19th- and Early-20th-Century” is somewhat puzzling, given that both earlier and later national periods for both British and American are represented as individual groups. Although the transatlantic connections are strong, the texts and issues for both literatures are significant in this era and deserve to be read within a national as well as transnational context, as is the case with the current groups.

      Comment by Thomas H. Luxon on September 12th, 2013

      I like the idea of grouping the Restoration with the early 18th C, but Milton always presents a problem here. Is Milton studies properly conducted in 17th-Century British or in “The Long 18th Century?

       

      Comment by Thomas H. Luxon on September 12th, 2013

      Floating an idea:

      Is there anything useful to be said about using dynastic periods?  British Literature under Tudor Tyranny, British Literature under Stuart and Cromwellian Tyranny?

      Comment by Christine Blackshaw on September 12th, 2013

      I share Robert and Luis’s concerns.

      Comment by Alexander C. Y. Huang on September 12th, 2013

      This is a much needed group reflecting current needs and developments in the humanities.

      Comment by Alexander C. Y. Huang on September 12th, 2013

      I support the three groups for Chinese literary and cultural studies (pre- and early modern; Ming / Qing; and Republican and Communist). However, why stop there? It seems arbitrary. By “Republican and Communist” presumably you mean early the mid-twentieth century and with reference to the literary production in mainland China only. The Chinese diaspora, Hong Kong and Taiwan are both important sites of cultural production and should not be neglected if you are going to have multiple groups for Chinese literature. I suggest Sinphone as a fourth group to capture what is being left out. After all, you have Lusophone, Dutchophone, Francophone and so on.

       

      Comment by Paul Dahlgren on September 12th, 2013

      Others will surely disagree, but would it not make sense to move rhetoric into “Transdisciplinary Connections?” and keep “Writing Studies” here?  I wonder the extent to which “Composition” is covered by “The Teaching of Writing.”

      More generally, it seems to me that rhet/comp/ writing studies is wildly underrepresented in these groups and I am wondering what the best way to divide terms up so that more rhet/comp can participate meaningfully in the MLA.  I can imagine various ways of seperating each of these categories out further but I don’t know if I am really the person to be making that argument.  Regardless, it would be nice to see rhet/comp have more of a pressence in the MLA groupings, given its size.

      Comment by Alexander C. Y. Huang on September 12th, 2013

      What will happen to the current two groups and committees for “East Asian Lang. and Lit. to 1900” and “East Asian Lang. and Lit. after 1900”? New election? Committee members continuing their service but being assigned to various new groups?

      Comment by Alexander C. Y. Huang on September 12th, 2013

      This group does seem timely. There is no group description, so I am ill equipped to make suggestions. However, I am curious about World Englishes vs. Global English. Do you intend to include world Englishes in the mission of this group?

      Comment by Alexander C. Y. Huang on September 12th, 2013

      Would “critical animal studies” be more appropriate?

      Comment by Alexander C. Y. Huang on September 12th, 2013

      I fully support these two “South Asian” groups, but the fact that we have these two  groups here begs the question of why we cannot have similar arrangements for other Asian cultures by both periods and genres. See below.

      Should we not have a group for Chinese Performance and Popular Culture?

      As for the South Asian Film group, shall we opt for something more general for the sake of coverage? Instead of film (a very specific genre), we might consider performance.

      Thus: South Asian Performance, New Media and Popular Culture

       

      Comment by Allison Muri on September 12th, 2013

      I agree with John Young above (comment on Book History and Print Culture), that editing is becoming increasingly important as we turn more and more to digital publishing. There is an overlap with Digital Humanities and with Print, Digital and Information Culture, but perhaps Editing and Textual Studies is deserving of a category in its own right. It would be unfortunate to do away with “Bibliography” when it is so important to the study of books and literature — now perhaps more than ever when online digitized facsimiles are increasingly available to be studied in addition to the physical objects themselves). Would Bibliography, Editing, and Textual Studies work as a category?

      Comment by Allison Muri on September 12th, 2013

      Print, Digital, and Information Culture might be a sub-category of Media and New Media Studies (though New Media Studies are not represented here).

      Comment by Barbara Ladd on September 12th, 2013

      Southern literature (i.e. the literature of the U.S. South) does not belong under CLCS. I don’t know what rationale is behind this proposed change, but it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Southern literature belongs under LLC American, as would “Literatures of the American Southwest” or “Midwestern Literature” or “Literatures of the Northwest.” Inquiry into the regional dimensions of American writing is longstanding and ongoing. It is not comparative, nor is it necessarily “cultural studies.” 

       

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 12th, 2013

      To me, this is the most significant and positive development in the MLA structure in the 24 years that I have been a member. I applaud the work of the co-chairs and the committee. In particular, I would like to draw my colleagues’ attention to the fact that the newly proposed structure gives much more space to Asian languages, something that desperately needed to be done. I know there are a lot of other developments as well, but for those who do not work on Asia I would kindly ask that you note that and offer your support. A more inclusive, more diverse MLA is good for all of us. Thank you!

      Comment by Nathan Brown on September 12th, 2013

      Generally I think that this is a very positive and carefully thought out revision.

      My one serious qualm is that the appendage of Media Studies to the previous Genre Studies category seems arbitrary. The inclusion of Media Studies as a repeated subfield under the heading of Genre and Media Studies indicates that something is amiss here. And why should Life Writing or Folklore, for example, appear in the same category as Media Studies or Digital Humanities?

      Perhaps Media/Technology Studies is now a significant enough field (with its own hiring category) to merit a category of its own?

      The subfields under such a category might include:

      Book History and Print Culture
      Cinema and the Moving Image
      Digital Humanities
      Media Philosophy
      Science and Technology Studies
      Video Game Studies

      Note that “Science and Technology Studies” is currently included under “Transdisciplinary Connections.” But the properly interdisciplinary subfield would be Science and Literature (which has its own organization, the SLSA, and annual conference). So I think “Science and Technology Studies” would be more appropriately included in a discrete “Media/Technology Studies” category.

      Thanks for the hard work of the committee on this proposal.

       

       

      Comment by Nicholas Birns on September 12th, 2013

       I am of two minds. I regret losing the more traditional areas. But it might make for a more exciting convention, convention sessions that people will attend in larger numbers than heretofore and fit more with how literary study is actually pursued these days.

      I do think the eighteenth century and later nineteenth century (Anglophone) are shortchanged. Canonical US writers will also be underexposed, in ways that do not serve the MLA’s interests. Nobody wants newspaper articles saying there is no  Henry James or Dryden at MLA.  There is no mention of any literature from Australia, New Zealand, or the South Pacific. With these tweaks, I think it is generally a good structure, but there must be tweaks.

       

       

      Comment by Barbara Ladd on September 12th, 2013

      Is there supposed to be a narrative description of each of the “groups” in this map? If so I can’t access it. All is can see are the group names and the bubbles for comments.

      Comment by Charles A. Perrone on September 12th, 2013

      LIKE.  There have been so many sessions on Inter-American and transamerican literature over the years. It is gratifying to see this truly comparative option!

      Comment by Charles A. Perrone on September 12th, 2013

      Romance literary relations do not all have Mediterranean shores.

      Romania. Galicia. Not to mention all the angles of the Americas.

      Comment by Charles A. Perrone on September 12th, 2013

      Like.

      Comment by Charles A. Perrone on September 12th, 2013

      The problem of terminology here is not MLA’s. The concept of “Latin America” did not exist until after almost all the neo-Latin language countries had ceased to be “colonial.”

      Comment by Barbara Ladd on September 12th, 2013

      Brian,  I can’t find any narrative descriptions of any of these categories; can you? Do you see any reference to southern literature at all? If so, where?

       I wonder whether  the “Regional” category under “CLCS” is even intended to include the literatures of the U.S. South or any of the other regional literatures of the United States.  It seems to me that it more likely refers to global regions (which are comparative).  If I am correct, then MLA has abandoned (or at least submerged to the point of invisibility) the study of American literary regionalisms.  I guess people working in “southern” or “Midwestern” or “Western” literatures would simply have to propose panels under “Early American” or “19th Century American,” and so on (and would probably stand a very small chance of having their panels approved). I guess the “special session” option might still be open, but still . . . .

      Comment by Charles A. Perrone on September 12th, 2013

      Is the IBERIAN nomenclature meant to include Portugal and all the regions and languages of Spain, especially Catalan?  That would be nice! However, it is not very much in step with the way most departments are set up and conferences are organized,  nor, in general, with the way most specialists in literatures of Spain actually think.    An Iberian construct would certainly be ideal from a certain comparative point of view, but it is hard to imagine the majority of Spanish literature members would approve.  And, as others have said, if the proposed name change  is meant to cover just Spanish/Castillian, then it would be incorrect, alienating, and undesirable.  An option could be to include an additional explicitly “Comparative Iberian” group. Still several angles to ponder.

      Comment by David R. Shumway on September 12th, 2013

      I am grateful for the hard work of the committee, and I see many advantages to the new divisions.  I will, however, here, concentrate on one of the problems I find with this new map, the glaring absence of theory. I recognize that literary theory is no longer as dominant a discourse as it once was, but the fact of its previous dominance means that it continues to be significant.  Historically, “Literary Criticism” was the division most linked to theory, but “literary criticism,” especially as a genre, is not at all the same as theory. One can, of course, study the genre of literary criticism, so it is not inappropriate for that division to continue to be so located.  But much of discourse of theory has not been part of this genre. I would urge a separate division called “theory.” It should not be called “literary theory,” because as the many divisions in the new map that do not deal with literature suggest, theory needs to be understood more broadly.

      I will comment later on the overall shape of this map.

      Comment by Julia Reinhard Lupton on September 12th, 2013

      This is a great improvement over the earlier “Literature excluding Shakespeare.” Because many topics (and literary careers) span the 16th and 17th centuries, I prefer the coherence of “British Early Modern.”

       

      Comment by Ernest Walter Sullivan on September 12th, 2013

      Good riddance to “Literary Research” and “Bibliography.”  Most MLA members don’t even bother to read the texts provided by textual scholars anyway, and any research is mostly a waste of time for a body of people who pretty much know everything already.  And even better–getting rid of all this work stuff will make writing papers for MLA a lot easier.

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 12th, 2013

      If custom dictates, they will be placed onto the new Committees. That won’t fill all the open slots, though, so there will be additional elections. That’s the way it has been done in the past.

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 12th, 2013

      With respect to “Comparative East Asian,” which has been placed under the category Asian: I think a better category to put it under might be “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies.” My reasoning is that most of the scholars who will be active in the division will be comparatists. Their work may pertain to comparing things within East Asia or between East Asia (or a given national language) and another place/culture/geography. In any event, they would most likely be comparatists.

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 12th, 2013

      Another way to divide the “Japanese” and “Korean” divisions would be to make one “Pre-Modern Northeast Asian Languages and Literatures” and one “Modern Northeast Asian Languages and Literatures,” or something like that. But I defer to my Japanese and Korean studies colleagues, because I don’t really have a dog in the fight on this one.

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 12th, 2013

      Good — or maybe “Ming and Qing Chinese”.

      Comment by Jonathan Kramnick on September 12th, 2013

      I think it is a terrible idea to join “Restoration and Early 18th-Century British” and “Late 18th-Century British” into one “Long Eighteenth Century” division. It would be a tragedy to lose the MLA imprint on the Restoration as a distinct  component of the early part of our period, a component with both an integral literary historical logic and deep critical tradition. It would also be a shame for eighteenth-century studies at large to lose half its panels.

      Comment by Jonathan Kramnick on September 12th, 2013

      As with my comment above about the getting rid of the Restoration, I think it would a terrible thing to surrender our close attention to the texts and culture of the later period.

      Comment by Toni Bowers on September 12th, 2013

      What happened to “Restoration?”

      Scholarship on the Restoration era in Britain is currently expanding (not retracting), and has developed particular vitality in the past decade or so. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interpretations of the period between the re-establishment of the monarchy in 1660 and the turn of the eighteenth century, and many of us have begun to theorize a variety of  “long Restoration” cultures. Alison Conway’s *The Protestant Whore* (Toronto, 2012) for instance, demonstrates the persistence of specifically Restoration-era language and preoccupations through much of the eighteenth century.  So does my own  *Force or Fraud* (Oxford, 2011).

      The growing, productive recognition of the importance of Restoration politics, culture, and literature to all that followed is one of the most significant developments in literary studies during recent years. It is disturbing and puzzling to see the MLA not only failing to recognize this emerging trend, but actually cutting back on the opportunities for scholarly exchange on this crucial moment in literary history. “Restoration” is a Division category that we need. It has worked well in combination with “Eighteenth Century,” allowing division officers to construct panels that keep both the distinctions and the continuities between “Restoration” and “Eighteenth Century” in view.  Calling it all “Eighteenth Century” is inappropriate. Please retain the Division of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British studies.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on September 12th, 2013

      We don’t intend for traditional areas to be “lost”! They are almost all there on the map as “groups”–some with new names which are still subject to discussion.  If you could tell me which areas in particular you are not finding, I will be happy to discuss them with you.

      Comment by Michael Gavin on September 12th, 2013

      First of all, thank you to the organizers for the incredible work that’s gone into this, and many of these proposed changes are wonderful — and long overdue! About the “Restoration” period, however, I’d like to issue a note of caution. The issue that Prof. Luxon raises is a very real one, but not, I think, exclusive to Milton. By separating “The Long 18th Century” from “British Early Modern” as proposed seems like it could endanger the visibility of the entire Restoration period. I don’t know of two people who agree on the boundaries of “The Long Eighteenth Century,” and it’s a term that many scholars are suspicious of or outright reject. I’m not sure what the rationale was behind this change, and I can’t imagine what constraints motivated this proposal (I’m sure they’re real and significant), but I’d ask that it be looked at again to ensure that “The Long Eighteenth Century” is in fact a meaningful category. My initial reaction is to be suspicious of this change, and I bet I’m not alone among scholars of the period.

      Again, thanks for the terrific work!

      Comment by Gabriel Rei-Doval on September 12th, 2013

      This would be a fantastic additional group!

      Comment by Stephen M. Fallon on September 12th, 2013

      It may be too late to raise this, but I had hoped for a Literature and Intellectual History division.  Philosophical Approaches to Literature has been a home more for the meeting of contemporary philosophy and contemporary literary theory.  Those of us working on the relations between literature and intellectual history or literature and the history of philosophy have not had a division to bring us together across the divisions devoted to national literatures and to periods within national literatures.

      Comment by Andrew C. Parker on September 12th, 2013

      Kudos to the Committee, first of all, for their exceptionally thoughtful and provocative work. The proposed new map is indeed a map, a way of making literary and cultural geography as salient as history for our teaching and research. I like in particular the categories organized by bodies of water, which, better than any of our longstanding rubrics, make room for the many kinds of comparativism practiced today.

      As a few of the commentators point out, some fine-tuning may be needed to clarify distinctions or eliminate redundancy. David Shumway raises a very good question about theory’s place in the new schema (is it local, global, both, neither)?

      Overall, however, the proposal seems to get many things right. Imagine going to a Convention organized differently! The new map helped me do just that.

      Comment by Stephen M. Fallon on September 12th, 2013

      I understand   Professor Lupton’s point about topics and literary careers spanning the 16th and 17th centuries.  On the other hand, the folding of the (renamed) English Renaissance and 17th-c English Literature into British Early Modern would halve the panels currently going to early-modern non-Shakespearean.  It would also bundle together literary periods farther apart than, e.g., Victorian and Late 19th- and Early 20th-C-British (or Transatlantic).

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 12th, 2013

      I think this executive committee would be better titled something like “Chinese to the Ming” (in keeping with the structure of other executive committees that are chronological, for example, “German to 1700.”) Or, to make it absolutely clear (though this would forfeit the consistency with other executive committees), one could say “Chinese up until Ming” or even “Early and Medieval Chinese.”

      Comment by Coleman Hutchison on September 12th, 2013

      I agree wholeheartedly with Barbara. It makes no sense for this to be under CLCS. If the rationale here is to subsume all regional U.S. literatures into a single group–a rationale that would lead to no small amount of debate, I might add–then wouldn’t LLC American be a better home?

      Comment by Gaurav G. Desai on September 12th, 2013

      In general, I am happy with the new mapping, but I do wonder about the splitting of the African Literatures group into Southern Africa and Africa South of the Sahara. Why is North Africa being cut off? Many of us who teach in African studies try to get our students to understand that the Sahara has always been a bridge and not a barrier between the North and the South. Also, cutting the North off tends to heighten often unspoken but nevertheless prevalent “racializations” of Africa that are unfortunate. If we think that African literature needs more space than one group I would support four regional groups — Northern Africa, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Western Africa. But to carve it as currently proposed seems inappropriate to me. I would love for my fellow Africanists to weigh in on this.

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 12th, 2013

      I too support the formation of three executive committees for Chinese. I am not fond of the proposed name for this one. I would suggest something like “Modern and Contemporary Chinese.” First of all, specialists will know what “Republican” means in this context, but others likely won’t. This could lead to some serious confusion. Second, “Communist Chinese” is simply too prone to misinterpretation. In many cases, it simply would not fit. What about Chinese authors during the Communist era who are not communists? What about the contemporary situation in which communism as an economic theory has essentially be repudiated in China in favor of a mixed, market based economy? Third, Alex Huang is correct. The focus solely on “Republican” and “Communist,” even if one is comfortable with those words, restricts the discussion to mainland China to the exclusion of all other Chinese literatures and cultures. It would be better to leave the borders as loosely defined as possible. Under “Modern and Contemporary Chinese,” inclusion of Hong Kong, Taiwan, even overseas authors would fit.

      As to the suggestion Alex makes that a fourth one be created for Sinophone, I think that is a good idea but there is a caveat. I think the way things are going in our field it will certainly be necessary at some point. If, however, the committee and the membership feel that Chinese is getting too much out of the current deal (we are sensitive to that argument, not just in the MLA but in our own academic institutions where, in some cases, resentment has built up over the expansion of Chinese), then another idea would be for now to create a Discussion Group called “Sinophone Studies.” I’m confident that will attract scholars. It will be quickly successful. After a few years, it could expand into a full-fledged division.

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 12th, 2013

      I just read the FAQ and now understand that the idea is to eliminate the distinction between divisions and discussion groups, awarding a single session to each group. In this case, then I have to agree more readily with Alex Huang that there needs to be a Sinophone group too.

      Comment by Samuel E. Baker on September 12th, 2013

      The “late-eighteenth-century British” period designation may seem eccentric, but I suspect it originated as a more neutral way to designate the literary-historical space where the very important conversation about “preromanticism” long flourished, and where crucial work continues to be done. My experience has been that the works discussed in this division’s lively and well attended panels constitute a canon quite apart from that served by the main 18th Century Lit panels. Accordingly, collapsing this division into a “long eighteenth century” would feel incoherent. Also, the “long eighteenth century” designation typically refers to a period from roughly 1660-1830, i.e. that includes Romanticism. Why not just have more periods across this span–Restoration, C18, late C18, and Romanticism–and if in some years they prove less crowded, assign them fewer panels through the vaunted new panel assignment system? Not that I’m so confident in that new system …

      Comment by David Harper on September 12th, 2013

      I would like to echo the concerns raised by Tom Luxon and Joseph Kramnick. The inclusion of the Restoration in a division with the Early 18th Century was already somewhat uncomfortable. If this proposal to create an even longer 18th C is enacted along with the proposal in paragraph 80 to combine “17th Century British” with “Renaissance Lit excluding Shakespeare,” Milton seems stranded once again between a “Long 18th C” and “British Early Modern.” Neither division title adequate fits Milton’s works nor a majority of Restoration literature. As Michael Gavin notes, these combinations and the resulting obscurity of the Restoration is an issue that should concern more than only Milton scholars.

      Comment by David Harper on September 12th, 2013

      And of course, I’d like to edit that comment above to correctly identify Jonathan Kramnick… (ugh)

      Comment by Coleman Hutchison on September 12th, 2013

      p.s. Also, the key seems to indicate that this would be a “Group with new name proposed.” Is that correct? Or is this in fact a “Reconfigured group”?

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on September 12th, 2013

      “Bibliography” is not dead in the new map but doubly alive albeit in two newly named groups.   Please take a look at the new group called “Book History and Print Culture,” and also at a  new group that has two possible names in the current draft: Library and Archive Studies OR Print, Digital, and Information Culture.  This second group also  houses what used to be called “Libraries and Research in Languages and Literatures.”  We would welcome your views on these names and reconfigurations.   Another commenter on this site, Alison Muri, has raised the question, “Would Bibliography, Editing, and Textual Studies work as a category?”

      Comment by Evie Shockley on September 13th, 2013

      Would this group offer a home within MLA for those who teach creative writing?  I recognize that AWP is the professional organization devoted to teachers of creative writing (and writers who don’t teach, for that matter).  But there would seem to be good reasons to dedicate a space to creative writing teaching in MLA: (1) more and more interviews for creative writing positions are held at MLA’s annual convention; (2) increasing numbers of us profess as literary scholars and as writers; and (3) large numbers of English departments include creative writers on their faculty.  If this “Teaching of Writing” group does not contemplate creative writing (i.e., how does this group relate to the “Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies” group?), there could be a need for one more group in this category.

      Comment by Lisa A. Hinrichsen on September 13th, 2013

      I also agree with Barbara–southern literature does not belong under the CLCS category. Instead, it should be placed under “LLC American.”  I also question whether “Regional” as an overarching category is sufficient to adequately encompass the wide range of U.S. regional literatures. 

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 13th, 2013

      This has indeed been one of the areas we have given lots of thought to. Short of splitting one small group into four, do you have another suggestion? The advice we got is that North Africa is often taught under francophone, also Arabic and will fit with Mediterranean.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 13th, 2013

      There are no narrative descriptions at this time

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 13th, 2013

      The proposal is meant not to eliminate but to strengthen the presence of Portuguese, with two full Lusophone groups, the more expanded category of Iberian (certainly not identical to Spanish), and the new groups, Mediterranean and Atlantic. Our general aim was to focus on language and region, rather than nation, as categories. Thank you for your constructive comments, though.

      Comment by Coleman Hutchison on September 13th, 2013

      Last comment. Promise. I quite like the idea of a group dedicated to the comparative study of regional literatures–I may even have floated the idea last spring–but I think there needs to be sufficient investment from other groups studying regional literatures. Do we have that here? Or would this group be simply the literature of U.S. South and other regions of the world to-be-named-later?

      Comment by Shirley Wilson Logan on September 13th, 2013

      I welcome the change in title.  I too would be interested learning what specific focus this change hopes to signal.

      Comment by Barbara Ladd on September 13th, 2013

      I am curious about the justification of omitting any reference to the study of southern literature, which is thriving, or (frankly) any acknowledgement of other regional literatures of the United States. Regional literatures within the U.S. are alive and vital, but the study of this writing is not likely to show up very often on the program (except through the panels sponsored by allied organizations) unless space is created on this map for them. (Although the term “Regional” appears on this map, it appears under CLCS and is clearly not intended to reference U.S. literary regions.) I have been attending MLA for years, and the sessions on southern literature are extraordinarily well attended. American Literature has done special issues on the subject within the past few years;  work in the field has appeared in major national journals like PMLA and in American Literary History on several occasions recently.  New work on the global U.S. South, the U.S. South and Hemispheric Studies, and the “new southern studies” makes this field quite exciting. Nevertheless, these proposed groupings, in their omission of geographically based literary study within the U.S., promise to marginalize a large number of scholars and some very innovative work. 

      And doesn’t this new “map” make  the  continued existence of “regional” MLA groups (NEMLA, SAMLA, SCMLA, and so on) seem a bit  strange?

       

      Comment by Melissa M. Mowry on September 13th, 2013

      I too object to flattening the historical distinctions between the late Stuart period (Restoration and early 18th) century into a “long” 18th c category.  As Jonathan has pointed out, the period has a distinct, rich, and influential literary tradition that merits distinct attention at least as much as Romanticism.  Moreover, it is a tradition whose depth and global reach we are just beginning to grasp.  A quick glance at ongoing projects in the period reveals the ways scholars who focus on the Restoration are working with social and political historians, epistemologists and historians of sciences to reconfigure the way we understand literature’s interaction with emergent science, social policy, and political theory in the run up to Enlightenment.  Not only is the period important to our understanding of literary history, but current research is helping to bridge disciplinary differences between literary studies and other humanities fields at a time when we sorely need this. 

      With all due respect I’d strongly encourage the committee to revisit this proposed absorption.  Perhaps collapsing Romanticism and Victorian into a “long 19thc” would make more sense?

      Comment by Christopher E. Larkosh on September 13th, 2013

      Might it be a good idea to have at least two different groups for Portuguese and Brazilian literatures, instead of lumping them together into a single group?  Portugal is part of the Iberian peninsula yet is not represented there, while Brazil, the largest country in Latin America in terms of geographical size and population, is not represented under the proposed configuration for Latin America.

      Comment by Christopher E. Larkosh on September 13th, 2013

      I agree with Robert on the problematic use of the general term Iberian, as well as the term Latin American. Ultimately, it serves to render Portugal and Brazil invisible in both these groupings, especially when Spanish-speaking national literary traditions and allophone literary traditions within Spain (e.g., Cuban, Puerto Rican and Mexican on the one hand, Catalan and Galician on the other) are still being preserved there and retain a measure of autonomy. In my view, there needs to be some clear language that Portuguese and Brazilian issues will be fully and equitably incorporated into these larger groupings.

      Comment by Alix Mazuet on September 13th, 2013

      The new mapping is an excellent initiative and I am thankful to the MLA for its work of this project. As Gaurav G. Desai points out, however, the division between “African” and “Arabic” is unfortunate. It is as if there were an “Arabic” and a “Non-Arabic” Africa, which is problematic. In addition, with this new division—which also contradicts the cultural, religious and commercial ties between sub-Saharan and North Africa— where would, let’s say, Djibouti or Madagascar be mapped? In the “French” section, under “Francophone”? This subcategory of metropolitan French is also unfortunate. To me, the four regional groups Desai suggests would be more suitable, and it would be preferable that “Francophone” not be under “French.”

      Comment by Nadia G. Yaqub on September 13th, 2013

      I agree with the comments above about Africa. Arabic is an African language.  Arabic is also a major Jewish language, esp. in the medieval period.  Hebrew today is not only a Jewish language today.  There are major writers in Hebrew (Anton Shammas, Sayyed Qashua) who are not Jewish and  Israel has significant minority populations today whose first language is Hebrew who are not Jewish.  The categories listed are fairly traditional and reflect how these languages and regions are commonly treated and studied, but they are also highly political and do not necessarily reflect how we may want them to be studied in the future.

      One thing that is not clear to me is whether the groupings have any organizational meaning. Do the larger categories such as “African” or “Asian” have any representation in the structure of the organization or are they just groupings of convenience so that people can easily find things that interest them? Is there any reason why Arabic, for instance, can’t be included under the categories Africa, Asia, and Jewish as well as “Arabic?” or Francophone appear under Caribbean, Africa, Asia, etc.?  Or, could the groups be represented through a network of connections rather than divisions?  Some nodes in the network would have many spokes connecting them to other groups.

      Comment by Hannibal Hamlin on September 13th, 2013

      The other problem with the “early modern” designation, of course, is that it imposes a decision on the debate concerning the labelling of this period. “Early modern” has been in use for some time, but it implies a certain teleology, that the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are best understood as looking forward to modernity (however defined). Apart from other considerations, this ignores one of the most active areas of recent scholarship, which seeks to reconnect the sixteenth century with what came before, re-examining the boundaries of the early early modern and the late medieval, if you like. These are complex matters, but significant ones, and they argue against lumping the two centuries together.

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on September 13th, 2013

      Regional MLA associations like NEMLA, SAMLA, SCMLA, and so on are separate entities. They are incorporated independently, and there is no governance link between these associations and the MLA.  Since they are not within our divisional structure, they are not included in this proposal. Thank you for raising the issue.

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on September 13th, 2013

      The American Literature Section is not a Division or Discussion Group. It has its origins early in the 20th Century when the MLA had “Sections” rather than “Divisions” and “Discussion Groups.” It has an independent dues structure and publications. See http://als-mla.org. Please note that the MLA does not maintain als-mla.org, nor does the MLA approve its content, dues structure, and so on.

      Comment by Lawrence M. Venuti on September 13th, 2013

      I would like to make a case for reconsidering the place of translation in this map.

      First, using the term “translation” seems a misnomer that conceals the range of concepts, forms, practices, fields, and disciplines where translation occurs on a regular basis in and outside of academic institutions. Using simply “translation” might justify putting translation in the category of Language Studies, but that would seem to restrict its application to interlingual translation.  As Roman Jakobson pointed out long ago, other kinds of translation include intralingual (rewording, paraphrase, summary) and intersemiotic (between different sign systems, which can be broadened to include different media).  It would be more effective to avoid the term “translation” on its own and use, at the very least, “Translation Studies,” now recognized as a field in its own right.

      The field of translation studies acknowledges that translation occurs throughout the full gamut of the arts and human sciences. There is no field or discipline in the humanities that is not dependent on translation to some extent in its research and teaching. Anthropology, drama, film, history, philosophy, religion, sociology, as well as literature all involve the study and use of translation. There is now a field of medicine called “translational,” and translation has entered into other sciences, including biology and computer science. Translation has a bearing, then, on every category under the rubric “Genre and Media Studies” in the map, as well as under “Transdisciplinary Connections.” “Translation Studies” could persuasively be put under “Transdisciplinary Connections.”

      But to be precise “Translation Studies” by itself might need to be revised to take into account dramatic performance, ekphrasis, film adaptation,  musical settings–all practices where translation is used as a descriptive metaphor in commentary, where translation theory and history can lead to productive research, but where translation properly speaking (or at least as it is understood today) edges into adaptation. It would seem that the MLA needs a category to gather the interest in studying second-order works.

      I propose the term “Translation and Adaptation Studies,” and I suggest that it be put under the rubric “Transdisciplinary Connections.”

      Comment by Kathleen M. Lubey on September 13th, 2013

      Echoing the above concerns, a collapse of the literature of, say, 1660 with that of, say, 1770 makes little sense, given the scale of political, philosophical, and literary change across the period. The MLA organization and conference should be a context for recognizing richness and distinction of historical periods, not for eliding or assimilating them. Surely it’s healthy to revisit how we conceive of the divisions within our discipline, but obscuring a period as volatile and unique as the Restoration would be a loss, not a gain–not least in the visibility it would receive via conference panels. Preserve these two categories as separate ones!

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on September 13th, 2013

      The idea is to offer a MINIMUM of one session to each Group:

      “Every group will be guaranteed at least one session at every convention. Membership numbers—though not the size of audiences—will determine the number of additional guaranteed sessions a group receives. As in the present structure, groups will normally have either one or two guaranteed sessions and will be able to compete for more.”

      Comment by Kathleen M. Lubey on September 13th, 2013

      I have commented in more detail on the above paragraph, but will restate that the character of later C18 literary, political, and cultural developments should, in the context of the MLA and its conference panels, be recognized as distinct from the earlier part of the period. Maintaining these divisions richly represents the expanse of our field to the organization, discipline, and conference.

      Comment by Sarah G. Wenzel on September 13th, 2013

      While I agree that DH is certainly one method of literary research, it doesn’t seem as if it should subsume them all. In the group previously known as the “Libraries and Research… Group” it was thought that methods of literary research would be included as they pertained to libraries, something that seems to be excluded by both of the proposed names (Libraries and Archive Studies or Print, Digital, and Information Culture).

      I also wonder where in this structure interdisciplinary approaches to research that are not DH fall? What about text and image? Material culture? Music and text? Neuroscience approaches? All of these are methods that do not fall under the DH umbrella.

      Comment by Sarah G. Wenzel on September 13th, 2013

      To me, one of the key elements of the “Libraries and Research…” group was the interplay between libraries and the research or teaching process. I’m concerned that in either of these proposed groups that the library and librarians could become only an object rather than actor. Academic librarians in the MLA help create and maintain trans-disciplinary connections within the field of literature and beyond.  It is this active role of the Library and Librarians in scholarship, research, teaching, archiving and planning for the future that I think needs to be brought out and discussed, as we have in our programs. I would want to be assured that this critical aspect of the current group would be maintained in the new.

      Comment by Joya F. Uraizee on September 13th, 2013

      Glad to see this.  Really needed this.

      Comment by Joya F. Uraizee on September 13th, 2013

      I like this, it’s timely!

      Comment by Sarah G. Wenzel on September 13th, 2013

      Does that include trauma studies?

      Comment by Joya F. Uraizee on September 13th, 2013

      I am really not sure we need to divide African lit this way: sub saharan and southern?  If we are going to do that then we might as well have eastern and western and central also.  This does not make a whole lot of sense.

      Comment by Joya F. Uraizee on September 13th, 2013

      This should include all of Sub Saharan Africa, eastern, western, central and southern.  I don’t see the point of separating southern from the rest.

      Comment by Joya F. Uraizee on September 13th, 2013

      I like the addition of ‘diasporic.’ That is a good idea.

      Comment by Joya F. Uraizee on September 13th, 2013

      I agree with Alexander, we should have similar arrangements for other Asian cultures and I like South Asian Performance too.

      Comment by Joya F. Uraizee on September 13th, 2013

      I agree with Brian or how about “Global Anglophone Literatures?”

      Comment by Ted B. Atkinson on September 13th, 2013

      I also agree that the proposed “Regional” group under the CLCS category does not make sense. I’m afraid that it would wind up meaning anything or nothing. Cole is on the mark with the question he raises in the postscript above: the proposal seems to create a reconfigured group posing as a group with a new name. There should be some kind of allowance under the “LLC American” category for the study of U.S. regional literatures. I don’t think it would be effective to have a group called “Regional” that actually focuses on the U.S. South. If there isn’t enough interest among members to sustain specific regional groups under “LLC American,” then a “Regional” group with a comparative framework allowing for approaches to U.S. regional literatures in national and transnational contexts could be a reasonable alternative.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 13th, 2013

      Please help us define this group.

      Comment by Sören Fröhlich on September 13th, 2013

      I would suppose there would also be an overlap with diaspora studies?

      […] The (draft) proposal: […]

      Comment by Erin Skye Mackie on September 13th, 2013

      Squishing and flattening the Restoration and eighteenth-century together into one big bulky Long Eighteenth Century, represents an impoverished understanding of work in these areas.  It would require equally disfiguring contortions to shove the Restoration into the blindly chronological frame of the seventeenth-century, pure and simple.  The two groups are fine as they are currently instantiated, with or without the proposed new names.

      Comment by John Hunt Muse on September 13th, 2013

      Toni, See paragraph 82 below for a discussion of possible Restoration and 18c British groups. 

      Comment by John Hunt Muse on September 13th, 2013

      Toni, See paragraph 82 for a discussion of possible Restoration and 18c British groups. 

      Comment by John Hunt Muse on September 13th, 2013

      Sorry, meant to post this under paragraph 24.

      Comment by W. B. Worthen on September 13th, 2013

      The notion that “genre and media studies” might foreground technology is an excellent one. In that spirit, though, I’d note that one technological medium of “drama and performance” might be reincorporated into the MLA by rephrasing the field as “Drama, Theater, and Performance.” This label would have several positive consequences, not least of which would be rhetorically marking “performance” as a field not limited to “drama,” and so explicitly incorporating nondramatic modes of performance and performance analysis into the umbrella of MLA work. At the same time, it would also refuse to license a finally debilitating antitheatrical perspective sometimes still associated, in different ways, with both  “drama” and “performance.” Of course, “theater” might also conceivably be filtered into “and Other Arts,” or “Opera,” or “Popular Culture,” but naming it would give it a local habitation in the MLA.

      Comment by Hester Blum on September 13th, 2013

      As a member who hoped the committee would consider adding more categories that serve as alternatives to nation- or century-based divisions, I am delighted to see the new oceanic and supranational groups in the CLCS categories–Atlantic, Caribbean, Global South, Hemispheric, Indian, Mediterranean, and Pacific. Such groups seem to me both ideologically necessary and intellectually productive. 

      I do share the concerns that colleagues have expressed about the “Regional” designation, however. I would love more of a sense of what the MLA was envisioning for this group.

      Comment by Rebecca Garden on September 13th, 2013

      “Medical humanities” is a confusing and increasingly outdated term.  “Health humanities” (and/or “health studies”) is more current and representative.  “Medical humanities” is often linked to a field of study that is grounded in philosophy and aligned with physicians’ practice.  “Health humanities” (already much in use) or “health studies” is a better description of the field that evolved from “literature and medicine,” drawing on literary studies (and disability studies,  gender studies, queer theory, etc.) to examine health and health care with a focus on power, foregrounding people who seek health care and recognizing marginalized professions like nursing.

      Comment by Lisa Vollendorf on September 13th, 2013

      I don’t understand “regional”

      Comment by Lisa Vollendorf on September 13th, 2013

      I agree with Joya Uraizee. It seems to be sub- and sub-dividing.

      Comment by Lisa Vollendorf on September 13th, 2013

      I like early modern as a designation.

      Comment by Lisa Vollendorf on September 13th, 2013

      Global Anglophone = good.

      Comment by Lisa Vollendorf on September 13th, 2013

      What is this group about? Did it used to be “the profession”? I’d rather have it be something like “the Profession and the Public” or something that pushes us outwards rather than even more into our so-called towers.

      Comment by Lisa Vollendorf on September 13th, 2013

      Shouldn’t this be “Women’s” and Gender Studies?

      Comment by Lisa Vollendorf on September 13th, 2013

      Thank you for your work on this difficult task.

      Comment by Simon During on September 13th, 2013

      A couple of points: I’d like to add my voice to concerns over losing the English Restoration as a discrete period. It’s just so important to an understanding of literary history in Britain, but not only in Britain. And could you spell out your thinking about the new “Pacific” group? I understand it as joining the geographical and oceanic turn in your classificatory system. But it seems to me that this is turn more interventionist and perhaps less useful for the Pacific than for the Atlantic say, which already has a body of scholarship organized around it. Australia, for instance, does not usually think of itself as in the Pacific at all, although technically bits of it are I guess? (The body of water between it and NZ is known as the Bass Straight, the north east coast is on the Coral Sea). South Pacific means the South Pacific Islands, with NZ joining only at a push. And the Pacific without a qualifier usually means the North American West Coast too. So if you take the Pacific literally it Americanizes the region, and describes a space with few literary interactions and little sense of itself as such. If you don’t and include Australia, it just seems a bit odd. For all that, I understand the Committee’s thinking. But it may be worth reconsidering the classification. The obvious alternative: an “Australasian” or “Australia and New Zealand” group which would leave South Pacific Island writings in “Indigenous Literatures” has its downside too, but would probably be more attractive to the many Australian and New Zealand scholars who connect up to the MLA and have vital lineages built around the idea of their nations on something like the American model. I’d be interested to hear if others share my concerns.

      Comment by Paul Y. Lai on September 13th, 2013

      I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with this expanded division name. Perhaps a separate division or discussion group in the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies category called Asian Diasporic? The Asian American Literature division might additionally be renamed Transnational Asian American, but Asian Diasporic work seems vastly different in scope and perspective than anything that would reflect work in Asian American literary studies or any of expanded, allied, and comparative work in the field.

      Comment by Paul Y. Lai on September 13th, 2013

      I agree with Sarah’s comment entirely!

      Comment by Matthew Miller on September 13th, 2013

      I applaud the MLA executive committee for undertaking a revision on the old MLA group structure. In general, I think this draft group structure is a positive step.

      However, I am rather frustrated that there is still no “Persian” group under the “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” heading. As a comparative literature PhD student who primarily works on Persian literature, I am not sure where I or other Persianists fit in this new group scheme (nor, for that matter, did we have any place in the old system either). I communicated my frustration about this in writing to MLA staff members last year and they said it would be taken into consideration in this revision of the old discussion group/division system.

      I am not trying to place all of the blame for this omission on the MLA. I am certain that a large part of the reason “Persian” has not been represented in either version of the MLA group structure is because of the low number of Persian literary scholars involved in the MLA. However, there a growing number of us who are quite interested in being actively involved in the MLA (we have organized/participated in a number of special sessions/panels recently at both the MLA general convention and regional MLA conventions) and we are attempting to recruit other Persian literary scholars/grad students to get more involved as well. But it is difficult to get other Persianists excited about an organization whose organizational structure does not even recognize that they exist as a literary and cultural tradition.

      Although Persian literature and culture has been typically underrepresented in the U.S. academe (and professional organizations), it is by no means a peripheral literary and cultural tradition historically speaking. Throughout the medieval and early modern period it was the prestige and imperial language of the Mughal (Indian) empire, the Safavid empire, and a host of other smaller kingdoms spanning from the western border of China to the eastern parts of Europe (even as late as the early 19th century in the case of the Mughal empire). And, of course, it also later became the “national” language of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.

      I don’t mean to sound like a Persian cultural chauvinist here, but I do want to stress to the MLA executive committee the importance of Persian as one of the major world literary and cultural traditions in hopes that you will consider adding it as one of the groups in this revision of the MLA group structure. I will gladly volunteer to help in the formation of this group, and I know several others who would be interested in being involved in this process as well. Again, I want to stress that I think this present revision is definitely a good step in the right direction, but I would hope that you would consider adding “Persian” as well. Thank you for your hard work, time and consideration!

      Comment by Paul Y. Lai on September 13th, 2013

      Could  you provide a list of the divisions or discussion groups that were removed? A friend noted that Southern Literature is not on this list.

      Comment by Paul Y. Lai on September 13th, 2013

      A huge thanks to all who worked on this draft and especially for the collaborative process of remapping the structure of groups in MLA!

      Comment by Atefeh Akbari Shahmirzadi on September 13th, 2013

      Thank you sincerely for an amazing effort. The only issue I would raise is that which Mr. Matthew Miller has very thoroughly and eloquently raised before me. Given the diversity of the  groups, the addition of Persian or Farsi literatures would not only open the doors for much needed conversations, but it would also invite a larger host of academics to the MLA, and I strongly believe such an addition will be welcomed with much enthusiasm by the scores of scholars who work on such literatures, including myself.

      Again, thank you for the energy that you have put into what I can  imagine has been an incredibly extensive and time-consuming project!

      Comment by Isidro de Jesús Rivera on September 13th, 2013

       

      Has Lusitania disappeared from Iberia?
      Why the specific year?
      Is the intent to exclude al-Andalus and Sefarad from this group?

      Comment by Daniel Frost on September 13th, 2013

      I agree. “Spanish” and “Hispanic” may be confusing terms, but “Iberian” is perhaps more so, for reasons outlined in other posts in this section. Here’s my take on some of these concerns:

      Conceptually, if the idea behind this reorganization is to get scholars of the Iberian Peninsula to speak to one another more — a noble goal — then why also separate out Catalan, Galician (and Basque, etc.)? One excellent reason is that they are separate languages — which is also makes the wider comparative conversation more contentious and difficult. I don’t think that lumping them together will work, but somehow a space should be opened for the conversation. I second the idea of “Comparative Iberian/Peninsular”
      If the idea is to find a catch-all term for the literatures and cultures of the Iberian Peninsula, the magic bullet will be hard to find. “Peninsular,” despite many of the same problems, is at least a widely used term.
      I agree with others that some more thinking  needs to be done, and there are some good suggestions here (e.g. “Comparative Iberian/Peninsular”)
      I would also add that a “Transatlantic Studies”-type category is warranted.

      Comment by Isidro de Jesús Rivera on September 13th, 2013

      I totally agree with Jesús RV. Manuscripts have their own histories and coexist with printed books in a sometimes symbiotic relationship. To omit them is troubling, and reveal a bias.  Indeed, there are other forms of books that are neither print nor manuscript: I am thinking of tablets, cuneiform, etc. The related group fails to acknowledge these categories.

      Comment by David A. Wacks on September 13th, 2013

      Isidro, it seems to me that by making the designation geographic, it is inclusive of all traditions practiced on the Peninsula during the time period in question.

      Comment by Judith Lockyer on September 13th, 2013

      While I understand thatRegional MLA associations are separate entities, I think Barbara Ladd’s point about the absence of all U.S. regional literature needs more serious consideration.  The literature and culture of the American South is much studied and written about, and the literatures of place (Great Lakes literature for example) is thriving as well.  I share Professor Ladd’s concern that not making actual space for southern literature and the literature of other U.S. regions greatly decreases the likelihood that the MLA, our central organization, will encourage  the presence of panels on U.S. regional literature. I also agree with Hester Blum’s comment on the new additions to the CLCS categories.  Why not create space for other literatures of place?

      Comment by Gregory S. Hutcheson on September 13th, 2013

      A quick reply to Isidro as I mull over the implications of this proposed name change. Indeed, why 1500? Seems entirely arbitrary and deprives us medievalists of the opportunity to determine for ourselves what it is we mean by medieval–a particularly vexed question in the Iberian context given the continued presence of Muslim and Jewish populations well through the early modern period. I note that French keeps “medieval”, while Chinese opts for “pre-modern”. Either of these would leave the periodization open-ended enough to allow those of us working on topics in, say, morisco or converso studies to continue doing what we do without regard for arbitrary end-dates….

      Comment by Tita Chico on September 13th, 2013

      The proposed combination of Restoration and Early-18th-Century British with the Late-18th-Century British into one “Long 18th Century” fundamentally misunderstands these fields, the scholarly work being done in them, and their importance to literary history, criticism, and theory. Rather, understanding them as distinct periods allows us to apprehend the massive transition from an ‘early modern’ to a ‘modern’ period, not only in literary terms, but also in political, intellectual, social, and cultural terms. To lose the difference between the Restoration and the early 19th century — as the proposed conflation does — threatens to erase, or at the very least, obscure these important debates that are absolutely central to contemporary conversations about history, literature, politics, aesthetics, and so forth. I strongly urge the Committee to maintain the division as it it currently configured.

      Comment by Tita Chico on September 13th, 2013

      I commented at greater length on paragraph 82, but my position stands: to push the ‘late eighteenth century’ into the Restoration is a significant intellectual disservice to literary studies. The two divisions ought to remain.

      Comment by Gregory S. Hutcheson on September 13th, 2013

      BTW, it’d be well worth following the discussion on 20th- and 21st-Century Iberian. Much of interest to the medievalist here, including the suggestion of Comparative Iberian….

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on September 13th, 2013

      I think that’s a very good idea — a good way to square the circle. I support the idea of giving everyone a minimum one session as a bedrock and then having them earn one or two more based on the activity of the group.

      Comment by Jolene Hubbs on September 14th, 2013

      While I appreciate the MLA working group’s efforts to ensure that MLA divisions and discussion groups reflect the current state of the field, I join with others here in saying that I don’t fully understand how this new arrangement fits Southern literary studies into the broader tapestry of the MLA. In terms of our research, a few, but by no means all, of us have research agendas that could fit into the Regional and Global South comparativist groups. But this reconfiguration would both divide us in new ways and fail to provide a home for all of us. In terms of our teaching, this reorganization doesn’t seem to reflect the fact that Southern literature is still a viable subfield of the job market. For evidence of this, we can look to the English Literature pages of the Academic Jobs wiki, where “American/North American Literature” is divided into seven subfields, one of which is American South. Southern literature fits under LLC American, by my reckoning.

      Comment by Gaurav G. Desai on September 14th, 2013

      I would be happy to retain the current designation as “African Literatures.” However, if the idea is to allow African literature more space on the program than would be possible under just this one heading (but not wanting four), I would suggest a historical split. The split could take place in many ways. Some might want “African Literatures before 1960” and “African Literatures after 1960” to mark the moment when many African nations achieved independence. My own suggestion would be to make the split at 1990 instead. In ways that we are still coming to terms with, the formal end of the Cold War allowed for new imaginaries on the continent and its literature. This was also a moment when writers and critics began to re-think the nature of the postcolonial nation in a way that wasn’t wedded to the earlier anti-colonial, high nationalist moment. My reading is, of course, subject to debate and critique and not all my colleagues will want to link African literary history to the Cold War. Nonetheless, if we need to have two groups rather than one (if only so that there is sufficient space at the convention for African literary studies), then a chronological rather than geographical divide seems to make the most sense to me. One final thought on this — making the split at 1990 as opposed to the 60’s also has the advantage of ensuring a relatively even spread in terms of the current scholarly energies and production that we are witnessing. Making the split in 1960 will, I predict create two groups who will have radically uneven membership (many fewer signing up for pre-1960). In sum, if I were to propose a model that ended up with two groups rather than either one or four, I would propose “African Literatures before 1990” and “African Literatures since 1990.” Once again, I encourage my fellow Africanists to chime in on this.

      Comment by Gaurav G. Desai on September 14th, 2013

      Sorry! I meant “two groups which will have” not “who will have”!

      Comment by Mark A. Reid on September 14th, 2013

      I agree with the comment of Joya Uraizee and add that there should also be a group North African.

      Comment by Mark A. Reid on September 14th, 2013

      This name accurately represents what many departments, programs, and professional societies have come to call themselves in the Americas and Europe.

      Comment by Ato Quayson on September 14th, 2013

      I would also like to add my very strong objections to the proposal for splitting up the African Literature Division into Sub-Saharan and Southern African.  Southern African is clearly an ill-disguised mask for South Africa that is not likely to fool anyone in the field.  Throughout the period of Apartheid it was commonly asserted in South Africa that Africa started north of the Limpopo and that South Africa was different.  This was a species of political thinking that sought to define and rule (to cite the title of Mahmood Mamdani’s recent book) by separating the “native” Africans from the more civilized South Africans.  Sadly, it is one that persists to this day and that generates a stupendous degree of narrow mindedness and plain xenophobia. The further problems of this kind of thinking  are too numerous to detail here, but three in particular come to mind.  First is that the mode of exceptionalism implied in the reference to the north of the Limpopo was an ideological ruse to get black South Africans not to consider the many ways in which their destinies were and are still tied to those of the rest of the continent.  Any Africanist looking at the post-Apartheid politics of South Africa today will conclude that there is something eerily Nigerian about it, from the procedures that spewed forth Jacob Zuma to the internal familial struggles over the legacy of Nelson Mandela.  And these can only be seen when taken from an informed comparative African perspective.  The second concern is that this suggested split will  enhance the view of South African literature as more akin to the literatures of other settler colonies such as Australia and Canada rather than to that of the continent on which the country is situated.  There are good reasons for investigating such a claim, but not at the expense of exploring the many links that South African literature has with that of the rest of Africa.  That the suggested division would also sanction the hiring of faculty that have exclusive expertise in one region but no knowledge of anything elsewhere is deeply worrying. This is already an existing trend that should be reversed rather than encouraged. What is the use of hiring a new faculty member that knows everything about Coetzee but almost nothing about Soyinka or vice versa?

      Comment by Roberta Rosenberg on September 14th, 2013

      Would this new session be a place to discuss the “uses” of literature, language and writing outside of the classroom and in the community?  I have (with others) organized two successful MLA sessions on service learning, civic engagement and English studies, and I am wondering if the “Activism and Advocacy” group under “Teaching and the Profession” would be a place for the civically engaged professor of literature and language?  I’m a little concerned that this particular session is not under one of the literature categories.  The growth in organizations like Imagining America and the focus of the academy outside the classroom and in the community would suggest that this is an important topic and should have its own session.  Might there be a session category entitled “Civic Engagement in Literature, Language and Writing?”

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 14th, 2013

      Thank you for these excellent suggestions. I hope others will spond as well.

      Comment by Ruth Evans on September 14th, 2013

      Very pleased to see the abolition of “excluding Chaucer.”

      Comment by Frank A. Dominguez on September 14th, 2013

      Apparently, they want to put us under one geographic rubric. It breaks down, however, when they leave Catalan and Galician or Luso as separate entities. I would prefer to stay with the old designation or rename the proposed one “Medieval Iberian to 1516” with the death of Fernando de Aragón, the last effective Trastámara ruler, or “to the end of the Trastámara Dynasty,” which would allow us to go beyond on occasion since Juana la Loca dies in 1555. — Frank

      Comment by Moradewun Adejunmobi on September 14th, 2013

      If this is in effect a division representing literature from former settler colonies in Africa, why leave out Kenya, or for that matter Algeria? Why retain Zambia, or for that matter Malawi? In other words, this is a division without internal consistency and whose rationale cannot be sustained.  I fully concur with Ato: South Africa in particular is becoming ever more ‘African’ with every passing day. We should not be surprised. Kenya now resembles other postcolonies in its immediate region as does Algeria.

      If we are going to do regional divisions for African literature, then all of its regions should be represented, as suggested by Joya. However, I do not think divisions by geography are the best way to capture the dominant trends in literature from the continent or to provide additional opportunities for discussing African literature at the MLA. Time/epoch and language (for example indigenous language literatures) might be more useful constructs for rethinking the division.  A division for African Diasporic literature that is separate from the division for African American literature might also be a useful one to consider given the emergence of literature from new and emergent African diasporas that are connected with multiple sites and literary traditions.

      Comment by Matt Cohen on September 14th, 2013

      The Bibliography and Textual Studies committee is grateful to the MLA  for the work it has done on this proposed revision to the group structure. Quoted below is part of the text of an email I sent on behalf of the BTS  committee in April in response to an MLA query about this possible name change.  I will post it both here and as a comment to the related paragraph 34:

      “In general, our group thinks, in one member’s words, that ‘we’d be limiting, rather than opening up, our range by aligning with one of the other subfields’ listed. Another says that ‘although my library colleagues are usually wonderfully supportive of bibliography and textual studies, it’s in many ways very different from what they do.’ This is my sense as well.

      “With specific reference to the proposed mergers, one of us reports that she has ‘been to one of the meetings of the libraries and research group, and I think that they wouldn’t be a good fit. As I understand it, their focus is largely on the future of libraries and the way that impacts research–questions that we’re interested in as well, but in a different way.’

      “With respect to the broader question of merging towards division status, I think it’s important that bibliography and textual studies are concerned with methodological questions that bridge all areas of literary study.  The proposed division titles move away, for example, from the recent turn to the digital humanities that’s characterized many of our panels (such as the 2013 one, for example, or the ones created by Matt Kirschenbaum a few years ago).  It seems like the direction we’d want to move if we were combined into a division would be towards methods of literary history more broadly, rather than implicitly limiting us as the suggested names do to a material form.”

      For my own part, I second the observations by others in the comments here that the proposed revisions seem to deprecate manuscript studies, at a moment when the critical energy around the history of non-print, non-book forms is no less exciting and potentially transformative than that which engages the digital.

      Comment by Matt Cohen on September 14th, 2013

      The Bibliography and Textual Studies committee is grateful to the MLA  for the work it has done on this proposed revision to the group structure. Quoted below is part of the text of an email I sent on behalf of the BTS  committee in April in response to an MLA query about this possible name change.  I will post it both here and as a comment to the related paragraph 27:

      “In general, our group thinks, in one member’s words, that ‘we’d be limiting, rather than opening up, our range by aligning with one of the other subfields’ listed. Another says that ‘although my library colleagues are usually wonderfully supportive of bibliography and textual studies, it’s in many ways very different from what they do.’ This is my sense as well.
      “With specific reference to the proposed mergers, one of us reports that she has ‘been to one of the meetings of the libraries and research group, and I think that they wouldn’t be a good fit. As I understand it, their focus is largely on the future of libraries and the way that impacts research–questions that we’re interested in as well, but in a different way.’
      “With respect to the broader question of merging towards division status, I think it’s important that bibliography and textual studies are concerned with methodological questions that bridge all areas of literary study.  The proposed division titles move away, for example, from the recent turn to the digital humanities that’s characterized many of our panels (such as the 2013 one, for example, or the ones created by Matt Kirschenbaum a few years ago).  It seems like the direction we’d want to move if we were combined into a division would be towards methods of literary history more broadly, rather than implicitly limiting us as the suggested names do to a material form.”

       
      For my own part, I second the observations by others in the comments here that the proposed revisions seem to deprecate manuscript studies, at a moment when the critical energy around the history of non-print forms is no less exciting and potentially transformative than that which engages the digital.

      Comment by Barbara Ladd on September 14th, 2013

      There is a discussion of the future of the Southern Literature Discussion Group ongoing on a listserv devoted to southern literary study. While I am part of that discussion, I do think it will be unfortunate if the larger question–the future of the study of U.S. literary and cultural regionalisms more broadly–is subsumed under that discussion. I hope that members who study U.S. regionalisms, the literatures of the Southwest, Northwest, Great Lakes, Midwest, and so on, will participate in this discussion.  It seems to me to be very important to see a group under the American Literature LLC category devoted to geographically-based and place-based studies.

      Comment by Moradewun Adejunmobi on September 14th, 2013

      I agree, and work in one such program myself. However, I think African American literature is by itself already a vast field that deserves its own division. Furthermore, and as I stated in my comments on the proposals for southern Africa literature, “a division for African Diasporic literature that is separate from the division for African American literature might also be a useful one to consider given the emergence of literature from new and emergent African diasporas that are connected with multiple sites and literary traditions.” I am thinking in particular of African diasporic literature emerging from new sites in Europe: Italy, Belgium, Germany and others.  Then there’s literature from South America to consider…

      Comment by Monica C. Miller on September 14th, 2013

      I’m very glad to see this added as a group.

      Comment by Jon Smith on September 14th, 2013

      First of all, I regret that in this age of networking and hyperlinks the MLA has opted for a traditional, hierarchical system in which “Southern literature” can only reside within one category.  To me, the field is interesting precisely because it defies such attempts at categorization.

      That said, I ultimately agree with all the comments above suggesting that, within the limits of the proposed system, Southern literature fits best under LLC American.  Over the past fifteen years, with the rise of “hemispheric American studies,” comparative approaches have offered perhaps the most high-profile take on Southern literature, but even there, the best work always offered a both/and approach: the South is both like the rest of Plantation America and like the rest of the U.S.  While “Americanists” from the Puritan origins school through the New Americanists have favored southern exceptionalism (as have traditional southernists, for very different reasons), more recent books like Leigh Anne Duck’s The Nation’s Region, Jennifer Greeson’s Our South, and the Lassiter/Crespino collection The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism all hammer home the Americanness of the region.  This might seem to be an argument for eliminating the study of Southern literature as a separate field altogether, and we may someday get there (I for one hope we do, as I hope American studies comes fully to acknowledge what it presently still tends to disavow), but we are simply not there yet.  I hope we might revisit this issue in ten or fifteen years rather than waiting another forty!

      […] studies. That is, at the level of individuals, it is possible to speak across this divide. So, when the MLA takes all the various flavors of rhetoric/writing/composition/literacy studies and lump… (while drawing careful distinctions between other areas within the various subdomains of literary […]

      Comment by Lenuta Giukin on September 14th, 2013

      “Romanian” is too generic. “Romanian Studies” suggests an open field that could include also Moldovan literature/cinema/theory, etc. of Romanian language.

      “Romanian Language Studies” could be even more appropriate since in Moldova many Moldovan artists and intellectuals use Russian.

      Although the Moldovan dialect has been declared the national language of Moldova, it is close enough to Romanian to be included in the word Romanian.

      The Belgians, Swiss, Haitians, etc.  speak different versions of French, but the language is still mainly French. These countries fall though under the “Francophone” aspect.

      I guess I have a problem since the Moldovan dialect from the Republic of Moldova has been declared a national “official” language, while the situation is not the same with the Haitian French or Belgian French, etc.

      “Romanian and Moldovan Studies?” — to reflect the existence of the two different states of Romanian language, as well as of the Diasporas made of citizens from the two countries?

      Comment by Paul Kelleher on September 14th, 2013

      I strongly agree with others: it would be a serious mistake to consolidate the two current divisions (Restoration and Early 18th-Century British and Late 18th-Century British) into one Long 18th-Century division.  In previous comments, my colleagues in the 18th century have already articulated many of the intellectual reasons why such a consolidation would distort and misrepresent how the Restoration and the 18th century are understood both in current scholarship and in the classroom.

      Let me add a more practical and logistical observation.  Over the past several years, my impression (shared by others) has been that the Restoration and the 18th century have been noticeably underrepresented at the annual MLA convention.  In order to substantiate this impression, I have reviewed the conference programs archived online–from the November 2002 issue of PMLA to the November 2012 issue.  And indeed, in every year, except for the most recent, panels in 19th-Century (which includes Romanticism) or 20th-Century British vastly outnumber the *combined* number of Restoration and 18th Century panels (this includes panels from the two divisions plus special sessions).  Were the MLA to move ahead and collapse Restoration and Early 18th-Century British and Late 18th-Century British into one Long 18th-Century division, this pattern of underrepresentation (I believe) would only intensify.

      For your reference, here are the numbers I’ve compiled from the November issues of PMLA, 2002-2012.  For each year, I have consulted the “Subject Index to All Meetings” section of the program, under “British Literature.”  

      PMLA November 2012 
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century
 (7 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (9 panels); Nineteenth Century (28 panels); Twentieth Century (14 panels) 

      PMLA November 2011
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (4 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (3) Nineteenth Century (25 panels); Twentieth Century (19 panels) 
      PMLA November 2010
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century
 (4 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (7 panels); Nineteenth Century (27 panels); Twentieth Century (17 panels)

      PMLA November 2009

      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (5 panels); Nineteenth Century (21 panels); Twentieth Century (18 panels)
      PMLA November 2008
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels)
; Late Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Nineteenth Century (22 panels); Twentieth Century (14 panels)

      PMLA November 2007
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (5 panels); Nineteenth Century (24 panels); Twentieth Century (14 panels)
      PMLA November 2006

      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (2 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Nineteenth Century (17 panels); Twentieth Century (13 panels)
      PMLA November 2005
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Nineteenth Century (22 panels); Twentieth Century (19 panels)
      PMLA November 2004
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (5 panels); Nineteenth Century (20 panels); Twentieth Century (16 panels) 
      PMLA November 2003
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (4 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (4 panels); Nineteenth Century (23 panels); Twentieth Century (22 panels)
      PMLA November 2002
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (4 panels); Nineteenth Century (27 panels); Twentieth Century (15 panels)

      Comment by Paul Kelleher on September 14th, 2013

      I strongly agree with others: it would be a serious mistake to consolidate the two current divisions (Restoration and Early 18th-Century British and Late 18th-Century British) into one Long 18th-Century division.  In previous comments, my colleagues in the 18th century have already articulated many of the intellectual reasons why such a consolidation would distort and misrepresent how the Restoration and the 18th century are understood both in current scholarship and in the classroom.
      Let me add a more practical and logistical observation.  Over the past several years, my impression (shared by others) has been that the Restoration and the 18th century have been noticeably underrepresented at the annual MLA convention.  In order to substantiate this impression, I have reviewed the conference programs archived online–from the November 2002 issue of PMLA to the November 2012 issue.  And indeed, in every year, except for the most recent, panels in 19th-Century (which includes Romanticism) or 20th-Century British vastly outnumber the *combined* number of Restoration and 18th Century panels (this includes panels from the two divisions plus special sessions).  Were the MLA to move ahead and collapse Restoration and Early 18th-Century British and Late 18th-Century British into one Long 18th-Century division, this pattern of underrepresentation (I believe) would only intensify.
      For your reference, here are the numbers I’ve compiled from the November issues of PMLA, 2002-2012.  For each year, I have consulted the “Subject Index to All Meetings” section of the program, under “British Literature.”

      PMLA November 2012
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century
 (7 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (9 panels); Nineteenth Century (28 panels); Twentieth Century (14 panels) 

      PMLA November 2011
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (4 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (3) Nineteenth Century (25 panels); Twentieth Century (19 panels) 
      PMLA November 2010
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century
 (4 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (7 panels); Nineteenth Century (27 panels); Twentieth Century (17 panels)

      PMLA November 2009
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (5 panels); Nineteenth Century (21 panels); Twentieth Century (18 panels)
      PMLA November 2008
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels)
; Late Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Nineteenth Century (22 panels); Twentieth Century (14 panels)

      PMLA November 2007
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (5 panels); Nineteenth Century (24 panels); Twentieth Century (14 panels)
      PMLA November 2006
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (2 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Nineteenth Century (17 panels); Twentieth Century (13 panels)
      PMLA November 2005
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Nineteenth Century (22 panels); Twentieth Century (19 panels)
      PMLA November 2004
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (5 panels); Nineteenth Century (20 panels); Twentieth Century (16 panels) 
      PMLA November 2003
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (4 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (4 panels); Nineteenth Century (23 panels); Twentieth Century (22 panels)
      PMLA November 2002
      Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century (3 panels); Late Eighteenth Century (4 panels); Nineteenth Century (27 panels); Twentieth Century (15 panels)

      Comment by David Samuel Mazella on September 14th, 2013

      I appreciate the thought that has gone into this preliminary document map, but this proposal’s impact on scholars of eighteenth-century British authors will be disproportionately and largely negative. This is because “the long eighteenth century,” which covers nearly 200 years of writing and culture, has long maintained at least two distinct scholarly sub-fields, Restoration and “late eighteenth-century,” which maintain important ties to the chronologically adjacent fields, 17c British and Romanticism, while also maintaining important links to one another as a developmental arc.  Oddly enough, I think the proposal’s approach to categorization will only increase the invisibility of scholars working in both Restoration and Late 18c writers.  This is bad enough, but it will also have some unfortunate ramifications: collapsing these historical sub-fields together essentially wipes out at least one or two generations of revisionist (usually feminist) scholarship that has altered the literary histories of the Restoration, the 18c, the late century, and added much-needed diversity to the stories we now tell about these periods, and recovered scores of authors previously unstudied or untaught. I don’t see how a collapsed and foreshortened long 18th could sustain this kind of revisionist work.

      I honestly don’t see how this collapsing of sub-fields can encourage us, for example, to elaborate upon the differences between Royalist and dissenting women’s life-writings, or to explore the differences between Jacobin and Anti-Jacobin novels, if writers separated by 100 or 200 years are jumbled together in this way.  Collapsing the sub-fields in this way tends to flatten the differences among the few scattered authors who do manage to get discussed, and to obscure a much larger number of non-canonical or “minor” authors who need to be explained and interpreted in reference to far more local and short-term circumstances.  This kind of canonical debate and exploration, which I presume the MLA would encourage us to do (e.g., “to minimize hierarchies and exclusions”), seems much less likely to occur in a context where the absolute number of panels and panel spots is shrinking.

      I would ask the MLA to reconsider this proposal, and at the very least to gather more data about this issue before making a decision of this scope.  I think it could dramatically impact the participation of 18th century British scholars, and ultimately the participation of those doing historical work in American and British studies, if this proposal were to move forward as it currently stands.

       

       

       

       

      Comment by Sören Fröhlich on September 14th, 2013

      I agree that the title is not sufficient to cover HH/HS. However, I would identify my research with MH, not with HH/HS, so simply prioritizing one would make it worse for me than not having a group at all. The pragmatic benefit of sticking with MH to me would lie in its usage across other disciplines that would facilitate interdisciplinary categorization with, say, history of medicine. Take, for example, the JMH: “Publishes original interdisciplinary studies of medicine and medical education. Research findings emerge from three areas of investigation: medical humanities, cultural studies, and pedagogy.Medical humanities covers literature on history, philosophy, and bioethics as well as social and behavioral sciences that have strong humanistic traditions. “

      Comment by James J. Brown on September 14th, 2013

      There has been a great deal of discussion of this category in various social networking spaces, but there has been silence in this space to this point. From what I’m reading on Facebook and Twitter, this might be because many in rhetoric/composition/writing studies/literacy studies don’t feel like the MLA cares much about the specificity of their subfields or research approaches. I’d like to see the MLA prove those people wrong.

      I hesitate to speak for the entire field here, but I’m happy to at least start the conversation. There are large number of fields and approaches that fall inside of this category: the history of rhetoric, technical communication, literacy studies, composition studies, computers and writing, just to name a few. I repeat, this list is not exhaustive.

      Can these be accounted for in some way in the next revision? Also, can others in rhet/comp join in here?

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on September 14th, 2013

      Great questions, thank you! The larger categories are indeed groupings “of convenience”–but I’d also say that they’re also meant as provocations to thought and to further discussion.  No taxonomic scheme will satisfy all stakeholders, but this one, when it emerges, will (we hope) be more fluid than the previous ones because of the 5 year reviews; the opportunities for members to form  “3 year” groups that would would rise, subside, and/or perhaps morph into another group;  and of course the opportunities that the Commons provides for  members to communicate frequently with the elected representatives of their (several) groups.   The idea of representing the MLA’s intellectual groups through a “network of connections” is very interesting to me and invites us all to think more about how an organization’s structure can be figured differently on a website than on a printed page.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on September 14th, 2013

      But it’s interesting to see that some commentators are offering such descriptions to the readers of this discussion!  Perhaps “narrative descriptions” of groups could be something that executive committees could produce with members’ input?  If I were a new member considering joining my first seven groups, I’d love to see such narrative descriptions on the Commons.

      Comment by Kevin Brock on September 14th, 2013

      Frankly, I’m curious as to why Writing Studies is not considered its own division/group.

      As Jim notes, there are multiple areas that are implied within this group–areas that seem to be at least as sizable (in terms of representation and scholarship) as, if not more so than, others given a larger presence in this list. I don’t mean to play the “no, my field of specialty is more important” game, but I do want to ask: why is everything related to rhetoric & writing studies shoehorned into this group (and, I assume, ‘The Teaching of Writing’)?

      That there is so little apparent regard for these disciplines is disheartening.

      Comment by Tejumola Olaniyan on September 14th, 2013

      The proposal is absolutely stranger than fiction. Pray, where is its _scholarly_ content? I have gone several times to read the principles governing the reorganization and just can’t find any that applies in this case. What is “Southern African” that is not “Sub-Saharan African”? Who, even with the slightest knowledge of the literary traditions in Africa, would make such a proposal? And where is north Africa? Whoever suggested this break up is obviously motivated by things other than a scholarly understanding of the comparative histories of the literary traditions on the continent.  Very unfortunately, as Ato, Moradewun, and others have pointed out or implied, there is an old, cliched and prejudiced model that this seems to following. The battle against that model began to be won in the 1980s and now MLA wants to resuscitate it, turn back the hand of the clock? And this is the MLA with the greatest storehouse of expertise in literatures of the world?  The acutely socially conscious and committed MLA that we have all come to be extremely proud of? How did this proposal make it to this stage on an _MLA_ platform?

      I don’t think Achebe would like to be perpetually right but it was he who said, long ago, that, somehow somehow, many a time a discussion reaches an Africa topic among some of the “smartest” of us and of our best friends, the discussion rapidly degrades; peoples become “tribes” and languages become “dialects.” It is odd that I am feeling so personally let down by the MLA on this. Scholarly emptiness and retrograde ideology couldn’t have come together so nicely. And in my MLA??

      Comment by Kevin Brock on September 14th, 2013

      That’s a great question.

      I’d also ask if there is a distinction between “The Teaching of Writing” as a group dedicated to praxis, or if it includes also research, such as that explored in the discipline often referred to as SOTL, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (which should hardly be limited to the teaching of writing, since it involves pretty much every discipline that gets taught, including every one in this draft).

      Comment by Gaurav G. Desai on September 14th, 2013

      Dear Friends,

      I agree with everything you have said here. As I noted in the General Comments above, this particular division by geography makes no sense to me whatsoever, and Teju you are absolutely right in that it takes us backwards! If the idea is to have two groups rather than one, I suggest (see above) doing in chronologically. I’d love to hear what you all think about the suggestion above.

      Comment by Deidre Shauna Lynch on September 14th, 2013

      Dear all,

      I wanted my colleagues to know that the executive for the division for Late 18th century English Literature wrote a detailed and passionate response to this  proposal for reorganisation, pointing out its problems and proposing alternative methods of reducing MLA “sprawl.”  It was ignored.  When these proposals are referred to in the permeable as the result of consultation, the MLA apparently means by consultation what the upper administration at my university means by it: they mean, yes, go ahead and talk amongst yourselves, and then we’ll do what we were planning to do anyhow.  It’s disappointing that an organization that represents itself as advocating for literary studies has decided to proceed like the worst kind of number-crunching dean (I had a provost at the beginning of my career who publicly said of the English Department of which I was a member that he couldn’t understand why any university would want a Department containing 43 literary critics; the same logic is weirdly cropping up here!).

      If anyone would like to see the letter we coauthored (we meaning myself, Kevis Goodman, Bill Warner, Sandra Macpherson, and Misty Anderson) please contact me and I’m happy to send it to you.  (I can’t figure out a way to post it to this forum.)

      Comment by Deidre Shauna Lynch on September 14th, 2013

      Ugh–foiled by auto-correct–for “permeable” in the above please read “preamble”!

      Comment by Carla Zecher on September 14th, 2013

      When the list is viewed as a whole, it’s clear that “Renaissance and Early Modern” does not include the 18th century (or part of it). But this would not be apparent if the “Renaissance and Early Modern” group was referred to alone. I’m not sure whether this might present problems.

      Comment by Carla Zecher on September 14th, 2013

      Paleography, codicology, and textual editing (especially from manuscript) are underrepresented here. Perhaps “Library and Archive Studies” is intended to take us to manuscript studies, but I don’t think it does. It looks more to media studies.

      Comment by Carla Zecher on September 14th, 2013

      Maybe expand to “Native American and Indigenous?” I’d like to hear from people working in the field on this.

      Comment by Carla Zecher on September 14th, 2013

      I find the two African groups baffling. Wondering if a division according to chronology or language group would correspond better to the literary and linguistic realities than geography.

      Comment by Evan M. Gottlieb on September 15th, 2013

      My colleagues have already covered this ground well, but I think it bears repeating: the Restoration and early 18th c. represent a substantially different moment — aesthetically, politically, historically — from the later eighteenth century. I can’t see any solid intellectual justification behind their conflation. I can also say, personally, that combining them into a single area will only lead to confusion at the conference level, and serve to dampen my enthusiasm for attending MLA panels in the future.

      […] see many friends on Facebook remarking on MLA’s efforts to reorganize their group structure. Collin has blogged about it. This is definitely one of those “short straw” tasks where […]

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on September 15th, 2013

      Thanks for this comment–and thanks to all of you who’ve written in on so far on the truly difficult issues of naming and conceptualizing periods (or period-parts) in the British medieval/early modern [Renaissance]/18th century era(s)–or what I think of, when I’m lying awake at night worry about taxonomic issues, as the era of the “first half of the Brit. Lit survey,” or the “set of courses” dealing with the “old” past.   The specific  answer to your question  is that members of the two “blue” groups provisionally called “16th century British” and “17th century British” are being asked whether they wish to remain divided at the 1600 line or whether they would consider merging to become one entity, the “green” one provisionally called British Early Modern. “Shakespeare,” like “Chaucer,” would remain an independent group within the (potentially more fluid) MLA group structure (fluid because of the 5 year review/self study requirement and because of the new opportunities for intra and inter group communication on the Commons). Meanwhile,  Milton (like Wordsworth, Dante, and others) would still command “guaranteed sessions” through the Allied Organization devoted to his works.

      A more general and contextualizing answer to your question about what’s being proposed can be found in Marianne Hirsch’s video and our introductory letter.  Since I myself am an early modernist (trained as a medievalist and also happy–and unhappy–to be known as a “Reformation, Renaissance, and/or Restoration” scholar-teacher), I’d like to say that I’m very eager to hear my fellow scholars’ ideas on whether there are other possible configurations of our field(s) than the ones the Working Group has come up with.   If you’ve had a chance now to think about our period(s) in relation to the revised map of the larger intellectual structure, what would you propose?

      Comment by Laurie Taylor on September 15th, 2013

      Very happy to see this!

      Comment by Abby Coykendall on September 15th, 2013

      I strongly concur with the statements above in opposition to the reduction of 18th-century studies panels at the MLA conference. Misunderstandings are sure to result from approaching this important period (which witnesses the rise of everything from global commerce, to the rhetoric of human rights, to the rise of the middle class ) through a simplified “long 18th-century” rubric.  That rubric was originally intended to encourage scholars to attend to the nuances of the period, which has three major transitions from Restoration literature, to what has been conventionally studied as 18th-century literature (Pope, Swift, Fielding, Richardson, et. al.), to sentimental, gothic, and romantic literature of the later 1700s. It was certainly never meant to reduce these various kinds of literature into a single entity progressing over the course of a 100+ year stretch of time, which would encourage a return to a naively progressive conceptualization of the development of literature thro’ history.  Having to collapse discussions of these three literary moments together will lead to reductive “before/after” analyses this period and of modernity itself, and countervail the work that has been done to envision of the literature of the period more contextually and inter-culturally.

      Comment by Carrie Shanafelt on September 15th, 2013

      I agree with the above comments that the intended collapse of the eighteenth-century British groups ignores distinctions that are crucial for scholars of these periods, and unnecessarily reduces the number of MLA conference panels for scholarship on these periods, which are currently experiencing a surge of interest as interdisciplinary, global, and theoretical approaches interrogate traditional models. Please reconsider this proposal.

      Comment by David Samuel Mazella on September 15th, 2013

      Deidre, thanks for this information, and thanks for your work on our behalf.

      Two questions: 1. would you mind if I quoted this post on the Facebook Eighteenth-Century group to disseminate to the 507 members there? and 2. would you and the other authors of last year’s ignored letter mind if I posted a copy of that letter either to the Facebook Eighteenth-Century group or the Long 18th blog?

      Thanks, Dave Mazella

      Comment by James Wood on September 15th, 2013

      I also agree that the merging of the Restoration and the Late-18th century into     one “Long 18th Century” group would be a significant loss. One larger point I’d like to make is that if we lose a fine-grained sense of historical distinctions (as encouraged by the collapse of several periods into a “long eighteenth-century ) then our methodological and theoretical approaches also suffer, since we will lose a sense, for example, of how print culture is radically different in the late 18th century versus the restoration period.

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on September 15th, 2013

      Use the hover feature to see what it originally was: Teaching as a Profession.

      Comment by Yellow Dog on September 15th, 2013

      […] went online, and discovered numerous colleagues from across the country upset over the latest MLA categorization of our field.  Apparently, not being categorized or listed in a specific way upsets […]

      Comment by Carla Zecher on September 15th, 2013

      Addendum: I meant to say “American Indian and Indigenous.” My understanding is that “American Indian” is generally deemed preferable to “Native American,” and we need Indigenous so as to include groups like the Inuit. But as I said above, we need to hear from people in the field.

      Comment by Chloe Wigston Smith on September 15th, 2013

      Like my colleagues above, I am very concerned and alarmed by the proposal to collapse enormously varied, rich, and complex periods together, with the ultimate result of reducing representation of the Restoration and the eighteenth century at the annual meeting. I agree with the intellectual, theoretical, and historical arguments raised above. Paul Kelleher’s evidence shows that the representation for the Restoration and eighteenth century has already been diminished enough over the last decade. I can’t understand why the MLA would move to reduce the fields even further? I can see in the FAQ that attendance at the period sessions won’t be considered as a factor in the proposed changes, but this confuses me to no end. I contributed to a Restoration and Early 18th Century standing session at the 2013 Boston MLA: the room was packed. Every seat was taken and people were sitting on the floor at the back for a panel of junior scholars. The periods need more representation and presence at the convention, rather than less. These are extremely lively, vital, and rich areas of research, with clear support and interest from a broad range of MLA’s membership.

      Comment by Lucinda Cole on September 15th, 2013

      I also register serious doubts about the ability of the proposed changes to facilitate new and interesting  scholarly discussions or scholarship, for many of the reasons already addressed. To those I add two others: first, the  proposed structure will encourage a potentially facile urge towards thematic and historical continuity in the structure of the panels, with each topic being “represented” by a scholar from one of the three internal historical periods. Such a structure compels Restoration scholars to compete rather than collaborate. As such, it is unlikely to encourage graduate students, assistant professors, and faculty from low-profile universities to submit proposals. Given the strong presence of ASECS and its affiliate organizations, it is difficult to imagine why most people working in late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth century literature would, under those circumstances. make MLA a priority.

      Comment by Chloe Wigston Smith on September 15th, 2013

      I have commented on paragraph 82, but would also like to voice my strong disapproval of paragraph 83. The collapse of these two distinct periods into one, amorphous long eighteenth century represents a significant distortion of the rich and complex terrain of two centuries of vast literary, intellectual, historical change.

      Comment by Lucinda Cole on September 15th, 2013

      In my response to paragraph 82, I have commented on the practical and political reasons why this proposed move to a “Long Eighteenth Century” is counterproductive, and those also  apply to this category. David Mazella accurately warns that such changes could have a dramatic impact on who will attend  annual MLA meetings; Deidre Lynch’s impassioned note captures the incredulity with which most of us are responding to these proposed changes.

      Comment by Steven L. Newman on September 15th, 2013

      I, too, want to thank the committee for taking on a very daunting task, and I think they have made many wise proposals.  This, however, is not one of them.  I have little to add to the eloquent cases made by my colleagues for rethinking this Great Absorption of historically-distinct fields, which often call for different methodologies and which have their own long-standing scholarly vectors.  But I do want to underscore the unfortunate message this proposal, if adopted, will send to graduate students in the field.  While it may be true that some job ads list “The Long Eighteenth Century” and there has been some important scholarship that thinks 1660-1832 as a whole,  students looking toward the MLA as a crucial site for learning how to situate themselves within a scholarly community may well feel frozen out if, say, the emphasis of their projects is on, say, the interaction between the stage and print culture during The Restoration or, say, representations of affect and moral reasoning in Scotland and England during the late 18th century.  And they may in fact be frozen out if this leads to the reduction in the number of panels that my colleagues and I are rightly worried about.

      Comment by Sandra K. Baringer on September 15th, 2013

      Part-Time Faculty needs to be changed to Non-Tenure-Track Faculty – this change is long overdue.

      Comment by John J. Richetti on September 15th, 2013

      I want to agree in the strongest possible terms with Jonathan Kramnick. I see no good reason for this change, which creates an incoherent and unwieldy period of study that pays no attention to unifying features and marked changes in sensibility and aesthetic preferences. The Restoration and the early 18th century (until say 1714, the beginning of the Hanoverian dynasty, or until 1740, with the “rise of the novel”) feature literary-historical continuities that need to be studied, just as the latter half of the 18th century has distinct features and interests that make it a period that requires special attention. Why is the 18th Century being marginalized this way?

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on September 15th, 2013

      Many thanks to the MLA Group Structure Working Group, the Program Committee, the Executive Council, and MLA staff for their efforts to accurately reflect and promote the diversity of our broadly shared field. In response, I write with real concern about the proposed changes to “Restoration and Early 18th-C English” and “Later Eighteenth-Century English” (and I have posted this comment under paragraph 83 as well).

      There are two issues. One is the proposed merging/collapsing of divisions. The other, related issue (to my mind the more serious issue of these two serious issues) is the proposed reduction of panels by 75%, from 8 panels (4 guaranteed, 4 non-guaranteed) to 2. I myself do not support either of these proposals.

      Before explaining my concerns in greater detail, I should state that I am currently the delegate for the Executive Committee of the “Restoration and Early C18 English” division. But I am not writing as such. I am writing as a very active member of the MLA. I have been a member for 12 consecutive years; I joined in 2001, my first year in graduate school. Since then, I have presented 7 papers (and I will present again at MLA 2014) and chaired 3 special sessions. In other words, the MLA has been crucial to my development as a scholar. I fear that the proposed changes will necessarily have a drastically chilling effect on the membership and conference attendance (and in all likelihood the very scholarship) of the many scholars and teachers such as myself who work in these divisions.

      Re: the merging/collapsing of divisions: I do not support the merging/collapsing of “Restoration and Early 18th-century English” with “Later 18th-Century English” into a nebulous “Long 18th-Century” division.

      First, there is the matter of the rubric itself: the “Long 18th Century.” For one thing, the rubric does away with the specificity of “English,” thereby implying that all cultures and languages and histories and literatures can and should be elided together within a very small compass. The rubric implies (unwittingly) anti-diversity. There’s a curiously imperialistic valence that cuts against the stated and sincere goals of the MLA, and the working group, to promote diversity.

      For another thing, the rubric completely obscures the fact of the Restoration as its own period of study. And, moreover, the rubric elides the history, culture, and literature of the Restoration with the history, literature, and culture of the later 1700s–truly, this just doesn’t make sense historically.

      And then there’s the matter of the merger itself: “Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English” would make more sense as a rubric for a singular, collapsed division, but, still, to my mind, there’s no getting around the following key problem: conflating the two divisions cuts against the actual, extant disciplinary differences  Many scholars work both on Restoration literature and later 18th-century literature, but to conflate the two into a single entity (Restoration comedy and the Gothic novel?) makes as much sense as a “Romanticist and Victorianist” division–that is to say, I believe it doesn’t make disciplinary sense.

      Re: the severe reduction in panels: this to my mind is the more serious matter. Rather than offering intellectual rumination as I did above, I will just speak simply: I believe that the proposed drastic reduction in sessions would have an adverse effect on MLA membership and participation, all but decimating, as if punitively, the presence of a tremendous and substantial body of scholars across what are currently two vibrant, diverse, robust, growing fields.

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on September 15th, 2013

      Many thanks to the MLA Group Structure Working Group, the Program Committee, the Executive Council, and MLA staff for their efforts to accurately reflect and promote the diversity of our broadly shared field. In response, I write with real concern about the proposed changes to “Restoration and Early 18th-C English” and “Later Eighteenth-Century English” (and I have posted this comment under paragraph 82 as well).

      There are two issues. One is the proposed merging/collapsing of divisions. The other, related issue (to my mind the more serious issue of these two serious issues) is the proposed reduction of panels by 75%, from 8 panels (4 guaranteed, 4 non-guaranteed) to 2. I myself do not support either of these proposals.

      Before explaining my concerns in greater detail, I should state that I am currently the delegate for the Executive Committee of the “Restoration and Early C18 English” division. But I am not writing as such. I am writing as a very active member of the MLA. I have been a member for 12 consecutive years; I joined in 2001, my first year in graduate school. Since then, I have presented 7 papers (and I will present again at MLA 2014) and chaired 3 special sessions. In other words, the MLA has been crucial to my development as a scholar. I fear that the proposed changes will necessarily have a drastically chilling effect on the membership and conference attendance (and in all likelihood the very scholarship) of the many scholars and teachers such as myself who work in these divisions.

      Re: the merging/collapsing of divisions: I do not support the merging/collapsing of “Restoration and Early 18th-century English” with “Later 18th-Century English” into a nebulous “Long 18th-Century” division.

      First, there is the matter of the rubric itself: the “Long 18th Century.” For one thing, the rubric does away with the specificity of “English,” thereby implying that all cultures and languages and histories and literatures can and should be elided together within a very small compass. The rubric implies (unwittingly) anti-diversity. There’s a curiously imperialistic valence that cuts against the stated and sincere goals of the MLA, and the working group, to promote diversity.

      For another thing, the rubric completely obscures the fact of the Restoration as its own period of study. And, moreover, the rubric elides the history, culture, and literature of the Restoration with the history, literature, and culture of the later 1700s–truly, this just doesn’t make sense historically.

      And then there’s the matter of the merger itself: “Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English” would make more sense as a rubric for a singular, collapsed division, but, still, to my mind, there’s no getting around the following key problem: conflating the two divisions cuts against the actual, extant disciplinary differences  Many scholars work both on Restoration literature and later 18th-century literature, but to conflate the two into a single entity (Restoration comedy and the Gothic novel?) makes as much sense as a “Romanticist and Victorianist” division–that is to say, I believe it doesn’t make disciplinary sense.

      Re: the severe reduction in panels: this to my mind is the more serious matter. Rather than offering intellectual rumination as I did above, I will just speak simply: I believe that the proposed drastic reduction in sessions would have an adverse effect on MLA membership and participation, all but decimating, as if punitively, the presence of a tremendous and substantial body of scholars across what are currently two vibrant, diverse, robust, growing fields.

      Comment by Ghirmai Negash on September 15th, 2013

      I agree with the comments made by colleagues that the newly MLA initiated idea of breaking up African literature into (sub) divisions is problematic in many ways. Such division is not merely administrative, but ideologically constructive. As Ato Quayson rightly points out, one troubling implication of this partition is that it adds to the further white-washing of South African literature while, let’s be honest about it when we are on it, the category of Sub-Saharan literature seems to be a code for (black) West African literature. Were this proposal to come through, I wonder where the literatures of the Greater Horn of Africa, East Africa, North and Central Africa, and the new African diaspora would fall into the re-mapping. I also wonder why at this age of global aesthetics African literature would need to being split up into such restricting and alienating divisions. It seems ironic especially when our prominent theorists, such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Akin Adesokan, are publishing works meant to underscore Africa’s collective contribution to world literature by illustrating its creative and theoretical vitality in terms of voicing subaltern resistance, aimed at de-dichotomization and de-hierarchization. I would like, therefore, to ask those of you who represent African literature in MLA to push back against this new proposition and argue instead to retaining the name/division “African Literature,” without drawing regional or national borders. Although the ALA may not be a perfect model, please remember that it has been a glue in keeping us together as teachers and researchers of African literature over the years. Part of the appeal of belonging to the association is its understanding to retain the deliberately vague term “African literature” as a conceptual category for all constituents to work with. And this has served well the association and its members, despite the different histories and orientations of the diverse literatures of the continent. No term/naming is neutral. Having said that, the general term “African literature” seems to me more practical and purposeful to hold on to than the proposed MLA idea, which (and I don’t doubt MLA’s good intentions) appears to be raising more complications-both practical and theoretical.

      Comment by John B. Bender on September 15th, 2013

      I agree with a number of other commentators: to combine “Restoration and Early c18 British” with “Late 18th Century” would be a distortion of the fields.  I strongly oppose the scheme to combine, among other ground on that of very bad terminology.  I doubt that most scholars in the field would imagine that “long 18th century” reached back to 1660: the usual boundary is 1688.

      John Bender

       

      Comment by Jess Keiser on September 15th, 2013

      Let me add to the chorus of voices already decrying this move by making a point which might persuade some non-Restoration/18th century colleagues who are reading these comments and wondering what the big deal is.
      If we understand the “Restoration” not simply as an event in British monarchical history, but as a period which overlaps at least in part with what Jonathan Israel calls the “Radical Enlightenment,” there is a case to be made that the “Restoration” is absolutely crucial towards understanding a number of contemporary concerns in the humanities (and in intellectual life more generally). 
      Materialism, panpsychism, atheism, the impact of natural science on cultural concerns, debates about equality, questions relating to empiricism and epistemology, the transmission of knowledge in a cosmopolitan print culture, religious skepticism and toleration, new theories of emergence and self-organization, new challenges to received authority, the relationship between  human beings and animals and automata, new understandings of free will, agency, and determinism,  etc., etc.,  — all of these issues come to the foreground during this time (and, yes, I’m basically just rattling off the index of Israel’s book – my list could be extended quite a bit).   
      It would be foolish to argue that the “Restoration” is the only period where these concerns come into play, but I do think it’s inarguable that said concerns are made explicit during this time in a way that they’ve rarely been before or since.  And while I’m well aware that everyone thinks their particular slice of the periodized pie is the key one, it’s worth noting that a scholar of, say, 19th or even 21st century culture who is busy working on a book about objects, ontology, nature,  networks, things, machines, or brains – and there is a lot of this work if the MLA’s own special sessions are any indication — will eventually encounter a text or problem that was formulated in the “Restoration.” 
      To put my point more simply still: it is badly mistaken to get rid of this period precisely when we need it most.   And by “we” I mean not only those of us who happen to work within its borders, but also those of us who are still dealing with its reverberations in contemporary culture. 

      Comment by Jess Keiser on September 15th, 2013

      Apologies for the weird formatting.  Never trust WordPress!  Although “false, false, false” is pretty close to my feelings about the proposal actually.

      Comment by Danielle Spratt on September 15th, 2013

      I would like to begin by thanking the MLA working group for taking on the monumental task of restructuring the division/group structure, which until now hasn’t really changed, as Marianne Hirsch notes in her introduction, since the 1970s. Put simply, it’s time. This idea is reinforced to me every day via the students I teach: they are increasingly diverse, and increasingly wondering why non-Anglo literature continues to remain fairly marginalized in course offerings and in the scholarship they read. So, I commend the working group for taking on this onerous initiative.

      That said, I wish to join in the chorus of my colleagues above and vocalize my concerns over the suggested collapse of our two-group divisions into one large, nebulous “Long eighteenth century” group. While there are ways of encouraging global perspectives within our field and in the MLA as a whole, I can’t see how this proposed collapse will encourage such forward-thinking scholarship. From an intellectual/history of ideas perspective, collapsing the distinction between these two periods would obscure the very real aesthetic, political, cultural, literary, and historical details that distinguish the 1660s from the 1760s and beyond (let alone, as John Richetti mentions above, that of the 1720s and the 1740s).

      Most at risk in this potential collapse are, I think, exactly the sub-fields and sub-specialties of our time period that I suspect the MLA working group wishes to encourage: those pertaining to marginalized, non-canonical authors and texts. The FAQs in the introduction state that the first three principles of the revision are to promote (here I summarize): 1. the deep (not broad) study of literature, 2. the protection of small fields, and 3. the attempt to minimize exclusions of fields. For our period, collapsing our existing two divisions into one would counter those three principles. The collapse would  marginalize, not encourage, the scholarship of the period’s non-canonical texts and authors. Likewise, collapsing the divisions would discourage the deep study of particular time periods/literary aesthetics within our broad field, and in particular the study of the Restoration. These sub-specialties have become the focus of recent critical attention, a move that has continued to invigorate an already energetic field. The collapse would stymy the continual innovations and projects of recovery that we value in the field of literary studies.

      Rather than cutting our field and our allotted sessions, I hope that the working group will consider maintaining our two-group structure; likewise, I hope it will find a way to maintain–in large part–our current relatively modest number of allocated sessions (Paul Kelleher’s excellent post above details that the existing structure has never seen the c18 period dominating or overwhelming other sessions). In fact, past and upcoming MLA sessions have demonstrated our willingness and desire to work in joint sessions with other groups/divisions, and I hope one outcome will be that we see more interdisciplinary joint sessions. That said, a 75% reduction of allotted sessions would irrevocably damage, and indeed silence, many of the important field-specific conversations begun at MLA conventions, and it would discourage current and future members from presenting their cutting-edge work in the field of c18 studies in such an important forum.

      Thank you in advance for considering all of our comments on this proposal and for allowing this restructuring to be transparent and collaborative in nature.

      Comment by Danielle Spratt on September 15th, 2013

      (I have posted this feedback in the paragraph 82 comments as well):

      I would like to begin by thanking the MLA working group for taking on the monumental task of restructuring the division/group structure, which until now hasn’t really changed, as Marianne Hirsch notes in her introduction, since the 1970s. Put simply, it’s time. This idea is reinforced to me every day via the students I teach: they are increasingly diverse, and increasingly wondering why non-Anglo literature continues to remain fairly marginalized in course offerings and in the scholarship they read. So, I commend the working group for taking on this onerous initiative.

      That said, I wish to join in the chorus of my colleagues above and vocalize my concerns over the suggested collapse of our two-group divisions into one large, nebulous “Long eighteenth century” group. While there are ways of encouraging global perspectives within our field and in the MLA as a whole, I can’t see how this proposed collapse will encourage such forward-thinking scholarship. From an intellectual/history of ideas perspective, collapsing the distinction between these two periods would obscure the very real aesthetic, political, cultural, literary, and historical details that distinguish the 1660s from the 1760s and beyond (let alone, as John Richetti mentions above, that of the 1720s and the 1740s).

      Most at risk in this potential collapse are, I think, exactly the sub-fields and sub-specialties of our time period that I suspect the MLA working group wishes to encourage: those pertaining to marginalized, non-canonical authors and texts. The FAQs in the introduction state that the first three principles of the revision are to promote (here I summarize): 1. the deep (not broad) study of literature, 2. the protection of small fields, and 3. the attempt to minimize exclusions of fields. For our period, collapsing our existing two divisions into one would counter those three principles. The collapse would  marginalize, not encourage, the scholarship of the period’s non-canonical texts and authors. Likewise, collapsing the divisions would discourage the deep study of particular time periods/literary aesthetics within our broad field, and in particular the study of the Restoration. These sub-specialties have become the focus of recent critical attention, a move that has continued to invigorate an already energetic field. The collapse would stymy the continual innovations and projects of recovery that we value in the field of literary studies.

      Rather than cutting our field and our allotted sessions, I hope that the working group will consider maintaining our two-group structure; likewise, I hope it will find a way to maintain–in large part–our current relatively modest number of allocated sessions (Paul Kelleher’s excellent post in the para 82 comments section details that the existing structure has never seen the c18 period dominating or overwhelming other sessions). In fact, past and upcoming MLA sessions have demonstrated our willingness and desire to work in joint sessions with other groups/divisions, and I hope one outcome will be that we see more interdisciplinary joint sessions. That said, a 75% reduction of allotted sessions would irrevocably damage, and indeed silence, many of the important field-specific conversations begun at MLA conventions, and it would discourage current and future members from presenting their cutting-edge work in the field of c18 studies in such an important forum.

      Thank you in advance for considering all of our comments on this proposal and for allowing this restructuring to be transparent and collaborative in nature.

      Comment by James D. B. McCorkle on September 15th, 2013

       
      I share similar concerns with the other commentators on the proposed division of African literature.  As has been raised, the designation of “southern African literature” is a thinly veiled prioritizing of South African literature and continues a troubling history of viewing South Africa as exceptional. Secondly, the view that the Sahara acts as a barrier, that the so-called sub-continent was/is isolated is perhaps the other most troubling aspect of the proposed division—it’s of great concern to see the MLA inadvertently re-instate this hegemonic moniker.  One would hope that a new formation or structure to the African literature section would act to open up space for more conversation, that it not exist as it has at the margins.  Some of the other proposed divisions do just that, and should be applauded, but alas the division on African literatures and languages seems to falter.  A periodization (old-fashioned as it may be) could be a start: pre-1960, 1960-1990, and post-1990.  Or a regional division—north, east and west as well as south Africa.  Yet these divisions have their drawbacks—for example the lack of recognition of the diaspora.  Perhaps at the root of this is the notion that there is indeed one “Africa”—we don’t assume that of the Americas, Europe, or Asia.  To a large degree Africanists need to assert their places in Atlantic, Arabic or Mediterranean studies, for example; but, the association has a structural responsibility to create a framework that is open and supportive of scholars. Clearly, the overhaul of the MLA groups was a complicated and demanding process–I would urge the MLA to revisit the structuring of African literature and languages.

       

      Comment by Robert Markley on September 15th, 2013

      I want strongly to second the views voiced by John Richetti, Jonathan Kramnick, Tita Chico, Paul Kelleher, and many others.  Collapsing the current Restoration and Early 18th century and Later Eighteenth Century groups into one is a terrible idea: it distorts work going on in the field, it neglects the interest of members (as Paul has demonstrated effectively), and it neglects trends in a wide range of larger interdisciplinary fields, including the history of science, art history, East Asian and Pacific Studies, economic history, political philosophy, etc.

      Comment by Christopher Loar on September 15th, 2013

      Many thanks to the committee for the work they have done (and will continue to do). While most of the proposals here do seem to make sense, I have to register my agreement that the compression of the Restoration/earlier eighteenth century with the later eighteenth century in a single group would be, quite simply, bad for scholarship in those fields and bad for the MLA. As the comments above note, this compression does not reflect the nature of the scholarship in this period, and it is particularly troubling for those who study the Restoration. The proposal would have the effect of sharply curtailing representation of scholars from these fields at MLA–and, as Paul Kelleher documents above, these fields are already significantly underrepresented.

      My hope would be that those who study the “long eighteenth century” might play a larger role in the MLA in years to come. This proposal’s effects seem likely to produce the opposite effect.

      Comment by Misty G. Anderson on September 15th, 2013

      I am in strong agreement with Jonathan Kramnick, Tita Chico, Robert Markley, and the many others who have expressed their concern about collapsing these two groups.  It would reduce an already small number of panels in the field (at which we have nonetheless seen robust attendance in recent years) and it would also misrepresent the range and depth of scholarship these two divisions currently represent.  As a former member of the executive committee and as the current editor of Restoration, I find this troubling.  It strikes me as bad for all but worst for those in Restoration studies. We in the division worked on a sound and strong letter of disapproval when we were told about the possible merger, which did not come from within the field. The responses here are nearly unanimous, and I hope the MLA will take note.

      Comment by Helen Deutsch on September 15th, 2013

      I am grateful to the committee for their hard work on this proposal which I realize poses a difficult series of problems.  But I am in strong agreement with my colleagues in their opposition to the proposal, and I appreciate the extreme thoroughness with which others have delineated both the intellectual and practical losses at stake in the new “Long 18th Century” rubric.  Scholars of the British Restoration (a specific and important field) will not recognize themselves in this rubric, and 18th-century scholars will be increasingly invisible at MLA with the reduction of panels.  The profession as a whole seems to me to be increasingly presentist in its orientation.  Losing the historical specificity of these rubrics and with it a significant and important MLA constituency of eighteenth-century scholars makes MLA appear to be endorsing this bias (and I know that is not the case).  Please reconsider!

      Comment by John J. Richetti on September 15th, 2013

      I’ve commented in paragraph 82, in strong agreement with those colleagues who think lumping the period from 1660 (or 1688) to the end of the 18th Century is a terrible idea, based I would guess on a surprising ignorance of the profound literary and historical changes that occur in British culture through that long period. Why single out the 18th century for such untenable simplification? I’m  puzzled and even offended by the suggestion.

      Comment by Lisa Zunshine on September 16th, 2013

      I agree with Jonathan Kramnick and other scholars who commented earlier that combining “Restoration” with  “Late Eighteenth Century British” into one “Long Eighteenth Century” division would have a lasting detrimental effect on the field of eighteenth-century studies. It will affect the most vulnerable part of membership–graduate students–who will have fewer opportunities to present their work at the MLA. At this early point in their career, few of them can yet benefit from the various interdisciplinary discussion groups/divisions, because both their scholarship and their market concerns are still mostly defined by their historical period.

      Comment by Kevis Goodman on September 16th, 2013

      I join the chorus of opposition to the proposal to lump together these two divisions. And I write specifically to add to Deidre Lynch’s comment above, which reported that the Executive Committee of the Later C18 Division (in addition to Deidre and myself, this includes William Warner, Sandra Macpherson, and Misty Anderson) unanimously signed what amounted to a four page single-spaced essay in opposition this merger. That letter, which took quite some time to draft, had several parts.

      [1] It listed a number of differences between the two fields and reasons for the specificity of the later 18th Century division.  These included:

      — the contributions of the Scottish Enlightenment, including the development of the “science of man” after Hume; the flourishing of Scottish and Anglo-Irish (even Welsh) writing in the later part of the century; the resulting precarious attempt to sculpt a British literature as the peripheries of the nation worked to preserve their difference in a way they did not earlier on (or later).

      –a number of cultural phenomena with enduring influence take their roots in the later C18. These include the Gothic, as well as the literary-philosophical-scientific movement often called sensibility, whose models of interpersonal emotion are sopihsticated and arguably different from earlier or later paradigms.

      –the period does not fit into either of the stories central to literary histories of the earlier C18, such as the satire-centered story of the rise of the professional author or the “rise of the novel” narrative about the beginnings of the realist novel. One finds instead a veritable riot of new or mixed forms — e.g. non-fictional prose writings (whether moral philosophy, rhetoric and belles lettres, or review criticism), the ballad revival,  forgeries (as in the Ossian case), the beginnings of the national tale and the historical fictions that emerge from it, more experimental forms of the novel, etc. etc. etc.

      –copyright decisions and legal changes in the second half of the century alter the literary field in decisive ways, engendering new conceptions of authorship and literary tradition.

      –the beginnings of literary criticism are sometimes traced to 1753, when Hugh Blair came to occupy a new chair in Rhetoric and Belles Letters at Edinburgh; scholarship on the later  C18 is well situated to investigate the beginnings of the disciplinization of English.

      — and much more, which I will skip because I want to make some further points.

      [2]  The assumption that the divisions between periods might tidily align with the divisions between centuries represents a step backward, not forward.  It could be said to compound rather than corrects the imperfections inherent in periodization.

      [3] We were not simple upholders of the status quo. We recognized MLA sprawl and the need to create room for emerging fields. So we offered a number of suggestions. These included the suggestion that a more innovative structure will come not through the forced merging of divisions but from encouragement of collaboration between them. These collaborations can be provisional and improvisational,  changing year by year and not limited to divisions defined historically; they can also be instructive for understanding the real ways that our fields are changing. We pointed out that the MLA convention guidelines actually discourage collaborative sessions.  In the spring, as we were working on our proposal for a meeting that  we hoped to co-sponsor with the Romanticism Division, we asked if that session could function and one of our two guaranteed sessions. The answer was no, and the result was an extremely laborious process for applying for such a session.

      To this I would add that we were never offered the option of one guaranteed panel (together with the opportunity to compete for others,  as described above, though, one hopes, not in a way that eats up a week of one’s life).  While this is not desirable, it may be preferable to our elimination.

      [4] As Deidre points out, it is odd and discouraging to be asked for a response and a rationale when we have already provided pages of response and rationale, which was then ignored. Is there any reason to believe that repetition of the same will have a different consequence? I hope so, but it is hard to get rid of the feeling that the MLA may be going through the motions of consultation rather than engaging in serious consultation, one that includes a willingness to heed our arguments.

      I’ve gone on too long. Apologies for all typos (haste). It will be apparent that I am dismayed by the draft proposal and discouraged by the whole process.

       

      Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on September 16th, 2013

      I just wanted to add my distress to the commenters here noting the vanishing of textual studies and bibliography.

      At the moment, I see three proposed groups, each with competing relevancy, but none entirely satisfactory:

      Book History and Print Culture. Others have noted the limitations as regards manuscript studies, and also the lack of explicit mention of critical editing and textual scholarship.

      Digital Humanities. Surely hospitable to textual scholarship (some recent voices notwithstanding), but hardly coterminous with it.

      Library and Archive Studies. First, it should be Archival Studies. It’s also not clear if the constituency of the group is those who study libraries and archives in some critical manner, or librarians and archivists who are also MLA members. Probably it’s both, but this has the appearance of a catch-all category.

      My druthers?

      I think the need for a Digital Humanities group is clear.

      I would favor a distinct group called Textual Scholarship and History of the Book for the reasons outlined by others above. This restores “textual scholarship,” broadly conceived–see, for example, the new Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship–to its named status, and while I acknowledge the differences with the book history community, I myself could live with them sharing organizational space in a single group. I think it would be generative.

      I would also favor a distinct group called Library, Information, and Archival Studies (many library schools have rebranded as Information Schools or “iSchools”). This group would also stand the greatest potential for engaging professionals from those fields.

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Comment by James Mulholland on September 16th, 2013

      While I too would like to thank the committee for their work, I am struck by the way that the proposal in this paragraph would flatten literary study. The periods themselves require separation to be appreciated. I think even more significant, however, is the persistent underrepresentation of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century studies that Paul Kelleher has noted in his comment. Beyond the excellent intellectual reasons for the MLA to recognize the distinct characteristics of these periods, collapsing these categories would only further diminish the significance of more historically remote periods of literary study in the MLA. This serves no one well.

      Comment by Peter Kunze on September 16th, 2013

      Critical animal studies would exclude other subsets of animal studies, such as animality studies.

      Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on September 16th, 2013

      I would think any group along these lines should go in “Transdisciplinary Connections,” below. A library (or an archives) is not a genre or a medium. It is an institution served by a profession.

       

      Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on September 16th, 2013

      See also my suggestion below: move any library/archives group to Transdisciplinary Connections.

      Comment by Samara Cahill on September 16th, 2013

      Thank you to the committee for undertaking a difficult and frustrating task. However, I concur with the many strong arguments already made against collapsing the Restoration into a “Long 18th Century.” Please, please, please don’t do this. As others have said, we need more, not less, representation of Restoration studies at the MLA.

      Comment by Uriel Quesada on September 16th, 2013

      I am very happy to see this new group.  Now, it is important to have an open definition of Caribbean, which includes not only a geographical component, but also a strong cultural component.

      Comment by Uriel Quesada on September 16th, 2013

      This is a great addition!

      Comment by Uriel Quesada on September 16th, 2013

      If the term “Cuban and Cuban Diasporic” is going to stay, why not consider “Mexican and Mexican Diasporic”, or “Puerto Rican and Puerto Rican Diasporic”?  What about Central American or South American? Perhaps the solution is a general category called “Latin American Diasporic”

      Comment by Denys Van Renen on September 16th, 2013

      I, too, agree with MLA members who strongly disagree with the proposed changes to collapse the Restoration +  early 18th C  and late 18th C.  This is an exciting time to work in these separate periods, and we do not want to stifle the fresh approaches to research on them.

      Comment by Helen Deutsch on September 16th, 2013

      I have already written in response to paragraph 82 but wanted to add my support to all that is said here and my thanks to those on the Division Committees who worked so hard and wrote so eloquently  to protest the proposed changes.  I hope this time MLA will listen.

      Comment by Catherine Elizabeth Ingrassia on September 16th, 2013

      I agree completely with the eloquent comments of my colleagues above and oppose the collapsing of two divisions into the “Long Eighteenth Century.” The Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Executive Committee (Al Rivero, Paul Hunter, Sean Moore, Wolfram Schmidgen, and I) wrote a letter detailing our concerns about and our objections to the possibility. (As Misty Anderson and others note above, the late 18th-Century British Executive Committee wrote a similarly strong letter. Both letters were apparently ignored.) To collapse the two divisions would be problematic—indeed disastrous—for all the reasons detailed . Additionally, the significant decrease in the potential number of sessions seems punitive; there has not been a commensurate decrease in the number of scholars working in these areas, areas already under-represented at the MLA (as Paul Kelleher’s comments effectively illustrate).

      Comment by Catherine Elizabeth Ingrassia on September 16th, 2013

      As  I detailed in the comments in response to paragraph 82 (although  Wordpress reacts badly to language cut and paste), I strongly oppose the creation of “The Long Eighteenth Century” and the elimination of the Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century and the Late Eighteenth-Century. The Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Executive Committee (Paul Hunter, Al Rivero, Sean Moore, Wolfram Smidgen and I), like the Late Eighteenth-Century British EC, wrote a detailed letter opposing such a change. While I realize the committee dedicated to evaluating the MLA group structure has a monumental task, it is troubling that these letters went apparently unheeded but heartening to see how widely and forcefully other colleagues in the field share the same sentiments.

      Comment by Lynn Ramey on September 16th, 2013

      This is true. Our group wasn’t getting abstracts from those places, however. For the past 5 years we have gotten Italian, French, and Spanish. I think this effectively eliminates the Romance literary relations group.

      Comment by Adela Ramos on September 16th, 2013

      Thank you to the MLA working group for undertaking this monumental and, in the words of Marianne Hirsch, quixotic task. Just like many of my colleagues, I am excited by the shift away from a Eurocentric and outmoded understanding of many of the fields and cultures that the MLA represents. At the same time, I would like to join my colleagues in their opposition to collapsing the existing eighteenth-century groups into one large category, which would misrepresent the work that we do, would undermine our presence in the MLA, and would undermine the meaningful conversations and innovative research that make our fields so exciting. Even though this kind of strategy might actually enrich a particular field, in our case, collapsing our fields into a single category would actually contradict points 2 and 3 of the working group’s priorities–the protection of small fields and the attempt to minimize hierarchies and exclusions. Instead of protecting the Restoration, a field of study that, when I entered graduate school ten years ago, had been declared dead by some scholars, it would actually give a potentially lethal blow to the field. And, instead of minimizing hierarchies and exclusions, flattening our fields into a single term, and one whose meaning and scope we have as yet to agree upon, would actually exclude and hide the nuances of our scholarship. Once again, like many of my colleagues, I applaud the effort to revise the categories in order uplift languages, periods, and fields of study that have little  visibility and that are the vestige of an era we all hope is over. But perhaps the strategies and priorities should be revised so that they benefit each field equally in spite of their differences and not benefit some but damage others because of their differences. I realize the overwhelming amount of aspects the group must be taking into consideration in order to make sure each group benefits. And I hope that our rationales and feedback will prove helpful as you move forward in this endeavor.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      Might Persian be a good subject for a three-year seminar as a way of assessing interest for a new group?

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      We will certainly revisit African and thank those who have posted so far.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      Thank you for these helpful comments, we will revise the African groups accordingly.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      The new groups rely on their larger headings that precede the name, i.e. LLC : Romanian Literary and Cultural Studies.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      Thank you for this helpful comment which can be adopted quite easily.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      I would like to urge those who have posted about the place of rhetoric and writing studies on other social media to post your comments here. I can assure you that the MLA cares a great deal and that we would like constructive advice on how to make writing studies more coherent and more prominent on this list. We are ready to revisit.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      Please suggest ways of revising and reorganizing the writing studies groups.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      It’s not to late, the proposal will be revised on more than one round, I’d say.

      Comment by Dwight Codr on September 16th, 2013

      I heartily agree with those who oppose the conflation of the Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century with the Late Eighteenth Century. I have my own reasons for thinking of these periods as distinct (nearly all of which have been mentioned in other posts), and I particularly applaud the point made by Kevis Goodman (“[2]”) that this represents a step back into naive periodization insofar as it has taken a great deal of serious work to get us to the point of comprehending fundamental differences between early and late eighteenth century cultures.  More importantly, I believe that the MLA Working Group ought to reconsider this change simply because the very scholars who have helped to define these sub-fields have objected to it (here and elsewhere).  If the MLA wishes to respect and reflect the substantial intellectual contributions of its members, then affording those members authority to describe their field(s) of inquiry is essential.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on September 16th, 2013

      Thanks very much for these thoughtful comments.  We agree that the current category names don’t do what they should do to call attention to the importance to MLA members of f Rhetoric, Composition, Composition Theory, Literacy Studies, and the Teaching of Writing; we would welcome your further thoughts on this issue. “Writing Studies” and “The Teaching of  Writing” clearly overlap.  Should there be a separate heading for Rhetoric and Composition Studies, while “The Teaching of Writing” remains in the large category of “Teaching and the Profession”?

      Comment by Simon During on September 16th, 2013

      I realize now that this post is confused, my apologies for that. The Pacific section is for comparative studies not for Anglophone which has a section with a new name “Anglophone other than British and American” that will cover Australian and NZ literature.

      Comment by Simon During on September 16th, 2013

      I would like to join my voice to those who are asking the working group to reconsider collapsing the restoration and late eighteenth-century groups into a single  ‘The Long 18th century”and I do so for reasons which others above have put very cogently. Let me add an admittedly minor point to what others have eloquently said: Whatever virtues the concept the “long eighteenth-century” has, they don’t apply very obviously to British literary history. The category was invented by the conservative (ultra-conservative?) historian Jonathan Clark as part of an effort to make the politico-theological arrangements (i.e. the “confessional state”) which was set in place after 1688 and which came to an end  in 1829 central to the period, as against that kind of historiography which thought, for instance, of 1660 and 1832 as core dates. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this periodization, it doesn’t, as I say, seem to have much pertinence to literary history.

      Comment by Stephanie Insley Hershinow on September 16th, 2013

      I want to add my voice to those of my colleagues, many of whom have detailed the reasons why the collapse of the Restoration and Early-18th-Century British group and the Late-18th-Century British group would mark a real loss for scholars in these subfields. I especially thank those who have, as members of the executive committees of the two existing groups, written detailed letters to MLA explaining the problems with this conflation. I urge Profs. Hirsch and Ferguson to revisit those responses and to take seriously the additional comments left here.

      I would just add, as a beginning scholar, that if the plan is meant to mirror a trend in hiring practices toward scholar-teachers of the “long eighteenth century,” I think it’s clear to many that that’s a pretty lousy idea, too. Please don’t perpetuate that error.

      Comment by Stephanie Insley Hershinow on September 16th, 2013

      I would again, as in my comment to paragraph 82, urge MLA to reconsider the conflation of these two groups. Doing so will have far-reaching and devastating effects on scholars and scholarship in these subfields.

      Comment by Stephanie Lynn Kerschbaum on September 16th, 2013

      I would like to see Composition and Rhetoric get its own group enabling an umbrella under which people could define themselves. I also think–given a post by John Walter submitted on two listservs–that a great deal of work in rhetorical studies and composition studies converges and productively interacts with other areas within the MLA. It makes no sense to me to have Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies underneath “Language studies” since it really does not fit with the other elements within this larger subheading –some aspects do, certainly, but not the field as a whole.

       

      other considerations within the Rhetoric and Composition heading might include cultural rhetorics; rhetorical analysis; and discourse analysis/critical discourse analysis.

       

      Comment by Marcie Frank on September 16th, 2013

      I would like to add my voice to my colleagues opposing the collapse of Restoration, Early and Late 18th Century British into the Long 18th century. In addition to the other reasons for reconsidering the proposal is the questionable applicability of the term “early modern” to the later seventeenth century. The period in which many of the concepts of civil society emerge, the literature of the Restoration is too modern to be considered early modern. I believe the MLA divisions and groups should reflect and support current scholarship not only in emergent areas (digital humanities etc.) but also in traditional ones. The proposal doesn’t do justice to current work in 18th century studies.

      Comment by Marlene Manoff on September 16th, 2013

       
      While it is true, as Matthew Kirschenbaum suggests, that a library is neither a genre nor a medium, librarians and archivists are generally concerned with the ways in which knowledge is shaped by the technologies used to produce and distribute it. Their concern with the function and fate of the historical record demands an engagement with the materiality of the archive and so does align them with digital humanities and media studies.

       

      Comment by Julia Reinhard Lupton on September 16th, 2013

      I would like to propose “British Renaissance and Early Modern” instead of “British Early Modern.” “Renaissance” remains an important field orientation, as Lisa and Hannibal point out. I agree that Renaissance captures the dialogue with the Middle Ages; it also puts the classical revival more fully center, which is maybe a good thing. “Renaissance” also relates more directly to the sixteenth century, while “Early Modern” more aptly describes the seventeenth century, so having both terms in the division title acknowledges the complexity and internal rhythms of the period while not preventing us from having panels on themes that cross the two centuries.

      Off line, another colleague has indicated that in going with this new designation, we are losing a division. The current line up is:

      Literature of the English Renaissance, Excluding Shakespeare
      17th Century English Literature
      Shakespeare

      If I am understanding the proposal correctly, we would be going from three divisions to two. I am not thrilled about this, but  I do think that “Shakespeare” and “British Renaissance and Early Modern” describe teaching and scholarship in the field at present, including the job market. There is not a single job listed as “sixteenth century” or “seventeenth century,” and I don’t think any departments are hiring specialists in just one century any more.

       

      Comment by Marcie Frank on September 16th, 2013

      I put my comments in the section on paragraph 83 by mistake. What I said there was that the collapse of Restoration, Early and Late 18th century British into the Long 18th century doesn’t accurately reflect the current scholarship in the field. In particular, the development of the concepts of civil society in the Restoration make it too modern for the rubric of “Early Modern.” I believe the MLA divisions and groups should reflect and foster current scholarship in emergent as well as traditional fields and that 18th century scholars are not well served by this proposal.

      Comment by James J. Brown on September 16th, 2013

      The idea proposed below by Kevin and Stephanie (and by others in other spaces) makes the most sense. Given the varying work done in rhetoric and composition, it doesn’t make sense to have it as a single subheading under “language studies.” There should be a group called “Rhetoric and Composition” (or perhaps “Rhetoric and Writing”) under which you would have subheadings such as: Rhetorical Theory, History of Rhetoric, Composition Theory, Literacy Studies, Computers and Writing, Basic Writing, Writing Program Administration. This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a start. I would also point you to the letter sent to Marianne Hirsch by the Executive Committee of the Teaching of Writing Division. It lays out just such a proposal in detail. I’m not sure why it wasn’t used in the crafting of this draft.

      Comment by James J. Brown on September 16th, 2013

      Thanks for joining the discussion, Marianne. Please see my comment above regarding one way to revisit this. As I say there, it’s a starting point for how we might better account for the various threads of research on rhet/comp.

      Comment by Jason H. Pearl on September 16th, 2013

      There isn’t much I can add to the many comments coming before this one except to say that I, too, strongly disagree with the move to collapse the two periods together and (worse) to reduce the total number of sessions for scholars working in different areas across the proposed periodization. An abundance of new and recent scholarship attests to the distinctness of the existing categories, as well as the richness of the literature within each. The new format would be bad for both eighteenth-century studies and the Modern Language Association.

      Comment by Elizabeth J. Donaldson on September 16th, 2013

      Even though the phrase is somewhat outdated, and I see Rebecca’s point about “Health Humanities” being more current, I tend to think that the group still might be best labeled “Medical Humanities,” rather than “Health Humanities” or even “Health and Medical Humanities.”   I think MH is useful because it has a longer tradition (and is more recognizable), and I think MH is an expansive enough term to include HH and HS.  (It’s MH’s sloppiness that makes it attractive in this sense.)  Plus it would be nice to see more humanities folk reappropriating MH as a category.

      Comment by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on September 16th, 2013

      I agree with Stephanie and others re: Rhetoric and Composition getting its own group, under which people could define themselves.

      Under Rhetoric and Composition, I’d like to see cultural rhetorics, computers and writing, professional and technical communication, along with some combination of: history of rhetoric, community literacies or public rhetorics, the teaching of writing or teaching academic writing,  writing research, and writing program administration. As others have suggested, it may help to look at the area clusters on the last CFP for CCCC 2014: http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Groups/CCCC/Convention/2014/4c_Proposal_130118.pdf

      In my mind, some category like “Teaching of Writing” should be under the Rhetoric and Composition umbrella as opposed to “Teaching and the Profession” to acknowledge the large body of scholarship about teaching composition that is generally situated within Rhet/Comp scholarship and that is published in Rhet/Comp journals as opposed to journals within the discipline of English more broadly.

      Comment by Marlene Manoff on September 16th, 2013

      While it is true, as Matthew Kirschenbaum suggests, that a library is neither a genre nor a medium, librarians and archivists are generally concerned with the ways in which knowledge is shaped by the technologies used to produce and distribute it. Their concern with the function and fate of the historical record demands an engagement with the materiality of the archive and so does align them with digital humanities and media studies.

      Comment by Elizabeth J. Donaldson on September 16th, 2013

      I’m glad to see this as a new group.  Lots of interesting scholarship happening here.

      Comment by Elizabeth J. Donaldson on September 16th, 2013

      This is good to see.  Nice choice on the group name also.

      Comment by Elizabeth J. Donaldson on September 16th, 2013

      I think this is much more inclusive.  Nice change.

      Comment by Paula McDowell on September 16th, 2013

      I agree that it would be a terrible idea to merge “Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century British” and “Late Eighteenth-Century British” into one enormous “Long Eighteenth Century” division.  Personally, I think that the current divisions already flatten out important differences. I would prefer three divisions: “Restoration English Literature (1660-1700),” “Early Eighteenth-Century British Literature (1700-1740)” and “Later Eighteenth-Century British Literature” (1740-1800).” That would better reflect the taxonomy actually in place in this rich, complex, and thriving field. (It would also do a better job of recognizing that Great Britain did not exist as a sovereign state before 1707.)

      As an ex-member of the Division Executive Committee for Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century English Literature and as an active participant at MLA Conventions for the past several decades now, I agree that the proposed collapsing/erasure would dramatically and disproportionately affect the participation of scholars in this field, and I oppose this part of the MLA’s  proposal in the strongest possible terms.

      Paula McDowell

       

      Comment by Paula McDowell on September 16th, 2013

      I agree that it would be a terrible idea to merge “Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century British” and “Late Eighteenth-Century British” into one enormous “Long Eighteenth Century” division.  Personally, I think that the current divisions already flatten out important differences. I would prefer three divisions: “Restoration English Literature (1660-1700),” “Early Eighteenth-Century British Literature (1700-1740)” and “Later Eighteenth-Century British Literature” (1740-1800).” That would better reflect the taxonomy actually in place in this rich, complex, and thriving field. (It would also do a better job of recognizing that Great Britain did not exist as a sovereign state before 1707.)
      As an ex-member of the Division Executive Committee for Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century English Literature and as an active participant at MLA Conventions for the past several decades now, I agree that the proposed collapsing/erasure would dramatically and disproportionately affect the participation of scholars in this field, and I oppose this part of the MLA’s  proposal in the strongest possible terms.
      Paula McDowell

      Comment by Richard A. Grusin on September 16th, 2013

      I am not a rhet/comp scholar.  But over the past 20 years as a former chair at two urban research universities (Georgia Tech and Wayne State) and current center director at another (UW-Milwaukee), I have seen the field or rhetoric and composition mature as a major element of the profession of English Studies in the US, one which is without question deserving of its own group, with its own sub-categories.  It is misleading to place it under “Language Studies,” particularly as some of the most interesting and important work in the area over the past couple of decades has been in visual and other non-linguistic forms of rhetoric (and composition).  Given as well the fact that it is one of the few areas of doctoral study that consistently places its graduates in tenure-track jobs, I think it is high time that the MLA granted it an equal seat at its taxonomic table.

      Comment by Sandra Macpherson on September 16th, 2013

      As a member of the Executive Committee on Late-18th-century British Literature, I would, as others have done, urge you to revisit the four-page brief we submitted *against* this merger. As we noted there, both the Cambridge Companion to English Literature and the Oxford History of the Novel in English recognize a distinction between the period from the Restoration to the 1740s, and the period after 1750. This is a distinction confirmed by the distribution of panels at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and among participants: some of us tend to work in the early part of the field, some of us later, and to flatten them is to produce a cruder model of periodization than the proposal seeks. As a *scholar* and *teacher* of the Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British literature I am even more alarmed. In this era of  consumerist approaches to higher education, where students think they would rather study graphic narratives than poems about threshing, we already have to fight for institutional support–in hiring, in curriculum. If our own professional organization proposes to cut the representation of our field by a full 3/4, how are we expected to make political and economic arguments for our viability to administrators of our Universities? As others have done, I beg you to reconsider this move: the stakes, it seems to me, are high for the future of a field whose systematic marginalization is belied by its vibrancy and originality.

      Comment by Sandra Macpherson on September 16th, 2013

      (I am reposting my comment from paragraph 82 above, but I would also like to say a loud AMEN to what Kevis Goodman and Deidre Lynch say here at paragraph 83)

      As a member of the Executive Committee on Late-18th-century British Literature, I would, as others have done, urge you to revisit the four-page brief we submitted *against* this merger. As we noted there, both the Cambridge Companion to English Literature and the Oxford History of the Novel in English recognize a distinction between the period from the Restoration to the 1740s, and the period after 1750. This is a distinction confirmed by the distribution of panels at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and among participants: some of us tend to work in the early part of the field, some of us later, and to flatten them is to produce a cruder model of periodization than the proposal seeks. As a *scholar* and *teacher* of the Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British literature I am even more alarmed. In this era of  consumerist approaches to higher education, where students think they would rather study graphic narratives than poems about threshing, we already have to fight for institutional support–-in hiring, in curriculum. If our own professional organization proposes to cut the representation of our field by a full 3/4, how are we expected to make political and economic arguments for our viability to administrators of our Universities? As others have done, I beg you to reconsider this move: the stakes, it seems to me, are high for the future of a field whose systematic marginalization is belied by its vibrancy and originality.

      Comment by Sander L. Gilman on September 16th, 2013

      I am not sure what Jewish Diasporic means:  since this is an offshoot of Jewish American is it supposed to be Anglophone or is there no intention to limit it thusly.  Thus would German-Jewish be here and not under the German Literature (German Jewish, no hyphen) period designations?  This is less the case with Jewish-American, Jewish Cultural Studies, Hebrew, Yiddish, Sephardic — but where is Jewish European Literature? Or Jewish Latin American, or Australian,etc, etc.  Is this the only Diaspora possible?
       
      Since the other Jewish categories are languages PLUS good old Cultural Studies, I am simply confused.  Sure it would be lovely if all incorporated such topics but as you know the old model was if it belonged elsewhere according to the selection committee in any given year it could be excluded.  

      Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on September 16th, 2013

      I would never suggest otherwise, Marlene, and I indeed I would hope and expect there’d be all kinds of overlap in terms of the actual constituencies these various groups would serve. My main point is that much depends on what is meant or desired by establishing a “library and archives” group: certainly the critical engagement of the role those institutions play in the technologies and transmission of knowledge as you say; but if it is to engage with colleagues in those fields via outreach and invitation then I’d want to ask if the group isn’t better situated below under Transdisciplinary Connections, where there are linkages to similar professional communities of practice, such as law and medicine.

      Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on September 16th, 2013

      I answered this above, in the comment appended to paragraph 27.

      Comment by Daniel Powell on September 16th, 2013

      I’m not sure I understand the reason for the change from “Canadian Literature in English” to “Canadian.” If for no other reason than Québecois literature that appears in French, having only a single “Canadian” category (that I assume is both Francophone & Anglophone Canadian literature?) seems problematic.

      I would suggest three categories under Canadian: 1) Anglophone; 2) Francophone; 3) First Nations (in any language).

      Or is Québecois literature in French meant to fall under the “Francophone” group within French?

       

      Comment by Daniel Powell on September 16th, 2013

      What would we think about the inclusion of a section on “Public Humanities” here? Would it fit under “Activism & Advocacy?” I think of A&A more along the lines of  intra-professional activity, but maybe that’s my tendency. Would something like 4Humanities (http://4humanities.org/) fit under Advocacy, or is it, and activities like it, deserving of separate organization?

      Comment by Alan Galey on September 16th, 2013

      I agree with the consensus that it would be a mistake to leave behind the terms “textual studies” and “bibliography,” especially in a context like the MLA where there’s such a strong tradition of these forms of scholarship. By coincidence I teach in a program called “Book History and Print Culture” at U Toronto, and although I’m very proud of the work that happens under that banner, I’ll admit to wincing every time I read the “Print Culture” in the name. Partly that’s because “Print Culture” doesn’t do justice to those working in manuscript studies (ancient, medieval, and modern), or to those who study born-digital forms of textuality like e-books, or to those who find other ways into the field that aren’t defined by printing and its effects. Someday I’ll sneak onto campus late at night and change all the signs and letterhead to read “Book History and Textual Studies” or something along those lines.

      On the category question I’d suggest taking a cue from people like Greg and McKenzie, who both emphasized that bibliography is defined not by its materials, but by its methods and mindset — which is why it can’t be limited to one medium, and why it has a future. The new Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship embodies that principle nicely, and I expect that David Greetham’s new edition of Textual Scholarship: An Introduction will as well. It’s an idea also strongly in evidence in the programs of the Society for Textual Scholarship conferences for at least the past decade, and probably longer.

      Seems to me the right schema is the three-part one that Matt Kirschenbaum proposes above, which includes a section called “Textual Scholarship and History of the Book” — on the understanding that “Textual Scholarship” includes bibliography and editing, as well as the study of textual things that aren’t books. These are leaky categories, but none of the three Matt names is reducible to any of the others, which is a good thing.

      Comment by Alan Galey on September 16th, 2013

      On the list of things “Textual Scholarship” implicitly includes, I should also have mentioned codicology, paleography, diplomatics, and probably some other things — even critical software studies, depending on how it’s done. Those activities will be present in other disciplines like history and archives, but I’d consider them all forms of textual scholarship broadly speaking.

      Comment by Paula R. Backscheider on September 16th, 2013

      I am surprised at this proposal and strongly opposed to merging “Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century British” and “Late Eighteenth-Century British” into one enormous “Long Eighteenth Century” division.  The literature is enormously different in the three periods “long eighteenth-century” purports to cover, and major historical events that affected the entire world happened in each period.  Of all the early literary periods ours may be the one most concerned with social, political, economic, and domestic upheaval and change, and to think that the periods can be compressed into one is to ignore the global, continuing impact of the change in the conception of government in 1688, the rise of African-American literature, the Industrial Revolution, the development of Anglophone literature in the Caribbean….

      As a former chair of the Division Executive Committee for Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century English Literature, I can say that it was hard to build a unified program even within the single divisions.  I agree with Paula MacDowell that the proposed collapsing/erasure would dramatically and disproportionately affect the participation of scholars in this field, and I oppose this part of the MLA’s  proposal in the strongest possible terms.

      It just seems impractical and against the very principles of inclusiveness that MLA stands for.

      Paula Backscheider

      Auburn University

       

      Comment by Paula R. Backscheider on September 16th, 2013

      Please see my comment on Paragraph 82. Thank you,

      Paula Backscheider

      Auburn University

      Comment by Diane Price Herndl on September 16th, 2013

      I am sharing this message from a friend (who posted it on FB), who is not a member of MLA.  In fact, a whole lot of my friends in the profession are not members of the MLA, in large part because of the committee structure which leaves rhetoricians feeling completely alienated and unwelcome.  Our message has been, for the thirty years I’ve been a member of MLA, consistently uninviting.  I had hoped that this revision might take into account what the profession really looks like in 2013.  I’ll note, before I turn to quoting my friend that there is only ONE group here dedicated to Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies, as if that were a tiny part of what English Studies is today, and as if they were one field.  Here’s what my friend posted on FB:

      “Many friends in my feed have already written this post today. There’s over 150 proposed literary groups. There’s one group for “rhetoric, composition, and writing studies.” This alienates many of us working in R/C. I am not a member of MLA, so I cannot log-in to leave a comment. Could I, I would write something like this:

      “[Another friend in RC] pointed out 20 of the 230 jobs on the MLA JIL are in business or technical writing, but this designation doesn’t appear on the list. Nor is there a designation for Computers and Writing (and, no, Digital Humanities and Computers and Writing are not necessarily the same things). If you are going to make so many fine distinctions for other areas, then it makes sense to think of Rhetorical Theory and Composition Theory as distinct areas. It might even make sense to divide Rhetorical Theory into chronological areas (at least into two: Classical and Contemporary). Composition theory could also be divided into some of its major concerns (Program Administration and Assessment comes immediately to mind). I don’t know whether Rhetoric of Science should be differentiated from Science and Technology studies. These are just a few suggestions I could think of off the top of my head.

      “Again, I am not a member of MLA–I don’t know how many of my FB friends are. Outside of the job search, there is little incentive for R/C scholars to participate in MLA. But the fact that Iberian literature* has 7 proposed areas while R/C gets shoved into a sub-area for “Language Studies” suggests why we don’t put more energy into participating in MLA.

      *(I mean no offense to any Iberian literature scholars)”

      Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on September 16th, 2013

      Absolutely, Alan. Again, I think the new Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship models this range of inclusivity very well.

      Comment by Lisa Berglund on September 16th, 2013

      I share the concerns expressed eloquently and thoughtfully by friends and colleagues like David Mazella, John Richetti, Helen Deutsch, Rivka Swenson, and many others. I am strongly opposed to this proposal. I would add that from a simple “let’s be fair” perspective it is outrageous to retain the luxurious “Romantic” category (which covers, what, 25 years?) while requiring the enormously complicated so-called long eighteenth century to squeeze itself into an identical two-session corset.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 16th, 2013

      Thank you for posting these helpful comments here. They are useful and constructive and we intend to revisit both the specific groups devoted to R/C and their place on the larger map.

      Comment by Brad Pasanek on September 16th, 2013

      I would like to add my voice to the chorus of concern. I too am grateful for the work and planning evident in the new Group Structure, but I hope that the committee will reconsider the conflation of the Restoration and the Late Eighteenth Century periods of study into a single span and unit. While I am, like other literary historians, interested in an early modern “longue durée,” I do not think that it makes sense to disrupt the traditional categories that organize our professional efforts at the supraordinate institutional level of the MLA.

      New periodizations, if they are to develop, had better emerge from below. But there is currently little consensus about where best to draw the dividing lines: early or late, according to the royalists (in 1660) or with the Whigs (in 1688), with the end of Stuart rule in 1714, with the death of Alexander Pope in 1744, with the “rise” of the novel (whenever that was exactly), with the culture of sensibility, at the French Revolution, or in decades marked by Frye or Foucault or Koselleck as moments of change and transvaluation. I would agree with Paula McDowell that three divisions might best reflect the current structure of our field as many scholars cross from the Civil War and Restoration to the early part of the eighteenth century while many others move from the early to the middle or from the middle to the later decades of the eighteenth century if not on into the Regency. (Jane Austen, like Shakespeare or Milton, is a great confounder of our inherited periodizations.) The combined period, as proposed, would be no more than unhappy tangle of family resemblances. All the vital, ongoing debates cannot be forced into one long eighteenth century or reduced to the proportional number of panels at the yearly convention. Please keep the periods intact and promote their representation at the MLA.

      To me, it seems strange to treat categories like “Restoration,” “Eighteenth Century,” “Romantic,” and “Victorian” as of a kind! But that is another matter.

      Comment by Toni Bowers on September 16th, 2013

      I commented on the 12th, but put my comment on the wrong paragraph (I hit #24).  I can’t copy-and-paste that comment here, but others have said the same things I did, often more eloquently. The gist: leaving a distinct “Restoration” Division Group title, with corresponding number of sessions, is vital. To do otherwise (as is proposed) is to discount where the field is going at present.

      Since posting that comment, I’ve been saddened and outraged to hear that the MLA has discounted letters written by both Executive Groups, “Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century British” and “Later Eighteenth Century British.”   I hope that the huge groundswell of resistance to the proposed change that would eliminate “Restoration” as a named category will not go similarly ignored. I’ve served on the Executive Committee for the Restoration and Early 18th C Division, and found it to be a place where real efforts are made to include many voices, including those who, like me, think in terms of a “Long Restoration.”  Thank you to our current Executives, and shame on the MLA for not acting on their advice and preventing all this.

      The best suggestion I’ve read is Paula McDowell’s.  I wonder, though, whether the MLA values our work sufficiently to create  “Late 17th Century,” “Early 18th Century” and “Late 18th C” Division groups.  I wish I could be confident that that might happen.

      Comment by Toni Bowers on September 16th, 2013

      Paula — Thank you for this post.  I entirely agree with you.  I posted to the wrong paragraph on Sept 12th (!), but added a short addendum here, drawing attention to your insights.

      Comment by Toni Bowers on September 16th, 2013

      Thanks for this data, Paul.

      Comment by Courtney B. Beggs on September 16th, 2013

      Like many of my colleagues in the field, I oppose the collapse of these two periods, for reasons that seem to be quite logical and clear. As others have pointed out, these are periods with clear and distinct political, aesthetic, literary, historical, and cultural nuances. To collapse them into one category would be to ignore these nuances and thus present a false sense of continuity in the period and a misguided understanding of the work being done in each respective field. As a scholar whose published work is located solidly in the Restoration and early 18th century, I can say with absolute certainly that I would have no reason to continue attending the MLA convention. The marginalization of my field is antithetical to the inclusive nature of our organization, and one that would significantly hinder the circulation of scholarship in both fields.

      Comment by Courtney B. Beggs on September 16th, 2013

      I, too, responded in more detail on Paragraph 82, but I’ll include the same sentiment here. The collapse of these two periods is an idea that is surprisingly exclusive, and it implies that what matters to the MLA is not quality research and intellectual acuity, but rather numbers, costs, and appeal (to whom, I don’t know). Both fields are fertile, vibrant, and original and exist in their right for innumerable historical, cultural, and aesthetic reasons.

      Comment by Erik Johnson on September 16th, 2013

      As a Ph.D. student studying Restoration and 18th-century English literature, I write to echo the concerns raised by senior scholars about the proposed consolidation of 18th-century divisions. I especially call attention to Lisa Zunshine’s comments on paragraph 83 about the deleterious effect this merger would have on graduate students, whose interests are principally defined by historical period. Ph.D. students who do not already have publications or significant conference presentations have relatively few ways to connect with faculty and peers at other institutions and learn about ongoing work that may be highly relevant to their own. The drastic reduction in panel opportunities, and in discussion groups, brought about by this merger would make these precious opportunities even fewer, and those seem to me the sort of precious opportunities the MLA exists specifically to cultivate. —Erik Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate, Stanford

      Comment by Michael Hancher on September 16th, 2013

      ” . . . at this time”: Does that mean that there will be some such narrative description provided for later on? That would be helpful. Some of us have been discussing (off-line) the effacement of the Lexicography category. Certainly a place can be made for Lexicography within Book History and Print Culture — the “philological-lexicographic revolution” indeed having epitomized “print capitalism” (in B. Anderson’s terms of analysis) — but if there is no place in which to name it, it will go unnoticed.

      Comment by Cristina V. Bruns on September 16th, 2013

      Similar to Diane Price Herndl’s concern about the very limited place for rhetoricians in the MLA, there is also an area important for literary study that seems to be entirely missing from this structure. There seems to be no place in the MLA for those asking broad questions about how and why literary texts are “used,” questions that are necessary to aid in understanding and articulating literature’s role in society. It seems that the processes and practices involved in engaging with fiction, poetry, and drama of all kinds, and the effects of such engagements, remain invisible and taken for granted with the MLA. Scholars do take on such issues in various ways–like Rita Felski in Uses of Literature or, earlier, Wayne Booth in The Company We Keep, and through associations like the Reception Study Society and the International Society for the Study of Narrative– but there is no place within MLA for those focused on these issues.  It seems literary studies is divided into smaller and smaller parts, and as a result there is little attention paid to important, wider questions regarding what happens when we read literary texts. (The omission is even more glaring on the job market as ads for literature jobs tend to focus on increasingly narrow periods or regions.)

      The one MLA group of which I’m aware that is working on questions of what reading literature does is Cognitive Studies and Literature, but cognitive studies is only one approach to these questions and a variety of other approaches are warranted as well. It seems that a broader classification would be helpful in keeping the MLA relevant to the range of scholarly interests regarding literature.

      Comment by Kathryn Strong Hansen on September 16th, 2013

      Others have already eloquently voiced my own arguments against this collapse of fields. I add my voice to theirs to urge the committee to reconsider. Just as the fields of Romanticism and Victorianism, distinctive periods of study, share part of a chronological century, so too do the Restoration, early eighteenth century, and later eighteenth century. Yet here the boundaries are no more collapsable than the boundary between Romanticism and Victorianism. I don’t make this comparison to encourage a melding of those fields of study; rather, I hope the example helps remind the committee of the enormity of the intellectual disservice they are considering. Please do not reduce these two groups to one.

      Comment by Kathryn Strong Hansen on September 16th, 2013

      I echo Rivka Swenson’s well-articulate point that the proposed reduction in conference panels will have an adverse effect on MLA membership and participation, something that the MLA should work actively to avoid.

      Comment by Kathryn Strong Hansen on September 16th, 2013

      With apologies for the mistake: “well-articulated.” Ironic, that.

      Comment by Alex Eric Hernandez on September 16th, 2013

      Besides the obvious disciplinary trouble with merging these fields, I wish to agree strongly with Erik, Stephanie, and Lisa’s comments above regarding the unintended consequences of such changes for graduate students (and scholars early in their career) looking to gain valuable experience and broad feedback on their work, as well as cultivate professional relationships.

      There are plenty of red flags raised here with respect to the actual, practical differences between Restoration and late-eighteenth century literature and culture. But it is simply unwise–and against its mission to strengthen and grow fields of critical interest–for the MLA to hamstring future generations of scholars working across what are (as this discussion makes abundantly clear) vital and engaging subfields. I urge the MLA to reconsider this change.

      Comment by Michael Hancher on September 16th, 2013

      Regarding the effacement of Lexicography, see comment about needed narrative descriptions at http://groupsdiscussion.mla.hcommons.org/draft-proposal/#comment-282.

      Comment by Rebecca Haidt on September 17th, 2013

      I second Daniel’s call for a “Transatlantic Studies” component within the Iberian grouping.

      As a co-coordinator of an Iberian Studies working group at my institution, I am sympathetic in principle to the desire to reclassify the sections so as to take into account scholarship and conversations about all sorts of things that I imagine “Iberian” is intended to address:  “periferias,” “autonomias”, regional identities and habitus, etc.

      Another possible rationale (I’m speculating) for the proposed “Iberian” structure:  parity of a sort with the “Latin American” structure, which (one must admit) covers a great number of countries and linguistic traditions including indigenous languages.

      However, if “Iberian” is meant to cover all the bases and languages and regional issues pertinent to Spain (including Castilian), then why separate out Catalan and Galician language/literature, but not retain a separate section for Castilian?  Why leave out Euskera?

      Further, if “Iberian” is meant to refer to the countries and languages and literatures of the entire Iberian peninsula, then why not include a separate “Portugal” category within “Iberian”?

      For that matter, when I see the category “Global Lusophone,” I wonder why there isn’t proposed a parallel “Global Iberian” category, given the enormous spread of Castilian, Catalan, Basque and Galician peoples over the globe?  Perhaps the Transatlantic category that Dan Frost suggests would be somewhat equivalent to “Global Iberian.”

      The restructuring intention for “Iberian” is a good one, but it seems that this initial organizational distribution does indeed need some more discussion and work.

      Comment by Rebecca Haidt on September 17th, 2013

      Just a note that northern African studies should have strong links to Iberian/Spanish studies with regard to literary and filmic representations of immigration, migration, identity and nation/citizenship.  I would welcome an organized space of discussion either within “Iberian” or within “African” for attention to Northern African-Iberian issues.

      Comment by Helen Thompson on September 17th, 2013

      I wish to voice my strong agreement with the prior objections to the proposed restructuring.  The British eighteenth century marks a crucial historical turn in the emergence of the defining modern form, the novel, but it’s also the site of many formal and generic phenomena that are too particular to be lumped into one homogenous period. The collapse of these distinct periods into one “long 18th century” would have a disastrous impact on the representation of work in this very diverse field at MLA.  To give one example, I’m currently working on early 18C travel fiction, a distinct and local phenomenon, whose centrality to the western orientalist imagination requires more local siting than an 120+ year span.  This is not a subtle phenomenon, but even large local developments would be obscured by the proposed leveling of periodicity into one “long” century.  As a delegate on the Comparative Approaches to Eighteenth Century Literature division who has discussed this at length with my division, I can affirm that we are all opposed to this proposed structure on intellectual and practical grounds.

      Comment by Helen Thompson on September 17th, 2013

      I wish to affirm my former objection to paragraph 82 and reiterate my deep agreement with my colleagues’ objections to paragraph 83.  The proposed restructuring will have a devastating effect on the shape of the field and on our ability to work within already very schematic but crucial field boundaries.

      Comment by Leigh Anne Duck on September 17th, 2013

      My guess is that at some level, the (implicit) reconfiguration was influenced by this principle (listed in the FAQs): “the attempt to minimize hierarchies and exclusions among fields, large and small.” It does seem exclusionary to have a group focused on the U.S. South and no other U.S. regions. A “Regional” group in American LLC would respond to that problem, but it would introduce new ones.

      Changing a group focused on the U. S. South to one focused on U.S. regions more broadly is, effectively, replacing the old group, right? With hopes that the new group will provide a home for the members of the old and that members suited to the new rubric will join? (I suspect that by placing this group, for the moment, under CLCS, MLA was attempting to respond to what some members of SLDG actually do–and I appreciate that effort. For reasons already delineated in these comments, though, that doesn’t solve the problem either.)

      I don’t know what the best solution would be. Right now, I see only one other largely intra-national region on the list. (To be clear, I recognize that the U.S. South has transnational connections, but the old SLDG was still centered on a region of the U.S.) That exception is Galician, which I take to be motivated at least in part by another principle stated in the FAQs: “The protection of small fields, including the study of less commonly taught languages“–the highlighted phrase being a vital goal of MLA as a whole. A group devoted to the study of southern U.S. literature has no neat parallels on this list, and it does make sense that, given the goal of being non-hierarchical, some justification for that would need to be made. On the other hand, if the old SLDG is being substantially reconfigured–which is what appears to be happening–that should be discussed as such.

      Comment by Srinivas Aravamudan on September 17th, 2013

      First of all, I want to own up to my very limited agency (and yes culpability) as fellow-traveller and member of the large working group that formulated the overall proposal, although I was added to the group very late and did not attend the meeting in New York where the overall distribution mechanisms were discussed as I was out of the country.  However, before I am condemned as a period traitor let me register my sympathy with many of the objections posed here that are cogent and consistent with periodization logic as it works within the British 18c, even as I would like to explain that there is a choice being offered which is to accept the two groups as named, i.e. Restoration and Early 18c British *and* Late 18c British, *or* to combine them as the long 18c although it is clear that there is vehement objection to that catchall solution in the comments posted so far for good reasons many of which I share.  If everyone registers their choice, all statements will be taken into account in the next round–so far nothing is eliminated and nothing is final.  As hare-brained as some might think this idea of rationalization to be, it is coming from a 30,000 foot view of the overall demography and proliferation of interest groups in the MLA and in that respect it is an omnibus proposal, not a pronouncement, or a diktat.  A fair evaluation has to take into account what is being proposed overall including frequent 5-year reviews of all groups and attempts at enumeration of overall interest to match panel allocations.  A simple idea might be to have two periods of equal length, one being 1660-1730 and the other being 1730-1800.  Maybe this is a mug’s game but everyone on the working group was urged to consider the whole and we all tried very hard not just to be shilling for our own specializations, and instead be genuinely interested in many new areas of scholarship and diversification that do not get encompassed in terms of traditional categorizations (and not just presentist concerns by any means).  It is of course all too easy to defend our existing categories because they are sensible when being justified by those who are invested in them the most, i.e. all of us in the field, but the harder task before the working group was to map fields old and new, be democratically inclusive and think about the future as well the past and the present, and adjust long-standing allocations that did not just continue to entrench older “property” against newer “ability”–to take Burke’s phrase about the French Revolution and apply it to the differential hierarchies of divisions versus discussion groups that is under review.  Again, we should all register our choices, as nothing has been decided, and I imagine there is going to be a very vocal discussion about all of this going forward with multiple points of view in Chicago.

      Comment by Eugenia Zuroski Jenkins on September 17th, 2013

      I, too, appreciate the immense and complex task before the committee, but would like to register my strong opposition to the proposed changes for all of the reasons stated so eloquently above by my colleagues.

      Comment by Melanie Magidow on September 17th, 2013

      The division of Arabic into “Classical and Postclassical” and “Modern” looks fine to me. However, to my mind it might be less ambiguous as “Pre-Modern” and “Modern.” Ultimately, any categories are better than no categories!

      Comment by Stephen Sheehi on September 17th, 2013

      I certainly appreciate the efforts of the MLA to open spaces of representation for fields and sub-fields that are often immersed in larger configurations. Indeed, classical Arabic, in the context of the MLA, is submerged within Arabic, which tends to be modern.

      The problem with parsing two different groups is that, at this point, Arabic studies doesn’t have the critical numbers consistently to insure that one or both groups will have be weak (in quality, number, representation, presence, etc.).

      In recent years, the Arabic Division has been very successful in building a vibrant, dynamic, and cutting edge shareholder in the MLA. It has done this through the leadership of scholars of both classical and modern Arabic. Indeed, I fear that dividing the configuration-formally-known-as-Division into small aggregates will undercut that progress. Moreover, I feel that as a unified group classical and modern scholars are thrown together in ways that we can dialogue that might not necessarily be the same as two groups.

      We all know that identities, disciplines, and boundaries are socially, historically, and institutionally constructed (yadda yadda yadda). I appreciate the MLA’s attempt to be more inclusive (albeit from top down) and its desire to reorganize boundaries etc.

      However, this attempt seems to replicate liberal American white society’s attempt to “open spaces” for minorities and the marginalized, which in doing so only affords them a place at a table in which their (politically and historically constituent, in this case disciplinary) identity is tokenized and diluted.

      My advice to the MLA’s leadership would be the same one might give to majoritarian communities who seek to integrate minoritarian communities that were, perhaps, marginalized by the former’s lock on power. That is, perhaps, the MLA would do best to atomize its “whiteness” (its majoritarian culture) while at the same time leave minoritarian configurations (e.g. less taught languages) as blocks, thereby elevating representation and presence because the larger groups self-separated into aggregates putting them on part with minorities.

       

       

      Comment by Stephen Sheehi on September 17th, 2013

      I certainly appreciate the efforts of the MLA to open spaces of representation for fields and sub-fields that are often immersed in larger configurations. Indeed, classical Arabic, in the context of the MLA, is submerged within Arabic, which tends to be modern.

      The problem with parsing two different groups is that, at this point, Arabic studies doesn’t have the critical numbers consistently to insure that one or both groups will have be weak (in quality, number, representation, presence, etc.).

      In recent years, the Arabic Division has been very successful in building a vibrant, dynamic, and cutting edge shareholder in the MLA. It has done this through the leadership of scholars of both classical and modern Arabic. Indeed, I fear that dividing the configuration-formally-known-as-Division into small aggregates will undercut that progress. Moreover, I feel that as a unified group classical and modern scholars are thrown together in ways that we can dialogue that might not necessarily be the same as two groups.

      We all know that identities, disciplines, and boundaries are socially, historically, and institutionally constructed (yadda yadda yadda). I appreciate the MLA’s attempt to be more inclusive (albeit from top down) and its desire to reorganize boundaries etc.

      However, this attempt seems to replicate liberal American white society’s attempt to “open spaces” for minorities and the marginalized, which in doing so only affords them a place at a table in which their (politically and historically constituent, in this case disciplinary) identity is tokenized and diluted.

      My advice to the MLA’s leadership would be the same one might give to majoritarian communities who seek to integrate minoritarian communities that were, perhaps, marginalized by the former’s lock on power. That is, perhaps, the MLA would do best to atomize its “whiteness” (its majoritarian culture) while at the same time leave minoritarian configurations (e.g. less taught languages) as blocks, thereby elevating representation and presence because the larger groups self-separated into aggregates putting them on part with minorities.

      Comment by Matthew Miller on September 17th, 2013

      Dear Prof. Hirsch,

      Thank you very much for your reply. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my concerns.

      It seems that the details of the three-year seminars are still being worked out. In any case, I would welcome any opportunity to increase the presence of Persian literature within the MLA.

      I will discuss this option with some of my colleagues working on Persian literature and post a more formal reply later this week.

      Thank you,

      Matthew Miller

      […] of rank or affiliation) who feels a stake in the proposed reorganization to please visit the draft proposal site to register your response ASAP. The relevant paragraphs concerning 18c studies are paragraphs […]

      Comment by Wolfram Michael Schmidgen on September 17th, 2013

      Srinivas’s observation that this is a proposal seems like a helpful reminder. I’d like to add (if anything can be added!) that what all of these comments testify to is that the scholarship in the field does not support a merger of early and later eighteenth-century literature. So, we should stick with the divisions as they currently exist: they make sense as literary history and as the way the field sees itself. The difference between early- and late eighteenth century literature strikes me as vital as the difference between romantic and Victorian (which the committee did not propose to collapse). Let’s consider the proposal as rejected by eighteenth-century scholars.

      Comment by Lisa A. Freeman on September 17th, 2013

      As a former member of both the MLA Program Committee and the Executive Committee for the Division on Restoration and Early-Eighteenth-Century, I am deeply troubled to hear about the proposed changes to our current division structure; and I am admantly opposed to those proposed changes.  It is thoroughly distressing to hear not only that the eloquent arguments of our colleagues serving on our MLA divisions have been ignored but that the current proposal fails to recognize the vitality of our field as a whole.  It should not go unrecognized that many of the newest developments across the field of literary studies have had significant (though not exclusive) beginnings in our field–including but not limited to Transatlantic Studies, Pacific Studies, and the list can go on and on.  ASECS, which is an allied organization to MLA,  is one of the most vibrant, curious, and scholarly directed organizations, always open to new developments, theories and directions; and we all bring that energy and interest to MLA as a forum for sharing our ideas and research with the broader field of literary studies.  As Deidre Lynch has pointed out, this ought not to be a matter of numbers or as I would put it a zero-sum game.  The number of comments already posted and the unanimity of opinion shared here attest to our collective sense of commitment to the field and to its future.  There should be no flattening, no collapsing, and no consolidating.

      Comment by Lisa A. Freeman on September 17th, 2013

      As a former member of both the MLA Program Committee and the Executive Committee for the Division on Restoration and Early-Eighteenth-Century, I am deeply troubled to hear about the proposed changes to our current division structure; and I am admantly opposed to those proposed changes.  It is thoroughly distressing to hear not only that the eloquent arguments of our colleagues serving on our MLA divisions have been ignored but that the current proposal fails to recognize the vitality of our field as a whole.  It should not go unrecognized that many of the newest developments across the field of literary studies have had significant (though not exclusive) beginnings in our field–including but not limited to Transatlantic Studies, Pacific Studies, and the list can go on and on.  ASECS, which is an allied organization to MLA,  is one of the most vibrant, curious, and scholarly directed organizations, always open to new developments, theories and directions; and we all bring that energy and interest to MLA as a forum for sharing our ideas and research with the broader field of literary studies.  As Deidre Lynch has pointed out, this ought not to be a matter of numbers or as I would put it a zero-sum game.  The number of comments already posted and the unanimity of opinion shared here attest to our collective sense of commitment to the field and to its future.  There should be no flattening, no collapsing, and no consolidating. (This is a cut and paste from my comment on paragraph 83)

      Comment by Dara Rossman Regaignon on September 17th, 2013

      I agree with several of the points above. Many of these fields and approaches converge, which makes any moment of categorization a challenge. But I do think that there are some distinctions that can be productively made, and they are distinctions in the ways that scholarship in the interdisciplinary field of Writing Studies has been organized. I would argue that “The Teaching of Writing” might be better named “Composition and the Teaching of Writing” — since, at least historically (and, arguably, still) the research on composing processes and situations feeds pedagogical and curricular practice most directly. I’d then offer “Rhetorical Studies” (or perhaps, “Rhetorical Theory and History”) and “Writing Studies” as two additional categories, the first of which belongs under “Genre and Media Studies” and the second under “Transdisciplinary Connections.” My logic for this is that Rhetorical Studies is integrally related to both Genre Studies and Media Studies. By contrast, I think that Writing Studies — that is, research on what and how people write and have written, and the work that that writing does — often draws on empirical, social science methodologies, and I think the “Transdisciplinary Connections” category would highlight that.

      Comment by Matthew Thomas Miller on September 17th, 2013

      Atefeh, could you contact me off the list at mtmiller@wustl.edu ? I would like to discuss the Persian group further with you, if you are interested in pursuing it.

      Comment by Michael P. Kreyling on September 17th, 2013

      On being renamed “Regional.”

      The Southern Literature Discussion Group has been renamed, by the MLA, “Regional” and classified CLCS – “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies.” “Regional” appears in blue type, signifying “Group with new name proposed.” But it is clear that replacing “Southern Literature Discussion Group” with “Regional” is not a simple name change. “Southern Literature” possesses a certain precision, a history within the academic profession and the MLA itself, and a certain professional identity for those who work in it. “Regional” doesn’t cut it. It’s not a question, either, of part and whole, whether southern encompasses regional or the other way around. Although I will argue that southern was regional before regional was cool, when it meant “local color.” We have moved a long way from arguing that, if the world only knew the facts, Mary Noailles Murphree would be as highly esteemed as Brett Harte or Sarah Orne Jewett.

      In the group with us the MLA has placed some old standbys (groups with no change of name, name changes agreed to –which implies that they had been consulted. I was president of SSSL 20111-2013, and I don’t recall a query from the MLA reorganizing committee.) In any case, here we are in the CLCS group with Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern, 18th-Century, Romantic and 19-Century, 20th- and 21st Century. These are categories reminiscent of the table of contents of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, redolent of an older MLA when periodization was part of the consensus. Southernists do work from the 18th-century onward, but I’m not sure we go as far back as Renaissance and Early Modern. The point, however, is not so much historical reach as logical compatibility. What does Regional have to do with the aforementioned historical periods?  New groups in CLCS are Caribbean, Global South, Hemispheric American, Indian Ocean, Pacific. Atlantic and Mediterranean are in the CLCS group as “related.” These are groups defined by place, even if  (sometimes especially if) those places have been scattered in diaspora. Representatives of those groups may make their own responses to the re-grouping, but I think southernists should request a change of classification and a restoration of our name.

      What is interesting here, among several things, is that southern studies has sought to re-frame itself by taking on Caribbean, Global South, and Hemispheric American subject matters. Look at Smith and Cohn’s Look Away! Judging by the MLA reorganization, it looks as if those groups have preferred to remain autonomous, or perhaps fold southernists into their projects.

      Barbara Ladd’s work has ranged over these “distinct” areas and she asks some crucial questions about the “Regional” marker: will it cut southern studies off from these colleagues and issues, and them from us? Behind Barbara’s questions I think I hear a larger one – probably a perennial one. Is southern a region or an identity? One thing it surely isn’t is a historical period. If it’s an identity, then maybe we should agitate for full-status membership in LLS (Languages, Literatures, and Cultures) along with the several American groups, with whom we have durable alliances and on whose grounds we sometimes poach. Southern bears a limited resemblance to Italian American and Italian Diasporic and Jewish American and Jewish Diasporic. Southern has a literature and a culture, and some would argue a language. I would not claim southern has a language as the Italians have, or as Jewish literature has Hebrew and Yiddish, but still I think we belong here –perhaps renamed (with consent) Southern American Literatures and Cultures. The plural seems deserved, and would also recognize our alliances with Native American (LLC), African American and African Diasporic (LLC), and in fact almost all of the groups in the American subgroup of LLC.

      The classification as Regional recognizes only one facet of the kind of work we do, a strong and long-lived thread in our fabic to be sure. But we have stronger alliances with the groups in American LLC and that’s where Southern American Literatures and Cultures should be housed, in black to signify its new name.

      Michael Kreyling
      Vanderbilt University

      Comment by Robert J. Griffin on September 17th, 2013

      I write as a former member of the Late Eighteenth Century Division Executive Committee.  I agree with everything urged above, both on scholarly grounds, and on the pragmatic grounds of the implications for the health of these fields institutionally.

      I would add that the 18th Century is being disproportionately singled out (compare the number of comments we have generated compared to all the other divisions put together).  Romanticism, for example, retains its privilege, even though so much work on the late 18th century has erased the boundary between “romanticism” and “the 18th century,” specifically, as David Mazella pointed out, by work on women writers.

      I think the committee is eliding an important difference.  If the goal is to increase sessions for new divisions, reflecting new objects of inquiry, that goal does not necessarily require a reorganization of divisions.  It requires a redistribution of sessions.   And if the decision is to taken to reorganize divisions, then let’s have “justice” across the board, not have the burden fall disproportionately on our fields.

       

       

      Comment by Robert J. Griffin on September 17th, 2013

      Copying here my comment on paragraph 82:

      I write as a former member of the Late Eighteenth Century Division Executive Committee.  I agree with everything urged above, both on scholarly grounds, and on the pragmatic grounds of the implications for the health of these fields institutionally.

      I would add that the 18th Century is being disproportionately singled out (compare the number of comments we have generated compared to all the other divisions put together).  Romanticism, for example, retains its privilege, even though so much work on the late 18th century has erased the boundary between “romanticism” and “the 18th century,” specifically, as David Mazella pointed out, by work on women writers.

      I think the committee is eliding an important difference.  If the goal is to increase sessions for new divisions, reflecting new objects of inquiry, that goal does not necessarily require a reorganization of divisions.  It requires a redistribution of sessions.   And if the decision is to taken to reorganize divisions, then let’s have “justice” across the board, not have the burden fall disproportionately on our fields.

      Comment by Sarah G. Wenzel on September 17th, 2013

      Could you elaborate on “but if it is to engage with colleagues in those fields via outreach and invitation” ?

      Comment by Marlene Manoff on September 17th, 2013

      I agree with Matt that it would make sense to include something called Library, Archival and Information Studies under Transdisciplinary Connections. That would be an acknowledgement of shared practical and theoretical concerns. These include an investment  in shaping transformations in scholarly research, communication, and publication as well as addressing the impact of the digital environment on processes of cultural transmission.

       

      Comment by Sarah G. Wenzel on September 17th, 2013

      I agree with Marlene and certainly do not see libraries and archives as belonging in transdisciplinary connections. Librarians and archivists who are engaged in and support literary studies are deeply woven into the fabric of scholarship.

      Comment by Daniel O'Quinn on September 17th, 2013

      I agree with the thoughtful arguments articulated above.  The division committee’s letter, referred to by Deidre Lynch above, encapsulates my own thinking on this issue.  The “long eighteenth century” is an exceedingly blunt instrument.  As a theatre scholar it makes much more sense to retain Restoration, eighteenth-century, and Romantic as rough indicators of radically different aesthetic practices and performance dynamics.  A collapse into the long eighteenth century will only further marginalize scholarship on the theatre.

      Comment by Marlene Manoff on September 17th, 2013

      I responded to Matt’s response, also in the comment appended to paragraph 27.

      Comment by Vivian Davis on September 17th, 2013

      While I appreciate the enormity of the task presently before the committee, I am in agreement with my colleagues. I oppose the collapse of existing divisions into the “Long Eighteenth Century.”

      Comment by Vivian Davis on September 17th, 2013

      While I appreciate the enormity of the task presently before the committee, I am in agreement with my colleagues. I ardently oppose the collapse of existing divisions into the “Long Eighteenth Century.”

      Comment by Steven Mailloux on September 17th, 2013

      I strongly support the addition of new groups interested in “Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies.”  The challenge, of course, is what to name these new groups and where to place them under the new thematic categories or even, as some suggest, to add a seventh thematic category.  I agree with Dara that there should be a new group called “Rhetorical Studies” or “Rhetorical Theory and History,” but I lean toward locating this group under “Transdisciplinary Connections,” partly because I think that category is a better fit as a description of rhetorical studies and partly because such a placement might suggest that the group includes “rhetoric and literature,” parallel to “Philosophy and Literature” and “Religion and Literature.”  Alternatively, a new “Rhetorical Theory and History” group could be placed under a new “Rhetoric and Composition” thematic category.

      Comment by Deborah Forteza on September 17th, 2013

      As a young, Eighteenth Century scholar, I believe that conflating the two periods proposed in this paragraph will diminish the opportunities for rich, deep exploration of topics within my field. I agree with my colleagues in opposing this change.

      Comment by Vivasvan Soni on September 17th, 2013

      I would like to reiterate the opposition expressed by so many of my colleagues to the proposals in paragraphs 82 and 83. The proposal to merge the “Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century” with “Late Eighteenth Century” into one “Long Eighteenth Century” does not make sense from either an intellectual or an institutional perspective. Wolfram Schmidgen is right to note that the periods are at least as different as Romantic and Victorian, and the proposed collapse would signal the ongoing encroachment of a presentism in literary scholarship, as Helen Deutsch points out. The rich and diverse interests of the two divisions cannot be adequately represented by a single division, and our understanding of the historical genesis of our present in these periods will be impoverished as a result.

      Comment by Vivasvan Soni on September 17th, 2013

      See my comment to paragraph 82. I want to reiterate the opposition of my colleagues to the idea of merging these two divisions into one.

      Comment by Julie Candler Hayes on September 17th, 2013

      I appreciate the delicate work and careful reflection that have gone into the proposed map, and it’s very exciting to think about the ways in which the MLA can best represent our evolving discipline. I have three concerns, however. First, I am not sure what to make of the claim that “nations and periods” are somehow more inherently restrictive than other sorts of classifications, or that they are less significant in contemporary scholarship. Surely contextualization—historical, cultural, linguistic—continues to play a role in much of the scholarly production in literary studies. Second: Although I am not a member of either division, I would like to support the arguments that many have made against merging the divisions of Restoration/Early 18th-Century and Late 18th-Century British Literature. As many have pointed out, these are vibrant and quite distinct areas. Both are certainly open to an ongoing, interdisciplinary, and transnational conversation that is the field of 18th-century studies. As a longtime member and immediate past president of the American Society for 18th-Century Studies, a thriving interdisciplinary organization and MLA affiliate, I have learned much over the years from colleagues in other national literatures, intellectual and social history, and the arts. (My area of specialization is in French studies.) I do not think that the MLA gains by conflating these areas: the proposed configuration simply reduces dramatically the number of program slots available to the large number of scholars and graduate students working in these areas.
      My last point is simply to raise the question of the overall configuration of future programs and the ratio of “group” slots to special sessions. About 15 years ago, the Delegate Assembly took up the question of restricting the numbers of sessions organized by divisions in order to allow more special sessions. A number of us pointed out that at least the divisions were accountable to their memberships and required to issue calls for papers, whereas special sessions were not. I haven’t done the math to see if the proposed configuration, which has a longer list of “groups” not all of which however will have two guaranteed slots, would retain or change the overall ratio of MLA “groups” to special sessions. It would be helpful to know which groups would in fact be guaranteed two slots. Even so, it’s clear from reading the list that some fields (such as the British literature colleagues mentioned above) would be disproportionately underrepresented under the new configuration.

      Comment by Linde M. Brocato on September 17th, 2013

      The “To 1500” rubric may be in imitation (or consonance) with the Library of Congress subject headings for this area (yes, it is).  Any particular chronological designation would tend to jerrymander the continuities of the cultures of the period.  They may be using “Iberia” to include rather than exclude Muslim and Judaic dimensions of Iberia, which they think are perhaps excluded by “Spain” or “Spanish.” We’ve all protested “Spain” and “Spanish” being implicitly or in effect limited to Castile / Castilian, but I agree that “Iberia” is problematic because it should in fact include Catalan and Galician.

      My vote (not that we’re voting, mind you): Medieval Spain or Medieval Iberian

      …with no chronological designation.  If the specialists in the area don’t agree on a cut-off date, and for good reasons, why does the MLA need to impose one?  Nor does this parsing of the area have to conform to SHs whether of the Library of Congress, or the MLA bibliography, where they are conventions that serve a practical purpose.

      There seems to me to be a bit of a disconnect between prose and poetry being designated by centuries, and drama suddenly becoming “early modern.”  What’s with that?

      Comment by Linde M. Brocato on September 17th, 2013

      Another thing that I note about the term “Iberian” is that there is a kind of blurring of the differences between geopolitical spaces and cultures/languages, surely the result of colonialism/imperialism, but, as has been noted in the conversation on 20th-21st c. “Iberian,” there’s no “-phone” category for Spanish (vs. English/Anglophone, French/Francophone, Portuguese/Lusophone, etc.).  This blurring of the geopolitical and the linguistic may be part of what is chocante here.

      I am assuredly not interested in trying to establish “pure” anything, but I do think that the order of the name of the category is important.  We do have “Iberian” languages, but we don’t usually categorize them that way, and study of “Iberian” is generally about cultures, and builds on research on more linguistically coherent communities (Castilian, Catalan, Galician, Euskera, Ladino, Mozarabic etc.), which are generally grouped by language families (Romance, Semitic, Basque), for better or worse.

      This is not to say that comparative studies across all these languages and cultures isn’t crucial and essential, but that the basis for those comparisons is from studying specific languages/cultures.

       

      […] to see how canonical debates can unfold with real consequences, take a look at the introduction, proposal and FAQs regarding the MLA’s proposed reorganization of its divisions and discussion groups, […]

      Comment by Laura Rosenthal on September 18th, 2013

      I think this proposal, if passed, would diminish the richness, vitality, and diversity of the work presented and debated at MLA meetings.

      Comment by John Savarese on September 18th, 2013

      Thanks once more to everyone who worked on these proposed revisions, and to those who have taken the time to comment on them so far. I’d just like to second what many have already said: beyond the question of how those working in these fields understand their period’s chronological boundaries, the proposed mergers would make it unlikely that these distinct areas of literary history would have adequate representation at future conventions. As the sheer number of comments to paragraphs 82 and 83 suggest, this is one spot where the proposed revisions don’t sit well with the members of those divisions, and would in fact create material difficulties for those divisions going forward.

      Comment by David Marshall on September 18th, 2013

      I fear that the plan to determine the number of sessions simply by the membership numbers could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are in a period of transition in the profession, and if the merger of the two 18th-century groups results in the elimination of half of the sessions, this will mean fewer professional opportunities for 18th-century scholars (including graduate students) and less visibility for the field. The result could be a marginalization of the field, at a moment when many fields and sub-fields are threatened by decreasing faculty positions and shrinking curricula. Over the years, I attended many MLA sessions organized by groups of which I was not a “member.” I understand that there are trade-offs and that change can be good. Personally, I don’t really relate to any of these traditional rubrics. At the same time, I think it would be dangerous to collapse these groups and potentially eliminate half of the sessions for scholars and students in this field. Thank you.

      Comment by Richard C. Sha on September 18th, 2013

      In the main, I think the changes are positive and move towards inclusiveness.  I’d underscore others who challenge the loss of theory as a category and the the collapse of Restoration and Eighteenth Century.  I do find the fact that the stakes of the changes are most fully articulated in the FAQ, coupled with the fact that comments are not invited there to be somewhat disconcerting.  Surely the principles behind the changes merit commentary!  In particular, I join others who worry about tying guaranteed sessions to numbers of self-identifying members, which contains future change.  To help others gain a 30,000 foot view, how many guaranteed sessions is the MLA looking to have, and what is the rationale of that?  And what are the maximum number of total sessions permitted?  Would it be feasible to have members vote on some of the sessions they most would like to have?  This at least would allow for the mobility of curiosity.

      Comment by Richard C. Sha on September 18th, 2013

      Why single out memory and not emotion and affect studies?  Literature and the brain?

      Comment by Lynn M. Festa on September 18th, 2013

      My colleagues have been so eloquent about the reasons why mashing “Restoration and Early-18th-Century British” and “Late-18th-Century-British” into one category would be a mistake  that I have little to add beyond my agreement.  The objections expressed stem not from a reflexive urge to mark and defend territory, but from matters of real intellectual consequence both in terms of the historical specificity of two very different periods and in terms of the ways we account for modernity (and I agree with the posts above that express concern about the ‘presentist’ orientation of the profession/our students– all the more reason to provide institutional/structural reinforcement for those elements that seek to secure historical grounding for our collective work).  I also share the concern that this will have professional consequences particularly for colleagues starting out in a field underrepresented at the MLA by eliminating one of the few guaranteed platforms available to present to a wider audience.  I am grateful to the MLA working group for undertaking this monumental task and find much to admire in their recommendations, but hope that they will reconsider this particular proposal.

      Comment by Paul Dahlgren on September 18th, 2013

      I find myself wishing I could hit “like” for the many comments left here and for the MLA commons project in general.  I’m hoping we’ll get another draft with some of these suggestions incorporated into them.  I, for one, am curious how many scholars would identify with “Rhetorical Studies” as a trans-disciplinary field.  Would that encourage more literary scholars to identify with rhetoric?  Would it alienate compositionists or writing studies scholars?  Would, in the long run, that encourage more scholars from Speech/ Comm to identify with the MLA and to participate in it?  Another draft might help answer these questions. (As would more participation in this space).

      I also wonder how well Cs Clusters really represent composition studies.  Admittedly, someone higher up in the food chain would certainly be better placed to know these kinds of things than I am, but it is nice to see these things hashed out in a public forum.

      Comment by David J. Bartholomae on September 18th, 2013

       
      My own sense is that Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies should be a 7th major thematic category.  It has become a primary area of teaching, research, and professional formation.   In all the other ways we think about English studies (in hiring, in curriculum development, in departmental organization), we think quickly and easily in terms of Literature, Film and Media, Linguistics, English Education, Creative Writing, and Composition/Rhetoric.   The three areas that seem to fall out of the current MLA thematic categories are English Education, Composition/Rhetoric, and Creative Writing.    I’ve noticed a concern for Creative Writing in this list of responses.   Perhaps it belongs as a category under Teaching and the Profession.   The connections between Creative Writing and Composition are deep on many campuses.   Perhaps, then, it belongs as an area under “Writing Studies.”   I know that Margaret Ferguson is concerned for the MLA’s engagement with K-12.   Perhaps English Education  is another area that requires review. 
      The other issue of concern is the number of slots on the convention program to be guaranteed for people working in the areas of Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies.    As I understand it, the numbers of convention slots for every category are up for negotiation once the new categories are established.    A presence at the convention does more than just recognize the importance and centrality of our work.   The more people at the convention, the more the possibilities that networks or alliances will form and new folks will become involved in the committee structure of the MLA.    

       
       
       

      Comment by John L. Schilb on September 18th, 2013

      I strongly agree with Dave Bartholomae that the field of rhetoric and composition deserves its own broad thematic heading, which would encompass several divisions.  The draft proposal, sadly, leaves intact the existing measly two divisions allocated to our area.  This adherence to the status quo ignores our field’s growing presence, intellectual and institutional, in the humanities–a phenomenon borne out, in part, by how the JIL now teems with positions in rhetoric and composition while those in traditional literary fields diminish.  As a current member of the Executive Committee of the Division on the Teaching of Writing, I want to note the suggestions that our group made to the reorganization committee.  We said that if MLA wanted to distinguish clearly between literary studies and our field, then there should be new divisions such as the following: Rhetorical Arts; Literacy Studies; Technical and Scientific Writing; Global English; Research on Writting; Multimodal Composing; and Writing Program Administration.  We also said that if MLA was in a more integrative mood, then there should be new divisions such as the following: Digital Media and Composition; Rhetoric; Pedagogy; Global English; Research on Writing; Administration in English; Science and Technology Studies; Literacy and Print Culture; and Professional Issues.  Yes, recommendations such as these seem like asking for the moon, but the reorganization committee’s draft relegates us to a distant corner of the MLA solar system.  As a member for more than thirty years, I am dismayed and frustrated by the draft’s marked failure to appreciate the field I work in.  I hope the reorganization committee  will do better by it.

      Comment by Isidro de Jesús Rivera on September 18th, 2013

      David, it agree that there is a desire to make the group inclusive via geography.  But the designation  designation also opens questions about how we constitute Iberian in this section. We should probably ensure that we have paper session that are not limited to Castilian literature so that the other cultural communities are given voice. I am not sure that the Iberian is the best way to represent those voices.

      Comment by Isidro de Jesús Rivera on September 18th, 2013

      Linde:

      I agree with your point about “establishing ‘pure’ anything”. On a linguistic plane, we can talk about Iberian language communities. But the literature is usually constituted according to language(s). MLA has made a leap, and I see it as a challenge too. How do we represent our fields and in what ways do we need to become inclusive and less granulated?

      Comment by Isidro de Jesús Rivera on September 18th, 2013

      I agree with Carla. There is an under-representation of those fields.  And with the growth of Digial Humanities these “ologies” are become crucial as we move from physical object to digital representations.

      Comment by Katherine M. Quinsey on September 18th, 2013

      While I appreciate the difficulty of and the need for responsive restructuring of categories in the MLA to reflect our growing and changing disciplines, I think that the collapsing of the Restoration and Late 18th-Century divisions into a single “Long 18th Century” division is a retrogade move more reminiscent of administrative blunt instruments than of academic responsiveness.  It totally ignores the past 20 years of study in these fields, the theoretical, historical, and cultural diversity they have come to represet.  With traditional categories like “Romanticism” and “Shakespeare” left intact, this is remarkably like a return to the old post-Romantic canonical structuring of the literary curriculum.   I strongly oppose it.  I also strongly oppose the collapsing of the 16th and 17th-century categories into “Early Modern” – not that EM is a bad label, but that these fields represent a large and diverse body of scholarship on the cutting edge of many disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields.

      Comment by Seth Kimmel on September 18th, 2013

      Why the genre-based structure in the early modern Iberian sections? Also, why “Early Modern Iberian” for drama and “16th and 17th-Century” for poetry and prose?

      Perhaps we can come up with a more consistent and inclusive model without consolidating the two groups? For example: “16th-Century Iberia” & “17th-Century Iberia” (like the French sections and later Iberian sections).

      Comment by Anthony W. Lee on September 18th, 2013

      Greetings-

      I wish to add my voice of strong opposition to the proposed collapse of the two periods of R/Early 18th C and Late 18th C.  The reasons for my opposition are amply and eloquently voiced in the many above responses.

      Regards,
      Tony Lee

       

      Comment by Claude Willan on September 18th, 2013

      I thank the committee for their work in constructing this proposal, which is hard and essential work. But I must agree with the many commenters above from all levels of the profession, graduate students to Professors emeritus, in strongly opposing the merger of Restoration and Early C18th and Late C18th into one Long 18th. As Paul Kelleher observes, the two fields covering C18th literature are already grossly under-represented at MLA. The size, vigour and extraordinary diversity of ASECS shows the strength of the two fields that that conference happily accommodates. The proposed changes would exacerbate the under-representation at the MLA of scholars of the Restoration/early C18th and the late C18. 
      What is at issue here is the enduring relevance and representativeness of the MLA: by eliding two divisions into one it imperils its ability properly to represent its members. As Sandra MacPherson notes, how are we supposed to advocate for our importance to our own university administrations, when the very body that exists to promote our interests instead undercuts them? Please reconsider this proposal.

      Comment by Julie Candler Hayes on September 18th, 2013

      Like several others, I wrote in the “comments on the entire document” section above to support the arguments against conflating Restoration and Late 18th-century. Other aspects of the restructuring seem strange–leaving single-author categories, but conflating 16th and 17th century literature as “early modern.” I agree with others that there is a presentist bias to the plan as a whole, seemingly ignoring the fact that much pivotal work in contemporary literary theory emerged from the analysis of texts from earlier periods.

      Comment by Richard Newhauser on September 18th, 2013

      I agree that the designation of “Middle English” without further qualification works best.

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 18th, 2013

      See the comments on paragraph 26. “Southern Literature” has been renamed “Regional Literature” and placed under “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies.” To put it another way, “Southern Literature” has been eliminated.

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 18th, 2013

      “American Indian” with Carla Zecher’s addition of Indigenous would seem better. “Native American” was an imposed term that few American Indians that I have met much like. But I would like to hear from them.

      Comment by Rafael M. Pérez-Torres on September 18th, 2013

      Chicana/o literary studies have been a stand alone category for years.  There are a plethora of issues relevant to comparative Latina/o literary studies quite distinct from issues addressed by Chicana/o literary scholars.  Italian American and Jewish American literatures are subsets of U.S. ethnic literatures, but it would not be wise to subsume the two groups under one umbrella term.

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 18th, 2013

      Why wouldn’t simply “Gender Studies” do?

      Comment by Brian Abel Ragen on September 18th, 2013

      All of that is true. It is also true that the ALS-MLA is part of the MLA and groups together its American Divisions. Changes to those divisions affect the Section.

      Was there any consideration of the role the ALS plays? Or of creating Sections for some of the headings that appear in the list of proposed new divisions—German, Iberian, Italian, etc.?

      Comment by Patricia Roberts-Miller on September 18th, 2013

      My first impulse on seeing the list is that we need a lot more comp/rhet groups, but I think that might be solving the wrong problem. MLA can’t have enough groups in any discipline, and, really, comp/rhet is no more diverse that, say, Chinese (which only has three). There is a chicken/egg problem: comp/rhet people only attend MLA if they are hiring or on the job market, as far as I can tell (or giving a paper). That’s because there aren’t that many panels specifically for us. But, isn’t that how everyone feels about MLA?

      Maybe instead of breaking categories down (and thereby replicating the old division structure) we need to find categories that bring people from various fields together? For instance, people in foreign language, comp/rhet, and English all have program administrators. Maybe we should think about a program administration group? Maybe people in comp/rhet should be looking at the Transdisciplinary Connections?

      I’ve come to think that the power of MLA is its size and diversity. That gives it more publicity and more power, I think. Can we find ways to hold on to both?

      Comment by Carmen Nocentelli on September 18th, 2013

      Very happy to see this!

      Comment by Ira Allen on September 18th, 2013

      I don’t really have more to add to Stephanie Kerschbaum’s, James Brown’s, Steve Mailloux’s, and Kevin Brock’s excellent comments here at the level of content, but wanted only to amplify their concerns and suggestions (and the recommendations of the Exec. Committee of the Teaching of Writing Division).

      Perusing departmental websites of schools around the country, especially those of R1 and R2 institutions and selective liberal arts colleges, suggests that faculty in some form of writing studies (broadly conceived) comprise by numbers an enormous subset of tenure-stream faculty in language studies (and, obviously, a far, far larger subset of adjunct faculty).  Enormous.

      Patricia Roberts-Miller’s points–that everyone feels at least somewhat slighted by the MLA’s general organization and that composition and rhetoric scholars, like everyone else, are responsible to forge connections that help promote broad equity–are well taken.  That said, however, the basic difficulty here seems to be with the overarching six-part structure.

      Simply put, people in Writing Studies or Composition and Rhetoric (or whatever one decides the appropriate general name will have been) have both a loose conceptual unity and a heterogenous institutional gestalt to our collective being.  We are something in particular, and yet there are too many of us doing too many disparate things to fit well under any one of the six thematic categories laid out in the document as it stands.

      The logical solution, as many others here have noted, is a seventh thematic category.  And, since the Exec. Committee of the Teaching of Writing Division has already gone to some trouble to lay out a series of divisions that might fall under that category, it seems to me that we might do well to orient our discussion toward that constellation (taking as already sufficiently argued the stance that two divisions in two different categories, as currently suggested, make for a rather poor way of collecting us under the MLA umbrella).

      Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on September 19th, 2013

      No disagreement from me on that last, Sarah. We’re all singing from the same hymnal here. Which is why, for me, reducing the depth and complexity of those interweevings to a form of “Genre and Media Studies” (the category in which we are currently situated) is a much greater disservice than something called, however amorphously, “Transdisciplinary Connections.” To the extent you perceive the latter as distancing, that also does not strike me as wholly inappropriate: librarianship and archivy in fact *are* distinct professions and professionalizations, and not reducible to a set of shared interests among MLA members.

      On a more tactical note, while it’s not clear to me what purpose those high-level rubrics will serve at an organizational level, there may well be some value to having the shared concerns of DH, Textual Scholarship, and Libraries and Archives represented in multiple categories rather than all together side-by-side in a single one.

      Comment by Theresa Marie Russ on September 19th, 2013

      I reiterate these concerns. Even a tendency for collapse and “reductive ‘before/after’ analyses” (of 18th-c moments or, as you say, of modernity itself) in undergraduate survey classes may be some cause for concern. That this tendency may loom larger and become part of the structure of MLA and other institutions is a far more grievous matter.

      Comment by Heather Keenleyside on September 19th, 2013

      I want to add my voice to the many others, here, in strong objection to the proposal to merge the “Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century British” and the “Late Eighteenth-Century British” divisions into one “Long Eighteenth-Century” division. Others have written eloquently and in detail about the practical and intellectual reasons to keep these fields separate. I share their views, and thank them for taking the time to articulate them so cogently.
      I want simply to reiterate and underscore what I take to be a very basic problem with the proposed change. I appreciate the MLA’s need to better represent the advent of a new century, to “create space for new fields and for reconceptualizations of traditional fields,” and generally, to ensure that its structure is sensitive to the complexity, variety and richness of our present moment. At the same time, as a scholar and teacher of an earlier period, I feel strongly (and devote considerable pedagogical energy to helping my students appreciate) that a rich and complex sense of the present depends in no small part on a rich and complex sense of the past. This is a simple point, but it seems worth stressing in this context. I fear that the proposed changes to the eighteenth-century divisions would impoverish any such sense—by simplifying a complicated period in literary, cultural, and intellectual history, and marginalizing the remarkable and varied scholarship of those working on Restoration, early and late eighteenth-century British literature. I urge you to reconsider. 

      Comment by Katherine Arens on September 19th, 2013

      Using “German” as the division names instead of “germanophone” perpetuates the total exclusion of Austria, Switzerland, and other regions (e.g. parts of the USA in prior centuries, South Tirol) from the face of the MLA.  It also perpetuates the politics of the Cold War and naturalizes as cultural sphere a form of a current nation-state rather than the more inclusive term germanophone, parallel to the move made by Lusophone.  “German” versus “germanphone” cultural regions is not like the distinction between “French” and “Francophone” in terms of dominance.  Before 1871, speakers of German could not live in “Germany” because it did not exist;   a large number of authors included in “German” literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are Austrian or Swiss or one-time citizens of the German Democratic Republic (the lost East Germany).  To keep the term “German” retains the cultural imperialism of the German-nationalist historiography of the pre-World-War-1 nascent German Empire, and allows “German studies” to continue to efface a vibrant field of Austrian Studies, the possibility of a German-American Studies, and Swiss studies.  Critically, it also allows scholars to continue to ignore the diverse cultural histories of a large region of Europe OUTSIDE “Germany” and often only part of it because of expansionism and imperialism and thus keep our “studies” in a laughable relationship to real cultural and political processes.  Have we not gotten over Kaiser Wilhelm yet?

      Comment by Katherine Arens on September 19th, 2013

      Note that, over the years, many of the “German” authors covered in these sessions are Austrian, Swiss, or citizens of the one-time German Democratic Republic.  See my comment on the entire division.  This all should be entitled ‘germanophone,” not German.

      Comment by Theresa Marie Russ on September 19th, 2013

      My thanks to all those who have written comments here and to the committee for their ongoing organizational efforts.

      I share the concerns about terminology, especially of losing the label “Restoration.” I might wish for a tripartite structure (Resto, eC18, lC18) and would be leery of the broader, more slippery, label. My biggest worry, however, is the drastic cut in panels allocated and what that would mean for scholarship, concerns which others have stated better already. I am reflecting on the absurdities of two panels to cover all the British literary production and developments from 1660-1800. No matter how carefully those two panels were made, surely there would be a tragic loss of historical texture, and a now-vibrant field would be stricken.

      Comment by Theresa Marie Russ on September 19th, 2013

      I commented also on par 82, registering my concerns for collapsing two periods and especially for cutting so many panels. Please reconsider.

      Thank you.

      Comment by Heidi Schlipphacke on September 19th, 2013

      I strongly agree that German Studies would also need a Germanophone category as there are a great number of papers that treat German-speaking authors and topics germane to the German-speaking world that are nevertheless not ‘German.’ Prominent examples include topics focusing on Austria, Switzerland, or German-American communities.

      Comment by John L. Schilb on September 19th, 2013

      I agree with Dave Bartholomae that the subject area of rhetoric and composition deserves to become one of the broader topic categories, under which there would be a number of new divisions related to the field.  Simply keeping the current measly two divisions (with some re-jiggering of a title) does not reflect the field’s surging role (intellectual as well as institutional) in the humanities, as evidenced in part by how the JIL teems with rhetcomp positions while those in traditional literary fields diminish.  As a current member of the Executive Committee of the Division on The Teaching of Writing, I am disappointed and vexed by the restructuring committee’s seeming indifference to our recommendations.  For the record, we suggested that if MLA wanted to keep rhetcomp and literary studies relatively distinct, divisions such as the following would be appropriate:  Rhetorical Arts; Literacy Studies;  Technical and Scientific Writing; Global English; Research on Writing; Multimodal Composing; and Writing Program Administration.  If, however, MLA was in a more integrative mood, then divisions such as these would be good: Digital Media and Composition; Pedagogy; Global English; Research on Writing; Administration in English; Science and Technology Studies; Literacy and Print Culture; and Professional Issues.  I realize that such lists seem to be asking for the moon, but the restructuring committee’s maintenance of what is basically the status quo relegates our field to a distant corner of the MLA solar system.  As an MLA member for more than thirty years, I am personally chagrined.  I have long had to answer charges by rhetcomp specialists not in MLA that the organization neglects or even disdains our concerns.  The draft proposal makes this task of defense even harder.  I urge the committee to do better by us.

      Comment by Julie Rak on September 19th, 2013

      I understand why Life Writing is the way it is. But why did we retain Nonfiction Prose? It might be possible to collapse these two groups (and here I speak as the Chair of the current Life Writing Division) and call the group Life Writing and Nonfiction Prose?

      Comment by V. C. Pasupathi on September 19th, 2013

      I am not sure we should use the job market as a measure of a scholarly group. There is in fact a 17th century listing, but given budget constraints, departments are crafting fairly broad ads to fill multiple gaps…so we find there: “Early English Literature (1350-1600)” “16th-18th c. British Lit” and “British Literature before 1900.” These may indeed reflect the scholarship that some people do, but I think they are more accurate measures of teaching needs and curricular issues in a time of austerity.

      (But this is basically in line with Julia’s point anyway when she notes that departments don’t hire in a single century).

      I like the way centuries are generally neutral and don’t require us to rehash debates over renaissance or early modern, so I would be ok with 16th & 17th century British Literature and find it slightly less unwieldy and ambiguous than “British Renaissance and Early Modern.”

      While Renaissance may usefully draw connections with the Middle Ages, I’m not sure it’s a particularly positive way of describing the relationship, or that Medievalists would uniformly appreciate it.

      Like Julia and her offline Colleague, I worry a bit about losing a division, but my own work spans both centuries, so I would hope others that focus on one or the other more might post their feelings about it…

      Overall, losing the “excluding Shakespeare” seems like a good idea and I’m not really averse to anything that’s being suggested…

       

      Comment by Kristina Booker on September 19th, 2013

      With many thanks to the committee for their hard work on this proposal, I would like to respectfully echo my colleagues’ opposition to the merging of the two groups into “The Long 18th Century.”  I agree with Theresa’s characterization (above) of the inadequacy of only “two [guaranteed] panels to cover all the British literary production and development from 1660-1800.”  Thank you for the opportunity to respond!

      Comment by John H. Shanahan on September 19th, 2013

      My colleagues have made the case many times now, and much better than I, so I will not simply repeat their wise objections.

      I do NOT support the collapse of the divisions together into a single “long 18th c.”

      Thanks everyone for your efforts on this!

      John Shanahan, DePaul University

      Comment by Tonya-Marie Locke Howe on September 19th, 2013

      I just want to reiterate what many have already said; I think it would be a grave mistake to merge these distinct periods into one long “long 18th century” group, especially as our time period is frequently marginalized in many other ways as it is.

      Comment by Uzoma Esonwanne on September 20th, 2013

      In view of Professor Hirsch’s declaration that the proposed division of African Literature would be reviewed, I would like to encourage the MLA not only to retain the current “African Literatures” group as it is, but to do so in recognition of the following: “African Literatures” is, for many of us today, as much a field as it is a reading strategy. The latter, as I see it, designates that shift which, over the past two decades, has seen African literary criticism go from ethno-nationalist to  con-textual, transnational, and comparative analyses. It is partly in light of this development that the partitioning of African Literature into “Southern African” and “Sub-Saharan African” represents a regressive entrenchment in the MLA of divisions that few scholars today would see as having any intellectual merit.

      Comment by Liana Silva-Ford on September 20th, 2013

      I’d like to see, under “Teaching and the Profession,” a group for independent scholars, those who are not teaching and not affiliated with universities but continue to do research in language and literature.

      Comment by Liana Silva-Ford on September 20th, 2013

      I find this interesting. Would public scholarship fall under this group?

      Comment by Liana Silva-Ford on September 20th, 2013

      Is “Latin American” being used as an umbrella term here to include Latinos/as? As someone who studies Latino Literature, I see the two terms as different. Furthermore, there should be a section  here for Latino Literature.

      Comment by Liana Silva-Ford on September 20th, 2013

      Oops, my mistake; I saw Latino/a Literature above. Thanks!

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on September 20th, 2013

      Good point, Carla!  The name should perhaps be “Renaissance/Early Modern,” since these are alternative names for an era that begins and ends at different times in different mostly European places.  Though historians use “Early Modern” to include the 18th c., literary scholars and teachers mostly do not; though conceptions overlap in ways that might perplex a number of readers of this map in online and print versions.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on September 20th, 2013

      The MLA Working Group co-chairs hope that members of your discussion group will see   opportunities for a robust continued existence under the rubrics of two new groups, Atlantic and Mediterranean.  In our view, losing access to guaranteed sessions is what happens when a group is “eliminated.”  That is not what’s happening here, though I understand that I may not yet grasp what you mean by “effectively.” For the sake of clarification, though, let me say that the proposal is for your discussion group  to join with the division of European Literary Relations and to use the convention sessions guaranteed  for both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic group in the future.  After a transition period during which Romance and European Literary Relations would retain their original number of sessions but would also, we hope, begin to work together to plan some joint sessions under both the Atlantic and Mediterranean rubrics, the new groups would each have a minimum of one guaranteed session; there could be two such sessions in the future if membership numbers support them.

      If current members of your discussion group could communicate with members of the European Literary Relations division either via this site or via email, that would be very helpful for members of the Working Group as we revise this draft “map” in the light of members’ comments.  Thanks to you and Charles Perrone for weighing in here.  I hope you’ll do so again.

      Comment by Erin Mackie on September 20th, 2013

      No user edit function on this site.

      Edit out adjectival hyphens: “eighteenth century”; “seventeenth century.”

      Comment by Michael Iarocci on September 20th, 2013

      I agree strongly with  comments regarding the need to think further about about this.  I also note that there is something anomalous about the disappearance of “Spanish” as I read down a list of other major fields and find “English” “French” and “German” well in tact.  Why privilege some nation-states and their literatures (i.e. the historic hearts of modern empire and eurocentrism) while reconfiguring/disappearing others (i.e. the old empire)?

      Under the current proposal the word “Spanish,” would in fact disappear from the MLA divisions altogether.   Certainly we can find a way to reflect ongoing shifts in the profession without replicating Northern European cultural hegemony within the new structure.  (How close are we to an MLA without “English” or “French” for example?)

      I believe the changes should be coming from the divisions themselves. Each Spanish division can decide whether and how to incorporate the trans/non/anti-national into its new name. Discussion on the executive committee of 18th- and 19th-century Spanish Literature, for example, did not lead to proposing the shift to “Iberian.”   The uniformity of the proposed change across all “Spanish” periods is excessively prescriptive, and it does not seem to be based on what Executive Commitees have actually proposed.

      I think we can do better.

       

      Comment by Amy Clukey on September 20th, 2013

      Other posters have already explained why moving this group to the CLCS category is a strange and confusing proposal (what are “regional” comparative literatures anyway?).

      I want to emphasize again that this reconfiguration of the southern literature group into a new general category of regional literatures will make southern literary studies institutionally invisible within the MLA. That is unacceptable. It is also an especially odd choice given that opera is being recognized as an area of study, while a flourishing field like southern literary studies is being swept under the rug.  “Strange,” “confusing,” “odd”: this reconfigured group has not been planned out very well.

      There should be a SOUTHERN group in the American category.

      Comment by Howard B. Tinberg on September 20th, 2013

      I am grateful that community colleges have, at last, a place of its own in MLA’s divisional structure.   While I worry that in separating community colleges from other elements of the profession the new structure may ghettoize those institutions in which nearly half of all undergraduate education is occurring, I concur that attention must be paid to this vital player.

      Comment by Howard B. Tinberg on September 20th, 2013

      While I am pleased to see rhetoric, composition, and writing studies included within MLA’s structure, I, like others who have commented, question its placement under the catch-all term of “language.”  Rhetoric’s reach is pretty impressive, spanning disciplines and media, as well as reaching out to the community and the public sphere.

      I wish as well to offer my concern that teaching continues to be segregated from the content that is taught.  I realize the need to insure that pedagogy have a firm presence on the program but haven’t we advanced well beyond the view that teaching can be considered without a concern for subject or discipline?

      Comment by Marshall J. Brown on September 20th, 2013

      Thanks for all your work, even where I have reservations. The draft proposal as you present is not always clear about what it is proposing and does not always identify the fate of current groups. On the first score, are you in fact proposing to combine 16th-century British with 17th-century British, or are you merely mentioning a combination as a possibility.  What is the force of “or” here?  Same question for the two 18th century groups.  I am in agreement with the hundreds who have raised thoughtful objections to the latter combination, and I wonder if the lack of a similar response to the former results from unclarity in the presentation. On the second score, I agree with Andrew Parker that the oceanic groups seem a creative move forward.  But Bohemia has never had a seacoast, and the former European Literary Relations division here sees to disappear without any other trace, leaving options within defined periods but no obvious options in the main program format for other comparative Continental work.  The apparent disappearance of theory is a further example of changes that are not explicitly articulated in the proposal.  What else is being eliminated?

      Comment by Angelika Bammer on September 21st, 2013

      I’m trying to comment on the whole set of categories, but can’t quite figure out how to do so without hitting a specific “reply to x” button. So here goes, anyway …

      Overall, I think the changes are excellent: they make vernacular sense and are congruent with how people talk about what they do; they are clear and simple. Some excellent and much-needed additions are: Digital Humanities (how big will this thing get?), Global English (terrific and provocative). I much prefer “The Profession and the Academy” to what it had been previously (even though it sounds a bit like a wry comedy, which it perhaps is). The whole “Transdisciplinary Connections” section is useful and sound.

      I was struck by one of the comments (Andrew Parker, I believe) about the mapping by bodies of water (Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean…). I like that, too, certainly found it intriguing; it jarred me into thinking differently about literary/cultural/historical connections or their absence. My one surprise–and perhaps concern–is the disappearance of “Europe” as a place of cultural/literary/historica/social relations that are meaningful enough for us to take note of specifically. Is it no longer that?

      Comment by Robert von Dassanowsky on September 21st, 2013

      The differences in German language (spoken; literary) and culture for Austria, Germany, Switzerland, from 19th century imperial transcultures  to the 21st century national cultures are substantial. The concept and use of Germanophone (like Francophone) is long overdue at the MLA.  One might even separate German, Austrian, and Swiss at the 19th century mark. “German” as a study or area heading  is very unclear and highly reductive–which German language? The folding of Austrian and Swiss Literature, Film and Culture into “German” is  simply incorrect.

      Comment by Robert von Dassanowsky on September 21st, 2013

      The differences in German language (spoken; literary) and culture for Austria, Germany, Switzerland, from 19th century imperial transcultures  to the 21st century national cultures are substantial. The concept and use of Germanophone (like Francophone) is long overdue at the MLA.  One might even separate German, Austrian, and Swiss at the 19th century mark. “German” as a study or area heading  is very unclear and highly reductive–which German language? The folding of Austrian and Swiss Literature, Film and Culture into “German” is  simply incorrect.

      Comment by Susan C. Anderson on September 21st, 2013

      I strongly agree with the comment above. Austrian and Swiss need their own groups, which could start with the 19th century.

      Comment by Susan C. Anderson on September 21st, 2013

      Would sound studies or studies of radio/audio be part of this category?

      Comment by Susan C. Anderson on September 21st, 2013

      I strongly agree that Austrian and Swiss need their own groups. Changing the category title to “Germanophone” and adding Austrian and Swiss groups would help correct this problem.

      Comment by Eileen M. Julien on September 21st, 2013

      I want to join my colleagues in objecting to the proposal.

      No name is ever entirely satisfactory.  We are all aware of the complexities and difficulties implicit in “African literature.”  But there’s no point in finding ourselves saddled with a truly dubious and suspect “southern Africa” and “sub-Saharan Africa.”

      What bothers me most is the enormous disparity between the African and other “groupings” in the proposal.  Under Languages, Literatures, Cultures, continents, nations and  languages are divided by period, ethnicity, cultural/artistic traditions.  Africa alone is divided nonsensically geographically into two categories which, as has been pointed out above, leave out North Africa entirely and along with it, no doubt, ancient Egypt and Arabic language writing and its impacts in Swahili and Hausa, for example.

      The MLA committee working to bring the group structure up to date needs more serious involvement of those working on Africa today.

      Comment by Stacey Lee Donohue on September 21st, 2013

      Community College have had a place in MLA’s divisional structure: The Two Year College Discussion Group.  This would be a name change only, in keeping with the MLA’s Committee on Community Colleges.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 22nd, 2013

      This is an important suggestion. I hope others will weigh in.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Myself, I don’t really feel that MLA needs a Digital Humanities category. It’s purposefully interdisciplinary and spreads across any of the other categories. And in 10 or 15 years, it will feel woefully out of date. Like “new media” does now. That being said, there needs to be some group to replace the Computer Studies group, and I can see why the leadership chose to include the 3 groups and discussion forums that it did to create this larger DH group. So I am not opposed to it staying. (And the name is certainly better than Computer Studies, which is very 1989.)

      But I also agree with Sarah, above, that the Research Methods group shouldn’t be subsumed under the DH group. Research Methods should be its own group (not in literary studies, because that’s too specific. LOTS of fields at MLA have research methods that could be represented by such a group, including DH, Rhet/Comp, Literary, Library, Languages, pedagogy, etc.). Perhaps under Transdisciplinary Connections? That’s probably also where DH belongs, not under Genre and Media Studies (even though I can see why they placed it there, as the focus is usually on some media-influenced stuff, but it doens’t HAVE to be, such as data mining and text mining, etc., which is based on written corpora.)

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      I agree that Editing is missing, but I don’t think we can assume that editing means the same for all MLA constituents, defined as “textual scholarship”. Editing is a huge part of my research and has nothing to do with textual scholarship as it has been defined by a majority of MLA members. Perhaps, instead, editing needs to go under Teaching and the Profession? (It doesn’t match the teaching part — well, it does the way I understand editing as an editorial pedagogy, but I’m guessing that’s not the way most MLA members would describe it.) I’ll reframe this suggestion under The Profession category.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      I like Matthew’s suggestion for Library, Information, and Archival Sciences and that it be moved to the Trans section.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Does “Textual Scholarship” cover periodical studies and other genre-based scholarship of print and codex traditions? (She asks, n00bly.) If so, then I guess it could work. As a relative outsider to this field, these are some of the sessions I enjoy going to most at MLA, to see the crossovers happening with my work in digital media.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      To me, New Media Studies is as dated a using Digital Humanities as a signifier, but that’s where (I think) the new media stuff has been subsumed. That’s my guess anyways.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Digital Humanities, if that name is kept (it will quickly feel stale), belongs in the Trans section, along with the Library, Info, and Archive Studies group. It’s not media- or genre-specific at all.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Why isn’t this one being subsumed under Research Methods?

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      What does this category even represent? It’s totally vague (to an outsider).

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Why isn’t Opera under this category? Performance, broadly construed.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      huh, this is a cool addition.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Agreed. My understanding is American Indian is preferred. And Indiginous is also preferred (and would include other non-American literatures).

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      It’s silly to add film, new media, and pop culture to this one group. It’s already represented broadly with the film studies, media studies, digital humanities, and pop culture groups under the Genre and Media Studies header.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Besides, if it were integrated within the other, genre-based groups, the folks who might normally present at these sessions would get a much wider audience, which would be great!

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      I do to! Nice and pithy. And although I understand the reservations to not link group names to the job market, I have to wonder how many scholars might end up teaching in both centuries. (I know, god forbid we should do anything about teaching at MLA, but….)

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      As a rhetorician who gets ONE SESSION TOTAL — out of the 200+ literature sessions at MLA — I support the collapse of both of these categories in order to better reflect the cross-disciplinary efforts needed of the humanities these days. Those within the collapsed category will know which papers are for which of the old terms, late and early, because of the paper titles, authors covered, etc.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      I hope it includes World Englishes. That’s certainly what I thought it might be when I read it.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      I haven’t finished reading all the comments to see if John WAlter’s post is produced here, and if not I’ll find it and post it (with his permission). I think he sent it to MLA backchannel, in any case.

      I’d like to concur with Stephanie’s solution to create a new, seventh category for Rhetoric and Composition (or, frankly, call it Writing Studies and then we might get more creative writers doing scholarly work at MLA as well!). I don’t agree, tho, that we should go into the depth of analytical and methodological sub-groups, such as rhetorical analysis and discourse analysis. The Research Methods group needs to be extracted from its place of submission into the Digital Humanities group (which I also propose needs to be renamed and move) and put into the Transcdisciplinary section.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Excellent layout, Jennifer. I agree with all of your groups. Rhetoric has all the centuries, continents, and genres that Literature has, and we’re only asking for a few groups, not 200. 😉

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Thank you for your support, Richard!

      I agree that many rhet/comp scholars don’t even identify with the term “Language Studies.” It wasn’t even on my radar until I started attending MLA more regularly (due to a committee appointment) a few years back.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Agreed, David. I also miss the creative writing and English Education inclusions, which would fit nicely under a Writing Studies header.

      One thing to note for the MLA exec committees that you reminded me to raise…. I’ll just paste my FB update on it from yesterday, below.

       

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      I’m starting to understand the contrivances that keep rhet/comp people from participating in MLA. I will be on the ballot for the executive committee of the Discussion Group on Computer Studies in Language and Literature. (I don’t know who the other person on the ballot is yet.) Of course, you have to be a current MLA member to vote in the elections, but what I just discovered from reading the by-laws, members are allowed to be on only two discussion groups, and only members of discussion groups can vote on its own executive committee. So, assuming that most rhet/comp people are members of the Teaching of Writing or the History of Rhet/comp discussion groups [under the current/old framework], rhetoricians will never be elected to the Computer Studies group just from a pure percentages viewpoint. Well, that sucks. I tried.

      So, I am well aware of MLA’s interest in getting more rhet/comp people involved. And we’re here; we promise. But, as another person asked to stand for an MLA election said, five years (if elected) is a LONG time to commit to going to a conference (in addition to our “regular” conferences) when there’s only one or two sessions that are any major interest to us. MLA is in a catch-22 about including more rhet/comp people: Why should we attend and be members when there’s nothing for us at the conferences or in PMLA (which I REALLY wish we could opt out of receiving. Such a recycling waste for me, for the most part). And if we are members, and we do attend sessions outside of our field (which are cool, esp the DH and book history ones, for me), and we stand for election, but we’ll never get elected because — for instance, the Computer Studies group becomes the DH group — I’m less of a figure in DH than I am in computers and writing.

      So we’re back where we started, with R/Cs bitching about MLA’s ignorance of us. Sigh. I’d really like to see that change, and I actually really like most of the changes in this draft document (to the literature stuff because, frankly, who outside of the 200 scholars in the early and late 18th century fields really knows the difference? lol). And I came to this document hoping that I would even like the Rhet/Comp changes. But, no. Not yet. Please seriously consider making us a new theme, and you might even find more Lit and Language scholars attending our sessions and learning and, huh, taking courses back at their home institutions and getting jobs.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      I like all of the ideas above. In the Rhet/comp group we’re also talking about Public Rhetorics, or Community Literacy outreach, or activist pedagogy, all of which can fall under this grouping. Cool!

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      The title change here reflects, to me, a total change in approach. With the title of Teaching as a Profession, I knew that there’d be some serious discourse about pedagogy and self-reflection as a teacher. Now, it seems, the focus is more about the institution of higher education. That’s a fine group header, but I don’t think it represents the previous group. Was the change suggested because the previous group’s actual practice wasn’t the same as the title suggested?

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      OK, so we’ve made a bunch of suggestions to the Rhetoric/Composition group in the previous category, as Marianne requested. Several commenters there, myself included, also made mention of where creative writing fit into this grouping. Suggestions to create a new thematic group, Writing Studies, would include creative writing.

      I also wonder, like Kevin, as to what, exactly, the Teaching of Writing means in regards to writing research and SOTL work, the latter of which could really be a Transdisciplinary Connections group, since it crosses so many fields. I guess I agree with the comments in the R/C discussion to move The Teaching of Writing, as a form of composition (and its attendant scholarship) to the new R/C or Writing Studies thematic category, under which there would also be room for a creative writing pedagogy group, which is a very important and growing area of work in CW.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Hmm. Wait. Is this the category where all of the Professionalization stuff (like, from the conference two years ago, if I recall correctly) was placed? THAT STUFF needs to be a category, and it would make sense for this (Profession and the Academy) to be its title, but that’s not the same thing as teaching as a profession, but perhaps it call fall under that? Nah, cuz then teaching gets lost as a thing on its own. Hmm.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      So this makes me ask where the Undergraduate Studies group is? Because if we’re getting rid of Teaching as a Profession (and renaming it something that no longer focuses on teaching), wherein most teaching is done at the undergraduate level, then we seem to be missing a BIG part of the work that MLAers do.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Also, to note that there are separate groups for Teaching of Writing and Teaching of Language indicate to me that Rhet/comp shouldn’t be subsumed under the Languages thematic grouping above.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      Regarding the Transdisciplinary Connections section, there is a group that I feel could be added (and I couldn’t comment on the title of that section so I’m putting it here): Editing and Publishing Studies

      Several commenters in the Genre and Media Studies category, particularly under the Book History and Print Culture group, indicated their sadness that editorial work was missing from that group’s title now. I pointed out there that editorial work doesn’t always means the same thing across different subdisciplines of MLA — that the “scholarly editing” one does to prepare a varorium or do similar Bibliography and Textual Studies work — is not the same work as editing a journal or book or press and/or teaching students to do that work, which is happening more and more within MLA fields, be it language, literature, or rhet/comp.

      So, I propose a new group under Transdisciplinary Connections, where all these fields can play together in a theoretically informed praxis of editorial work, including work related to Textual Studies but also related to the work of producing original (print or digital)  texts for consumption. This is publishing studies, so maybe it’s just called that, shortly, and not Editing and Publishing Studies, although I think more people might be interested in it (unless you revive the Textual Studies and Bibliography groups, which certainly are related but separate). I am also thinking of all the affiliated groups who would be interested in this grouping: CELJ, Assoc of Documentary Editing, CLMP, Assoc of Teachers of Technical Writing, etc.)

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 22nd, 2013

      This is a really interesting idea. I wondered too about Media Studies’ position under its own category, and I agree that some straggler fields could be subsumed under that. As we proposed under the Rhet/Comp category to make it it’s own theme, it might also work under a Media Studies header on its own. Maybe.

      Comment by David Lee Miller on September 22nd, 2013

      I share the reservations others have voiced about the practical consequences of collapsing three divisions into two.  What will that mean about the number of sessions available at MLA for 16th and 17th century English literature?

      I’m far more concerned about such practical consequences than about how the name game sorts itself out.  Of course it matters what we call ourselves–different labels have very different implications, as Hannibal and others have observed.  But no one division name will be unobjectionable, finally, on one ground or another.  And we could hardly do worse than “excluding Shakespeare”!

      Comment by David Lee Miller on September 22nd, 2013

      I share the reservations others have voiced about the practical consequences of collapsing three divisions into two.  What will that mean about the number of sessions available at MLA for 16th and 17th century English literature? I’m far more concerned about such practical consequences than about how the name game sorts itself out.

      Of course it matters what we call ourselves–different labels have very different implications, as Hannibal and others have observed.  But no one division name will be unobjectionable, finally, on one ground or another.  And we could hardly do worse than “excluding Shakespeare”!

      Comment by Roger Whitson on September 22nd, 2013

      I agree with Donna. I’d say the problem here is that 1) not everyone who does British and American do Transatlantic studies, yet 2) many Transatlantic scholars may identify primarily/secondarily as either American or British. I don’t know how this should be reflected in the discussion groups.

      Comment by Roger Whitson on September 22nd, 2013

      I’m really excited to see this level of conversation happening on this site. Kudos to Marianne Hirsch and Rosemary Feal — along with the other representatives of the MLA for making this happen. IMO, more than just the structure of the discussion groups (which is important to be sure), it’s refreshing to see the critical yet also generous discussion happening here. I’m happy to see the MLA take seriously some of the feelings of alienation my rhet/comp friends have been expressing for years.

      Cheryl Ball, Lisa Vollendorf, and Rosemary talk about this a bit in the “Profession” section, but I’d like to see a category reserved for something like: “Academic Politics, Adjunct Labor, and #Atlac.” I feel that, as a discipline, we need to start thinking more seriously and systematically about these issues – especially given last year’s theme. Further, I think an entire section devoted to the Public Humanities (separate from the labor and politics section) would be useful for those of us looking to bridge academia with the rest of the world.

      Comment by Roger Whitson on September 22nd, 2013

      I agree that DH should be under “Transdisciplinary Connections.” It does deserve its own category (considering the amount of scholars who have been part of the field since it was Humanities Computing [since the 40s-50s] coupled with those who joined in the last 5 or so years). It may or may not feel out of date in 10-15 years, but considering the rate at which English is itself changing, I’m hoping that these categories will be allowed to evolve more frequently than they did in the past. If, as scholars like Ted Underwood have argued, DH dissolves into several different scholarly fields, then the MLA can make changes then.

      Many DH scholars make the distinction at precisely where Cheryl does: i.e. Media Studies usually focuses on the textual analysis of media objects whereas DH is more often about newer methodologies for traditionally literary sources. This isn’t always the case: lots of Media Studies people also do DH and vice versa, but it seems like the most simple way to make the distinction.

      Putting DH in Transdisciplinary Connections would also emphasize that DH isn’t simply another theory for literary studies (a big misconception among many of my colleagues) but is in fact also practiced in History, Anthropology, Geography, etc.

      Comment by Elizabeth Mathews Losh on September 22nd, 2013

      Like others commenting on this paragraph, I feel that the MLA should acknowledge the importance of rhetoric, composition, and writing studies to the continued life of the profession and take advantage of the suggestions of John Schilb, Steven Mailloux, David Bartholomae, Jim Brown, Cheryl Ball, and many others here about moving it out of the language category, giving it the status of a theme, and creating appropriate subheadings to showcase the diversity of research and public humanities labor being done in different sectors of a very broad and capacious field.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 23rd, 2013

      Roger, indeed. I woke up in a panic last night realizing that there was no alt-ac or other professionalization group, as you suggested. Just as folks have praised the inclusion of the Digital Humanities group as bringing MLA up with the times, it would be irresponsible to not have an alt-ac AND adjunct labor group. But, as Howard Tinberg said about the Community Colleges group, having separate groups also risks ghettozing these groups, which would be equally irresponsible given that the majority of laborers among us are contingent. I really like your proposed title, and will spin it a bit: Alternative and Contingent Professionals. This could also include things like Writing Program Administration, which has been brought up as a possible subsection of the rhet/comp group, as it would cover folks who run DH centers.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on September 23rd, 2013

      I spent a bit of time yesterday soliciting opinions from rhet/comp folks who both are and are not members of MLA for various reasons. I wanted to share the most striking of reasons here, as I believe that the MLA has made a space for the most radical and beneficial change to happen.

      Because there are only one or two sessions regularly on writing at MLA, Writing Studies (rhet/comp, tech comm, etc.) colleagues voice that they cannot attend MLA without fear of their departments assuming they are on the job market. Example: As an advanced assistant professor, I recall lying to my department chair to tell him I had a meeting at MLA with my textbook editor, just so he wouldn’t be suspicious. Many Rhet/Comp people *want* to attend MLA, but can’t justify it when there is just so damned little for us there. The outreach into DH only partially justifies some of this attendance recently — and not enough in most cases, when we have conferences like Computers and Writing, which are far better for us in this respect.

      Our senior colleagues who have responded here — John Schilb, David Bartholomae, Howard Tinberg, etc. (e.g., those who have been MLA members for decades) — were often trained in literature in their PhD programs because rhet/comp was in its infancy when they graduated. So they naturally (if I may assume here… my apologies) have an inclination towards literary endeavors. But the majority of rhet/comp scholars graduating these days come from rhet/comp PhD programs and may have NO literature training. For instance, my PhD had NO lit classes offered, and even my MFA had a balance of lit (four) and professional writing/rhetoric (four) classes.
      It is important to realize that many of us who are interested in attending MLA have no background in literature and yet respect and are interested in what our literature colleagues are doing. But we can’t justify attending another conference, particularly when there is next to nothing available to us.

      If the executive committee agrees to create a seventh theme of Writing Studies (so as to be inclusive to Rhetoric, Composition, Technical and Professional Writing, and Creative Writing), it will set the tone to upend a century of literature-based hegemony in English departments. Given what the senior members of the field(s) have said here about the changing shape of English departments (and, related, the job market), asking our literature colleagues to “pay attention” (as Cynthia Selfe has said) to our work, our scholarship, our existence is overdue.

      [Note: “Paying attention” is a phrase SO simple and yet so impactful, and Cynthia Selfe is an exemplary rhet/comp scholar that every literature colleague should know about and yet most don’t bother to know, even as rhetoricians know all of our literature colleagues’ major theorists…Changing the structure of MLA would be a major (!) acknowledgement of this HUGE  field that our colleagues should respect.]

      Another suggestion was made to have a writing studies scholar take over PMLA for a number of years, or to rotate the content of the journal. As I mentioned in another comment, the only thing I do with PMLA is recycle it, after glancing wistfully through the TOC to see if there’s any rhetoric-related work. Nope. Never. Make our membership dollars worth something by offering a SLIVER of space — both at the conference and in the journal (and don’t get me started on Profession, and the lack of representation of rhetoricians in documents such as the Digital Scholarship work MLA has done).

      Please consider this proposal to add Writing Studies as a theme and to help have a role in the journal(s). If you do, then more people will want to attend, will be able to join, will be able to vote on rhetoricians as leaders in the field, will be able to attend the conference without judgement and suspicion.

      Comment by Catherine Jean Prendergast on September 23rd, 2013

      I have found the comments of my colleagues in Rhet/Comp/Writing Studies moving.  I, like John Schilb, am on the Executive Committee on the Teaching of Writing, having joined with the hope that I could work to increase the presence of my colleagues at the MLA, a goal that MLA governance assured me that they shared. My feelings then upon reading this draft proposal were exactly as John described.

      We have shown a great deal of consensus here as to the path forward.  Rhet/Comp/Writing Studies must have its own theme. I think construction of that theme area would be aided by having representation of people from our field on the working group that is tasked with this important redrafting.

      I don’t write here merely to add my voice, as one more, to this consensus, but to address the “chicken and egg” argument that keep emerging. I find it specious.  We can test it easily.  Open up a new theme with genuine presence of our field. Change PMLA so that it gives us a reason to read it. Do all those things and if we’re still not there, then we know whose “fault” it is. MLA can change. The other party–English Studies–changed years ago.

      Comment by John L. Schilb on September 23rd, 2013

      Cheryl, divisions and discussion groups are different entities.  The division on The Teaching of Writing is exactly that, a division, not a discusson group.  Same with the division on History and Theory of Rhetoric and Composition.  Traditionally, a discussion group aspires toward divisional status.  And my understanding is an MLA member doesn’t have to be an official member of a division or discussion group to vote in its Executive Committee election.  At least, my memory is that in each year’s cycle, members are invited to vote in as many as five divisions’ Executive Committee elections, and they need not belong to these divisions.

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on September 23rd, 2013

      Yes, there was consideration of  this idea, but ultimately the proposal goes in the direction of unsectioning things. What are the advantages of a section structure?

      Comment by Pamela S. Saur on September 23rd, 2013

      It is amazing how many problems can be solved by the simple change from German to Germanophone.

      Comment by John L. Schilb on September 23rd, 2013

      I share Cheryl’s sentiments.  But just for the record, typically the MLA convention program has more than just one or two sessions dealing with composition, rhetoric, or related subjects.  The number is more like eight, as is the case with the upcoming program.  And in my experience, these sessions are of high quality.  I know, I know, the convention needs a lot more panels in our field.

      Comment by Marshall J. Brown on September 23rd, 2013

      Thanks for all your  work on these proposals and for responding thoughtfully to so many of the comments, which inevitably (mine included) address chiefly the reservations we have about corners of the proposals.  It wasn’t clear to me from the draft proposal that you were proposing combining the two English Renaissance/early modern divisions and the eighteenth-century divisions.  The force of “or” in the new group list wasn’t clear to me, and evidently not to some others who have written in.  I share the feelings of hundreds of others concerning the latter combination, and I wonder if the paucity of comments about the first combination might partly stem from confusions like mine.  The other aspect of the reorganization that is not displayed in the proposal is the fate of current divisions.  Others have remarked on the disappearance of theory.  Another unmarked disappearance is the European Literary Relations Division.  While like Andrew Parker I applaud the impulse behind the new ocean-centered groups, they obscure the fact that Bohemia has never had a seacoast.  Continental studies within individual periods can be accommodated in newly proposed or continuing groups, but cross-period European relations have no obvious place in the new organization, so far as I can see.

      Comment by Marshall J. Brown on September 23rd, 2013

      To judge from Google hits, the term Dutchophone is sparsely used.  What is wrong with the former term Netherlandic?  It refers primarily to the language and so serves the same semantic purpose as the -phone composites, and it is the term used in the names of the relevant North American professional associations.

      Comment by Cheryl Narumi Naruse on September 23rd, 2013

      I agree. Although I think there can be productive exchange between Asian American and Asian Diasporic literary studies, Asian Diasporic deserves a category on its own–after all, there is plenty of Asian Diasporic literature outside the American context.

      Comment by Cheryl Narumi Naruse on September 23rd, 2013

      Yes–indigenous would allow for Hawaiian literature as well.

      Comment by Anne J. Cruz on September 23rd, 2013

      The MLA’s revision of its divisional structure is timely and, indeed, necessary in order to better reflect the changes that have occurred within, across, and beyond the fields and disciplines currently represented by the organization. For reasons that are not at all well understood, however, some of the divisions that continue to be functional and serve a vibrant and large constituency have been reconfigured to such an extent as to have disappeared altogether. As expressed in the above comments, I am particularly concerned with the change from the division title of “Hispanic Literatures” (which problematically included Luso-Brazilian) to the group now called “Iberian,” a paleo-geographical term that from the 16th century to this day holds no meaning linguistically, culturally, socially, or politically. Catalan and Galician have rightly been recognized as languages and cultures equally as significant as (and different from) Spanish, and deserve their own subgroup. My Portuguese colleagues have made a strong case for the separate identity of Portugal, whose linguistic and cultural extension beyond the Iberian peninsula, however, is included in a new group called “Luso.” Yet nowhere is Portuguese or, what is most worrisome to me, Spanish specifically mentioned. I am not arguing for these as “hegemonic” languages–quite the contrary. For the MLA to create a mythical group that does away entirely with the name known across the world of the language officially spoken, written, and read in 20 countries and unofficially in the U.S., Belize, and Andorra, sends a perplexing message not only to those of us who have fought for years to establish the value of Spanish literature, language, and culture in American university curricula and in academic organizations, but also to those of us who have endorsed Spanish in states with strong “English only” movements, and who have defended native and heritage speakers of Spanish, as the largest non-English speaking group in the U.S., against language discrimination. I urge the MLA working group to reconsider the literal and symbolic importance of granting independent recognition both to Portuguese and Spanish.

      Comment by Katherine Arens on September 23rd, 2013

      Thanks for considering it.  “German” studies taking Kafka et al. as Germans is as conceptually offensive as including Irish under British, no matter that the existing literary histories for “German” literature fairly uncritically allow the two into one category.  Occupation armies have written those scripts. To say nothing of other “German” (germanophone) cultures like those of Nobel Prize winner Herta Müller.  NOT “German” but “German-Romanian”;  “German-Turkish” does not have to include only those writing in Germany. Most of the twentieth century’s significant female writers were/are Austrian or East German — an omission that the Federal Republic might want to consider, and scholars of it, as well.  This is NOT a small issue — it speaks to the core of a viable cultural studies for germanophone regions.

      The lack of acknowledgment of alternate social and political structures in the various germanophone countries has become increasingly problematic, and the shift would signal a willingness to get over the habits of mind inculcated in a World War II generation by the need to rescue “German” culture from Hitler’s Germany, no matter what the cost to geography and cultural heritages.

      FYI: “For Want of a Word:  The Case for Germanophone,”  Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German, 32, #2 (Fall, 1999): 130-142

      Comment by Katherine Arens on September 23rd, 2013

      One other issue comes up here:  this is the era where Austria-Hungary drives culture, not Germany.  We tried a couple years ago to get a division for “literatures of the Habsburg regions” and were rejected because “they’re not all German language.”  Which, of course, is entirely the point:  this is a region where translation drove a very specific kind of culture transfer.  There used to be a discussion group for Triestine Literature (from Trieste, now Italy);  parts of the Ukraine and Bohemia were germanophone;  Polish culture was bifurcated into a more western-affiliated (Roman Catholic) and a pan-Slavic (Orthodox) section, with some more willing to work across lines into German.  “Yiddish” in Galicia did not mean the same culture as it did in Russia or Frankfurt.

      For the earlier periods, a similar idea would be appropriate for “literatures of the Holy Roman Empire”

      This would parallel the kinds of moves made in Luso-Brazilian, and would open out “Slavic” to offer conceptual space for those Slavic cultural moments NOT oriented to Russian/Soviet imperialism or the Cold War.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 24th, 2013

      Thank you for your comments on the proposal to create a second African literature group. Clearly, it has to be revised.

      We would appreciate your advice:

      Should the African literature group be divided, thus increasing the presence of the field in the MLA map or would you prefer to maintain the single group?

      If the group is divided, what should the two groups be? It’s been suggested that we use chronology, breaking the group in 1960 or 1990.

      Please send us your advice and rest assured that we will follow it.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 24th, 2013

      Thank you for your comments on the proposal to create a second African literature group. Clearly, it has to be revised.

      We would appreciate your advice:

      Should the African literature group be divided, thus increasing the presence of the field in the MLA map or would you prefer to maintain the single group?

      If the group is divided, what should the two groups be? It’s been suggested that we use chronology, breaking the group in 1960 or 1990.

      Please send us your advice and rest assured that we will follow it.

      Comment by Tilottama Rajan on September 24th, 2013

      I will make this comment elsewhere, but I strongly second David Shumway’s point that Theory needs to be a part of this updating of the field. It may be the case that the previous “philosophical approaches to literature,” “anthropological approaches to literature” etc. and their new replacements etc. were/are meant to cover theory, but those categories could equally be taken in more text-based directions that don’t result in sessions on Theory. Moreover, the parcelling out of theory between “philosophical,” “anthropological,” “psychological” etc ignores the interdisciplinary nature of Theory as a place where these approaches come together. Also, we do need a group in which Theory is studied in itself and not just as it can be applied to or connected with literature.

      Comment by Tilottama Rajan on September 24th, 2013

      I also feel that British literature has suffered in this remapping from a geographical equity that ignores the fact that we are dealing with 8+ centuries here. In addition to the 18thc, which has received considerable feedback, the amalgamation of British 16th and 17th leaves Renaissance/early modern lopsidedly impoverished in relation to British AngloSaxon and Medieval and in relation to its French equivalents (where 16th and 17th are still recognized as significantly different). The amalgamation of late 19thc and early 20thc British and American under the rubric of “transatlantic” is also problematic. Late Victorian and Edwardian literature logically belong within British literature and there is nothing transatlantic about them. On the other hand, the British vs. American separation makes less sense with regard to Modernism, where one might want to put Eliot, Pound, and Stevens together with Woolf. But that isn’t to say that the transatlantic issue is at the core of their work. I’m not sure what this amalgamation was meant to address. It seems like an efficiency measure that hasn’t been thought through.

      Comment by Tilottama Rajan on September 24th, 2013

      I would like to second Stephen Fallon’s suggestion. The addition of intellectual history would also metonymically serve to remind us that Medical Humanities or Science and Technology and not just contemporary topics, but also pertain to the 18th and 19th centuries

      Comment by Tilottama Rajan on September 24th, 2013

      I would like to second Stephen Fallon’s suggestion. The addition of intellectual history would also metonymically serve to remind us that Medical Humanities or Science and Technology and not just contemporary topics, but also pertain to the 18th and 19th centuries

      Comment by Michael McKeon on September 24th, 2013

      Like everyone else and for the same reasons, I’m opposed to the proposed conflation of periods and to the radical reduction in the number of groups it would entail.

      Comment by Michael McKeon on September 24th, 2013

      By the logic of my opposition to the proposal of para. 82, I also oppose the proposal of para. 83.

      Comment by Kirk Belnap on September 24th, 2013

      This grouping is far too broad to be meaningful. A look back through sessions since 2004 reveals that precious few panels could be seen as “General Linguistics”–if any. It’s a nice thought to try and be inclusive, to cover all the ground. If that’s the goal, leave General Linguistics as its own category. Applied is also too broad to be meaningful, but would work as a category. Previous panels suggest that there could be viable groups that would fall under the following headings: Corpus Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, Lexicography.

      Comment by Michael Winship on September 25th, 2013

      I come late to this discussion, and I don’t understand just what is at stake in the proposed change or what it is intended to fix, but I hate to lose the traditional term “bibliography” to indicate one of the concerns of the MLA and its members.  Bibliography, as described by Don McKenzie in his inaugural Panizzi lecture, is the only discipline which has consistently studied the composition, formal design, and transmission of texts by writers, printers, and publishers; their distribution through different communities by wholesalers, retailers, and teachers; their collection and classification by librarians; their meaning for, and – I must add – their creative regeneration by, readers.  However we define it, no part of the series of human and institutional interactions is alien to bibliography as we have, traditionally, practised it.” This seems to me to cover the territory, specific and yet inclusive.
      Bibliography, broadly conceived, has been a central part of the MLA mission since its foundation 130 years ago and, with McKenzie, I think “Our own word, ‘Bibliography’, will do.”  Perhaps something like “Bibliography, Scholarly Editing, and Textual Scholarship” would be a better  name for the group if “Bibliography and Textual Studies” no longer appeals.

       

      Comment by Matthew Fraleigh on September 25th, 2013

      I think it is important to preserve the words/languages “Japanese” and “Korean” in the  framework as a whole. While I can see the potential for interesting conversations generated by a combined “Northeast Asian” rubric, I think the proposed “Comparative East Asian” group would be the natural place for these to flourish.

      Comment by Matthew Fraleigh on September 25th, 2013

      I agree with Christopher Lupke’s suggestion that “Comparative East Asian” would be better housed under the “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies” theme.

      Comment by Matthew Fraleigh on September 25th, 2013

      I am delighted to see the creation of three groups for Chinese literary and cultural studies. I share the concerns Christopher Lupke and others have voiced about the precise terminology for the three periods (especially for the first and third categories) but I think his recommendations for the names would be clear solutions. A separate issue that I think merits consideration, however, is the location of “Chinese” as a category separate from “Asian.” I think it makes more sense to locate these three Chinese Language, Literature, and Culture groups with the other groups now gathered by the “Asian” heading. Currently, the “Asian” heading encompasses West Asia, Japan, Korea, and South Asia while excluding China – which is a formulation of “Asia” that I think is unfamiliar to many Asianists. An “Asian” category encompassing all of Asia seems preferable to me – but if some sort of division of “Asian” is indeed necessary, perhaps an “East Asia” (China, Japan, Korea), “West Asia” and “South Asia” formulation would better reflect both literary/cultural history and how our sub-disciplines currently collaborate with one another.

      Comment by Jane Gallop on September 25th, 2013

      I very much agree with David.  Back in 1974, “theory” had not quite hit the MLA.  Now it is so everywhere, it’s invisible.  It would not do justice to what has happened to  our profession to allow these 40 years be a jump from “too early” to “too late” to inscribe the place of theory in the MLA.

      Most departments have a grad & an undergrad theory survey.  And theory is not “criticism.”

      And I agree with what Tilottama says below [excuse my mispositioning] that we need a place for those of us who study theory in and of itself, and not just apply it to literature and other cultural objects.  There are still a lot of us around, even if this trend is 30 years old.

      I’m not sure if this group belongs in the “genre” theme or the “transdisciplinary” theme, but it belongs on the map!

      Comment by Jane Gallop on September 25th, 2013

      I think the group should be called “Literary and Cultural Theory.”  It should be separate from Lit Crit (which should continue).  And I think it belongs under “transdisciplinary.

       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 25th, 2013

      I would love to hear others weigh in: do we need a Nonfiction Prose group?

      Comment by Benjamin Ridgway on September 26th, 2013

      I strongly agree with Matthew Fraleigh in his suggestion that “Chinese” be included in the category “Asian” (or better yet “East Asian”) along with “Japan” and “Korea.”  Here at the University of Illinois, every year EALC offers a “Masterpieces of East Asian Literature” gateway course to a large class made up primarily of first and second year students.  It makes good sense to teach these three literary traditions together given their common cultural roots and different adaptations of a set of core philosophies and texts.

      Beyond making good pedagogical and disciplinary sense, I think there is also the benefit of professional solidarity and (I hope) increased political clout in MLA by sticking together under an “East Asian” umbrella.  I agree with one of Christopher Lupke’s earlier comments that there is sometimes resentment among European language faculty at the expansion of Chinese curriculum and students at some institutions.  One way to counteract this somewhat irrational fear would be to stand together and advocate for each other.  By creating “Chinese” as an entirely independent category outside of “Asian” or even “East Asian” might we not be isolating ourselves and exposing ourselves to the sort of anti-China paranoia that unfortunately is current in academia today.  Lastly, I know that AAS may have a category for “Northeast Asia,” but it seems that there are stronger pedagogical and political arguments for standing with “Japan” and “Korea” under the “East Asia” heading.  That is my two cents.

      I too am glad to see the three sub-sections within the “Chinese” heading and support Christopher Lupke’s suggestion that “Modern and Contemporary Chinese” is a more encompassing and less problematic heading than “Republican and Communist.”

      Comment by Roland Greene on September 28th, 2013

      At next month’s meeting of the Executive Council, I would be glad to propose that we revise the American rubric to include regional groups.

      Comment by Michael Paul Bibler on September 28th, 2013

      I would very much welcome the proposal to revise the American rubric to include regional groups, but I would not like to see all regional literatures grouped under a non-specific “Regional” label. The Southern Literature label needs to be retained/restored under “LLC American.”

      Southern Literary Studies has remained a strong and vibrant group despite the institutional pressures mounted against it in English departments around the USA. Panels devoted to southern literature at MLA, SCMLA, SAMLA, and elsewhere draw good-sized audiences, and the biennial conference for SSSL has grown significantly since I first started attending in the mid-1990s. These panels and conferences also draw large numbers of graduate students interested in writing about southern literature and culture, both from North America and from Britain (where I taught for 7 years) and Europe, where there is widespread interest in the literature, history, and culture of the U.S. South.

      However, these same graduate students also face added challenges on the job market because of their interest in southern literature. In the last few years, almost every single job ad asking for a specialty or sub-specialty in southern literature has come from a university located in the South. On one level, this makes a certain amount of sense; but it is also symptomatic of the fact that, as many have noted above, southern literature continues to remain “invisible” to the larger study of U.S. American literature. It would seem that most non-southern English departments are not interested in thinking about how southern literature might form an important part of the American canon, if they even see southern literature at all. And a consequence of this invisibility is that many graduate students and recent PhD’s have had to go on the market ready to perjure themselves and swear that southern literature is only something like a hobby–that even though they may have written about southern literature in their dissertations, they are fully trained in the broader canon of American literature and won’t just be teaching I’ll Take My Stand in every class.

      Four years ago, after the publication of my book on queer sexualities in southern plantation literature, I found myself being asked at an MLA interview how I would convince the rest of the department and the dean that southern literature wasn’t just racist, white, Confederate men. I didn’t get a campus visit. I also know that many English departments, including ones with strong historical roots in southern literary studies, such as the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, actively discourage their graduate students (indeed, practically forbid them) from writing their whole dissertations on southern literature. This is clearly in the students’ interest, but I also think: why aren’t you also trying to convince your peer institutions that writing about southern literature is actually crucial to a better understanding of national [and global] literatures and cultures?

      These examples give a tiny glimpse of the institutional difficulties self-avowed southernists still face. And while we remain a vibrant and relatively cohesive group with successful conferences, high-calibre research, and an ever-growing body of new scholars, we are often still invisible to others. Eliminating Southern Literature from LLC American would only make us more invisible and exacerbate the preconception that southern literature is all racist, white, Confederate men; that southern literature doesn’t really contribute to American literature; and that the South isn’t even a part of the nation that is worth reading about. There is no way that the proposed restructuring would “minimize hierarchies and exclusions among fields, large and small.” In the case of southern literature, it would make those hierarchies and exclusions even worse.

      Michael P. Bibler

      Louisiana State University

       

      Comment by Michael Paul Bibler on September 28th, 2013

      I forgot to add that many of these young scholars may also find themselves having to weigh their interests in southern literature against the expectations for tenure in their departments and universities. Not cool.

      Comment by Barbara Ladd on September 28th, 2013

      Yes, that would be welcome. The silence of the restructuring committee in the face of the many comments on this issue on this page (here and under the “Whole Page” category at the top) is deafening.

      Comment by Joseph Fruscione on September 28th, 2013

      I agree with Lisa, Barbara, Coleman, Michael, and my other Southern studies colleagues above. I couldn’t agree more with what Amy notes above: “I want to emphasize again that this reconfiguration of the southern literature group into a new general category of regional literatures will make southern literary studies institutionally invisible within the MLA.”

      Southern literary studies has evolved tremendously, particularly in the last decade or so. Subsuming it under the more general CL&CS rubric would effectively mute a lot of the fine, innovative, and interdisciplinary work my colleagues above and elsewhere have done.

      Roland, yes please do propose revising the American rubric to include regional groups.

      -Joseph Fruscione, George Washington U, University Writing Program

      Comment by Stephen G. Nichols on September 28th, 2013

      This change makes sense. It keeps the area spread  while removing the “literature” delimitator. Recognizes the broader representational practices in these areas.

      Comment by Stephen G. Nichols on September 28th, 2013

      Since medieval studies are (or should be) comparative by definition, the shortened title makes sense.

      Comment by Stephen G. Nichols on September 28th, 2013

      This makes good sense. Chaucer is a major part of Middle English. Why separate him from the rest?

      Comment by Stephen G. Nichols on September 28th, 2013

      Might it not be possible to combine Old and Middle English in one group? Is it a good idea to isolating what has become a dangerously marginalized discipline? Wouldn’t a combined group reinforce the continuoity of English — even the drama of the pre- and post-conquest linguistic evolution, while also providing safety in numbers for the OE group?

      Comment by Stephen G. Nichols on September 28th, 2013

      It’s really heartening to see the MLA leadership tackling a difficult and thankless task like trying to make  Association structures and categories reflect the critical, theoretical, and historical work that we actually do.  The committee has made a start, and that’s huge. It’s the effort to get an organization to begin to change that requires courage, vision, and faith. The committee has demonstrated all three. They don’t claim to have “gotten it right,” but only to have begun the process. It’s up to the members to work through the details.  But It’s important to recognize the context of the profession and status of the humanities in general to which this laudable effort responds. An association that does not reflect what it’s members actually do, but rather clings to fragmented categories from an earlier moment does a disservice to the profession. We can all benefit from rethinking the areas and descriptions that we work in. We do it when we devise new courses, so why not with the MLA divisions and categories.  Anxiety of irrelevance or effacement is real, but the way to overcome it is to rethink and renew. Resistance to change is a missed opportunity to really show the resilience and excitement of one’s discipline. Let’s get behind the effort of Professors Hirsh, Ferguson and their committee and help make this a positive experience for the MLA.

      Comment by Elizabeth F. Abel on September 28th, 2013

      This category seems a little vague and old-fashioned to me, especially since several of the “other arts” have been granted their separate designations now. One art form that (with the exception of “Opera”) is missing from the list is music, or more generally, the arts of sound, which is a growing field that has generated quite a lot of contemporary interest (from museums as well as literary critics). I would suggest eliminating the category of “Literature and Other Arts” and replacing it in the following ways: 1) Change the category currently designated “Cinema and the Moving Image” to something like “Visual Cultures or Media” in order to include still images (photography, illustration, painting, sculpture, maybe even architecture); 2) Create a new category on “The Arts of Sound” or “Soundscapes” (or some other designation) that would specify auditory art forms; 3) Create another category on “Performance” or “Theater and Performance” to include the dramatic arts.

      Comment by Elizabeth F. Abel on September 28th, 2013

      Just a revision to my own comment: I see that there’s already a category for “Drama and Performance.” Sorry!

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on September 28th, 2013

      Thanks to those who have suggested a separate group on Theory. The working group had certainly considered this and will appreciate your input. I hope you will volunteer to conceptualize such a group when the time comes.

      Comment by Karen Thornber on September 28th, 2013

      I agree with Chris Lupke and Matthew Fraleigh – Comparative East Asia should not be isolated in this way.  Also, and even more importantly, Japanese, Korean, South Asian, West Asian, etc. should not all be clustered together under “Asian,” when Hungarian, Irish, Nordic, Occitan, Romanian, Scottish, etc. have their own headings.  Why not separate headings for Japanese, Korean, South Asian etc.?  Particularly since South Asia houses about a quarter of the world’s population and has millennia of cultural production.

      Comment by Andreas A. Huyssen on September 29th, 2013

      Doesn’t the designator German refer to language rather than to national identity? The differences between Austrian, Swiss, German ( incl. East and West German) literature and culture will be marked differently depending on methodologies and approaches. But most people in a field that is now heavily contextual and historical do acknowledge such differences anyway. Who is the enemy here? The term germanophone strikes me as inappropriate since it conjures up colonial contexts. The problem of properly acknowledging language and cultural differences between Austrian, Swiss, German, or Turkish, Russian, Kroatian, Rumanian authors/artists/filmmakers,  who use the German language doesn’t get solved by imitating practices in fields like French, English, or Dutch. The colonial legacies of Germany will not become any clearer by this name change.

      Here are a couple of comments from conversations with colleagues, both from “German” and other fields:

      “postcolonial envy” / “grosser Quatsch” / “too late to be colonial” /”laughable”/”is this a joke?” / “who will be our colonial subjects apart from the Austrians as first victims of Hitler?”/”misguided”

       

      Comment by Russell A. Berman on September 29th, 2013

      Yes, this part is very encouraging.  Thanks for your hard work over the years trying to get the association to move in this direction.

      Comment by Russell A. Berman on September 29th, 2013

      Of course the MLA should have room for the study of Austrian and Swiss authors, but I’m apprehensive about the term “Germanophone,” just as I worry about the impact of segregating the various strands of German-language literature:   Shouldn’t we be able to talk about Keller and Fontane in the same session? Or Mann and Musil?   In some sense, though, I don’t think the problem is ours (i.e. the scholars in these specific literary traditions) but in the inescapable ambiguity of the terminology for all of the groupings, existing and proposed. [And here’s as good a point as any for me to give a round of applause to the MLA and the committee for tackling this and coming up with such an intelligent new mapping.]  The proposed Arabic sessions pretty clearly refer to the language (classical/modern), but the “French” in the French sessions is as much geographical as it is linguistic, since the final category there, “francophone,” presumably refers to literature in French outside of the hexagon. (Does the inclusion of the Genevan Rousseau in 18th century “French” offend anyone? What about the Belgian Maeterlinck?) I understand how the term “Francophone” has come into currency; I’m less familiar with the implications of “Lusophone” or “Dutchophone.” Maybe those terms make sense in those fields. Opting for a neologism in German seems to me to be a stretch.  At the university of Vienna, one still studies at the Institut fuer Germanistik, and in Zuerich at the Deutsches Seminar: neither opts for the national name.  In both cases, the reference is clearly to the language and the literature in that language. The terminological problem (for or against “Germanophone”)  though is separate from the question of making space for scholarly communities within the new structure. One possibility would be to add a fifth “German” group for “German literature outside of Germany”. This would be analogous to the standing of ‘Francophone” or “Anglophone other than British or American.” Another possibility would be for the advocates of Austrian or Swiss to form into the three-year groupings built into the proposal. In either case, though, I’d worry about the segregation effect discussed above.

      Comment by Roland Greene on September 30th, 2013

      I would prefer to keep three divisions. In my view the MLA division (or group) structure shouldn’t follow the trends of the job market but should maintain the specificity of these fields as we currently construct them.

       

      Comment by Katherine Arens on September 30th, 2013

      Germanophone is a decade plus old;  it is being widely used, especially in the younger generations. What we are arguing for is the necessity for any session that does include Keller and Musil at least consider the need to differentiate their cultural contexts, if that (rather than, say, poetics) suited the topic.  Overall, this is being done rarely, if at all.  The main issue is that there HAS been no center for German culture, ever, only CENTERS in the plural — it is not a centralized cultural sphere in the way that France and Britain had for a while at least.  And yes, the inclusion of the Genevan Rousseau under “French” should be questioned, even if it is not obviously questionable, given how much of his work was done in France.  To not even entertain that question now and then is precisely the kind of cultural imperialism I am referring to.  “German literature outside of Germany” creates a ghetto, and conceptually WOULD ban Kafka in the same session with Mann — and would leave the 20th century “German” literature with many fewer names to discuss.  Germanophone literatures (in the plural) are structured differently than French and English because the political and cultural histories are.

      Comment by Katherine Arens on September 30th, 2013

      Germany may not be colonial, but “German” literary history is, and has been since its nationalist origins.  See Wellbery’s Harvard history, which scarcely mentions national origins or social differentiations.  The 20th century volume of a standard Austrian literary history (ed. Zeman) is titled “Geschichte der Literatur IN Österreich” (capitalization mind).   Your list of authors writing in German makes the point.  I’m talking here about PRESENT intellectual colonialsim that has now taken the GDR into its custody and mild embraces as well.

      Comment by Deborah H. Holdstein on September 30th, 2013

      First, I strongly urge the MLA to take seriously the suggestions of the Executive Committee of the Division on the Teaching of Writing, reiterated in his post of 9/19.

      Second: As a current member of the MLA Publications Committee, I am also working with the excellent people on the staff of the Scholarly Communications /MLA book publications area to attract (and, one hopes, publish) more rhet-comp work.  Bravo to Schilb, Prendergast, and our other colleagues here.

      Comment by Deborah H. Holdstein on September 30th, 2013

      Sorry:  Make that “reiterated in John Schilb’s post of 9/19.”

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on October 2nd, 2013

      The idea was to form an expansive group to look at regionalism as a literary category and a category of literary study. Southern US literature offers a rich template for such a categorization but there are many other regions with similarly robust work and we invite others who take regional approaches to weigh in here about the promise of such a category.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on October 2nd, 2013

      Thank you for this fruitful discussion. The working group will revisit these categories with your suggestions in mind.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on October 2nd, 2013

      Matthew is right that the super-headings are merely organizational but inasmuch as they help us read the map of the association’s scholarly organization, they are important and thus I appreciate all of these suggestions which are sure to be helpful in the next stages of revision.

      Comment by Donald F. Larsson on October 3rd, 2013

      Considering that the Society for Cinema Studies changed its name to Society for Cinema and  Media Studies some years ago, I’m not sure why the categories of Cinema and the Moving Image and Media Studies are separated here.  Cinema has long ha complex relationships with other media, including radio.  As the notion of “media” has been substantially broadened in the last couple of decades, and as the nature of “cinema” has become increasingly diffuse through the proliferation of media (including digital) platforms for production, distribution and dissemination, the separation of “cinema” and “media” seems increasingly artificial.

      Comment by Donald F. Larsson on October 3rd, 2013

      Please see my comment under paragraph 38.

      Comment by Donald F. Larsson on October 3rd, 2013

      South Asian film has a long history of its own, particularly in India, but other nations and regions also have long histories that deserve (and have received) serious scholarly and critical consideration (East Asia, Latin America, Egypt, etc.).  Taken with the separation of Cinema and the Moving Image from Media Studies above, the consideration of cinema and other media in MLA, whether aligned regionally or not, seems fragmented.  Perhaps MLA should consider how its interests in these areas align with or are distinct from the  interests of related organizations, such as the Society for Cinema & Media Studies.  See the  list of SCMS Interest Groups at
      http://www.cmstudies.org/?page=scholar_interst_gr for comaprison.

      Comment by Donald F. Larsson on October 3rd, 2013

      Or would such papers be subsumed under Cinema and the Moving Image (or even Media Studies) above?  As with my concerns about isolating South Asian film as a separate category (allowing that that category includes “New Media and Popular Culture”), I worry that cinema (and related media) are being approached in a very fragmentary way.

      Comment by Barbara Ladd on October 3rd, 2013

      If the “Regional” category appeared under American LLC, that would be a different argument. Right now it appears under CLCS, which implies a category meant to encompass regionalisms around the globe. This is certainly an interesting category (and I, for one, wouldn’t mind hearing a paper on Ellen Glasgow and one on Thomas Hardy in the same session), but the conceptualization does marginalize U.S. literary regionalisms as a vibrant focus of study within American literature and culture.

      Some comments on this thread are coming from the perspective that “southern literature” is not primarily a regional category (Kreyling, Bibler). That is also a viable position–it is not a position I personally hold but I do recognize that there is a strong case to be made that “Southern” should remain a distinct subcategory within the American LLC grouping.

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on October 3rd, 2013

      From the FAQs: “As in the present structure, groups will normally have either one or two guaranteed sessions and will be able to compete for more. Please note that groups will retain all their guaranteed sessions during the transition period, even if they consolidate with other groups.”

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on October 3rd, 2013

      From the FAQs: “As in the present structure, groups will normally have either one or two guaranteed sessions and will be able to compete for more. Please note that groups will retain all their guaranteed sessions during the transition period, even if they consolidate with other groups.”

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on October 3rd, 2013

      From the FAQs: “As in the present structure, groups will normally have either one or two guaranteed sessions and will be able to compete for more. Please note that groups will retain all their guaranteed sessions during the transition period, even if they consolidate with other groups.”

      Comment by Timothy Sweet on October 3rd, 2013

      Does this reorganization have any bearing on the MLA’s relationship to its Allied Organizations?  Will each Allied Organization still get one guaranteed panel?

      Comment by Alexander Beecroft on October 3rd, 2013

      I agree with Christopher Lupke. In my experience, when scholars talk about “Early Modern China,” they often mean the Ming, or at least include the Ming within their definition, so the proposed titles create confusion.

      Comment by Alexander Beecroft on October 3rd, 2013

      I agree that “Modern and Contemporary” is much better than “Republican and Communist”, both because of the arguments of inclusivity suggested by Alex Huang, and because “Republican and Communist” may have unwarranted implications for the political sympathies of individual writers. I’d support Alex Huang’s suggestion of a Sinophone group, but if there is a need to keep the number of Chinese groups to three, “Modern and Contemporary Chinese” at least suggests a space where Sinophone cultural production would be a natural subject of discussion.

      Comment by Miriam L. Wallace on October 3rd, 2013

      I wonder whether it’s possible to have a ‘vote up’ option on some comments? In some cases, rather than adding more text, I’d like simply to signal support for another’s comment or suggestion.

      First, I just want to say this is a brave and thoughtful effort to rethink a structure many have been unhappy with for a long time and to re-energize the MLA’s enormous conference. Overall there are many things to like about this–and some areas of concern, esp. as others have noted in cases where “or” suggests two options are being floated–one that retains 2 groupings, and 1 that combines them. Some combinations could be fruitful, encouraging more cross-talk, but on the other hand, these same combinations might also produce kinds of competition for space that might make cross-talk less likely or press for strained connections and complicated audiences. Some of the period designations seem particularly troubling here as others have noted (objections to the Long 18th-C is the one I know best).  Despite requests to think beyond nos. of sessions, sessions are of course a major part of the MLA’s currency–so the topic won’t go away.

      Many of the new groups in particular are suggestive, flexible, and/or much needed updates reflecting the changing fields within the MLA. I was interested by the various panels on these issues at the last MLA, and it’s good to see some of it coming together.

      Comment by Elizabeth Kraft on October 3rd, 2013

      I wish to add my voice and  name to those of my colleagues who have expressed alarm and distress over the proposed change. The two sessions encourage appropriate and distinct foci. To collapse them into one session, whether entitled “The Long Eighteenth Century” or “Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Literature and Late Eighteenth-Century Literature” is to suggest that the distinctions between these groups do not exist or are not important–when, in fact, they do exist and are crucial to an understanding, not only of our field, but of the pattern and shape of literary history and discourse as a whole.

      Comment by Elizabeth Kraft on October 3rd, 2013

      Ditto to Michael McKeon’s comment above.

      Comment by Mary Agnes Edsall on October 3rd, 2013

      One source that might be useful in defining this group is Astrid Erll’s fairly recent survey of the field: Memory in Culture (Palgrave Macmillan 2011).  In her afterword, she calls it a “true convergence field” (175).  In includes in it subfields such as trauma studies, national remembrance, and commemoration studies (172-73).  She points out that “sociology, philosophy and history, archaeology and religious studies, literary and art history, media studies, psychology and the neurosciences are all involved in exploring the connection between culture and memory” (2).  She proposes that one possible preliminary definition of “memory” (as the subject of the field) is to see it as an “umbrella term for all those processes of a biological, medial, or social nature which relate past and present (and future) in sociological contexts” (7).  So, the field would seem to be able to include topics such as emotion and affect (which are intrinsic to memory processes) and the brain/neuro-psychology.

       

       

      Comment by Cristina Bacchilega on October 3rd, 2013

      VERY glad to see this!

      Comment by Alan J. Bewell on October 3rd, 2013

      The Modern ******** Association executive seems intent upon avoiding using problematic words like “language” or “literature.”  It also has a clear bias against historical periods and national literatures (voiced by Marianne Hirsch in her introduction to the conversation).  I understand, therefore, why the original name had to be changed.  However, I do not see how “Romantic,” as a focus of this group, really constitutes a useful correction, since it is a horribly vague term and, as an adjective, I assume we are supposed to secretly add the erased referent to which it refers.  Do you really want us to be saying that we are attending the “Romantic” session?

      Comment by Giovanna Covi on October 3rd, 2013

      It has been frustrating in the past years to see a blank for Caribbean Studies in the MLA divisions list, as if this crucial perspective on literature and culture at large was just a fad gone after a couple of decades of glamour: welcome back! Let us keep it critically lively and challenging, multilingual and open to the Caribbean diasporas as well.

      Comment by Alan J. Bewell on October 3rd, 2013

      I agree with the concerns expressed by many of our members about what appears to be a goal of reducing the number of sessions devoted to traditional English literary and language studies at the MLA Convention.  My primary concern with these changes has nothing to do with interdisciplinarity or global interests, which I would think I am as interested in as anyone.  I do, however, feel that as the MLA Convention provides less space for innovative work in British studies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it is making itself less relevant to me and to a large number of members who work in these areas.  Has the MLA Executive given much thought to the impact that the steady erosion of representation in English studies will have upon Convention attendance?  Shouldn’t you be attempting to attract as many members as you can? Ignoring the intellectual needs of a fairly significant part of your membership strikes me as being very risky for the overall long-term health of the organization.

      Comment by Cilas Kemedjio on October 3rd, 2013

      I really have a hard time understanding how Southern African can suddenly emerge as a field of study that is so different from African Studies that it deserved a whole designation at the MLA. Where does Southern African Studies begin and where does it end? Is the MLA going to follow the political map of what is generally refer to as Southern African? In that case, the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be a candidate? There ought to be a clearly articulated intellectual and may I say, epistemologic rationale for establishing new divisions. In this case, I do not see any. I’m therefore left to conjecture and speculate about the motives behind the irruption of this new field. The MLA should follow the lead of the two major associations dedicated to the study of Africa in North America: the African Literature Association and the African Studies Association. I would also add the Canadian Association of African Studies. These professional academic associations do not discriminate between Sub-Saharan and Southern African. So should the MLA. I strongly called on the Committee in charge of drafting this new map to review its copy and affirm the vibrancy of the study of Africa without introducing artificial divisions. I would remind the MLA that Southern Africa, thanks to the apartheid regime, became a rallying point for African activism from the establishing of the African Union (then the Organization of African Unity) until the defeat of the racist regime in the early 1990s. South African President Thabo Mbeki made a powerful speech stating that “I am African”. And Nelson Mandela made a point of attending, while in office, all the meetings of the African Union. Mbeki did not claim that he was South African, for he knew very well that Southern Africa (including the front line countries that help defeat apartheid) were African. It is high time that the MLA register the expressive and creative cultures of Africa in their richness, but with the awareness of these common bonds. I strongly register my opposition to this proposal and call on the MLA to reconsider its draft. cilas kemedjio

      Comment by Cristina Bacchilega on October 3rd, 2013

      not sure what the conversation leading up to this change was, but the change takes us to a VERY broad category, that includes material culture. So I am seeking clarification concerning what this change is aimed at achieving.

      I also propose a couple of other categories that are NOT meant to replace “FOLKLORE or FOLKLORE and LITERATURE.

      Folktale & Fairy-tale Studies

      this is where a lot of interdisciplinary scholarship is focused now & across media as well as literatures in various languages; journals and courses are also contributing to institutionalizing the field.

      There has also been some talk of more cooperation btw the Folklore & Literature group and the Children’s and YA Literature group.

      thanks,

      Comment by Judy Bertonazzi on October 3rd, 2013

      Indigenous Studies is listed under “Transdisciplinary Connections” in the proposal. I also agree, and have been advised, that American Indian is widely preferred over Native American, though both are problematic. The problem with indigenous being added to American Indian in this category is that indigenous is a global term, even thought it can refer to regional and national communities. This would explain why the MLA listed indigenous studies under “Transdisciplinary Connections” rather than Amercian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

      Comment by Christopher E. Larkosh on October 3rd, 2013

      Would this group allow for studies in Afrikaans literature, as well as in Dutch and other Creole languages such as Papiamento and Sranan Tongo? How about Frisian? If so, the term Dutchophone seems limited as it would not necessarily include these linguistic groupings.  A group for the 21st century would at th very least allow for the written and oral literature from Namibia and South Africa produced in Afrikaans.

      Comment by Christopher E. Larkosh on October 3rd, 2013

      I am all in favor of Galician having its own group, but what about Basque, to say nothing of Portuguese, that has to share a group with either Spain or Brazil? The redistribution of groupings currently seems a bit uneven.

      Comment by Philip Otto Gericke on October 3rd, 2013

      I was among those who thoght the “Iberian” designation was more inclusive–until I read some of the previous comments both here and to the porposed 20th- and 21st -Century Iberian group. I now think the designation may be so inclusive as to be meaningless, as well as offensive to those who (for whatever reason) equate it with “Castilian.”

      On the matter of groupings by century, we could still hold out for “medieval” without giving a terminus ad quem and leave it to ourselves to decide any issues of inclusion as they arise. All such groupings are by their nature arbitrary, and Frank Dominguez’ suggestions make great sense, but I’d go with Linde Brocato’s point that the 1500 date is consistent with the Library of Congress.

      I also see that we (like all groups) are guaranteed only one session and may compete for others. I don’t think we stand to gain in this arrangement.

      Philip Gericke

      Comment by Anna Faktorovich on October 3rd, 2013

      I am running to be elected into this group in a few days, so the change in its names feels especially troubling to me. It would be great if the group developed into a division during my 6-year term, if I win. But the proposed name changes suggest a total re-direction. I applied to join the group because the name suggested a study of Bibliographies and Textual scholarship. I am completing a 3-year MLA Bibliography fellowship and I’ve published 2 scholarly books with bibliographies for McFarland – so I am an expert in the first word on the list. The second term referred to textual studies, which as a generalist I do regularly as I examine various types of texts. The new suggested titles are complete re-directions. The first idea, “Library and Archival Studies,” suggests that it will be a group for librarians who are developing special collection archives for their libraries. This limits the pool of people who might attend the group’s meetings or who could actively participate in it to around 100 special archive librarians around the US, most of whom are not members of the MLA. The second idea, “Print, Digital and Information Culture,” implies that the group will now be studying the culture of how information is processed. The term seems to step from the title of the Center for Print and Digital Culture at the University of Wisconsin, which describes its mission as, “We encourage scholarly work on the authorship, reading, publication and distribution of print–and now digital–materials, produced by those at both the center and the periphery of power.” Does this suggest that this group will study the publishing process by independent and corporate as well as digital and print publishers? While I run a publishing company, Anaphora Literary Press, and this still fits my areas of expertise, everybody who is currently a member of this discussion group is likely to be displaced out of their area of expertise.  In addition, if this group focuses on print and digital publishing – there will be no group in the MLA that focuses on textual scholarship, something that in theory all MLA members should be doing at some point in their careers, even if only when they complete their graduate degree(s). The MLA offers a bibliography fellowship, and maintains one of the top bibliography system – the MLA style of bibliographies – how can it delete from its list of groups the one group with “bibliography” in its title? Also, some texts are books, as not all texts are “archival.” The fact is that the group’s name should be left as-is without either of these changes. Bibliography refers to the MLA Bibliography, and the term “textual” includes print, digital, archival and all other possible types of texts that might be invented in the next decades. I’d be happy to join the group regardless of the name, but I would prefer if the name reflected the goals of the group so that we would receive session proposers won’t be misled. I hope this reply will help MLA make their final decision. Sincerely, Anna Faktorovich, PhD , Director, Anaphora Literary Press, http://anaphoraliterary.com, director@anaphoraliterary.com

      Comment by Christopher E. Larkosh on October 3rd, 2013

      Are you really suggesting that Latina/latino and Chicano have as little in common as Italian American and Jewish American literatures? While I support decisions for ethnic groups to organize themselves as they wish, I really don’t think this is an appropriate or convincing analogy, as the linguistic, cultural and literary overlap is obviously much less evident in the latter case.

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on October 3rd, 2013

      From the FAQs: “The proposed new structure applies only to divisions and discussion groups. Although allied organizations sponsor sessions at the MLA convention, they are independent of the association and have their own governance structure”

      Comment by Judith Sierra-Rivera on October 3rd, 2013

      This is a great opportunity to continue our discussions across the Caribbean, taking into consideration its Diasporas and going beyond the divisions based on language and/or sub-regions. Nevertheless, we have to make sure that this group establishes an active dialogue with other related groups, for example, the Puerto Rican, Cuban and Cuban Diasporic, and Latina and Latino groups, among many others.

      Comment by Judith Sierra-Rivera on October 3rd, 2013

      Finally!!!

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 3rd, 2013

      As a former member and chair of this division, and co-chair of the CLPC and a current member of a department that is called “Asian/ Asian American Studies” I cannot speak strongly enough against the conflation of this category within MLA. The Asian American literary division has been extremely important to the legitimacy of our field and in emphasizing our differences to a cold-war genealogy. In an era when departments and programs are being retrenched, I am reminded again of why we need to focus on the salience of “American” not to argue for an exceptionalism but because diasporic can theoretically encompass Asian Australian/ Fijian and other forms of minor transnationalisms that efface the specificities of the field Asian American. Like Paul, I am not against Transnational Asian American but Asian American and Asian diasporic is not something that explains our field even slightly.  Perhaps an Asian diasporic field is better suited in the comparative field. There is certainly room for it and it will be much more salient in that space than in being conflated with our category.

      Comment by Richard T. Rodríguez on October 3rd, 2013

      Chicana/o is not a “subset” of Latina/o and anyone knowledgable of the field of Latina/o studies knows that adopting the latter term is never at the expense of (or aiming to subsume) the former. The long-standing presence of Chicana/o literature in the MLA should not be erased, and it requires recognition as a body of literature with strong linkages to other Latina/o literatures while distinguished by its geographical, cultural, and historical specificities.

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 3rd, 2013

      I’m curious why Queer Studies is not included as a group?

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 3rd, 2013

      This is a great addition!

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 3rd, 2013

      This is a really important and important innovation. I’m glad it is being included.

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 3rd, 2013

      Thank you for recognizing that the Pacific world has a long and important literary tradition that has to be brought into the conversation at MLA in a systematic way.

       

      Comment by Chris Palmer on October 3rd, 2013

      Very happy to see that Language Change has been preserved as a distinct group. It’s the only one that emphasizes diachronic language issues (except for perhaps the philology group) alongside contemporary language change.  And importantly, it provides a venue for studies of language change among different languages and language families within the same group.

      Comment by Chris Palmer on October 3rd, 2013

      I too think the current category label may be too broad.  Would it make more sense to simply label this “Applied Linguistics,” and ask the group to clarify what “Applied” covers at a later date?  That allows for some flexibility without the initial designation seeming so broad.

      To me it seems that “General” is already covered by the other listed groups, especially if you have theory listed alongside historical approaches (Change), sociolinguistic approaches (Society), major European languages, Global English, and multilingualism/heritage languages.

      Comment by Chris Palmer on October 3rd, 2013

      I think this is a great group label (assuming, as others have suggested, that it covers “World Englishes.”) It’s a very hot area right now in current linguistic scholarship.

      Comment by Sean H. McDowell on October 3rd, 2013

      While I can see the merits of all the points raised so far, I agree most strongly with Stephen, Hannibal, and David:  it would be much better to make sure we don’t lose sessions because of a name change.  “16th-Century British” and “17th-Century British,” while not idea in some senses, are nonetheless fairly neutral with regard to other complex issues, including the connotations of both “Renaissance” and “Early Modern.”

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 3rd, 2013

      I’m sure Timothy Yu, the current chair will weigh in on this in any second, but…the name change WAS NOT approved by anyone currently on the executive committee of the division of Asian American Literature. I believe the committee was not even consulted.

      Comment by Geffrey Davis on October 3rd, 2013

      There’s been some pretty brilliant work on Adaptation recently (some of which includes cultural analyses that fall outside the scope of Drama and Performance), and so I’m wondering if Adaptation might warrant its own emergent field under Genre and Media Studies (“Adaptation Studies”)?

      Comment by Timothy Yu on October 3rd, 2013

      As the current chair of the division executive committee for Asian American Literature, I can confirm that our executive committee was not consulted on this name change and that we did not approve this change. It should therefore be considered a proposed name change (blue letters) rather than an approved change. I encourage all MLA members with an interest in Asian American literature to express their views on this proposed change.

      Comment by Caroline Elizabeth Webb on October 4th, 2013

      As a British specialist I was at first concerned at the suggestion of a group merge, but this period is one of high transatlantic mobility.  The move to Transatlantic would help deal with the many emigres and their influences while avoiding duplication (e.g. studies of T.S. Eliot).

      Comment by Caroline Elizabeth Webb on October 4th, 2013

      This brings the group into conformity with common practice in this field.

      Comment by Fern Kory on October 4th, 2013

      The term “youth literature” would keep this from becoming a list of the age-level markets within this category.

      Comment by Fern Kory on October 4th, 2013

      Would Writing Center studies fit here?

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 4th, 2013

      I would agree with Richard Rodriguez above that Chicana/o is not a subset of Latina/o lit. Without re-stating what Rodriguez has said, the new configurations within the MLA, would I hope, contribute to the growth of the fields and recognized trajectories that distinguish Latino/a and Chicano/a rather than conflating them without regard to how practicioners in the fields have defined the field.  And ultimately, no Chicano/a is not a subset of Latin/o–completely different histories, methodologies, canons, and texts.

      Comment by Cynthia Scheinberg on October 4th, 2013

      I am replying to Angela because I too can’t figure out where to comment on the whole document/concept. Short version: I think this new group structure is useful, provides some long overdue updating of our categories, and it looks carefully thought through. I am not sure I understand why some categories have a blue and green option, but I’ll go back to the introductory materials. Thanks to all for their work on this!

       

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on October 4th, 2013

      Simon, as a thought experiment: Would you and other 18th century British colleagues consider a title such as “Restoration and Eighteenth Century Literature” for an amalgamated group?  From what we’ve read so far, the option of amalgamating is unanimously despised by specialists in 18th century English fields,  and that’s been an important, indeed remarkable, communication to the Working Group.   Names, however,  are hugely important and our initial suggestions for name changes can be, and already have been, improved upon.

      I’d also like to remind readers of these posts that all MLA divisions currently have TWO guaranteed sessions. So the 18th century and Restoration in England currently has four guaranteed sessions.  For some updated thoughts about the several factors that will figure in the Program Committee’s decisions about the allocation of sessions to groups coming up for their regular five- year reviews henceforth, please see the note to MLA members that Marianne and I posted today.  We have learned a great deal from reading your comments, and are eager to hear from members who haven’t yet participated; we also welcome more thoughts from those of you who’ve already posted on this site.

      Comment by Martin Joel Gliserman on October 4th, 2013

      I think that this rubric is too narrow, too constraining. The psychological and increasingly the neurological as well as the psychoanalytic help us appreciate the various relationships involved in literary texts and relationships with them.  SO: in #161, it isn’t “Phenomenology and Literature”, it’s the broader category of Philosophy. I am a psychoanalyst and certainly like to see the word, but at the least, I hope you go for Psychology, Neurology and Psychoanalysis.  Can’t ignore Neurology in the 21st century.  Thanks

      Comment by Christopher M. Lupke on October 4th, 2013

      I’ve been reading through the comments subsequent to my earlier ones, and they are all good. So, one issue is how to house our various new groups. I think we’ve seen consensus from the Asianists that the Comparative East Asian should be under the Comparative rubric. Also, I’m sensing that people feel “Asian” is too broad, even as an overall rubric. Since that’s about half (or more) of the world’s population, I think it makes sense that we break down that overall category a little further. As Matthew and Benjamin have astutely noted, we should not cut China off from other East Asian entities, such as Japan and Korea. Rather, we should group all those together under one larger rubric called “East Asian.” South Asian and West Asian do not fit with us. Some people might engage in comparative studies of these places, but very very few.

      So, what we could have is an “East Asian” rubric under which the Japanese, Korean, and the 3 Chinese groups are housed. Then, we could move the Comparative East Asian to the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies rubric.

      Comment by Sharon A. Kinoshita on October 4th, 2013

      As someone who for several years now has been publishing on the Mediterranean (including in PMLA) and organizing multiple interdisciplinary collaborative projects in Mediterranean Studies, I applaud this inclusion of the Mediterranean (which was rejected by the MLA a few years ago). However, I have some concerns, including Margie Ferguson’s clarification that this group would “join with” the Division of European Literary Relations. For me, the raison d’être for a category like “Mediterranean” is to bring certain European literatures (western AND eastern) into conversation with North African and West Asian lits. This raises a chicken-egg question: since the MLA is not necessarily the default organization for specialists in those non-western European traditions, the implementation of “Mediterranean” risks being reduced to “representations of the Mediterranean” in the same old lits–inevitable, perhaps, but also a stage that risks alienating scholars of the very literary traditions we would like to attract.

      Comment by Jerry W. Ward, Jr. on October 4th, 2013

      I object vehemently to changing the Division of Black American Literature and Culture into the Division of African American and African Diaspora Literature.  While the wording “Black American” does have problematic dimensions, most of us understand it to refer an ethnic identity and complex set of cultural expressions forged within the United States of America; the historical ontology of Black Amerian literature is sufficiently distinct from African-descended literatures in other parts of the Americas, so that conflation with  African Brazilian literature is an open invitation to maximum confusion in scholarship and literary critical analysis. The murky logic behind the proposed change warrents a shift of American Literature to 1800 into a mega-division of post-colonial literature in English. The proposed change is grounded in embrace of “ahistoricity” under the pressures of the “historicity” hinted at but not overtly named in Professor Mark A. Reid’s comment.  It would be a blatant act of bad faith and amnesia for me to support the proposed change.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      I heartily endorse the creation of a Caribbean group that can serve as a space for the discussion of literature, culture, and language from the broadly-defined Caribbean (English, Spanish, French, Kreyol, Dutch/Papiamentu, Portuguese, and others). This group will be a space of dialogue akin to that fostered by other professional associations such as the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA). The group can choose to have comparative panels or focus on specific topics, languages, islands, or regions (the Caribbean coast of Central and South America, for example). It also corresponds to longstanding and new publishing efforts (for example, the new series on Critical Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University Press, coedited by Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, and Michelle Stephens). I see great potential for this group.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      A Hemispheric American group will be very useful for those interested in comparative work across the Americas, a very developed field in terms of US and Latin America and the Caribbean and for the US and Brazil. It can serve for multiple constituencies and fields, for example: indigenous studies, Afrodiasporic studies, migration studies, and performance studies.  It can also foster other connections, such as with Canadian studies. Precedents include the work of organizations such as the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. I support the creation of this group.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      A Latina and Latino group is desperately needed in the MLA. Organizational challenges have gotten in the way of establishing one before, but numerous formal and informal meetings have been had on this topic, petitions have been circulated, and signatures have been collected. Latina and Latino literature and culture and Latina/o studies are a growing field with numerous publications and employment possibilities. The current configuration of the MLA’s divisions and discussion groups does not foster comparative pan-Latina/o work, in spite of the fact that many of us teach Latina/o courses and publish in this field. This group does not duplicate the Chicana and Chicano group, which focuses on Mexican-American experience.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      The Puerto Rican group has an important history at the MLA (since the 1970s/80s) as a Discussion Group on Puerto Rican literature and culture. It was established by pioneering activist scholars and has gone through periods of higher and lower participation, but over the last ten years many of us have worked tirelessly to maintain it as a dynamic and intellectually vibrant space. Numerous early and mid-career scholars are extremely involved in it at the present moment. The group has served as a space for exchanges between those who focus on Spanish-language literature and culture from the island, English- and Spanglish-literature and culture from the continental US, and all types of mixes in between. Papers are commonly presented in a variety of languages (English, Spanish) with scholars from diverse language traditions. The MLA should maintain its commitment to this underrepresented field that explores the situation of a colonial minority in the US.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      I was actively involved in the creation of the Cuban and Cuban Diasporic Discussion Group and support its maintenance as a group. The group has served to bring together people who work on Cuba (mostly in Spanish) with those who do work on Cuban diasporas in Spain, Latin America and the US (in English and Spanish). The group is well attended, and has a dynamic and committed membership.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      The Mexican group is a recent addition at the MLA. Mexican-American (Chicana and Chicano) has been well established as a Division (initially a Discussion Group) for many years. People felt there was a need for a space to have Mexico-specific panels. The Puerto Rican group in fact does work as a “Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican Diaspora” group even if it is not indicated in its title, that is its history and it is reflected in the sessions we organize at the MLA convention. (It is similar to what happens at the Puerto Rican Studies Association or PRSA, which brings both together). NACCS (National Association of Chicana/Chicano Studies) does not serve equally as a space for Mexican discussion (but perhaps I am wrong on that).

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      Sexuality Studies is the new name of Gay Studies in Language and Literature. I believe it encompasses but is not limited to Queer Studies. I do not know the history of how this change came about in the MLA, but at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) our Lesbian and Gay Studies Section opted to become a Sexualities Studies Section after extensive debate, particularly regarding matters of inclusiveness in terms of identities, academic interests and diverse methodologies. The MLA does have an allied organization, the GL/Q Caucus, which has an annual panel and a cash bar. This allied organization is explicitly focused on LGBT/queer studies and is linked to the scholarly journal GL/Q (Duke University Press).

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      I strongly support the maintenance of a Sexualities Studies group that can serve as an inter- or transdisciplinary space for LGBT, queer, trans, and other (broader) scholarly investigations into matters pertaining to sexuality studies and to questions of sexuality and sexual orientation in the profession (particularly matters of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender expression). I see this group as complementing the group on Women and Gender Studies and ideally collaborations can be developed.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      Women’s and Gender Studies is a crucial site for contemporary and future literary and cultural scholarship and the MLA does well in maintaining and strengthening this group.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on October 4th, 2013

      Thanks for this comment!  Theory has not “disappeared”–if you look at the current list of divisions and discussion groups, you’ll see that “Theory” is not there as a separate category, though it’s there as “Language Theory.”  Might it now be on the map as “Multilingual Theory”?  Or (as it’s named in many university curricula) “Critical Theory”?

      On another of your points:  I don’t think that lack of protests from 17th century scholars is a function of confusion; I had the privilege of being at the executive committee meeting last January where we talked about the pros and cons of merging the 17th-Century English Literature division with the one currently named “Literature of the English Renaissance, Excluding Shakespeare.” Many of us regularly teach undergraduate and graduate courses that cross the century line–including Shakespeare courses.  What isn’t yet clear to me from the Commons posts is whether there’s any consensus among members of both early modern/Renaissance divisions about the option to amalgamate.  Doing so would give the newly constituted  group 4 guaranteed sessions for each year until the first Program Committee Review, and a good basis (I would think) for evolving robustly thereafter.  Colleagues in the “English Renaissance” division agree with the MLA proposal to drop “Excluding Shakespeare” from their title; but it would be helpful to hear from more members of both early modern/renaissance divisions about the pros and cons of a possible union within the framework of the MLA.  Specialist conferences in these fields abound and provide opportunities for different kinds of sessions than those that might be staged for specialists and non-specialists both at the MLA convention.

      As for some thoughts on “European Literary Relations”–that division’s  proposed subsumption (along with the overlapping Discussion Group called “Romance Literary Relations”) into the new groups of “Mediterranean” and “Atlantic” has prompted questions from others on this site; we’d like to hear from more members who are concerned, as Angelika Bammer puts it above, with Europe’s apparent disappearance from the new map.  It hasn’t of course disappeared; its still very much there in the shape of its nation states and national languages.  Should it also be there as “European literary relations”?  Could you/we think about a different name that would  acknowledge the importance what Roberto Dainotto calls  _Europe (in Theory)_ ? This is a historical  as well as a phantasmatic phenomenon that now includes the EU (and many discursive and visual reflections thereon); newly inflected North/South tensions; a literature about multilingual migrant workers; and many other facets that might be worthy of MLA sessions in the future.  We would be grateful for more comments from members concerned with how “Europe” should be represented in and by  MLA  groups.

      Comment by Serpil Oppermann on October 4th, 2013

      I would like to see “Turkish Literature” included among Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.  It can have subdivisions such as  Ottoman, Early Modern, Modern, and Contemporary Turkish literatures.

      Thank You

      Comment by Serpil Oppermann on October 4th, 2013

      I am delighted to see ecocriticism added here.

      Comment by Serpil Oppermann on October 4th, 2013

      I would like to propose “Turkish Literature” added to Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.  See my comment to number 100 where I specified it!

      Thank You

      Comment by Thomas H. Luxon on October 4th, 2013

      I think I also prefer the slash solution: Renaissance/Early Modern.

      Comment by Thomas H. Luxon on October 4th, 2013

      In general, the new categories/groups all make plenty of sense to me.

      Comment by Thomas H. Luxon on October 4th, 2013

      All in all, I agree with Sean. Century designations present their own special problems, but at least they don’t insist on implying a kind of periodic coherence. That said, the term “Restoration” does imply a periodization based in politics, so we’ve mixed two regimens—centuries and political formations. Do we want to do that?

      In any case we should NOT be contracting the number of English lit groups in this period.

       

       

      Comment by Ruth Evans on October 4th, 2013

      Stephen, there is certainly an argument to be made that the separation of OE and ME reinforces the marginalization of OE and perpetuates an artificial boundary between periods where cross-boundary study is essential (sexuality studies is one example; history of the book and history of the language are obvious others, as you say). But it’s vitally important that medieval English keeps its 3 divisions, at least for now. It’s been something of a battle to persuade MLA to keep the 3 divisions. I’d be concerned if we gave any ground that allowed this to be reduced to 2. But certainly we should be talking about ways of reconfiguring the period boundaries.

      Comment by Kate Flint on October 4th, 2013

      Writing as a member of the Divisional Committee – we thought that this change would open up more possibilities for discussion than merging with the C19th or C20th (our other possibilities) would do.  We felt that this period has its own integrity, and that merging with our US equivalent wouldn’t preclude papers – and even sessions – that would be more specifically focused on one side of the Atlantic or the other.

      Comment by John Protevi on October 4th, 2013

      Splitting Intellectual History or History of Ideas off from “Philosophy and Literature” seems sensible.

      On the global issue of the name changes in this section, I do prefer the “X and Literature” structure to the “X Approaches to Literature” one.

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 4th, 2013

      Thank you Larry. This clarifies my question and I support the focus on sexualities as well. I appreciate you taking the time to explain the rationale here.

      Comment by Liana Silva-Ford on October 4th, 2013

      I suggest splitting this group into two different groups: Women’s Studies and Gender Studies.

      Comment by Lucy Graham on October 4th, 2013

      Thank you – I am glad to hear that Africa divided between “Sub Saharan” and “Southern African” is being rethought.

      There is no easy way to divide the “African” group – the pre/post 1960 or 1990 divide is problematic as different places have had different dates of independence from colonial rule. Though dividing by language group may seem better, there are many indigenous languages spoken in Africa and it could be politically incorrect to divide according to Lusophone, Anglophone, Francophone (legacies of colonialism, all) – and then “indigenous”, which atomises or Balkanises if one looks at individual language groups. And what about oral literature?

      Do we need to manufacture subgroups to increase our presence? One could possibly have West, East, North and South African or colonial and postcolonial African but why do this? Should we simply have “African literatures” (plural) or “African Languages and Literatures” (plural) and make a deliberate point in our group structure by not carving up Africa (again)?

      One risk could be the implication that African language and literature has had no history or periodisation worth mentioning. Does the argument against dividing Africa outweigh this risk? What do others think? What leads can we follow from the African Studies Association and other academic organizations that focus on research about Africa?

      Then there is another question: Since there is a group/subgroup for “South Asian and South Asian Diasporic”, should we have “African and African Diasporic” or “African and African Diasporic Literatures” or “African and African Diasporic Languages and Literatures”?

      I think this issue with Africa is challenging because it goes to the heart of the matters that the MLA is trying to address.

      May I ask that we think more carefully about the reasons for organising the MLA into groups and sub-groups? Though I am aware that re-organising the groups is a challenging task, at the moment there seem to be gaps (certain areas and peoples not represented), and inconsistencies across groups and sub-groups.

      With best wishes,

      Lucy

       

      Comment by Liana Silva-Ford on October 4th, 2013

      I agree with Fern Kory; would WC Studies fit here?

      Comment by Liana Silva-Ford on October 4th, 2013

      I agree with Laurence La Fountain-Stokes; this group needs to stay.

      Comment by Tilottama Rajan on October 4th, 2013

      Metaphors like “map,” “tree,” and “body” have long been used in encyclopedic organizations of knowledge, and the MLA does see its task as that of beng an encyclopedia of the profession. Such schematising metaphors have never been wholly adequate to the task. The map may be a way of bringing into the foreground certain imperatives of the MLA, but it’s important to remember that the map is a metaphor. As such it distributes knowledge transversally in the present, where previously we thought of literature longitudinally as having a history. I wouldn’t want to see that history foreshortened so that each literature can be fitted into its space on the map of the present, without regard for how deep that history is. Maps have been criticised for flattening out what they represent., I would add that not everything on the proposd list actually does fit into the map of geogrphical regions. What we have is more like a palimpsest of different practices of organising knowledge, and I’d argue for accepting that, accepting the value of the historical model in that palimpsest, and not allowing the metaphor of the map to take root too literally.

      Comment by Howard B. Tinberg on October 4th, 2013

      I want to follow up on Cheryl Ball’s reference to SoTL, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.  Many of us in MLA and in CCCC believe strongly that a)teaching ought to be seen as a fit and appropriate subject for scholarship and research and b)that effective teaching must be embedded within specific contexts, whether disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or integrative.  Now I realize that in recognizing teaching (whether of lit or comp) as its own subgroup under ” The Profession,” does at least certify that sessions on teaching will be valued  by this organization.  I get that and for that I am grateful.   But doing so also takes teaching from its vital source.  Reflective teaching must be reflective about something, whether an effective use of group work in analyzing a passage from “Beowulf,” or devising well-designed opportunities to compose essays on a specific discourse community by way of New Media.  If I had my way, I would acknowledge a pedagogical component for each and every subject category.  Short of that, I would give rhetoric its own category and  give teaching within and across disciplines a pride of place within that larger setting.

      Comment by Katherine A. Rowe on October 4th, 2013

      Just wanting to add a late voice of support to Matt K’s suggested rubrics and to the principles he and Alan lay out of overlap and inclusiveness in the categories. Looking back to the imagined implementation, the proposal clearly envisions MLA members participating in overlapping groups and views that possibility of overlap (as I do) as a net gain.

      Comment by Katherine A. Rowe on October 4th, 2013

      I concur with Donald’s observation. Combine these groups into “Media Studies.” This is not unlike the principles animating the thread at “Book History et al” that the more inclusive, non-medium-specific rubric makes more sense where methodologies overlap.

      Comment by Sarah Werner on October 4th, 2013

      Agreed: Renaissance/Early Modern is clearer.

      Comment by Rachel Adams on October 4th, 2013

      This is a good addition–bravo!

      Comment by Rachel Adams on October 4th, 2013

      A useful change, since YA otherwise has no place in our groups.

      Comment by Rachel Adams on October 4th, 2013

      I like this as it is and think it is an important addition.  I would not add “critical”–as is it is more parallel with groups like sexuality and disability studies

      Comment by Rachel Adams on October 4th, 2013

      An important addition

      Comment by Victoria E. Szabo on October 4th, 2013

      I agree both that DH should be in Transdisciplinary Connections and that method is a useful way of articulating its difference from Media Studies. I also agree that Research Methods shouldn’t be reduced to “digital” methods, and that especially given how in addition to all our traditional methods we are borrowing methods from the interpretative and quantitative social sciences it is worth keeping that topic distinct. There is a whole other side to DH which is about new forms of expression of research too. Who “owns” conversations around new forms of scholarly publishing here?  Is that also DH?

      Comment by Sarah Werner on October 4th, 2013

      I see Bill Worthen’s point, and agree with his concern, that performance is not limited to drama. I wonder if a solution might be to have this group be “drama” and another group called “performing arts,” which would include theater and opera and even dance. Given that “nonfiction prose” and “poetry” are listed as groups, I wouldn’t want to lose “drama” as a group; nor would I want to limit the categories of performance that are open for study.

      Comment by Sarah Werner on October 4th, 2013

      While I understand that people are concerned about losing guaranteed slots in the convention, I do not think that separate categories of 16th century and 17th century reflects the scholarship many of us do. If you work on early modern drama, which century do you work in? Like Julia, I think one group most accurately reflects the nature of our field. I’d vote for calling it British Renaissance/Early Modern, akin to the proposed name change in the comments at paragraph 15.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 4th, 2013

      Welcome!

      Comment by Richard T. Rodríguez on October 4th, 2013

      I agree with Professor La Fountain-Stokes. This group is long overdue and it is not to be confused as doing the same work as the Chicana and Chicano literature group.

      Comment by Richard T. Rodríguez on October 4th, 2013

      Including “diasporic” may seemingly hold the potential to make global and transnational connections but it also undermines the historical struggles around charting a discernible Asian American literary and cultural tradition. Asian American literature must continue to be acknowledged on its own terms within the MLA and not erased because of pressures to collapse groups based on the misperceptions of those who do not fully understand fields other than theirs.

      Comment by Marta C. Peixoto on October 5th, 2013

      I agree with Anna Klobucka that retaining the Luso-Brazilian group name and calling the other Global Lusophone is not the way to go, as research on Lusophone cultures outside of Portugal and Brazil (the name of the old group) is excluded from Luso-Brazilian but Global Lusophone would have to include Portugal and Brazil.  But I’m not persuaded by Anna’s proposal to call the two groups Global Lusophone, divided chronologically.  Few scholars I know actually see themselves as global Lusophone specialists; neither, so far, do job searches advertize for such.  My suggestion is to keep the two groups with some version of the old titles:  Lusophone outside Portugal and Brazil and Luso-Brazilian.  Maybe African and Asian Lusophone, to avoid featuring in the title what the group does NOT include?   Scholars whose research falls into the purview of either group also have other entry points, including the Iberian, Latin American, Asian and African groups.  How this all would play out in practice remains to be seen, so a review every five years is an excellent idea.

      Comment by Deanna Shemek on October 5th, 2013

      Hello Everyone. Is there any reason not to make 109 consistent with 15 and call it Medieval and Renaissance/Early Modern?

      Comment by Deanna Shemek on October 5th, 2013

      I certainly applaud the addition of Mediterranean. I’m looking, though, for the European Literary Relations division mentioned above. Can you direct me to that? And if it exists, should it not be in the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies group rather than in a Literary Relations group? This is what I would favor. Most of the work being done in cross-cultural European these days is interdisciplinary as well as comparative.

      Thanks to the Working Group for this huge “refresh” of the MLA divisions and groups!

      Comment by Deanna Shemek on October 5th, 2013

      I think the Working Group has made a good choice here. The digital world is a medium. It is developing rapidly and is much more than a research tool, and it is concerned with much more than data, preservation, and access. It’s an environment with an evolving theory of its own. Genre may not be the most fitting term for the new textual objects that are being created digitally, but it will do for now. In contrast with Cheryl Ball, above, I think “new media” is also a good term. It points to the emerging forms and acknowledges that we don’t yet know what will come next. If I were choosing the name for this group, I would call it Digital Media.

       

       

      Comment by Deanna Shemek on October 5th, 2013

      Replying to myself here, with a change. Given that paragraph 38 names Media Studies, Digital Humanities seems suitable here.

      Comment by Deanna Shemek on October 5th, 2013

      Replying to myself here, with a change. Given that paragraph 38 names Media Studies, Digital Humanities seems suitable here.

      Comment by Deanna Shemek on October 5th, 2013

      It is odd to see “Arthurian” here, as a language/literature/culture. I suggest moving it to Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, or eliminating it.

      Comment by Deanna Shemek on October 5th, 2013

      Presumably this would also encompass testimonial writing? I’m not (yet) convinced that this rubric is sufficiently broad to stand with the others in the transdisciplinary list, or on the other hand that it is specific enough to be recognized as including all the things people discuss above.  I agree that it is a big topic.

      Comment by A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff on October 5th, 2013

      My comment is similar to Sander Gilman’s on paragraph 57, Jewish American and Jewish Diasporic.  Does Italian Diasporic literature pertain to literature written in English by those now living in a country outside Italy, the United States, and other English-speaking countries? The term “disaporic” could refer to literature written by immigrants or long-time residents and citizens of a non-Italian country, but not written either in English or in Italian.

      Comment by John T. Matthews on October 5th, 2013

      I want to underscore the point Barbara Ladd makes in her 9/12 posting lamenting the absence of any rationale for the proposed changes to the constitution of groups.  Without an explanation of how categories were conceived and criteria arrived at, members must infer how the stipulated general principles of reorganization were applied to individual scholarly and professional formations, standing and new.  It appears that “Southern Literature” gets included in CLCS because it does not satisfy the new criteria for inclusion in the “American” subdivision of LLC, which seems to be organized by traditional periodization and national ethnicity.  Debatable as the reproduction of both those categories might be for a 21st century MLA, such an arrangement also seems to make the new category “Regional” something of an outlier in CLCS, which is organized according to non-national periodization and specific, recognizable geographic areas.  “Regional” is neither here nor there.  It functions in this grouping as an abstract concept, not a period or a locale, or even some interactive combination of them.  Doubtless all the proposed new categories could be challenged along similar lines, and I’m sure no one means to be obstructionist to productive rethinking and reform, but it seems to me that the proposed reorganization treats Southern literature exceptionally in one noteworthy way: it does not take a field the way its practitioners themselves understand it.  Other new and reorganized categories reflect emerging and continuing scholarly, professional, and teaching communities.  But the reassignment of Southern literature to Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies does not reflect what many of us think we do: study US Southern literature as a kind of American literature.   The field of Southern literary studies enjoys well-established institutional and professional standing; generates robust scholarship that deepens and complicates its object of study; has developed a self-conscious methodological and historical literature; and has engaged all the major recent developments in the study of American literature, including hemispheric and transatlantic turns.  The call for a New Southern Studies appeared in the journal American Literature for good reason.  Though it may not be a perfect fit, US Southern Literature belongs in the company of other bodies of “American” Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

      Comment by Cristina V. Bruns on October 5th, 2013

      As an addition to my earlier post, I’d like to support  the discussion above about the need for a group focused on literary and cultural theory. This group would be a valuable step toward addressing the gap I see.

      Comment by William Germano on October 6th, 2013

      I don’t think we need to be distracted by historiographic practices —  you’re right, most of us don’t think of the 18C as the Early Modern. Our  new armature combines the names of forms, periods, places, and dates. What if we mix it up a bit more? Perhaps an old-fashioned solution here: “Renaissance to 1800”?

      Comment by William Germano on October 6th, 2013

      Tough call. What we used to call, more or less comfortably, the English Renaissance has always generated a pretty extraordinary body of work. I’m less fussed about what we call these sessions than about losing an opportunity for good scholars to get work out in front of their peers at the convention. I wouldn’t want to see us tidy up the nomenclature only to go from three sessions to two. So while I take Julia’s point and want to agree with it, my own sense of the issue falls in line with Roland’s.

      Comment by A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff on October 6th, 2013

      My comment entered this afternoon seems to have disappeared. Like Carla Zecher and others, I favor retaining “American Indian” and adding the term “Indigenous” or North American Indigenous” or “American and Canadian Indigenous.” In the 1970s and 1980s, Native American” was popular among Native and non-Native intellectuals.  It was never widely used among Indians themselves.  Also, the terms used by the U.S. Census are “American and Native Alaskan.” In the last few years, La there has been criticism of Native American” by such  authors as  Sherman Alexie (Spokane) and Susan Power (Dakota). Canada has used First Nations and Indigenous in preference to American Indian and Native American.

      When the University of Illinois, Chicago, creaated its  studies program, the committee, which I chaired,  selected “Native American Studies as the program’s title.  I would never select this now because too many people define “Native American” as born in the United States.  The late Charlton Heston used to say “I am a Native American.”

      Comment by A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff on October 6th, 2013

      Correction in paragraph 1,  line 7: Remove “La”

      Correction in paragrpah 2, line 1: “created” not “creaated”

      Comment by William Germano on October 6th, 2013

      My thanks to the committee for their work on this.

      Like David Shumway, Jane Gallop, and others  I wondered where the theory went.

      I wanted to like “Genre and Media Studies” as a rubric, but the more I stared at it the less I could make sense of the subcategories as constituting a coherent set of subjects for study. Do film and (related?) media belong with genre, genres? Or are film etc more nearly one of the Transdisciplinary Connections? (Not crazy about that rubric, but at least it indicates spaces between.)

      Theory aside, it seems to me that the biggest omission  is a category explicitly addressing editing and publishing. Not textual editing or bibliographic practice , but pragmatic work on developing projects, models of writing, faculty development, writing and the professional life course, etc. These subjects and topics may or may not be addressed from convention to convention, but instituting a group or category would underscore a commitment to professional development at all levels, including p/t fac and grad students. We should do this.

       

      Comment by Martha B. Kuhlman on October 6th, 2013

      Adopting oceans as a organizing concept rather than continents is interesting (rather like looking at negative rather than positive space), but I’m also worried that something might be lost. I write about countries that are inland–comparative continental work, as Marshall Brown states. For example, where would I place a paper about Prague and Paris? Or where do we talk about a writer who has moved from Hungary to France? I realize that there is a reaction against “Europe” due to a history of Eurocentrism, but I also think that this designation misses a lot of the comparative scholarly action on the continent. And what about the European Union, for instance, and how this affects cultural production?

      Comment by Giovanna Covi on October 6th, 2013

      I believe the heritage of women’s studies should maintain its visibility within gender studies but I also strongly believe that the vitality of gender studies derives from feminist commitment and feminist theory as well as from its intersections with queer and sexulaity studies. Thus I would welcome a new division that brings this division on Women and Gender Studies together with the division on Sexuality Studies and is labeled Women, Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

      Comment by Giovanna Covi on October 6th, 2013

      I welcome this division, although I am not an expert in Scottish Literature. My field is Caribbean Literature and the attention to the relationships between Scotland and the Caribbean has been most fruitful for me in recent years.

      Comment by Giovanna Covi on October 6th, 2013

      I would insist on keeping African American Literature by itself, too.

      Comment by Giovanna Covi on October 6th, 2013

      totally so: indeed let us not take theory out of the MLA plural identity, please!

      Comment by Crystal Parikh on October 7th, 2013

      As another member of the division’s executive committee, I am writing to express concern about the change of the division title to include “Asian diaspora.” (As Timothy Yu has noted, the executive committee was not consulted on this.) This revision diverges substantially from the central critical concerns that have been historically addressed by the division. While the division (and the field) have not been hostile to diasporic–especially comparative–and transnational approaches, this change will have the effect of diluting a field that is already too often misunderstood within the discipline.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on October 7th, 2013

      Thanks for the interesting reflection on maps and metaphors, and for proposing the palimpsest as an alternate frame. Actually, as a great fan of historical atlases and their overlays, I see maps as both geographical and historical. In the process of revision, the working group  not only paid critical attention to history and periodization, but also made sure that the very history of the field’s evolution would be visible in the new configuration we proposed.

      Comment by Jenna Lay on October 7th, 2013

      I am also in favor of maintaining three groups, whatever their titles might be. And I agree that current trends in the job market should not determine MLA session designations: an increasing number of postings include both medieval and early modern–and at least one asks for Shakespeare/early modern, with secondary expertise in 18C or modern/postmodern. I am strongly in favor of anything MLA can do to resist this aspect of our constricted job market, and I think it is at least symbolically important to recognize that the depth and range of work in our period necessitates three distinct groups. I’m not terribly concerned about the 16C British and 17C British designations limiting work that crosses the two centuries, since my own job was listed as 17C, but my research and teaching span 16/17C. Arguably the same could be true if we maintained both groups, even with century-specific titles.

      Comment by Tsitsi Jaji on October 7th, 2013

      I share the concerns articulated above, and so I am gratified to read in Marianne’s message that this division is being revisited. In some ways the groupings MLA adopts will serve to foster work in the designated areas, so I hope that careful consultation with senior scholars in African lit studies will be a part of the MLA process.

      Speaking as a junior scholar, I agree with Lucy Graham (on the thread to paragraph 46) that dividing chronologically would present conceptual problems since the dates proposed are more relevant in certain locations than others. That said, 1960,  a year when the wave of African independence really took off, seems preferable to 1990 (a date which, incidentally, is haunted by the South African exceptionalism that makes the current proposal so problematic, given the official end of apartheid).

      Again, as Lucy notes,  the South Asian group has been divided into literature on the one hand and popular culture/film/new media on the other. While that proposal generated much comment, could  a similar split along media/popular culture lines be considered? The long history of African film studies (and growing interest in Nollywood etc) and the importance of popular culture/media has been apparent at several recent ALA and ASA sessions.

      Comment by Tsitsi Jaji on October 7th, 2013

      A welcome proposal.

      Comment by Robin E. Visel on October 7th, 2013

      Global Anglophone Literatures would rescue us from the awkward “other than” designation while allowing for the diasporic writers working in the UK and North America.

      Comment by Robin E. Visel on October 7th, 2013

      It is entirely appropriate to expand African Literatures into two groups. Perhaps a chronological division would be less polarizing than the geographic divisions under discussion.  Given the contemporary flourishing of African literature, how about African Literatures Before 1980 (or ?)  and Late 19th-and Early 20th Century African Literatures?

      Comment by Robin E. Visel on October 7th, 2013

      Oops, I meant to write Late 20th-and Early 21st Century African Literatures (Student chronological confusion is catching!)

       

       

       

      Comment by Michael R. Best on October 7th, 2013

      I would like to add my voice in support of Matthew Kirschenbaum’s comments. Boundaries are always difficult because there are edge cases, but I do find that the currently proposed title appears to push digital textual scholarship and the digital study of books right over the edge into the much more vaguely conceived area of Digital Humanities. Many of us in the area of digital studies and digital applications will be better served by encouraging us to include our work in more traditional areas. This will allow us more effectively to use digital technologies as tools enriching existing disciplines rather than seemingly creating a new area.

      My focus, and that of many of my colleagues, is on textual studies in the digital medium; my major interest is in traditional approaches to the text and their further development in the culture of the “book” as conceived in the new medium. I would prefer to share my interests with scholars exploring the history of the book and textuality rather than those interested in computing per se.

      Comment by Michael R. Best on October 7th, 2013

      Digital tools and digital media are now deeply embedded in scholarship of all kinds in the Humanities. I think that it’s important to recognize that there will be scholars looking  at this phenomenon in a general way, while there will be many (possibly many more) using digital approaches, and digital tools both for research and publication. Those with the second focus will more profitably connect with established groups, not necessarily interdisciplinary.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on October 8th, 2013

      The division proposed by a group of Africanists has been close to the one you suggest,  1990.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on October 8th, 2013

      The working group suggested Global Anglophone, but members of the current executive committee of the division are quite keep on keeping the “Other Than” name, precisely for its awkwardness.  We’d appreciate additional feedback on this.

      Comment by John C. Brereton on October 8th, 2013

      The label “History and Theory of Rhetoric and Composition” quite precisely describes my scholarly field, so I would be happy to see it continue unchanged rather than become blander and more diffuse, as in the new proposal. What I object to even more is the lack of enlargement of all areas of writing and composition  studies, and the consequent maintenance of rhet/comp as a minor part of the entire field, when it is in fact the single largest area of teaching, employment, and potential growth. The changes contemplated don’t represent any recognition at all that the profession has changed drastically over the last few decades. May I suggest that it’s time to make some fundamental changes rather than simply tinker with labels? A good place to start would be the excellent proposals by Dave Bartholomae and the Executive Board of the Division of the Teaching of Writing.

      Comment by Leigh Anne Duck on October 8th, 2013

      I agree.

      Comment by Anita Mannur on October 8th, 2013

      I believe the MLA offer lots of possibilities for collaboration at each conference but that maintaining a division for sexuality studies and one for w&g studies makes sense, not because these aren’t allied and connected fields that are born out of intersectional histories but because of a need to maintain a space for women’s and gender studies that will also recognize the new ways in which sexuality studies is always already doing work that might in many cases go beyond the frameworks within gender and women’s studies. I think it helps the MLA to have multiple divisions with allied interests and so I would argue against merging this division with the sexuality studies division for the moment.

      Comment by Jonathan Culler on October 8th, 2013

      It seems to me that in general the committee has done an excellent job in trying to make room for new areas, especially when there are so many potentially contentious issues about how to divide and name our many possible areas of interest.  It does seem to me, though, that with so many relatively small domains being created, we should think about some of the larger ones.  For instance, there is no group for Literary Theory, which has been very important in the history of MLA.  Perhaps this is supposed to be covered by Philosophical Approaches to Literature and the other approaches, but there are many issues that do not fall easily under a the approach to literature through another discipline.  If we were to agree that the task of the Literary Criticism group is to organize programs on literary theory, that would be a solution, but that group’s remit is much broader and it would seem unfair to charge them with a narrower function than their name suggests. So what about a group on Literary Theory?

       

       

      Comment by Mary Agnes Edsall on October 8th, 2013

      Evidence that this is a burgeoning  interdisciplinary  and international field:

      The Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies Series (25 books on the list so far)
      The journal Memory Studies (publishing since 2008)
      The numerous books, edited collections, articles and special issues of journals published in the field
      The number of academic programs, centers, institutes, and conferences focused on this field

       

      Comment by Fiona Tolhurst on October 9th, 2013

      I am comfortable with Sexuality Studies functioning as a separate group related to Women’s and Gender Studies. However, it strikes me that–given that feminist ideology undergirds both women’s and gender studies–this area could be named Feminist and Gender Studies. Many academic departments have renamed Women’s Studies departments as Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS), so the MLA’s Women’s Studies category might seem outdated to some members.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on October 9th, 2013

      A number of people have  made the case for a separate group on Theory, to be named, as you suggest, “Literary Theory” or “Literary and Cultural Theory.”  Note that we have proposed to rename the “Approaches” groups.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on October 9th, 2013

      David Bartholomae will join the working group and we will revisit writing and composition studies in a fundamental when we revise the entire proposal.

      Comment by Patricia Dailey on October 9th, 2013

      I want to echo the thanks to Marianne Hirsch, Margaret Ferguson, and the MLA in general for taking on this enormous task.  Making the divisions more relevant to current areas of research and practice is no easy task, especially when any one committee cannot claim expertise in all fields. I am impressed with how this new format has worked, that is, I am impressed with the way in which the MLA has encouraged comments and responded to them, not as a way to ask for input only to dismiss it, but as a means for ameliorating the proposed changes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much active discussion by MLA members outside of the convention on the difficulty of demarcating disciplines, nor have I seen such concerted efforts to be sensitive to member’s concerns.

      As many of you know, Professor Hirsch’s presidential theme for the year is that of “vulnerability.”  It strikes me that many responses to these changes reflect the feeling of vulnerability within the profession. Many departments are reconsidering what fields are crucial in their future hires and, as the 18th c. scholar Sandra Macpherson just said to me, there is a feeling that if the MLA eclipses or does not explicitly acknowledge a field that formerly had its own space within the MLA, that departments may take that as a cue to eliminate fields.

      The feeling of endangerment clearly fuels more conservative and reactive responses, and for understandable reasons; however, many of our groups, even those that remain unchanged, like Old English, would benefit from serious contemplation on how we characterize our field. Within the group of Old English, (as many have pointed out in earlier discussion not shown here),  is hidden Anglo-Latin, as well as the relation to Old Norse, and Celtic. Even later “medievalisms” creep in. The recently published Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature  (ed. Clare Lees) takes this diversity into account in remarkable ways making for a much more dynamic and responsible way of envisioning the field. While it does not look like our group’s name will be changed, I do hope that we can all follow the initiative here and to contemplate how to best represent the current state of fields to sustain our relevance in the future.

      Much of this commons site seems to be doing this kind of work, but I encourage division representatives to continue the discussions.

      On a different note, reading everyone’s comments, I would agree that “theory” is something that needs to be addressed in and of itself. I also thought that the comments posted by the rhetoric and composition person above were very interesting with regard to the imbalance between sessions and predominance of jobs. If we want to take seriously alternative career paths, this seems one way of addressing the issue.

      Patricia Dailey

      Comment by Linda Hutcheon on October 9th, 2013

      A general comment about the entire proposal: I think the flexibility it offers with “groups” in ever-changing fields of intellectual endeavor, plus the new continuity made possible by the three-year seminars, make this a plan worth trying.

      Comment by Enrique García Santo-Tomás on October 9th, 2013

      I never saw a problem with the category “Renaissance and Baroque.”  To me, Early Modern encompasses both.  I write on Early Modern literature, and many of the texts I discuss are from the Baroque–and very Baroque in nature (structure, style, language…).  If we have labels like “Classical,” “Romantic,” and “Medieval”, I don’t see why we shouldn’t keep “Baroque.”

      Or, we can be consistent with other sections (Iberian, for example), and simply have “Early Modern”

      Comment by Enrique García Santo-Tomás on October 9th, 2013

      I would change to “Early Modern” Iberian Poetry and Prose to be consistent with #103

      Comment by Enrique García Santo-Tomás on October 9th, 2013

      I propose Medieval Iberia.  It’s cleaner, more inclusive, and makes more sense in relation to (my proposed) #102, and the current #103.

      Comment by Elena Lanza on October 9th, 2013

      Activism and advocacy are terms that would relate to the situation of non-tenure track faculty in the country (both full and part-time); I am a member of the Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession, and I think that this group is a very needed addition to the ongoing conversation about the work conditions of most of our colleagues. It could be tied to the work that the CLIP does, as well as a good source of info about what other organizations do, such as the NFM.

      Comment by Elena Lanza on October 9th, 2013

      This comment would also apply to paragraph 149: I teach language, so I understand the reasons for having two different groups here, since it reflects the reality of our departments, specially in foreign languages (in English and ESL it might be different- I don’t know). However, this division of track perpetuates the fact that those two tracks exist, and in many cases, never cross paths: faculty either teach language courses or literature courses, and most likely, the language folks cannot (ie. are not allowed to) teach literature. However, in the 2007 MLA report, in the section on transforming academic programs, the report recommends against the “canonical” configuration of FL departments in which, traditionally, NTT faculty teach language and TT faculty teach literature, which directly affects curriculum design and governance, amongst other things.

      I am aware that this is the way it is now, so, from a practical perspective, the two groups, one for language and one for literature, make sense. However, this could be an opportunity to reiterate the message sent 6 years ago; maybe something like “Teaching in the Foreign Language Department”, “Integrating Language and Literature in Our Teaching”… or something like that…

      Comment by Elena Lanza on October 9th, 2013

      Also, while re-reading my post, I meant to say that, to me, the name of the group relates to or makes me think of the situation of NTT faculty in terms of work conditions. I didn’t mean to say that that’s what those two words (activism and advocacy), in fact, relate to.  My apologies if I didn’t express myself correctly.

      Comment by Elena Lanza on October 9th, 2013

      I agree

      Comment by Paul Werstine on October 10th, 2013

      Thanks to the Committee for its considerable work revising.  My concern is that neither Book History and Print Culture  nor Library and Archive Studies nor Print, Digital, and Information Culture include the task of editing in which a great number of members of MLA are actively engaged.  I would ask for a place for us in the discussion groups.

      Comment by Emily Hegarty on October 10th, 2013

      Is it weird that Chaucer and Shakespeare are the only individual authors singled out as their own fields of study in all of global modern languages? Perhaps the membership numbers support it, though I don’t see a flood of relieved Chaucerians and Shakespeareans commenting.

      Comment by Emily Hegarty on October 10th, 2013

      I agree that Arthurian Studies belongs in CLCS rather than here.

      Comment by Emily Hegarty on October 10th, 2013

      Another vote for adding regional groups to the American division.

      Comment by Emily Hegarty on October 10th, 2013

      I agree that there is a need for an Independent Scholar group.

      Comment by Emily Hegarty on October 10th, 2013

      Yay!

      Comment by Lindsay Rose Russell on October 10th, 2013

      While I am in favor of an MLA discussion group rearrangement, I am concerned about the erasure of lexicography from this rubric of study.  “Book History and Print Culture” unsuitably assumes what is actively questioned by working lexicographers and scholars of lexicography:  that “the dictionary” is a book; that dictionaries are soon to be history.  (I do not in any way mean to disparage books or history.)  Lexicography is a praxis–for dictionary makers and users alike–and its classification as a product preempts the analysis and innovation that currently animates the field.  Last year’s panel featured discussion of recording audio pronunciation and look-up tracking tools in online dictionaries; neither seem possible in the frame of “Book History and Print Culture.”  I suppose I was expecting an umbrella category more along the lines of “Language Description, Management, and Reference,” though even that doesn’t necessarily embrace the kinds of cross-disciplinary engagements–from literary to linguistic, cultural to rhetorical–that have been possible under the heading of “Lexicography.”

      Comment by Kevin Curran on October 10th, 2013

      “British Renaissance and Early Modern” strikes me as the most useful designation. I, too, hate to lose the additional panels we get when we organize our field under three rubrics. On the other hand, we’re pretty fortunate to be one of the few fields to get a separate division for a single author (Shakespeare). Other rich and diverse fields (Victorian, for example) don’t get to organize additional panels under the auspices of, say, a “Dickens” division. It’s true, of course, that our period, comprising two centuries, is longer than the Victorian period, but since the vast majority of us work on material produced between about 1550 and about 1680, the difference isn’t as great as it might at first seem. I’m interested in hearing other points of view—I could certainly change my mind—but for now “British Renaissance and Early Modern” makes sense to me and seems like a worthy compromise given the enormity (and importance) of the larger undertaking.

      Comment by Kevin Curran on October 10th, 2013

      “British Renaissance and Early Modern” strikes me as the most useful designation. I, too, hate to lose the additional panels we get when we organize our field under three rubrics. On the other hand, we’re pretty fortunate to be one of the few fields to get a separate division for a single author (Shakespeare). Other rich and diverse fields (Victorian, for example) don’t get to organize additional panels under the auspices of, say, a “Dickens” division. It’s true, of course, that our period, comprising two centuries, is longer than the Victorian period, but since the vast majority of us work on material produced between about 1550 and about 1680, the difference isn’t as great as it might at first seem. I’m interested in hearing other points of view—I could certainly change my mind—but for now “British Renaissance and Early Modern” makes sense to me and seems like a worthy compromise given the enormity (and importance) of the larger undertaking.

      Comment by Roxana Michaela Verona on October 11th, 2013

      I totally subscribe to the new general comparative “Regional” category meant to diffuse the dominance of cultural centers in favor of a more flexible model of cultural exchange.  The regional approach confirms the need to find in-between cultural spaces, meeting points with a multi-cultural and multiethnic history. This would be the right place for a “Balkan Cultural Relations” group for instance that would include some Eastern European countries and also Greece and Turkey. In my own work, the regional category would be extremely useful when considering a future history of the Francophone literature in South-Eastern Europe, by reuniting Romanian, Hungarian, Croatian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek and Turkish literatures and cultures.

      Comment by Sharon Marcus on October 11th, 2013

      I applaud the addition of many of these new groups, especially  geographically organized ones such as Caribbean, Global South, Hemispheric American, and conceptually organized ones, including animal studies, ecocriticism, and medical humanities.

      I concur with my colleague Patricia Dailey’s comments immediately above mine that it is difficult not to feel that in losing an MLA category one is somehow losing influence, security, visibility — in a word, turf.  But it seems to me that consolidating (and therefore reducing) categories also has much to offer by way of connections, communication, cross-pollination.  For that reason, I would suggest that those of us who work on literature in English written between 1800 and 1900 think about how well we are served by splitting that period into three separate categories.

      Is it really helpful to have three separate groups?  Romanticism is indeed often taught, studied and written about separately from the rest of nineteenth-century literature, and its position straddling two centuries is central to understanding what Romanticism was.  For that very reason it might be useful to have MLA be a place where  scholars who work on later periods of 19th-century British literature mingle with Romanticists, but at least here I understand the distinction in play.

      I need more help understanding why it’s important to separate Victorian from late-19th and early-20th Century British — indeed, the uncertainty about how to define the latter category (is it British? is it Transatlantic?) suggests it may not really be a category at all.

      Would it be so bad for English literature to follow the French categories in this regard and adopt one category for 19th-century English literature?  Could we think of this not as losing turf but as gaining cohesiveness and the ability to make connections across bodies of knowledge that often remain isolated from one another?

      Sharon Marcus

       

      Comment by Irene Kacandes on October 12th, 2013

      I appreciate very much this thread about “German” vs. “Germanophone” and add that we have this problem in the German Studies Association all the time.  That interdisciplinary organization does very much try to include topics, sessions, guest speakers on Austrian and Swiss and other German-speaking  communities, but whenever we say our name, we need to make clear that we mean all these other areas and communities.  I like the idea of “Germanophone” just fine, even as I don’t really like the sound of the word itself.  Thanks, Katie, for making sure this was added to the comments here.

      Comment by Irene Kacandes on October 12th, 2013

      There are so many comments above that I agree with that in addition to thanking Marianne Hirsch, Margaret Ferguson, Rosemary Feal and all the members of the committee, I also want to thank all those folks who have taken the time to read the proposals, think about them and comment on them.  It’s really an impressive set of reflections that could be used productively in a literature or other class, it seems to me, to show how scholars think and debate.

      In any case, I do think the committee has us as an organization moving in the right direction and that while no structure should suffice forever, this one could serve us well for a while.

      I also want to chime in positively in support of a group on Literary and Cultural Theory.

      The former division of Autobiography, Biography and Life Writing did itself agree to the shorter name of “Life Writing,” at the same time that we were a bit sad that that name does not make clear how many other genres, non-written, also contribute to telling life stories.  If any one out there has a new idea, please do post it here or get in touch with us.

      My thanks again.  This is the most positive I’ve felt about the profession in a while.

      Comment by Victoria P. Rosner on October 13th, 2013

      Given the many different kinds of work that take place under this disciplinary umbrella, there is probably no single solution that will receive consensus.  However, I think that the division suggested strikes an excellent balance in terms of acknowledging the history of the field, making space for a variety of perspectives, and taking us into the future.

      Comment by Victoria P. Rosner on October 13th, 2013

      The shift to Transatlanticism seems to open exciting possibilities for conversations at the MLA that are less likely to happen at more specialized conferences.  Given the native internationalism of the period, it’s productive to encourage sessions in this vein.  Thanks to the Divisional Committee for this innovation.

      Comment by Jacqueline Vansant on October 14th, 2013

      The task of rethinking categories provides a great opportunity for thought, particularly for those of us who work in Austrian literature and culture, be it during the time of Austria-Hungary or the present. German does seem restrictive.

      In response to the argument to use a more inclusive nomenclature, the question has been raised whether German in the heading refers to language or nationality. It was suggested that “Germanophone” “conjured up colonial contexts.” If there were a more felicitous term than “Germanophone” that was inclusive, that would be great, but other than German-language as an adjective, nothing occurs to me at the moment. Working in the field of Austrian literature and culture, I would not refer to the writers I’ve worked on as German.

      If the sessions have been cross-cultural and if they are to be in the future, a more inclusive heading is timely.

       

       

       

       

      Comment by Srinivas Aravamudan on October 14th, 2013

      Given my own sympathies for all the arguments made above I have been thinking what might be an appropriate way to go forward that fully respects the overwhelming sentiments expressed here against the proposed WG move.  First of all, I think it is completely right to oppose any form of downsizing, and in this regard it is important to stipulate that there be four guaranteed sessions combined for the two sub-periods going forward as before.  I think the MLA leadership is willing to freeze guaranteed session allocations for five years when there are strong objections such as our group has voiced.  However, I don’t think I am the only one noticing that job ads increasingly reflect the long 18c rubric.  For better or for worse MLA reflects both scholarly coherence as well as professional identity formation, putting them in conversation with each other.  Even while recognizing the distinctiveness of the sub-periods as argued persuasively, we might also want to put them in conversation with each other; I refuse to believe that longer periods only flatten and shorter periods only complexify.  I haven’t heard anyone claim there was an epistemic break in 1730 or 1745 or wherever one draws the line.  There are always continuities and discontinuities to track; many scholars including those posing the objections above have written major monographs that cover longer period ranges and we all argue analytically as well as synthetically.  I don’t think those who have written across the 18c (and there are many) have shared a single ideological cast.  If there was a combined group that had four guaranteed sessions, we would have saved the day but also created some common cause across the two sub-periods.  I could imagine we would be able to think separately as well as relatedly; maybe one session for each sub-period, one that put them in conversation with each other and one every alternate year that put one sub-period in conversation with its other adjacency (i.e. one year 17th C and Restoration/early 18c and one year late 18c and Romanticism)?  If you see Julia Lupton’s post on the proposed 16thC/17thC merger, it is analogous to our concerns in terms of opposing downsizing but also observes that the 1600 marker is no longer relevant in terms of job ads being posted.  Divisions should not just divide, and anyway MLA is getting rid of the term.  I think we could also go forth and multiply in terms of trying different permutations.

      Comment by Srinivas Aravamudan on October 14th, 2013

      Given my own sympathies for all the arguments made above I have been thinking what might be an appropriate way to go forward that fully respects the overwhelming sentiments expressed here against the proposed WG move.  First of all, I think it is completely right to oppose any form of downsizing, and in this regard it is important to stipulate that there be four guaranteed sessions combined for the two sub-periods going forward as before.  I think the MLA leadership is willing to freeze guaranteed session allocations for five years when there are strong objections such as our group has voiced.  However, I don’t think I am the only one noticing that job ads increasingly reflect the long 18c rubric.  For better or for worse MLA reflects both scholarly coherence as well as professional identity formation, putting them in conversation with each other.  Even while recognizing the distinctiveness of the sub-periods as argued persuasively, we might also want to put them in conversation with each other; I refuse to believe that longer periods only flatten and shorter periods only complexify.  I haven’t heard anyone claim there was an epistemic break in 1730 or 1745 or wherever one draws the line.  There are always continuities and discontinuities to track; many scholars including those posing the objections above have written major monographs that cover longer period ranges and we all argue analytically as well as synthetically. I don’t think those who have written across the 18c (and there are many) have shared a single ideological cast.  If there was a combined group that had four guaranteed sessions, we would have saved the day but also created some common cause across the two sub-periods.  I could imagine we would be able to think separately as well as relatedly; maybe one session for each sub-period, one that put them in conversation with each other and one every alternate year that put one sub-period in conversation with its other adjacency (i.e. one year 17th C and Restoration/early 18c and one year late 18c and Romanticism)?  If you see Julia Lupton’s post on the proposed 16thC/17thC merger, it is analogous to our concerns in terms of opposing downsizing but also observes that the 1600 marker is no longer relevant in terms of job ads being posted.  Divisions should not just divide, and anyway MLA is getting rid of the term.  I think we could also go forth and multiply in terms of trying different permutations.

      Comment by Terrence Potter on October 14th, 2013

      Granted it may not be clear to everyone what general linguistics means. But this does not stop universities from using it as a track in their linguistics programs. An entity named general linguistics seems to have attracted the interest of many members of the MLA if not a strenuous allegiance. It can potentially offer MLA non-linguists who are interested in linguistics subfields an opportunity to participate. It also offers opportunities to include linguistics in the MLA under such diverse headings as language and philosophy, language and science, and emerging interdisciplinary fields where human language science is key to the field.

      Comment by Michael Holquist on October 15th, 2013

      I cannot adequately express my gratitude to Marianne Hirsch, Margie Ferguson, and Rosemary Feal for the work they have done to initiate changes in the organization’s divisional structure.  Responses to their suggestions have been numerous enough by now to constitute a genre in its own right.  That  genre’s most fixed feature is a short initial expression of thanks to the committee for their proposals, followed by a long list of reasons why they won’t work.  So I repeat my own thanks to the three remarkable persons who have initiated the possibility of real change in MLA structure.  And I want to add that I think most of what they propose will work—if we can overcome our own anxieties about breaking habits.
                   One reason for being optimistic is the large number of good suggestions that have already emerged in the voluminous responses on this site, from graduate students to chaired professors.  The volume and intensity of the more than 400 interventions make clear that MLA is anxious to open up new ways to study, teach, and interact.
                  Its equally obvious, nevertheless, that the scale of difference by which we are now required to measure whatever parochial professional innovations we make is bigger than some of us are prepared to admit.  We live in the midst of more than one revolution, the outcomes of which cannot be known. It is perhaps not too much to suggest that the time/space indicators that were used to organize categories in 1974 (the last reorganization) do not adequately capture the reality of the present—to say nothing of the future.  When I stop to reflect on the changes that have taken place within my own field of Slavic Studies over the last forty years, I am humbled by the—mostly unexpected—differences between the world in which I published a PMLA article in 1967, and the world as it is now suggesting it might be. The ugly blue format of the journal then was as wrapped in a dream of local scholarship as I was: MLA was selling a guide to graduate students calledThe Aims and Methods of Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures. It comprised the whole work of the profession under four categories: Linguistics, Textual Criticism, Literary History, and Literary Criticism.
                  How many new categories have appeared since then?  How many new flags have appeared in the UN Plaza, how many states have passed away, how much ‘disruptive’ scholarship has transformed what the professoriate now thinks is important?  As we struggle to grasp the consequence of our increasingly mathematicized lives, we must be ready to accommodate changes in how we do our work that recognizes the world is changing at a degree of velocity unsuspected  in the childhood—and professional careers—of some of our older members.
                  The only way to do so is to forego parochialism.  I have been struck by the solidarity of scholars debating the suggestion of reorganizing under the rubric of “The Long 18th Century.”  Eminent scholars (some of them friends) have made powerful arguments for maintaining the status quo.  Such univocal argument may be a sign of how wisely Divisional Structure was apportioned in 1974.  Or—it may be an index of just how difficult changing that structure will be, given the learning, eminence, and experience of those who support the status quo. 
                  The problem of how to decide boundaries (even when they are defined by oceans) is that the locals will always know more of their region than anyone else, and thus always have an advantage provided by the very thing scholars value most: superior knowledge of the subject in dispute.

      Comment by Elena Machado Sáez on October 16th, 2013

      Happy to see the creation of an MLA group dedicated to Caribbean studies; as other commentators note, this provides a much needed additional space for comparative literary studies on the region.

      Comment by Pamela Herron on October 16th, 2013

      I also support a category of Modern and Contemporary China rather than Republican and Communist. In my class I use some of the significant writers who were actually writing under the Qing Dynasty to transition my students into more modern 20th century writers. I am also concerned that the past categories seem to leave out China. As translations and accessibility to a greater body of Chinese literature becomes available, it is worth considering China as a separate category and for comparative purposes include China under East Asian. There is certainly sufficient material for comparative studies that solely focus on Chinese literature whether that is limited geographically or the greater diaspora.

      Comment by Elena Machado Sáez on October 16th, 2013

      I concur that the distinction between Chicano and Latino Studies is a necessary one. There are groups dedicated to “Cuban and Cuban Diasporic” as well as “Puerto Rican.” The Chicano group ensures a focus on Mexican-American writing that does not have a home elsewhere (The Mexican group under Latin American does not necessarily address US-based writers of Mexican heritage). The Latino group, on the other hand, is a welcome addition to the current set of groups since it would allow for a comparative discussion of these distinct Latino groups and their literature.

      Comment by Elena Machado Sáez on October 16th, 2013

      As I noted in the Chicano group comments, this Latino group is a very welcome addition to the current set of groups since it adds a pan-ethnic category and ensures a home for a comparative discussion of distinct Latino groups and their literature. As was the case with the Chicano group, I’m sure, the creation of this Latino group has been requested by a large group of faculty active in these fields, calling attention to the prior gap in comparative Latino studies at the MLA.

      Comment by Katherine Arens on October 16th, 2013

      at the very least, the divisions could  be “German and Germanophone”, to combat this bias and to avoid ghettoization of “German outside Germany” logic that would come in if Germanophone were a separate division..

       

      Comment by Claire M. Waters on October 16th, 2013

      As a medievalist, I appreciate the awareness that the term Renaissance is a vexed one for us! I would love some designation that made explicit space for medieval-to-early-modern work, but I realize that that would involve expansion, which is not in the cards for either medieval or renaissance/early modern. I certainly take the point that British Ren/EM as a title for the group avoids an unnecessarily sharp divide between centuries, but insofar as 16th-century is the closest we might get to a designation making room for medievalists and early modernists working across the boundary (as Hannibal Hamlin notes above), I’d be interested in having that retained.

      Comment by Christopher Looby on October 16th, 2013

      I can add a little bit about how this proposed name change came about. It had been under discussion by the Executive Committee of the Gay Studies in Language and Literature Division for some time, even before I was elected to the Committee a few years ago. The name “Sexuality Studies” came from us, and the MLA, knowing this broad re-mapping of the Divisions was in the works, held off on the name change until now. Obviously calling it “Gay Studies” was rather outdated and narrow–but what to call it instead? “Queer Studies” would be an option, but it seemed like the moment to seize the broadest and most inclusive rubric, i.e., “Sexuality Studies.” I think this is a fair representation of the reasoning behind it, but perhaps others (and predecessors) on the Executive Committee will weigh in.

      Comment by Claire M. Waters on October 16th, 2013

      I’m enjoying all the thoughtful discussion on this topic. It does seem that “Textual Scholarship” could be a useful rubric–as someone who works with manuscripts, I think I would recognize myself as included–though I do worry a bit that its very capaciousness would not catch the eye as well as a more specific list–Manuscript, Print, and Digital Texts, for instance. But every title has its problems.

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 16th, 2013

      I also agree. The term “part-time” is simply confusing as people are unsure if non-tenure track faculty working full time, sometimes at various places, are included in this category.

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 16th, 2013

      I am not sure about this change. It seems to exclude literature and the humanities interaction with the sciences.

      Comment by Margaret Hanzimanolis on October 16th, 2013

      I strongly dissgree with Sandra Barringer, and Lila Harper, both former members of the committee on PTF.

       

      Part-time faculty are a distinct group of faculty member, numbering 760,990 in 2012, the last year for which we have figures, from the NCES.  The NCES is the only source of mandated data  collected on the faculty status.  Because it ONLY collects data according to the categories PT and FT, the term PT must continue to be the operative category for this group.  If “non-tenure_ track or “contingent” were used, then the entire 43 years of comparative data would be lost–in that longitudinal analysis would be unavailable for the category “non-tenure track”.

      The labor conditions of PTF are distinct, and the ways in which PTF are typically shut out  of governance is distinct.  Non-tenure track faculty have much more in common with their tenure track brethren, than with PTF.   There is already a “contingent labor” committee, well funded by the MLA,  that did an excellent job on employment guidelines.

      Contingency, as an employment condition, is covered under the CLIP committee.

      I would urge the MLA not to fold this significant group (50.1% of the faculty teaching in colleges and universities today, into a larger group (non-tenure track), as the distinct experiences (for instance, full time equivalent earnings averaging $28,000 per year) would be lost when folded  into the larger category of non-tenure track.  IN terms of community of interest.  The PTF worker has relatively weak community of interest ties with “non-tenure track” faculty.

      I object to the existence of tenure being the significant  demarcation.  Rather, the difference should follow labor code definitions and data reporting definitions, which hinge on FT and PT status.

      Comment by Michelle M. Hamilton on October 16th, 2013

      I too think “Medieval Iberia/n” is a better option from an internal perspective (i.e. from within the field) than having a date ad quem–which would not accommodate some of the work I have done. I also think “Iberia” encompasses the various languages/cultures of the Peninsula currently not reflected in “Spanish” or “Hispanic.” Comments on 20th-21st century list do though underscore that should all the groups adopt Iberian in lieu of “Spanish” or “Hispanic” then from an external point of view we in a sense rendering the field less legible for Anglophone audience for whom “Iberian” may not mean much–especially in comparison to “French” etc. Is there a solution that reconciles these tensions?

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 16th, 2013

      I don’t think research methods is really covered by DH. Not everything is digital nor will it be digital.

      Comment by Maria Shine Stewart on October 17th, 2013

      Yes, definitely.

       

       

      Comment by Marlene Manoff on October 17th, 2013

      I can’t help but note a certain condescension and failure to understand the range of complex issues addressed by librarians and archivists and the critical roles they play in defining, maintaining and presenting access to the scholarly record. Any librarian or archivist participating in the MLA is likely to be engaged in building literature collections in academic or research libraries, have knowledge of what is and has been published across a wide range of literary fields, have an advanced degree in literature and considerable knowledge of the ways in which both students and scholars use their collections. A library and archival studies group would provide a forum for discussion of issues crucial to the future of literary research. These might included the ways in which we can shape the future of scholarly publishing, respond to corporate ownership of both scholarship and search tools, understand the impact of new kinds of digital archives, better understand what constitutes meaningful digital humanities and digitization projects, and improve the ability of students (and faculty) to conduct literary and interdisciplinary research in an environment filled with new tools provided by libraries, corporate entities and scholars themselves.

       

      Comment by Lisa Nalbone on October 17th, 2013

      I support the name change from Arthurian Literature to Arthurian. While I recognize that Arthurian is not a language, I believe that it is helpful to include it under Language, Literatures, and Cultures, in its own category, especially given the interest in Arthuriana where literature and culture are concerned. Placing it in Comparative Literature might be too restrictive.

      Comment by Lisa Nalbone on October 17th, 2013

      The general heading of “Iberia” is helpful as a geographical reference, but within this categorization, specifically paragraphs 104 and 105, perhaps it would be useful to modify to two entries for each time period: 18th- and 19th-Century Portugal and 18th- and 19th-Century Spain, as well as 20th- and 21st-Century Portugal and 20th- and 21st-Century Spain.  Then, as some have noted, to address the fact that Euskera does not appear, a request might be made to create an MLA Discussion Group and Permanent Section in Euskera Studies (as was recently done with Galician Studies).

      Comment by Lisa Vollendorf on October 17th, 2013

      I have read the general comments above and add my gratitude to those involved in tackling this overhaul of our group structures. I remain concerned about the creation of so very many subcategories — we seem to be among conflicting arguments as humanists: (1) what we do as humanists matters and is generalizable to broader cultural trends and realities and (2) we are so highly specialized that we cannot speak across sub-disciplines without creating even smaller interest groups. I am wresting with the broader implications of this for our profession. I personally do not like the conflation of Lusophone and Hispanophone for some fields (into Iberian) but, on the other hand, I don’t understand why we need to have one group per every language area on the Iberian peninsula. So my own reactions map onto the critical issues at hand: to what extent should the MLA support hyper-specialization in an age in which we are hard pressed to be more articulate as public advocates for humanities, which requires us to speak across fields. At the end of the day, I fall on the side of more interdisciplinarity and less specificity as a way for us to position our professional organization as effectively as possible within the broader cultural context in which we find ourselves.

      Comment by Karen Bayne on October 17th, 2013

      Definitely keep this as part-time faculty. Universities such as Tiffin University do not have ANY tenure track employees/faculty as all full-time faculty are not tenured and no tenure is possible there. There is definitely a distinction between full-time and part-time and that does not necessarily equal tenured/non-tenured.

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 17th, 2013

      The CLIP committee is not a discussion group and is not an area where papers can be presented at convention. It does not replace the need to discuss contingent faculty issues in a convention setting.

      Past members of this board have tried to get this name replaced because at many colleges, anyone off the tenure track is called “part-time,” no matter how many courses are being taught; few have access to year contracts; and the statistics that have been gathered from colleges reflect all non-tenure track faculty, many people are teaching at multiple institutions.

      Using the term “part-time” may eliminate those teaching at multiple schools and those whose employers do not automatically move faculty into year contracts. We should be open to as many faculty as possible. A continuing problem, as Joe Berry has explained, is that multiple terms are used across the country to describe contingent faculty. There is a tendency for people to assume that what functions at their institution is the same nationwide. Berry even has a list of terms commonly used (see p. xi).

      I teach on quarter-by-quarter contracts in different departments at the same college, so have been considered “part-time,” even though I am often teaching full loads and more than full loads. I am non tenure track and temporary–although I have taught here for 24 years.

      Reference: Joe Berry, Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education.

      Comment by Stacey Lee Donohue on October 17th, 2013

      This issues is complicated on many levels.  I like the term Contingent because it encompasss faculty who do not have long term contracts, whether they teach full or part time.   It doesn’t, however, necessarily distinguish between those who get benefits and those who do not, since it’s an inconsistent practice nationally (at my college, part time faculty, who teach less than 1/2 a full time load, get no benefits and are hired quarterly; however, “adjunct” faculty, who teach 3/4 of a full time load, are hired annually and get health benefits).

      And at some institutions (like CUNY) part time faculty who teach a 1/2 time load do eventually get health benefits.

      I’m leaning toward finding the term “Part time Faculty” to be too limiting, but the discussion is enlighening.

       

       

       

       

      Comment by Margaret Hanzimanolis on October 17th, 2013

      Well. Perhaps then we need a Non Tenure Track discussion group as well? Or could the CLIP committee actually host a list serv for discussion?  Could the CLIP committee be granted a guaranteed convention session if it is not already?

      The PTF Commons group, named as such, has 192 members, who seemingly joined with that particular designation clearly stated

      Contingency,  or tenure status,  in term the profession” seems to fall under 147: The Profession and the Academy, the CLIP committee, and Activism and Advocacy.  I would prefer that a separate committee that is focused on issues of “tenure” be found another home, in one of the other teaching and the profession committees!

       

      Comment by Margaret Hanzimanolis on October 18th, 2013

      It might be helpful to note that the CLIP (Contingent Labor in the Professions) committee has has a discussion forum in the Commons, which is the only “discussion” framework that the PTF group has.  Here it is”

      Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession

      I hope the intra MLA link works!

      It only has 9 members, so those interested in discussing “non tenure track status” might want to make use of that discussion space for the tenure track/ non tenure track divide!

       

      Comment by Margaret Hanzimanolis on October 18th, 2013

      However, I see the settings are erroneously set to “private” which makes the usefulness to the throngs of those interested in “non-tenure track” status discussions a bit shut out!. And the group evidently has no administrator.  So CLIP committee folks, get your MLA commons space cooking!   If the CLIP  , “MLA COMMONS Group”  was functioning, then there is a space for discussion, such as it is or might be!

       

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 18th, 2013

      There are valid reasons to have a Chicana and Chicano group in the MLA, namely the reality that it is a well developed field with numerous practitioners that at times interact with but do not overlap with the field of Latina/o studies. There are numerous programs in Chicana/o Studies, including PhDs in the field. I welcome the maintenance of a distinct group (similar to the Puerto Rican and Cuban/Cuban-American groups) as well as the creation of a pan-Latina/o group. Ultimately, member interest will determine the number of panels that will be allocated to the Chicana and Chicano group: it may maintain its Division number (of 3 guaranteed sessions) or have less, as people perhaps shift to Latina and Latino. This should be decided by the membership.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 18th, 2013

      This is an important group.

      Comment by Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes on October 18th, 2013

      Thanks!

      Comment by Marlene Manoff on October 18th, 2013

       
      I’m certainly sympathetic to the desire to not lose either the bibliography or textual scholarship terminology. However, I can’t help but note a certain condescension and failure to understand the range of issues addressed by librarians and archivists and the critical role they play in defining, maintaining and presenting access to the scholarly record. Any librarian or archivist participating in the MLA is likely to be engaged in building literature collections in academic or research libraries, have knowledge of what is and has been published across a wide range of literary fields, have an advanced degree in literature and considerable knowledge of the ways in which both students and scholars use their collections. A library and archival studies group would provide a forum for discussion of issues crucial to the future of literary research. These might included the ways in which we can shape the future of scholarly publishing, respond to corporate ownership of both scholarship and search tools, understand the impact of new kinds of digital archives, better understand what constitutes meaningful digital humanities and digitization projects, and improve the ability of students (and faculty) to conduct literary and interdisciplinary research in an environment filled with new tools provided by libraries, corporate entities and scholars themselves.
       
       
       

       
       

      Comment by Margaret Hanzimanolis on October 18th, 2013

      Since my work on the Portuguese shipwreck accounts in Southern Africa, and the carreira da india includes Atlantic Ocean, Portugal, South Africa and Macau/Sofala/Goa I wonder if a “Maritime Studies” would be a good spot for sea-based literature?  Of course it might be a very small number of folks working in this.  How about trade’based studies? Silk Road, carrierra da india, and so on?  Most of the work in Atlantic and Indian ocean studies was involved in trade-based questions, that I have read, and often did not fit the confines of a “ocean.”

      Comment by R. James Goldstein on October 18th, 2013

      I am in favor of this change from Poetry (History, criticism and theory) to Poetry and Poetics.  I think it creates a stronger link between poetry and theories of poetry that should prove fruitful.  Histories of poetry and criticism of poetry both fit in with other groups, such as historical periods, national or transnational groupings, etc.

      Comment by R. James Goldstein on October 18th, 2013

      Okay, I’ll say it: I am one of the members who is relieved that Chaucer will retain its own group.  Many of us would still identify ourselves as Chaucerians (not that that is all we are).  MLA’s retaining this group could be useful ammunition in departments that are thinking of phasing out a separate course on Chaucer.  Although I can see how it might appear anomalous that only Chaucer and Shakespeare have their own groups, this is a matter of institution-historical contingencies that I think still play a role in the 21st-cent. academy.  More gets published on Chaucer than on any other Middle English author by far, and he is more frequently taught.

      Comment by R. James Goldstein on October 18th, 2013

      I agree with those who are advocating to retain three groups instead of collapsing them to two for the reasons already expressed.  If 79 and 80 are merged, I agree with those who suggest British Renaissance/Early Modern as the name.

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 18th, 2013

      We have benefits at .5 FTE and just negotiated across board pay increases for the next four years. All pay increases are done at the credit hour, so no one gets left out. We also established an annual pool of $20,000 for development funds available to NTT at the senior lecturer level (5 years or more) for conference travel.We have four pay levels based on terminal degree and seniority, not workload.

      By keeping the focus on all NTT, we avoid splitting up the faculty and causing infighting. “Part time” is a term that administration used to define us back in the 1990s. It pitted year instructors against term instructors. We recognized the division as a way of weakening our voice and fought against that, coming up with the term NTT as a group since our goal is full employment, job security, and a decent wage, not tenure. Most of the public four year schools in WA adopted the term, although Univ. of Washington has ELFs (English Language Faculty).

      Whatever term is used–and here I am echoing Joe Berry– it is important that it comes from the members, not an external agency.

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 18th, 2013

      I think this is a promising addition and don’t think “critical” is needed.

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 18th, 2013

      Very happy to see this addition.

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 18th, 2013

      I am also a bit unsure as to what would be included here. This is a new field for me.

      Comment by Lila Marz Harper on October 18th, 2013

      Here is an idea–make the condition be the focus,  not the person. While I still think NTT or Contingent is more inclusive, if there is a concern about losing an important group, instead of “Part-Time Faculty Members,” use the term “Part Time Faculty Issues or Studies.”

      I think what bothers me the most is that this is the only MLA group with the word “Members,” which suggests the people are the problem or it is limited to faculty that fall into particular contract groups. We want to indicate that this group is open to anyone interested in this serious economic condition and the issues faculty face.

      Comment by Julia Lee on October 19th, 2013

      The introductory letter to this draft proposal states: “The list has benefited from two rounds of consultation with members of the executive committees of current divisions and discussion groups and from the advice of a large number of members, whose comments played a major role in shaping the current document.” And yet, the executive committee for the Division of Asian American Literature (AAL) was never consulted about the proposed name change to the group and certainly never approved of it. While I am not intellectually opposed to changing the division title, I am troubled by the fact that the suggested name change is being being presented as the result of an on-going conversation between the Asian American literature membership and the MLA’s working group and/or programming committee when, in fact, the exact opposite seems to be the case. The document does not offer any kind of intellectual justification for yoking together “Asian American” and “Asian Diasporic” Literature, and as anyone who has studied Asian American literature and culture knows, this kind of coupling has the potential to replicate all kinds of racist discourses that represent Asian Americans as inherently “foreign.” Any kind of name change suggestion should originate with and be thoroughly discussed in meetings by the division’s members before it is presented to the general membership in this manner.

      Comment by Karen Lentz Madison on October 19th, 2013

      I would love to hear the reason Sandy thinks that the change to NTT is long overdue. I’m sure she has a good one.

      I do understand your point of view, Margaret, too, concerning the name. However, I can’t agree that full-time contingent faculty members have more in common with tenure track faculty than part timers!

      Full-timers I know are empathetic with part time faculty because most have been there, done that, and know that they could very likely be there again. I sense a solidarity with part-timers that NTT’s rarely feel with tenure track faculty, except for those who support equity.

      As to CLIP’s committee discussion group, it is set to private for now. We may open it up in the future, but that will not happen for a few months.

      Also, the committee is not exclusively focused on full-time non-tenure track faculty, whatsoever. We have had a least two sessions at the convention since its inception, and our discussions have covered ways to improve the working lives of NTT faculty, regardless of full time or part time, adjunct or contingent. And our annual convention breakfast round table is held for a mix of contingent faculty members.

      Our next project will be an addendum to the Professional Employment Practices document concerning on-line teaching–which is directly related to a good many part-timers. (This is an initiative that was suggested by Sandy when she was still on the committee.)

      I hope this information is helpful in understanding what CLIP is and what we are doing.

      I will share what I came up with for my own non-tenure track colleagues in my department. Some didn’t like the “non” in the label–seeing it as a negation of what we do. I finally said we are temporarily “X” faculty until we can come up with a satisfactory title for ourselves.  Afterwards, I realized the truth that the  “X” revealed, a la Malcolm Little.  Have you thought about changing the group name to “X Faculty”? Might catch on  …..

      Seriously, I agree that a discussion group for part-time issues would be a good solution to keep a focus on the particular problems that part-timers face, as well as the connection they have to other contingent labor in higher ed.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      I’m the current co-chair of the Committee on the Literatures of People of Color of the U.S. and Canada, and I’m also the Assembly Delegate for the Asian American Literature Division.

      I’m strongly opposed to this name change. “Asian American Literature” still remains invisible and illegible to many in our discipline — let alone institutions. I concur with all the comments above. As Richard Rodriguez puts it, “Including ‘diasporic’ may seemingly hold the potential to make global and transnational connections but it also undermines the historical struggles around charting a discernible Asian American literary and cultural tradition.”

       

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      I’m currently co-chair of the Committee on the Literatures of the People of Color of the U.S. and Canada, and I strongly support maintaining this group (distinct from Latina and Latino, which is a group as wide and heterogeneous as “Asian American”). Chicana/o should be maintained as a distinct group due to its particular literary, cultural, and political importance in American literature.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      I am currently co-chair of MLA’s Committee on the Literatures of People of Color of the U.S. and Canada. I heartily welcome and applaud the creation of this group. It’s long overdue, and I thank the MLA leadership for trying to address this lacuna.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      I have to agree with A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff and Sander L. Gilman in questioning these two group names, as well as Asian American and Asian Diasporic. These groups are under “American,” but the “diaspora” in the title suggests that it could include someone of Italian descent in, say, South America writing primarily in Spanish or Portuguese.

      I understand that the MLA leadership is trying to account for changes in the field(s), particularly the increase in transnational contexts, but I think that “diaspora” in all three of these groups’ titles raises too many questions and problems, particularly if we’re still working within the general rubric of “American.”

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      Also, as Timothy Yu and others point out above, while the coding of this group’s title suggests that its “name change [was] approved by its executive committee,” the AAL Division Executive Committee did NOT approve this name change, and therefore it should be coded blue, as a proposed name change.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      It’s amazing that there wasn’t a Korean literature and languages Division before! Good work!

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      Great name change.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      Very important addition.

       

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      Great addition.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      I agree with Elizabeth Donaldson — “Medical Humanities” is more recognizable (if messy), and I too am glad MLA is taking official recognition of it.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      I like this name change as it broadens the scope beyond literature and language.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      Thank you for that history. That’s very helpful & makes sense.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      EXCELLENT new group.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      Another excellent addition.

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on October 19th, 2013

      I concur — thank you to Marianne, Margaret, and Rosemary in particular for your hard work in this huge process. I support most of the changes, but I do have some objections and questions.

      I object to the addition of “diaspora” to Asian American as well as Italian American and Jewish American divisions, as I explain in response to those paragraphs below. (I’m also unhappy that the name change to “Asian American and Asian Diaspora” is presented as having been approved by the Asian American Division’s Exec Comm, when it was NOT. I hope this was an unfortunate oversight that will be corrected.)

      Also, it seems odd to me that Southern literature should be left out, given that this is such a large, vibrant and specific field. Furthermore, I do have to agree that Persian/Farsi lang. and literatures is another serious omission.

      I’m genuinely unsure about the division of African literatures division. On the one hand, it seems that an entire continent can surely have as many divisions as one country (the U.S.). On the other hand, any temporal, geographic, or religious-cultural division is going to raise many questions/objections. Ultimately, the appropriate sub-sections will have to come from that division itself.

      Finally, I heartily applaud the addition of interdisciplinary groups like Animal Studies, Ecocriticism, Indigenous Studies, Medical Humanities, etc. These are long overdue.

      Comment by Jolie Sheffer on October 19th, 2013

      I too am deeply uncomfortable with including Asian Diasporic studies here. As others have asserted, the focus on Asian American cultures is vital and necessary to articulating the U.S. national dimensions, and to the particular contours of Asian American Studies as an interdisciplinary field. It seems to me that Diaspora Studies is a distinct field, with different methodologies and approaches to national identification. To include it here is not to expand the focus of the MLA group, but rather to redefine it entirely. The distinct feature of the Asian American group is to contextualize and historicize race in the U.S. in a more nuanced way. This proposed change does something entirely different, and runs against the priorities of the MLA members who present as part of the Asian American group.

      Comment by Catherine Fung on October 19th, 2013

      I, too, oppose the name change from “Asian American” to “Asian American and Asian Diasporic,” and echo the points given by Anita Mannur, Sue Kim, Tim Yu, Paul Lai, Jolie Sheffer, and others on this thread.

      On the surface, the name change seems to be a gesture of inclusiveness that perhaps reflects the fact that many Asian Americanists move beyond a US-centric framework. However, I would argue that, both in practice and in terms of politics, this name change dangerously conflates Asian American Studies with Asian Studies. Many Asian Americanists such as myself can attest to the continuing struggle of making our field legible and visible. Over and over again, I have to explain to colleagues why Asian American Studies and Asian Studies are not the same, why I’m able to do my work without reading or writing in Chinese, why I don’t study authors from Asia, etc. These conversations happen even in the contexts of academic conferences such as the MLA. I fear that adding “Asian diasporic” to the group name evacuates the political resonance of the term “Asian American,” which is still very much needed. And since group designations may have impact on matters such as numbers of panels and papers allowed at a conference, I think we need to pay close attention to whether a seemingly more “open” group name would actually dilute the group’s focus and thus shrink opportunities the group can provide.
      To be clear, I recognize that there are separate Asian Studies groups in the MLA as well, that “Asian diaspora” means something entirely different from “Asian Studies.” I recognize that there needs to be a way to recognize writers of Asian descent who are writing in English from places outside the US. I do not wish to replicate the kind of conflation or erasure that I am critiquing, nor do I wish to subscribe to US exceptionalism. I only speak from my day-to-day experience of working in a marginalized field that much of the academy still has trouble understanding and recognizing. I believe that it is still politically and practically necessary to retain the term “Asian American” as its own entity. As many on this thread have already pointed out, Asian diaspora studies and Asian American studies really are wholly different fields, and thus a more appropriate change would be to create a separate group for Asian Diasporic. That, I think would be a welcome and important addition.

      Finally, I am deeply troubled that the executive committee for the Asian American division was never consulted about this proposed name change. That fact alone should warrant that this particular proposed name change be removed from the draft.

      Comment by Catherine Fung on October 19th, 2013

      NO it is not a subset of Latino/a.
      YES there is a need for both groups.

      Comment by Jigna Desai on October 19th, 2013

      I do not support the name change. I would support it being transnational Asian American and a separate category entitled Asian Diasporas. Asian American is a US-based field and cannot be collapsed with diaspora. It also loses any sense of coherency as an intellectual field.

      Comment by Catherine Fung on October 19th, 2013

      A welcome and necessary addition!

       

      Comment by Margaret Hanzimanolis on October 19th, 2013

      Apologies  if I indicated that I thought CLIP was “exclusively” NTT.  I only meant that NTT faculty were “fully” represented in the CLIP committee–it goes without saying, of course, that PTF are “included” in the contingent labor group!

      I do understand the term “contingent” and I do understand that it covers both PT and FT academic workers–but not those who have tenure.

      So “to me” and many, the term NTT has as its closest synonym “contingent”–they are, for most purposes and in most cases terms that cover an almost identical group of academic laborers.  Nearly all PTF are NTT and nearly all are contingent… 99% or something like that. I have heard of one person who was PT tenured–there are no doubt more, but very, very few.

      PTF is a subgroup of the contingent/NTT group that needs, to my mind, a distinctive space. We do not need, however, a “solution,” Karen!   The PTF  group already exists!  (I am the chair!) .

      The “solution” is to leave it alone as a distinctive group, for now, and let it develop as a strong, meaningful participatory body within the MLA.!

       

      Comment by Jonathan Kramnick on October 20th, 2013

      Dear Srinivas,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond here twice. And it is very good to know that the MLA is aware of the need to sustain, or at least not drastically reduce, the number of sessions in the earlier periods, and thus at least to postpone for five years the drift toward the present and presentism that the draft proposal otherwise represents.

      Nevertheless, if you read over the comments above you will see that the concern of your colleagues is even more about the collapse of the two divisions into one called “the long eighteenth century,” a name that very few if any of us would be happy to own as the description of our field. Most of us indeed work across the span of 1660ish to 1790ish. At the same time and as eloquently attested to by the unanimous verdict of your colleagues—including three past presidents of ASECS, our own generational cohort, younger professors, and graduate students—no one understands the period to be an anonymous lump, and all of us felt that the two divisional structure, while imperfect, reflected our sense of intellectual and professional identity. If I may bring up just one drastic consequence of the proposal, as John Bender and Simon During among others note, the historiographical long eighteenth century would excise the Restoration, a field many of us believe is essential to the self-understanding of what we do and integral to the larger shape of the field.

      Yes of course job ads typically cover the stretch of the entire period. That has always been the case. And as you also know, the two divisional names have just as always represented the long reach that any job candidate was expected to cover, with emphasis perhaps falling at one or the other end.

      A final word: the MLA asked for our opinion. The response from everyone in the field—really, virtually everyone you and I know—was a unanimous rejection. To move forward with the merger of the two divisions at this point would not only be intellectually irresponsible, in my view, it would be flouting the very process the MLA instigated and shamefully undemocratic.

      Cross period conversations and intra-divisional collaborations are a wonderful idea. Who could possibly oppose that? But the way to sustain a vibrant discussion among fields and sub-fields is to respect their self-organization.

      Jonathan

      Comment by Jonathan Kramnick on October 20th, 2013

      Dear Srinivas,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond here twice. And it is very good to know that the MLA is aware of the need to sustain, or at least not drastically reduce, the number of sessions in the earlier periods, and thus at least to postpone for five years the drift toward the present and presentism that the draft proposal otherwise represents.

      Nevertheless, if you read over the comments above you will see that the concern of your colleagues is even more about the collapse of the two divisions into one called “the long eighteenth century,” a name that very few if any of us would be happy to own as the description of our field. Most of us indeed work across the span of 1660ish to 1790ish. At the same time and as eloquently attested to by the unanimous verdict of your colleagues—including three past presidents of ASECS, our own generational cohort, younger professors, and graduate students—no one understands the period to be an anonymous lump, and all of us felt that the two divisional structure, while imperfect, reflected our sense of intellectual and professional identity. If I may bring up just one drastic consequence of the proposal, as John Bender and Simon During among others note, the historiographical long eighteenth-century would excise the Restoration, a field many of us feel is essential to the self-understanding of what we do and integral to the larger shape of the field.

      Yes of course job ads typically cover the stretch of the entire period. That has always been the case. And as you also know, the two divisional names have just as always represented the long reach that any job candidate was expected to cover, with emphasis perhaps falling at one or the other end.

      A final word: the MLA asked for our opinion. The response from everyone in the field—really, virtually everyone you and I know—was a unanimous rejection. To move forward with the merger of the two divisions at this point would not only be intellectually irresponsible, in my view, it would be flouting the very process the MLA instigated and shamefully undemocratic.

      Cross period conversations and intra-divisional collaborations are a wonderful idea. Who could possibly oppose that? But the way to sustain a vibrant discussion among fields and sub-fields is to respect their self-organization.

      Comment by Robert H. Kieft on October 20th, 2013

      I would like to second the comments from Matthew K., Sarah W, and others. This matter of classification/taxonomy  has a long and vexed history in librarianship, as it does in an all human endeavors, and no matter the scheme adopted nothing will feel quite right to everyone. I agree with the view that “genre” is a less good place in the schema for dh, and for libraries/archives than a place that foregrounds institutional , professional, and pedagogical issues.  Given the other groups classified there, they would also look out of place in “transdisciplinary.”

      Comment by Cynthia Wu on October 20th, 2013

      I’m a bit late to this discussion, but I agree with the thoughts that have been aired this far.  Let’s keep it as “Asian American,” and have “Asian Diasporic” be in another category of its own.

      Comment by Fred L. Gardaphe on October 21st, 2013

      I agree with LaVonne.  While we have embraced the terms Italian Diasporic Literature in other venues as a means of making the most of dwindling resources in the academy, it  seems to me that the MLA might be inviting literatures beyond the U.S. into this particular group, and thereby limiting the possibilities for focusing on the development of work on Italian American literatures.  There is much Italian American literature written in Italian and various Italian dialects, and these have been included in past Discussion Group meetings.  The problem lies in the expansion of this group to include literature written in Italian throughout the world.  It would seem to me that this is territory shared by both the current Italian American and various Italian Groups.  I’m not necessarily against this change, I only want to establish clarification of the new group’s mission before I articulate my position so that this group has a focused purpose.

      Comment by Albert E. Krahn on October 21st, 2013

       
      I’ve tried over time to get a new group devoted to punctuation started but the MLA has put large barricades in place to prevent any new idea from being added to the list of groups, it seems. First of all, it is difficult to locate a number of people in the organization
      from around the world that would support a new group because there is no easy avenue for finding them. You need to make a  way for people to participate, a system for getting people involved–post it in the newsletter and let members comment on it when someone makes a proposal. Or better, post it to the HOME page of the web site where people can see it immediately and comment on the idea and perhaps show their support.

      If the organization is really intending to include linguistics, then it has to make space available in the groups for things that may be less dominant, things like punctuation, filled pauses, and others. Those of us who have an interest in the less popular topics get pushed aside all the time, it seems.

      To counter any “hey nobody is really interested in that stuff” attitude out there, let me say that I have tried to get sessions for the conventions approved for about 13 or 14 years without success, despite a good number of people responding to the call for papers. I have had to divide the group a number of times. I get the impression that there is an undertone, a bias against some subjects that pervades the proposal approval process. Set a rule for the the approval process that some seldom-included topics must be approved for each convention.

      One more suggestion: Set up a category for a discussion group for “less discussed” topics and list some of them that can participate. Encourage those topics in other ways. Make a point of it, instead of making some topics always be treated as if they are the dregs.
       

      Comment by Albert E. Krahn on October 21st, 2013

      Help !  I can’t find the MLA group on orthography. Has anyone seen it lately?             krahn@punctuation.org

      Comment by Eleni Eva Coundouriotis on October 22nd, 2013

      I agree with the tenor of these comments and am gratified that the organization seems to be getting the message. Do not divide the field geographically, especially not the way it was proposed. The comments above clearly state the shortcomings: creating  the exceptional category Southern Africa and dropping North Africa out of the picture. Dividing the field historically with 1960 as the marker is the ok, but does not thrill me.

      If the idea is to create a larger footprint for this field at the MLA (I strongly support this), then why not create a new category under a different group? why is Africa only named in this group whereas it could also have a presence more explcitly in the CLCS group, especially if we want more attention to African languages?

       

      Comment by Margaret Hanzimanolis on October 23rd, 2013

      I like that idea, Lila: Part-time Faculty Issues

       

      Comment by Matthew Thomas Miller on October 24th, 2013

      Dear Prof. Hirsch,

      After several fruitful conversations with fellow Persianists over the last month, I think there is a substantial group of us that is very interested in making a commitment to a three-year seminar and working to build a strong Persian Lang/Lit presence at MLA.

      It seems that the process for forming three-year seminars (which you mentioned above as a possibility) and new groups is still being worked out. So I guess our question for you is what steps can we begin to take now to begin these processes?

      Thank you for your time,

      Matthew Miller

      Comment by Rosemary Feal on October 24th, 2013

      As chair of the Program Committee, I can assure you that all proposals get a wide and fair reading and are never rejected on the basis of topic alone. I am glad to give specific feedback on any proposal before submission (or in preparation for resubmission).

      Any MLA member can start a Group right here on MLA Commons. It’s easy to do, and then members can have a chance to join the conversation. We’ll be in touch with you about how to do this.

      Thank you for your comments.

      Comment by William Beatty Warner on October 26th, 2013

      I applaud the President and Executive Council of MLA for developing the MLA Commons as a way to discover a powerful consensus AGAINST accepting their proposed changes. I endorse the very compelling interlaced arguments, offered by my distinguished colleagues (both senior and junior) for rejecting the proposed merger of the Restoration/ Early 18th British and Late 18th century British divisions. It should be rejected even if they preserved the number of panels that they are currently guaranteed. I wish to contribute two points not made above, one practical and the other constitutional.

      I: Practical negative effect: To yoke together our divisions will greatly restrict the variety and diversity of panels we can offer. Why? Because, limited to 2 panels for the new Frankenstein monster ‘division,’ a question will haunt organizers of the future: “this topic is timely and important, but will it be addressable across the whole period?” This change is an organizational recipe for vagueness and abstraction. It will set back the topical diversity and historical specificity that is one of the great virtues of 18th century studies.

      II: The rich and varied comments made on this the proposed merger has produced a “constitutional” reason for the rejection of this proposal. I use the term “constitution” the way early theorists of the English constitution did: ‘as the existing fabric of government.’ MLA was not founded on the principles of the French Revolution, where the Committee of Public Safety divined the proper direction of history from within their committee. When I made this suggestion–half in jest–as the open forum held on this topic at this year’s MLA Convention in Boston, there was general laughter and a quick dismissal by individual committee members that any such authority was being claimed or exercised. But since the committee has gone forward with the proposed consolidations, it is worth asking about the principles that should guide our deliberations. The MLA Constitution, which I’ve just read through, makes clear the democratic systems and protocols that give our association its legitimacy. These are implicit in our elaborate election procedures. In addition, the “Purpose” of the Association, as defined by Article II, is “to promote study, criticism, and research in the more and less commonly taught modern languages and their literatures and to further the common interests of teachers of these subjects.” Starting with Deidre Lynch’s cogent first comment and extending to Jonathan Kramnick’s last post, a very substantial number of those currently advancing research and teaching in the 18th century have forged a remarkable consensus as to the unwisdom of the proposed change. If you insist on going forward with a “reform” that those most effected by it overwhelmingly reject, can you seriously claim to have honored the democratic and participatory principles of this Association? 

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      Great to include Cognitive Studies under Transdisciplinary Connections. This is a growing interest of colleagues across a wide variety of fields, from those who explore Cognitive Ecologies in the Early Modern Period to those interested in memory studies and narratology.

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      Agreed, Animal Studies is an important addition – which is another way of contributing to theoretical approaches.

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      I’m glad this rubric has been added. I too think the the term is outdate; but I can understand the importance of its recognizability. Is there anything to be gained by joining the two terms into Medical Humanities and Health Studies?

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      After thinking about alternatives to Memory Studies – such as Studies in Memory and Commemoration, or Studies in Memory, Affect, and Emotion – I’ve come to like the economy of Memory Studies.

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      I agree with Victoria and Larry on the importance of maintaining the legacy term and signaling multiple theoretical frameworks.

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      Well some alternatives might be Studies in Memory and Culture; Studies in Memory, Affect, and Emotion; Studies in Memory and Commemoration. But in the end, I think Memory Studies is suggestive enough to capture the kinds of projects people are talking about.

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      Excellent addition.

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      Kudos to you, Marianne and Margie, for guiding this complex process so deftly and conscientiously. It is certainly time for the MLA to remap our sprawling intersection of fields, and our many concerns about our lives as lived in the academy – intellectually and professionally. And kudos too for inaugurating this set of online conversations about our disparate fields and the stakes of the organizing principles that drive our structures for mapping our activities.  I have benefited from the conversations here from the many colleagues who have registered their responses, mounted their arguments, and engaged one another.

      Comment by Sidonie Ann Smith on October 26th, 2013

      Life Writing is the phrase many of us in the field of autobiography studies now use to signal the diversity of modes, media, and genres of self-referential acts and practices. This is an encompassing term that gathers under it practices from performance art to memoir, biography to autoethnography, social media to posthuman body projects, traditional auotbiography to hagiography and on and on. Thanks for proposing this change.

      Comment by William Beatty Warner on October 27th, 2013

      I begin my response to the whole page and the 90 comments above by quoting:
      “More important, the present list, organized primarily by national literatures, by periods and traditional genres, embodies a restricted map of the literary and cultural field; it’s a product of the legacy of colonialism and empire that our colleagues have actively been displacing in their work.”
      –Video message of Marianne Hirsch, President of MLA
      I am writing to oppose the conceptual framework used to justify the “restructuring” you are planning. I begin by asking the committee to imagine what the discourse of the President of our Association, quoted above, sounds like to scholars who have devoted their life to understanding the literary and cultures of the past. The division panels where we present our work at future MLA Conventions are to be drastically downsized. In effect, we are being declared less ‘relevant’ than other more modern periods, or groups. This line of thinking is a deplorable example of what Bruno Latour has described as “the Modernization front”: the belief that since ‘history proceeds like a vector,’ all people must obey the imperative to fold the past into a future so that we can be more efficient, more productive, and thus… more modern. ‘We/you must in good conscience strive in all things to reflect what we (really) are (now), …and should be tomorrow.’ Ironically, Latour shows that this is the ideology that has been preached to subject peoples that were conquered by West nations.
      There is a long history to this sort of modernist reforming zeal. Swift satirized it in the third book of Gulliver’s Travels. However, in 17th and 18th century the conflict of the “ancients” and “moderns” was highly generative, often against the apparent intentions of the combatants. Thus, avowed ‘ancients’ like Pope, Swift, Lennox and Fielding actually updated by translating classical genres (like epic and satire) into new media forms and formats; conversely, avowed ‘moderns’ like Addison, Defoe and Haywood incorporated earlier genres of writing into their modern productions.
      Over the past 4 decades, our early divisions have not been redoubts of recidivist nationalism. (We don’t begin our panels with a hearty round of ‘Rule, Britannia!’) Instead we have embraced post-structuralist theory, post colonial study of the literature of encounter & the growth of empires, critical race studies, several generations of feminist critique, queer theory, ecological and cognative approaches. At the same time, we have developed the historical horizon that sustains a critically import resource: the alterity of the past. Our blend of historical archeology and contemporary issues allows us to make a distinctive contribution to the knowledge that MLA seeks to advance. For this reason, old nationalist terms like “British” have provoked critique in our panel discussion, not the nationalistic triumphalism that our President’s video statement tendentiously suggests.
      I hope these remarks will help the committee to understand the intensity of opposition that can be found in the MLA Commons discussion forums below—especially in the discussions developed under the two divisions currently devoted to the study of 18th century English literature, which your committee has slated for draconian cuts. Nowhere in the discussion forums below will you find any who are opposed to increasing the geographical scope of our groups/divisions, or the representation of new areas of specialization. For example, none have spoken against the expansion of groups under America, Asian, or “Transdisciplinary Connections” like Animal Studies or Memory Studies. However, this expansion can be carried out without cutting the panels sponsored by the early divisions of English literature. We are dismayed that the Association that has supported our research since the days of its founding, and which recently wrote this respondent a congratulatory letter for 40 years of continuous membership (!), is now mobilizing a set of politically correct arguments (against colonialism and empire, against hierarchies and exclusions, in favor of realigning “representation”) to push our research to the margins of, or simply out of, the Association. Ironically, if the MLA proceeds to weaken its commitment to the past, it will make it more difficult to engage scholars of Asian, Africa and the Middle East who have their own strong commitment to the study of the literatures of the past. It will also weaken MLA’s public effort to defend the humanities.
      Finally, if you detect a sense of betrayal in the comments you can read below, it emerges from our surprise. Where we assumed there was support for the historical study of the literary humanities, there are instead bureaucratic knives being sharpened to reform us with cutbacks.

      Comment by Judson D. Watson on October 28th, 2013

      This may be kind of late in the game, but ahead of the November 20 deadline for input I want to add my voice to those of the many who have expressed concern about the baffling realignment being proposed here under the auspices of a simple renaming.
      It may well be that the merits and demerits of creating a new group devoted to the comparative study of regionalisms—or the study of texts, writers, or movements from “regions” that cannot adequately be brought together under the new (and exciting!) geographic categories proposed here—are worth discussing.  But it’s one thing to invite debate about “the promise of such a category,” as Marianne Hirsch does above, and quite another thing to frame the category as simply carrying on the business of an existing group (the Southern Literature Discussion Group) under a new name.  That would be a serious misrepresentation both of what SLDG currently is and does and of what a Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies group devoted to the “Regional” would be and do.
      So let’s recognize that (1) the desirability of a “Regional” CLCS group and (2) the future of SLDG are separate issues rather than merging them in the mystifying and seemingly disingenuous way they are merged here.
      1.  The proposed CLCS “Regional” group should be presented (by the Program Committee) and discussed (by the members) as what it actually is:  a new group, with no “original.”  It should be shaded orange and not blue on the Draft Proposal.
      2.  The future of SLDG is certainly worth discussing, but separately.  And I agree with the many colleagues who have posted here that the best place for such as discussion is not under the thematic category of CLCS but under LLC (American).  (The very fact that we are all having to post our comments in the CLCS section is further evidence that the whole conversation is misplaced and that the relocation of what was “originally” a Discussion Group devoted to a regional U.S. literature under the Comparative Studies category is misguided.)
      Perhaps a single group could promote scholarship on “Regional” languages, literature, and cultures in the U.S.  Perhaps, indeed, the SLDG could be “reconfigured” into such a group (upon approval of its executive committee).  Or perhaps SLDG should retain its regional specificity (as “Southern,” a “Group with No Change” coded black) and be complemented by new groups (Midwestern? Western? Great Lakes?) to reflect the continuing institutional currency of regional categories in professional associations, literary societies, professional journals, university press series, academic research institutes, and the job market.  Certainly the Working Group recognizes a similar kind of currency at work in U.S. ethnic writing, as evidenced by the diverse range of ethnic literatures to which it (commendably) assigns groups in the LLC (American) section of the Draft Proposal.
      I have my own opinion about this matter, but my intent isn’t to settle it here.  Rather, the point is that the proper place for this whole conversation is under LLC, not CLCS.  I join the many here who encourage the Working Group to revisit this issue and expand the LLC (American) rubric to reflect the institutional currency of regional studies scholarship.

      Comment by Thomas Lawrence Long on October 29th, 2013

      I am grateful for MLA’s recognition of this area of scholarly study and teaching. As noted previously “Medical Humanities” is problematic. “Outdated,” perhaps, but also often understood as embedded in medical schools and as an ancillary to medical education. This is problematic to nursing (which views itself as a health profession distinct from medicine) and troubling to scholars in the field who want to see themselves and their work as something more than service courses (or to see themselves as professionally situated in a variety of academic contexts). Our journals include: Literature and Medicine; Medical Humanities; Journal of Medical Humanities. That said (and if we’re not about language and language precision, what are we about!?!), I think Sidonie Ann Smith (above) provides us with a useful handle: Medical Humanities and Health Studies.

      Comment by Thomas Lawrence Long on October 29th, 2013

      Visibility/invisibility have long been an issue. I recall the MLA Gay/Lesbian Caucus debates a few years ago concerning renaming what became the GL/Q Caucus. The caucus emerged (1970s?) from a need for professional advocacy (rather than just scholarly publishing) on behalf of sexual minority grad students and faculty. I support renaming the Gay Studies group as Sexuality Studies.

      Comment by Steven Mailloux on October 29th, 2013

      I have been asked to post this comment from Carolyn Miller and Jan Swearingen:
      We are writing as former members of the Executive Committee of the MLA Division on History and Theory of Rhetoric and Composition, 1989–94, who were also responsible for preparing and submitting to the MLA Executive Committee  the proposal that created this division from what had been a discussion circle. At the time, we considered the creation of this new division an important milestone in the representation of the fields of rhetoric and composition within the structure of MLA, and indeed the Division has sustained itself for 24 years now, operating alongside the Division on the Teaching of Writing. These two divisions serve different purposes and different constituencies, though many people have interests related to both.  The history and theory of rhetoric overlaps with scholars in literary studies in a number of different periods, as well as with comparative and transnational studies.  During the past few years, East-West comparative studies in rhetoric and literature have been growing in number at the MLA convention.  While related to the teaching of writing as in part a history of rhetorical curricula and concepts, this field is not narrowly devoted to writing pedagogy.  The international scope of rhetorical scholarship is a new and growing  field, represented not only in PMLA and the MLA convention but also in affiliate groups, including International Society for the History of Rhetoric and Rhetoric Society of America.  We urge the discussion forum to retain this area as a distinct field.

      As the MLA considers the major restructuring of its groups, we would like to put in a word, and I hope you can pass this along to the discussion forum. This is a one-time opportunity for MLA to take into account the changing nature of the discipline and the curriculum of English departments, which now include a substantial number of successful doctoral programs in rhetoric and composition, many master’s programs, and an increasing number of undergraduate majors and concentrations in rhetoric and writing studies. In order to represent the full scope and structure of English, we hope that MLA will create a seventh thematic category in rhetoric and writing studies that could include several more focused groups, along the lines that others have suggested on the forum. Such a move would do a great deal to bring former members back to MLA and add new members, as well as making a significant statement about the full diversity and richness of what we do in English.

      Carolyn Miller
      Jan Swearingen

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on October 31st, 2013

      And rhetoric/composition, which doesn’t have anything to do with literary studies. 😉

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on October 31st, 2013

      Yay! So glad to hear this. Thank you for hearing us.

      Comment by Cheryl E. Ball on October 31st, 2013

      Agreed, Howard.

      And I’d add: With the new interest in pedagogy from DHers (which is laughably ignorant of all the SOTL work done in rhet/comp and other trans-disciplinary fields over the last 40+ years), it would behoove MLA to be ahead of the curve here in promoting teaching, pedagogy, and SOTL work in literary fields.

      I often hear from literature teachers doing DH work in their classes — and writing anecdotally about it in blogs, incorrectly thinking they’re doing pedagogical researched scholarship that is SOTL work — that they don’t know what I’m talking about when I call them out on the distinctions between teaching anecdotes and researched pedagogy. Then I realize it’s because there is NO TRADITION in literary studies of valuing pedagogy.

      And now that that tradition is growing, there needs to be sponsored publication outlets that also value research into this area. Because there will be no lit scholar who wants to put their tenure on the line publishing pedagogical scholarship when that work isn’t accepted as scholarship in their field. But with a journal (or journal section, such as in PMLA or Profession) that shows that work is valued in literary studies, pedagogical scholarship based on TEACHING might start to hold ground in MLA fields. So Teaching, as a category – and across categories and themes – needs to remain visible within the MLA structures.

      Comment by Sarah Neville on October 31st, 2013

      As a textual editor with training as a bibliographer whose work in both fields crosses into the digital humanities, I would like to express my support for both Matthew Kirschenbaum and Michael Best’s comments. In my experience, discussions of digital tools/methods that are divorced from the constituencies that they serve are frequently underused or theoretically flawed — my work as a digital textual editor is far more related to my work as a textual editor than it is to digital humanities more broadly, as the bulk of the questions I engage with concern the act of transmission rather than a stress on any one media. A refusal to privilege a particular type of media is one of the reasons why book historians are turning away from the term “print culture” as a synonym of their field, as such a term ignores (as others have pointed out)  electronic, oral, and manuscript publications.

      Comment by Sarah Neville on October 31st, 2013

      Indeed, the term “Book History” has always been incorporated within the term “Bibliography”, specifically historical bibliography. In Fredson Bowers’s “Bibliography, Pure Bibliography, and Literary Studies” (1952), he says that historical bibliography includes:

      “enquiries into the evolution of printing (including type-founding and paper-making), binding, book ownership, and book-selling [. . .] all biographical and historical studies of printers, papermakers, binders, type-founders, engravers, publishers, booksellers, and anyone else in any way concerned with the materials and the production of the book and its subsequent dissemination [. . .] studies of costs and prices, methods of sale and distribution; studies of the meaning of imprints, colophons, copyright entries, and of advertisements; all aesthetic studies of printing and its materials as an art; all studies of sizes of editions from the collateral evidence of publishers’ records or other external material; all investigation into the circumstances of literary composition which have any relation to the physical form of the literary work, the transmission of literary documents, and the relation of authors to the commercial process of publication.”

      Comment by Sarah Neville on October 31st, 2013

      I agree with Hannibal Hamlin: while seemingly arbitrary, the 16th/17th c. designation has the advantage of being value-neutral (consider how there is no discussion of renaming the “20th/21st century British” category).

      Comment by Alvan Ikoku on October 31st, 2013

      It is indeed good to have MLA recognize this field in its structure. I agree with the above comments and think Medical Humanities and Health Studies best addresses all issues raised here and elsewhere in other conversations. Even with renaming, it remains important for us to continue to actively define “medical humanities” so that it is more consistently understood to include critical inquiry, artistic contemplation, studies on and from nursing, social work, public health etc. To Soren’s JMH example, I’d add UCSF’s here.

      Comment by Alvan Ikoku on October 31st, 2013

      I am also glad that MLA is reconsidering the current proposed groups, while remaining committed to increasing the field’s presence in the MLA structure. It seems only two groups are possible. If so, dividing the two via a geopolitical or chronological marker (they can be read similarly) would likely produce concern and comment for years to come.

      I like suggestions from Tsitsi here and Lucy (para 46) to have something like the grouping in South Asian along the lines of media (paras 67 and 68). I also think that a group named “African and African Diasporic” or separately “African Diasporic” may be productive if the term diasporic continues to include migrations within the continent as well as beyond or to it, and a critical emphasis on the reading strategies produced in these specific comparative contexts (cf. Uzoma in para 46). 

      Comment by Hillary L. Chute on November 1st, 2013

      Hi Julie and Marianne,

      Originally the Nonfiction Prose name, before it was reconfigured, indicated that it in particular excluded Biography and Autobiography–it was Nonfiction Prose Studies, Excluding Biography and Autobiography.  (And I guess it’s the twin of the Prose Fiction category.)  Do you really think it makes sense, then, to include it in/alongside Life Writing?  It’s not as though original intention has to be honored, but the collapse seems to do something the group was specifically configured to avoid.  I wonder about genres of literary journalism that wouldn’t necessarily comfortably be part of Life Writing (?).  But maybe that lack of fit is an interesting intellectual question from the vantage point of Life Writing in terms of thinking where its boundaries are and where they can expand to.  I’m interested in where, say, studies of New Journalism, and all sorts of other modes of reportage that followed and persist and exist today might fit along this axis…

      Comment by Hillary L. Chute on November 1st, 2013

      Is is worth adding “Speculative Fiction,” which has become a common description, to this title (perhaps replacing one of the other terms)? Out of curiosity I just typed “speculative fiction” into the MLA Intl. Bibliography and 239 results came up.

      Comment by Hillary L. Chute on November 1st, 2013

      Hi Sidonie! I agree that Memory Studies has a nice economy.  But since the same section, Transdisciplinary Connections, also has Cognitive Studies and Literature, which would encompass a certain part of the study of memory, maybe one further kind of orientation/specification would help? My sense of the group is that it would be more like Memory and Trauma Studies, or History and Memory Studies.  History and Memory sounds good as the title of the (excellent) journal, but kind of clunky here though…

      Comment by Hillary L. Chute on November 1st, 2013

      I agree with the comments supporting the name Women’s and Gender Studies, and I am happy that Sexuality Studies is there in the same section.  There are a lot of fruitful points of overlap but one doesn’t necessarily subsume the other.  I think it’s also worth pointing out that much of the work that happens in “Women’s Studies” departments and programs and interest groups isn’t only about women, and that designation often signifies an important and multivalent history, set of practices, and theories, as other commenters have pointed out.

      Comment by Hillary L. Chute on November 1st, 2013

      I think that Cinema and the Moving Image should stay a discrete category and not merge with something like “Visual Cultures and Media.”  Of course, film is a medium, as is everything that we study as teachers and scholars.  But if there is a Comics and Graphic Narratives group (I am on the Executive Committee for that group), there should certainly be, also, a discrete film category.  I wouldn’t want to throw everything that is visual together into some large-rubric category like “Visual Cultures and Media.”  These forms, as we study and write about them, are constantly in conversation with other forms; transmedia analysis deeply informs the study of film, photography, comics, illustration, and gaming–for instance, in a forthcoming issue of Critical Inquiry on “Comics and Media,” two film theorists write brilliantly about the conversation happening between film and comics; one even writes about film, comics, and sculpture.  So while this kind of work characterizes so much study (especially in English, my department, in terms of the ongoing conversation between literature and film), I also really do think forms like film merit their own category within the MLA.  I don’t think we’re in danger of being too narrow here. I am interested in trying in coming years to do do some kind of collaboration between the MLA and the CAA (College Art Association), and the SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies).  But I do believe that the groups as they are should be able to retain a certain degree of medium-specificity as a starting point for analysis and as an organizing principle.

      That said, about Literature and Other Arts, I’ve never been sure what the “other arts” in the title of this group are supposed to be–so maybe some clarification here might help define the work of the group.  “Literature in Relation to Other Arts”?

      Comment by Hillary L. Chute on November 1st, 2013

      Hi Irene,

      I had this problem when coming up with a title for my book about autobiographical (or, as Lynda Barry puts it, “autobifictionalographical”) comics–I went with “life narrative” (Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics).  “Life writing” has taken on such force as a term… but is “narrative” a possible substitute for “writing” here?

      I also want to echo earlier comments in profusely thanking all of the members of the committee for this huge amount of work, and the incredible positive result of making its own process transparent and open to debate and discussion.  Thank you!  And, as with others, I want to re-iterate the need to give theory the chance to re-appear in stronger form in this configuration.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on November 4th, 2013

      Thank you, Paul.  Would you recommend a separate category, or could this go as a named part of another group?

      Comment by Susan Stanford Friedman on November 5th, 2013

      November 4, 2013

      The Executive Committee of the Division of 20th Century English Literature (Susan Stanford Friedman, Allan Hepburn, Kevin Dettmar, Priya Joshi, Jahan Ramazani) wants to thank those who put extraordinary effort into the restructuring proposal for the MLA. While individually, we have varying responses to the proposal and the comments on MLA Commons, we focus here on the re-naming of our Division to 20th and 21st Century British in the subsection of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. We believe that this name seriously misrepresents the nature of our field, especially since about 1950 through the present. Three of our five current EC members would be disqualified due to the nature of our work and what we were elected to the division to do. Two of our members are less disturbed by the proposed name, but are willing to lend support to objections here.

      In our view, the name “British” alone represents a highly restrictive and retrograde step that does not reflect the scope of the newest work in our field. We support a name-change for our group in the new structure, but do not support the name of 20th and 21st Century British. We propose instead: 20th and 21st Century British and Anglophone; or 20th and 21st Century British/Anglophone. This group name more accurately reflects the inclusion of Irish literature/culture and the integration of literatures and cultures of post-1950 due to migration and continuous cultural traffic between Britain and its former colonies.

      The proposed name change ignores entirely the lengthy assessment we sent to Marianne Hirsch on April 17, 2013 detailing the changes in our field engendered by the massive post-1950  waves of migration into Britain in the wake of the break-up of the British Empire and the phenomenon of diasporic communities and movement back and forth as part of late 20th century globalization. To recap briefly: British, Irish, and Anglophone literatures/cultures have become increasingly integrated. Moreover, the category of “Britain” or “British” is a political category with shifting boundaries in the 20th/21st centuries. The establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 removed most of 20th century Irish literature (in English and in Irish) from the category “British,” and  Scotland’s devolution marks greater autonomy from British rule. Finally, Britain, Scotland, and Ireland are all multi-lingual sites; English is the dominant language for sure, but literatures and languages other than English are part of the field our current division encompasses.

      We distinguish our group from the proposed group of Anglophone Other Than British and American because in our group, Britain remains an important point of reference for other Anglophone literatures and cultures, a distinction evident in our proposed name of British and Anglophone or British/Anglophone. We realize that this name for our group creates some overlap with the groups called Anglophone Other Than British and American and Postcolonial Studies, but some overlap in the new MLA structure is inevitable. In our view, it is more important to have a name for our group reflects the nature of literature in 20th/21st century Britain and Ireland and the range of work being done in our field. The main focus for each of the three groups is different enough to justify three distinctive groups.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on November 6th, 2013

      Thank you, Susan and colleagues, for this thoughtful rationale and the helpful comment. Would you recommend making the earlier periods British/Anglophone as well? The suggestion was made, for example,  to name all the French fields French/francophone, and to name the current francophone group Postcolonial Francophone. Feedback on this and other responses would be much appreciated.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on November 6th, 2013

      Thank you for this response. I amm speaking particularly for Patsy Yaeger, a member of the working group, who asks for your   your comments on Judson Watson’s suggestions for reconfiguring the SLDG in ways that might make it more inclusive as a category and invites dialogue with others. We can certainly move this discussion to LLC on the next round of revisions.

      Comment by Melek Ortabasi on November 8th, 2013

      I agree with Chris, Matthew and Karen on the location of the Comparative East Asia category, although I wonder if a “Comparative Asian” division might be more apropos?

      Karen, I also very much agree that clustering these divisions under the “Asian” subheading makes little sense, esp. if we’re going to separate out China but not South Asia. Also, where’s Southeast Asia? Central Asia?

      Is it a question of membership numbers?

      Comment by Melek Ortabasi on November 8th, 2013

      I would tend to agree with Matthew on this, much as I dislike thinking exclusively nationally (but then, I am a comparatist).

      Comment by Melek Ortabasi on November 8th, 2013

      I’d like to second Donald’s idea. Makes more sense to me.

      Comment by Melek Ortabasi on November 8th, 2013

      I agree, Alex, that it would make sense to retain/add periodization. This would also drastically increase the number of divisions for Asian langs. and lits, so from that perspective it would be a good thing. However, I wonder if, again, it’s a matter of how many scholars would participate?

      Comment by Melek Ortabasi on November 8th, 2013

      Yes, agreed. Thanks for the clarification, Rosemary.

      Comment by Melek Ortabasi on November 8th, 2013

      I agree with you Chris – are you suggesting though that we have  “China,” “Japan,” and “Korea” divisions under the larger “East Asia” heading? Not a bad idea, but if that’s the case, we would do well to support the establishment of separate South Asian and West Asian regional umbrellas (to be subdivided in a similar regional/national/linguistic fashion? Or chronologically?).

      Comment by Elke Heckner on November 9th, 2013

      I strongly feel that the category of “germanophone” ought to be part of the new designation for divisions. In German “germanophone” has the ring of the subaltern and refers to all those communities (especially in Central and Eastern Europe) who have adopted German as a second language for all kinds of reasons. We can no longer ignore an increasingly bi (or tri)lingual universe in which a significant part of cultural production occurs precisely in the medium of the “germanophone.” Understandably, folks in the discipline of German studies who work on the canon would be rather unhappy to be subsumed under this category as it would invert traditional hierarchies. However, it seems that that a division name of “German and germanophone” should work. “Germanophone” is a category that invites critical thinking and is future-oriented; and that is exactly what is needed these days in the field of German/German studies.

      […] Discussion of Proposed MLA divisions […]

      Comment by Theresa Michele Kelley on November 12th, 2013

      I have reviewed the draft of proposed changes and the preceding comments on the proposal as a whole.  Such a reorganization is a daunting task and I fully recognize the real work and consultation with various groups that this draft represents.  Yet I do have some queries about the overall architecture of the proposed changes.  It might be valuable to discuss further the logic of the groups proposed and the possibility of overlaps within and between groups before proceeding with a full vote.

      My comments below refer first to some apparent lacunae and then to  overlaps which those in the affected areas might help member adjudicate.

      A.  Lacunae:

      Literary Theory is surprisingly absent, as others have noted.

      Whereas Medieval French does not include subdivisions for, for example, Occitan, Iberian does for Catalan, etc.

      North African is notably absent from the African groups

      Several colleagues who work in periods prior to the present have conveyed their concern about proposed changes that compress their areas.  Given that work in earlier periods has been lively and responsive to literary theory and cultural changes across the profession, would it be valuable to consult further with those members?

      B.  Overlapping Categories:

      Media Studies and Literature and the Other Arts:  would the constituencies represented by these categories be well served by joining forces?

      Why would those working South Asian Disapora and South Asia and New Media wish to have separate categories?

      Three categories that seem to duplicate each others’ interests:  Multilinguistic and Heritage Languages, Vernacular and Creole Languages and (in the Transdisciplines category) Indigeneous Languages and Culture .

      Given that Atlantic is offered as a separate category, why would we also have a Transatlantic late 19th /early 20 centuries American Literature category?

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Comment by Ian Duncan on November 13th, 2013

      I too applaud the MLA’s recognition of this important field.

      Comment by Ian Duncan on November 13th, 2013

      I’d belatedly like to add my voice to those who have spoken out against the proposed merger of fields. I appreciate the hard work the committee has put into this, and it’s always refreshing to have to rethink the boundaries and conditions of our fields & subfields. However the reasons advanced by my colleagues for maintaining discrete categories here are compelling.

      Comment by Ruth Evans on November 13th, 2013

      I support Memory Studies, for all the reasons that Sidonie Smith gives.

      Comment by Ruth Evans on November 13th, 2013

      Excellent addition.

      Comment by Ruth Evans on November 13th, 2013

      I support both Lawrence Venuti’s suggestions.

      Comment by Ruth Evans on November 13th, 2013

      Stephen, in fact there is still a Chaucer group. If members agreed to collapse Chaucer into Middle English then medievalists in English studies would lose one of the 3 groups that we have, and none of us would want to see a reduction in our representation. So whatever the merits of having Chaucer included in Middle English, for now it’s a political decision to retain two separate groups — Chaucer and Middle English. And it’s very important that we retain Old English as well as a separate group.

      Comment by Ruth Evans on November 13th, 2013

      I second James Goldstein. Many Chaucerians and medievalists have lobbied MLA vigorously to retain Chaucer as a separate group. I repeat what I said above in my comments on paragraph 77: If members agreed to collapse Chaucer into Middle English then medievalists in English studies would lose one of the 3 groups that we have, and none of us would want to see a reduction in our representation. So whatever the merits of having Chaucer included in Middle English, for now it’s a political decision to retain two separate groups — Chaucer and Middle English. And it’s very important that we retain Old English as well as a separate group.

      Comment by Ruth Evans on November 13th, 2013

      Just to add, that as of today there are currently 1175 members of the New Chaucer Society — no mean figure — and I can assure MLA that the members support the retention of an MLA division on Chaucer.

      Comment by Richard Newhauser on November 13th, 2013

      I too will add to the flood of relieved

      Comment by Richard Newhauser on November 13th, 2013

      (Apologies for the abbreviated previous post! I’m not sure what happened to it as I was composing it.) I too will add to the flood of relieved Chaucerians commending the MLA draft committee for retaining Chaucer as a separate group. Pointing to the historical situations of institutions of higher education is indeed important: Chaucer’s influence in the history of English literature has never waned, and it remains essential to emphasize that if the history of English literature is to be retained as one of the factors among many others that belongs to the university study of English. In fact, there are a large number of stand-alone courses on Chaucer at universities that justify the inclusion of a Chaucer section in the group structure of the MLA.

      Comment by Margaret R. Christian on November 14th, 2013

      I hold with those who favor retaining as many sessions as possible, and I like the neutrality of the century designations.

      Comment by Margaret R. Christian on November 14th, 2013

      The specific dynastic labels Professor Luxon is floating suggest (to my mind) a particular lens.  Although I don’t want to go to the wall for the traditional BC/AD [BCE/CE?] dating system, the labels 16th-Century and 17th-Century seem to invite a broader range of discussions.

      Comment by Jeffery Stoyanoff on November 14th, 2013

      It is encouraging to see that Chaucer remains a separate group.  Anyone who has studied Chaucer (or Shakespeare for that matter) outside of an introductory or survey course realizes his importance to literature in English.  Chaucer remains an important figure for medievalists working in English language literature because his works, in many ways, are the culmination of poetic genres and experimentation in Middle English.  Indeed, Chaucer should be an important figure for all scholars of English language literature for the same reason.  As a profession, we must protect our history lest we risk our future, and preserving Chaucer and Shakespeare as separate groups is the most visible way of doing so.

      Comment by Aurangzeb Alamgir Hashmi on November 14th, 2013

      “Women’s and Gender Studies” is agreeable enough, with the apostrophe in “Women’s” in place.

      Comment by Aurangzeb Alamgir Hashmi on November 14th, 2013

      I suggest the group be renamed as “Activism, Advocacy, and Academic Freedom”. Activism and Advocacy pertain to engagements with various aspects of life within and without the academy, aspects that frequently require an understanding of Academic Freedom both in the academia and the society it serves. The name suggested may give the group a certain focus.

      Comment by Aurangzeb Alamgir Hashmi on November 14th, 2013

      The awkwardness has the benefit of a boundary demarcation, though the yellow line is rather faded. If only we could get away from othering, mothering… . How about “Anglophone World”?

      Comment by Aurangzeb Alamgir Hashmi on November 14th, 2013

      This is an improvement of the previous name, likely to address the trans-disciplinary character of the subject matter as well as the approaches to it.

      Comment by Barbara Ladd on November 14th, 2013

      I like Jay’s suggestions very much, but I want to register that he doesn’t so much suggest refiguring SLDG as part of a more inclusive group as discussing that as one option, the other being the retention of the SLDG. I do think a discussion is warranted. And, by “discussion,” I am suggesting a conversation with scholars in southern as well as those in other regional groups.

       

      Comment by Sue J. Kim on November 14th, 2013

      THANK YOU for fixing our group’s name-change categorization (to blue)!! 🙂

      Comment by Laura Mullen on November 14th, 2013

      I appreciate the change to “Poetry and Poetics,” but I am concerned to see that the MLA appears to have no plan or place to recognize the emergence of what has been called “hybrid” (perhaps better named “trans-genre”) literature. from the works of Gertrude Stein through Jean Toomer’s Cane to Theresa Cha’s Dictee (in the 20th century) and the writing of Anne Carson (to choose a few exemplars), there’s a line of literary works created to challenge the genre categories–and the production of such works is increasing with extraordinary speed. Prose fiction and nonfiction are no longer clearly separate entities, criticism and autobiography were mixed by Jane Tompkins in the 1980s and have not come entirely apart since, and the word “poetry” is being used to describe whatever seems difficult–no matter what it looks like on the page. Meanwhile there’s an ongoing renaissance of contemporary authors who have demonstrated that they will continue to challenge  and complicate the understandings shaping these older genre group formations. I would be sorry to see that the work put in to these revisions of MLA groups only works to prepare the institution for the past. Let’s prepare for the future, by putting a “trans-genre” group in the list now.

      Comment by Michael Paul Bibler on November 14th, 2013

      Jay’s response is right on. I think a wider discussion of what a “Regional” or “U.S. Regional” category would be very productive and invigorating, as long as that category is included in the category LLC (American). Neither “Regional” nor the original “Southern Literature” belongs in the CLCS category. But I would hate for SLDG simply to become “Regional” without that wider discussion taking place.

      Comment by Suha Kudsieh on November 15th, 2013

      While I am glad our medievalist colleagues will have a platform to share their research and work, I am uncomfortable with having just two Arabic groups:  medieval and a modern Arabic. What happened to Comparative Arabic lit. and culture? where would that group fit? Seeing a rich corpus of works, lit. and culture produced by authors who are Arabs, or have Arabic roots, in a variety world of languages (other than Arabic)  continuously marginalized and sidestepped is uncomfortable. Mind you this corpus flourished  either as a direct result of colonialism or of migration and exile. Can Comparative or World Arabic lit and culture finally speak? The other outcome of having only two Arabic groups is that this makes Arabic lit. appear as if it exists in isolation of other literatures, cultures, and world events, not conversing and negotiating with them, which better reflects the reality of what happened in the past and what is happening nowadays. Can World and Comparative Arabic lit and culture finally speak? Please!

      Comment by Amy Katz Kaminsky on November 15th, 2013

      Given the discussions here and with reference to the Jewish Diasporic category, I propose that a new heading, Diasporic Literatures, be created, with groups called Asian Diasporic , Jewish Diasporic, General Diasporic, and others that members might make a case for.

      Comment by Esther Leysorek Goodman on November 15th, 2013

      In  all 4 categories of Jewish (#s112-115)–Hebrew, Yiddish, Sephardic, Jewish Cultural Studies–there will be considerable overlap with # 57–Jewish American and Jewish Diasporic.   Yiddish could also be a topic in #138– Multilingualism and Heritage Languages, as well as in #s 96 and 97–German.  Would Ladino fit into #114 Sephardic,  or #101 Iberian, or in #138 Multilingualism and Heritage Languages?
      Maybe all these overlaps offer opportunities.

      Comment by Carolina Gonzalez on November 16th, 2013

      I agree that the grouping of ‘applied and general linguistics’ does not make any sense. Linguistics is a fluid field and new areas of inquiry arise quite frequently. One reason to keep ‘General linguistics’ as a broad, inclusive discussion group is to be open to current topics or subareas of inquiry that might not be covered by more specific groups focusing on ‘language and society’ or ‘language change’, for example.

      Comment by Stephen M. Fallon on November 16th, 2013

      Proposal on MLA Group Structure

       
      The Officers and Executive Committees of the undersigned MLA Divisions and Affiliated Organizations understand the need to revisit and modify the existing array of divisions and groups, particularly in the light of the rich and increasingly diverse array of literatures being taught in our universities and colleges. We wholeheartedly encourage the MLA to foster growth in emerging fields of literature, and expect the annual convention to represent the leading edge of scholarship challenging traditional boundaries, cultural, temporal, and geographical. Space must opened up for literatures currently underrepresented (e.g., Chinese and Arabic literatures).
       
      The revisions currently proposed, however, simply do not live up to their stated goals.  If the current divisions represent the state of the profession in 1974, the proposed changes represent the state of the profession in 1984. This is especially true of proposed revisions in American literature, which reaffirm a “mainstream” national tradition but, like the empire on which such a tradition is premised, assigns a few colonial outposts of minority literatures to its periphery. There has been no collapsing of fields in that imagined mainstream. Only one of the proposed American groups explicitly encourages transatlantic scholarship. As comments in the MLA Commons have pointed out, “Native American” is not the preferred term in American Indian Studies, which should also be expanded to include indigenous studies. Latina and Latino literatures are alarmingly considered a subfield of American literature. The American groups do not reflect the third principle of the reorganization, “to minimize hierarchies and exclusions among fields.” A reorganization of MLA groups representing the current state of scholarship would be considerably less reactionary in its handling of literatures of the Americas.
       
      We would propose a more thorough collapsing of hierarchies.  The primary headings under “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” could be temporal rather than geographic, in a way that might truly live up to the fourth principle of revision: “to lessen the divide between English and the foreign languages.” The rubrics “American” and “English” are already well out of date. A rubric such as “1500-1700” could gather groups from various world traditions, and provide space for generating dialogue.  
       
      In the absence of a major reworking of the current proposal, we would strongly urge the MLA to revisit the group structure in early modern British literatures. We are concerned that in one instantiation of the current proposal, all of the tightening in British literature comes in the early modern period, broadly conceived, i.e., in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries.  One possibility envisaged is the contraction of four divisions into two, in the form of a call for combining the current “Literature of the English Renaissance” and “17th-Century English Literature” divisions into a new “Early Modern British” division (or group), and in a call for the current “Restoration and Early-18th-Century English Literature” and the “Late-18th-Century English Literature” divisions into a new “Long 18th Century” division (or group).
       
      This proposal halves the divisions currently going to British literature (excluding Shakespeare) from thesixteenth through eighteenth centuries, and it bundles literary periods very unevenly—the period from Wyatt and Surrey to Milton would be combined; contrast that sweeping elision with the group “Victorian and Late 19th- and Early 20th-C-British (or Transatlantic).” The combination will inevitably lead to fewer panels at the annual convention, isolating a significant portion of the MLA membership.
       
      If contraction in the English literature divisions is inevitable and even welcome given current disproportions among national literatures, we would like to propose a more even distribution of that contraction. If English literature is to lose two divisions, it is not obvious why all the compression should come between the medieval and Romantic periods. One compromise would be to look for a possible combination of divisions either in medieval or Romantic to the present and to collapse the current four early modern divisions (excluding Shakespeare) into three: sixteenth century, seventeenth century (including Restoration), and eighteenth century. Any model for dividing periods will be artificial, tending to mask continuities and exaggerate differences.  We would argue that the very visibility of the arbitrariness of dividing by centuries paradoxically becomes a strength. 
       
      We recognize the difficulty and the necessity of the task that the MLA executive has undertaken, and we applaud the principles driving revision.  None of those principles, however, justifies the disproportions of the current proposal.  Should four divisions spanning the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries become two groups, those who study the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries will be harmed more than anyone in the profession. If there is no truly rigorous updating of the proposed group structure, we strongly recommend that these three centuries of complex and multifaceted cultural history have four devoted groups.
      This letter is endorsed by the Officers and Executive Committees of the following MLA Divisions and Affiliated Organizations: 
       
      The Division on Literature of the English Renaissance, Excluding Shakespeare
       
      The Division on Seventeenth-Century English Literature
       
      The Division on Division Restoration and Early-18th-Century English Literature
       
      The Milton Society of America
       
      The International Spenser Society
       
      The John Donne Society
       
      Marlowe Society
       
      Renaissance English Text Society (RETS)
       

      Comment by Stephen M. Fallon on November 16th, 2013

      Proposal on MLA Group Structure


      The Officers and Executive Committees of the undersigned MLA Divisions and Affiliated Organizations understand the need to revisit and modify the existing array of divisions and groups, particularly in the light of the rich and increasingly diverse array of literatures being taught in our universities and colleges. We wholeheartedly encourage the MLA to foster growth in emerging fields of literature, and expect the annual convention to represent the leading edge of scholarship challenging traditional boundaries, cultural, temporal, and geographical. Space must opened up for literatures currently underrepresented (e.g., Chinese and Arabic literatures).

      The revisions currently proposed, however, simply do not live up to their stated goals.  If the current divisions represent the state of the profession in 1974, the proposed changes represent the state of the profession in 1984. This is especially true of proposed revisions in American literature, which reaffirm a “mainstream” national tradition but, like the empire on which such a tradition is premised, assigns a few colonial outposts of minority literatures to its periphery. There has been no collapsing of fields in that imagined mainstream. Only one of the proposed American groups explicitly encourages transatlantic scholarship. As comments in the MLA Commons have pointed out, “Native American” is not the preferred term in American Indian Studies, which should also be expanded to include indigenous studies. Latina and Latino literatures are alarmingly considered a subfield of American literature. The American groups do not reflect the third principle of the reorganization, “to minimize hierarchies and exclusions among fields.” A reorganization of MLA groups representing the current state of scholarship would be considerably less reactionary in its handling of literatures of the Americas.

      We would propose a more thorough collapsing of hierarchies.  The primary headings under “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” could be temporal rather than geographic, in a way that might truly live up to the fourth principle of revision: “to lessen the divide between English and the foreign languages.” The rubrics “American” and “English” are already well out of date. A rubric such as “1500-1700” could gather groups from various world traditions, and provide space for generating dialogue.

      In the absence of a major reworking of the current proposal, we would strongly urge the MLA to revisit the group structure in early modern British literatures. We are concerned that in one instantiation of the current proposal, all of the tightening in British literature comes in the early modern period, broadly conceived, i.e., in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries.  One possibility envisaged is the contraction of four divisions into two, in the form of a call for combining the current “Literature of the English Renaissance” and “17th-Century English Literature” divisions into a new “Early Modern British” division (or group), and in a call for the current “Restoration and Early-18th-Century English Literature” and the “Late-18th-Century English Literature” divisions into a new “Long 18th Century” division (or group).

      This proposal halves the divisions currently going to British literature (excluding Shakespeare) from thesixteenth through eighteenth centuries, and it bundles literary periods very unevenly—the period from Wyatt and Surrey to Milton would be combined; contrast that sweeping elision with the group “Victorian and Late 19th- and Early 20th-C-British (or Transatlantic).” The combination will inevitably lead to fewer panels at the annual convention, isolating a significant portion of the MLA membership.

      If contraction in the English literature divisions is inevitable and even welcome given current disproportions among national literatures, we would like to propose a more even distribution of that contraction. If English literature is to lose two divisions, it is not obvious why all the compression should come between the medieval and Romantic periods. One compromise would be to look for a possible combination of divisions either in medieval or Romantic to the present and to collapse the current four early modern divisions (excluding Shakespeare) into three: sixteenth century, seventeenth century (including Restoration), and eighteenth century. Any model for dividing periods will be artificial, tending to mask continuities and exaggerate differences.  We would argue that the very visibility of the arbitrariness of dividing by centuries paradoxically becomes a strength.

      We recognize the difficulty and the necessity of the task that the MLA executive has undertaken, and we applaud the principles driving revision.  None of those principles, however, justifies the disproportions of the current proposal.  Should four divisions spanning the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries become two groups, those who study the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries will be harmed more than anyone in the profession. If there is no truly rigorous updating of the proposed group structure, we strongly recommend that these three centuries of complex and multifaceted cultural history have four devoted groups.
      This letter is endorsed by the Officers and Executive Committees of the following MLA Divisions and Affiliated Organizations:

      The Division on Literature of the English Renaissance, Excluding Shakespeare

      The Division on Seventeenth-Century English Literature

      The Division on Division Restoration and Early-18th-Century English Literature

      The Milton Society of America

      The International Spenser Society

      The John Donne Society

      Marlowe Society

      Renaissance English Text Society (RETS)

      Comment by Marta C. Peixoto on November 16th, 2013

      I’d like to second Christopher Larkosh’s suggestion to form two different groups for Portuguese and Brazilian Studies.   If Galician will have its own group, why not Portuguese and Brazilian?  Though each would have to be included in Iberian and Latin American, respectively, and those remain possible entry points, I would be happy to see the greater visibility that would result from dividing Luso into three groups: Portuguese, Brazilian, and Global Lusophone (with perhaps a more accurate name for the latter, which would not also include Portuguese and Brazilian in that category).

      Comment by Susan Crane on November 17th, 2013

      This division’s scope is enormous–ten centuries and global reach–but the division has held together successfully through the focus on comparative methodologies.

      Comment by Susan Crane on November 17th, 2013

      I strongly agree that Old English should not be fused into one division with later medieval English. It would not be possible to represent the best research in eight centuries of insular literature through just three sessions per year. The vitality of new work in Old English studies is better protected by committing three annual sessions to this vital field of research.

      Comment by Susan Crane on November 17th, 2013

      Great news that a discussion group has been proposed on animal studies. In my view, “critical” would be a revision driven by anxiety over whether animal studies counts as an intellectual endeavor. We all deal with that under-informed perception every time we write, so I see no need to stress it in the division title. We do a lot more than just dispelling misperceptions about our field; the important work is building the field itself.

      Comment by Susan Crane on November 17th, 2013

      I too agree that Arthurian Studies should be moved to CLCS. It’s extremely odd to see a single field that encompasses many languages hanging out with the language-designated fields. Further encouraging the move is that the only other medieval division in CLCS, titled just “medieval,” is gigantic–ten centuries and global span (could include, for example, richly documented Chinese and Japanese medieval). Plenty of intellectual room for a second medieval division within CLCS. The focus of every paper in every session of CLCS divisions is not comparative: checking old programs, I see CLCS division papers on novels by Dickens and Fielding. So an Arthurian division within CLCS could still include papers on single works and single authors, within the enabling context of recognizing Arthurian’s international reach.

      Comment by Gerardo Augusto Lorenzino on November 18th, 2013

      I agree with previous comments that applied and general linguistics are broad enough by themselves to merit be in separate groups.    As one comment made it clear, the main usefulness of the general linguistics group is being a possibility for bringing together researchers working in areas other than sociolinguistics/sociology of language (language and society), historical linguists (language change) or whose research agenda may fall within language areas (Germanic, Romance), etc.  However, this is not how I understand general linguistics, which to me seems to overlap in some respects with language theory, as in phonology, syntax, morphology, semantics, etc.

      Comment by Jason B. Jones on November 18th, 2013

      Is the idea that this group would also encompass #alt-ac members? If so, I don’t think that’s necessarily clear in the new name.

      Comment by William Michael Gargan on November 18th, 2013

      I agree with Sarah Wenzel.

      Comment by Laurence D. Roth on November 18th, 2013

      I agree that “Jewish Diasporic” is  confusing. I oppose adopting it for the same reasons that Anita Mannur and Richard Rodriguez oppose adopting “Asian Diasporic”–Jewish American literary study must also be acknowledged on its own terms and in regard to its historical and aesthetic specificities. Similarly, I’m not against “Transnational Jewish American,” but I’m open to other suggestions as well.

      Comment by Barbara Mann on November 18th, 2013

      Amazing work!  The newly-designed groups seem flexible and user-friendly, and thoughtfully reflect emergent issues in the field at large.  I suggest removing Hebrew literature from the Jewish category and placing it on its own, within the “Languages, Literatures and Cultures” rubric.   While historically identified as a traditional language of Jewish cultural and religious expression, as the dominant language of the Israeli state, Hebrew has been taken up by a wide array of practitioners, many of whom are not Jewish.  I think one could still argue that the categories of “Yiddish” and “Sephardic” are historically associated with Jewish experience.  However, this is increasingly not the case for Hebrew.

      Comment by Idowu Omoyele on November 18th, 2013

      Whether we are exploring African literature and/ or African diasporic literature, it is essential to bear in mind ideas about translation and transnational location. In our citations and interpretations, we should always acknowledge a writer’s original medium of creative expression whilst offering a translation as accompaniment. It is important for students, scholars and general readers/ consumers of literature who may be literate in one or more languages  to decide or discriminate as to the accuracy or otherwise of a given translation of a writer’s work.

      Comment by Rafael M. Pérez-Torres on November 18th, 2013

      I believe that there are striking linguistic, cultural and literary differences between Latina/o literatures as a whole and Chicana/o literature specifically.  Moreover, I believe that those of us who work in the field recognize those differences and very often speak and write about them.  As my other colleagues have noted, it is inappropriate to believe that Chicana/o literary studies is a subset of Latina/o literary studies, just as it would be inappropriate to suggest that Brazilian literature is a subset of Portuguese literature.

      Comment by Pamela Herron on November 18th, 2013

      I not at all comfortable with the name change. As others have stated Asian American Literature deserves its own category. Asian Diasporic implies something quite different and is usually approached differently. They should be two separate categories.

      Comment by Pamela Herron on November 18th, 2013

      I am amazed that there are categories for Comparative East Asian, Japanese, Korean, South and West and yet there is still no category for literature from China. I could perhaps understand  a category for Comparative East Asian but not at the exclusion of Chinese literature. I, for one, teach a course that focuses on translated works by women from China. My approach to this course is completely different to how I approach Asian American literature or literature of the Chinese diaspora. The term diasporic seems to lessen the importance of studying literature from an original country. It implies looking at literature of peoples who have left their country of origin sometime in the past and settled elsewhere. I understand that this (paragraph 54) is an attempt to be inclusive for those studying the Asian diaspora but it leaves those studying a specific country’s literature lumped into a huge generalization wither under the Asian Diasporic or Comparative East Asian. Come on! When one fourth of the world speaks Chinese don’t you think it is about time that MLA recognizes the importance of literature from China? Keep the comparative category if you must but there are those of us out here who are trying to bring attention to literature from China and would appreciate a venue where we can connect and communicate with each other without being lost in a portmanteau category.

      Comment by Caroline McCracken-Flesher on November 18th, 2013

      This relatively recent discussion group has shown its energy in guaranteed sessions and a wide range of collaborations in special sessions. I anticipate that this energy will only grow, and the new structure should help. Great to see different voices recognized; this remaps “English,” even as “British,” and shifts our broader literary, cultural and theoretical assumptions too.

      Comment by Gerardo Augusto Lorenzino on November 18th, 2013

      I am glad to see a group discussion that recognizes the growing interest in creoles.  I would prefer a broader category such as “contact languages” or maybe contact linguistics given the fact that creoles are one type of contact languages (pidgins, mixed languages, jargons, etc.).  Vernaculars are not necessarily contact varieties, but rather the non-standard, oral, low/diglossia variety of a higher prestige language, so there’s a social component that will be more suitable for the group language and society.

      Comment by Brian Bernards on November 18th, 2013

      I’d like to express my support for the comments left here regarding the collapsing of the terms Asian American and Asian Diasporic under the rubric of “American literature.”  While “Asian American” may be (read as) one particular, local formation and tradition of “Asian diasporic” literature, this imposes or prioritizes the diaspora model as a way of interpreting this literature.  Though the two categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the diaspora framework in certain cases may negate the “local” origins of a literary tradition in favor of its orientation towards the historical site of displacement.  On the other hand (as others have pointed out), collapsing “Asian diaspora” under American literature suggests that the U.S. is really the only site of diaspora that counts.  The term “Asian diaspora” further collapses the fact that there are many diasporas that are formed by intra-Asian migration, and thereby reifies an East/West, Asia/West, or “West and the Rest” comparative model of intercultural contact.

      Comment by Gerardo Augusto Lorenzino on November 18th, 2013

      I support the name change;  the original ‘comparative romance linguistics’ seemed redundant.

      Comment by Brian Bernards on November 18th, 2013

       

      I fully support the “Modern and Contemporary Chinese” revision to the “Republican and Communist” category.  As for the Sinophone debate, I understand that it may be too soon to ask for a separate category, as it was, I’m sure, a long time coming and a hard-fought battle just to get this expansion of discussion groups for Chinese literature. I certainly believe we should continue to appeal for a distinct Sinophone category, perhaps as the numbers of people working in this new field continue to grow.  I  believe that right now those working in Sinophone literature could lend their voices in many of the expanded categories (not simply under the “Chinese” rubric) in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies and elsewhere.

      Comment by Nathaniel Greenberg on November 18th, 2013

      I’d like to echo Stephen’s and Suha’s comments here. And also to note there appears to be a consensus on the part of active members of the group regarding this point. To divide Arabic into historical categories imposes too arbitrary a division. It is also a division somewhat out of step with the field itself. Arabic scholarship is enriched by transhistorical and transnational discussions. It’s more interesting for us to see how the problems we are engaging transcend time and space. It will be more interesting for audiences as well. Perhaps in the future consensus on this matter will change.

      Comment by Anna Faktorovich on November 18th, 2013

      I did not imply any condescension towards librarians. As a librarian, you must logically agree that the new terms being suggested are completely illogical. Textual and Bibliographic studies is a term that includes the study of all sorts of texts held in the library, and the MLA Bibliography has a record of a significant portion of items held in a library and the closest field of study to a librarian is bibliographic and records studies. While some librarians might be interested in digital archives, most do not create digital archives, but still maintain printed books and established archive collections like EBSCO and ProQuest. Surely, no librarian can logically argue that the MLA Bibliography is not one of the most significant items that the MLA maintains and that the MLA Handbook (which dictates citation guidelines for MLA bibliographic sources) is not among the key responsibilities of the MLA. My argument is not at all based on emotions like “condescension,” but simply on my logical aversion of illogical changes that detract, instead of benefiting a field that I am engaged in. I have published 2 academic books with McFarland and I’m finishing a third in which Columbia University Press has expressed interest. I have also recently won a new fellowship to write a literary biography of Wendell Berry. I use citations daily, I finished a 3-year MLA Bibliography fellowship, and I would like to see the MLA keep the Bibliography and bibliographic research as one of its key focuses. I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to insult me saying that I’m “condescending.” I would have hoped that those who might argue with me would present logic and would not rely on emotional attacks to get their points across. Sincerely, Anna Faktorovich, PhD, Director, Anaphora Literary Press, http://anaphoraliterary.com

      Comment by Luiz Fernando Valente on November 18th, 2013

      When I first became active in the MLA, the Luso-Brazilian Division was really three separate groups under one heading: Portuguese Literature, Brazilian Literature, and Portuguese Linguistics. Each group organized its own session, with little if any crossover in terms of attendance at sessions. In the late 1980s the division’s executive committee opted for privileging sessions based on thematic/theoretical topics rather than on  individual national traditions. I’d not support going back to the national literature arrangement. Instead, I support maintaining the Luso-Brazilian Division, complemented by the new Global Lusophone Division, which guarantees space in the convention for the discussion of  literary traditions in the Portuguese language other than Brazilian and Portuguese. It’s true that the new division doesn’t exclude Brazil and Portugal, but it encourages us to think about the Portuguese-speaking world in a global manner. Our hope is that each year the two divisions will work together to put together a larger and more varied program of sessions at the convention.

      Comment by Luiz Fernando Valente on November 18th, 2013

      As long as Iberian includes Portugal, I’m ok with it. If it excludes Portugal, then I’m against using the term. “Iberian” can’t be equated with the literary traditions of Spain.

      Comment by Luiz Fernando Valente on November 18th, 2013

      As long as Iberian also includes Portugal, I’m ok with it. If it excludes Portugal, then I’m against using the term. “Iberian” shouldn’t be equated with the literary traditions of Spain.

      Comment by Luiz Fernando Valente on November 18th, 2013

      I hope Iberian  includes Portugal “Iberian” shouldn’t be equated with the literary traditions of Spain.

      Comment by Luiz Fernando Valente on November 18th, 2013

      It’s essential not to equate Latin American with Spanish American. A large chunk of Latin America is occupied by Brazil, where Portuguese, not Spanish is spoken.

      Comment by Luiz Fernando Valente on November 18th, 2013

      I’m assuming that Latin American includes Brazil. Often the terminology is misappropriated to mean Spanish American.

      Comment by Sébastien Côté on November 18th, 2013

      This new category reflects a research trend that is very active in colonial history, but not enough in literary studies (including literary history). I hope it will encourage a renewed problematization of the relationships between Europe and the Americas, although I agree that this change in denomination has a lot more implications for those whose research interests don’t cross the ocean.

      Comment by Sébastien Côté on November 18th, 2013

      This is great news per se, especially with the creation of another long awaited category: Atlantic. Literary studies need both dialogues, in order to better understand the relationships between text production (and the institutions) in Europe and in the Americas during the colonial time(s), and the parallel emergence of different, yet similar American literatures starting with the 16th century travel accounts.

      Comment by Sébastien Côté on November 18th, 2013

      So, there is no more Canadian literature in French? Every work written outside France can’t just be Francophone in general…

      Comment by Tsitsi Jaji on November 18th, 2013

      I agree with both Jerry and Moradewun’s comments. As someone who works on African American and African diaspora literatures I think both fields are vast enough to warrant separate groups, even if they are often in conversation with each other. It seems bizarre to imagine that the most prominent U.S.-based  professional organization for literature and languages would not have a full research group dedicated to African American literatures. At the same time, it is crucial to recognize the diversity of Africa-descended peoples across the globe so I would join Moradewun in urging that we have another group dedicated to African diasporic literatures, which could incorporate Afro-Canadian, Afro-European, Indian Ocean studies, as well as the vast field of Afro-Latin American material.

       

      Comment by Vanessa K. Valdés on November 18th, 2013

      I wholeheartedly agree with my colleagues, especially Lawrence M. LaFontaine-Stokes — this new structure would foster work across languages, something that might foster growth in Hispaniola Studies, for example.

      Comment by Vanessa K. Valdés on November 18th, 2013

      Again, I agree with the creation of this “Hemispheric American” group — as someone who works as a comparatist across the Americas, it has been frustrating to figure out which discussion group or division group in the past when I work in several at the same time.

      Comment by James Kyung-Jin Lee on November 18th, 2013

      I echo the many concerns voiced here, particularly the troubling lack of transparency and process that resulted in this proposed change without any consultation from the executive committee of the Division. I’m frankly surprised that there hasn’t been a response to this concern, as it was voiced months ago.

      Though I am serving on Delegate Assembly as a regional delegate, I will bring this issue up at this year’s meeting.

      Comment by Bruce E Brandt on November 18th, 2013

      I concur with retaining three sessions. Using the century designations is consistent with many of the other group titles.

      Comment by Sharon Bryan on November 19th, 2013

      Is this group intended to look at libraries/archives and librarians/archivists, and what they can add to scholarship, or collections and the way literature is gathered and presented?  If the former, then Genre and Media Studies does seem like an odd fit.  If the latter, then it fits quite well.  The way libraries collect, group and provide access to literature has an interesting interplay with genre studies that could do with more discussion.

      For example, academic libraries often fail to consider genre as a factor when designing collections of literature, and are more likely to group collections by time and/or place, while genre plays a bigger role in public libraries (who also have a larger focus on Reader Advisory – a field that considers genre very carefully and would not be completely out of place in an academic library with a literature collection, but tends to be ignored in more “scholarly” settings).

      This is very relevant for undergraduate students, as the way libraries collect and present literature can have a profound effect on what students find and read.  My library, for example, has sections dedicated to literature from different commonwealth counteries, but no method (at all) for searching for genre.  If a student wanted to explore New Zealand Literature they would be well served.  If, however, they wanted to focus on science fiction?  They would have great difficulty, and the librarians are not well positioned to help them with the current collection policies and discovery tools.

      Such considerations could be regarded as inderdisciplinary and belonging to the “service” of libraries, but I also think the way we make literature available is (or should be) connected to the way we communicate the importance and relevance of genre and media.

      I think the original groups were definitely more Transdisciplinary than Genre and Media Studies in nature, but I also think that collecting literature is fundamentally connected to understanding genre, and libraries and archives should be considered in this light.  A discussion group about libraries and collections belongs in any consideration of genre.

      So my Question/Comment is:  Why can’t there be a Library/Archive section in both places?  The group in Genre Studies to deal specifically with literature collections (and their implications), and a group in the Transdicipline area to cover the scholarship associated with bibliographic studies and information culture?

      Comment by Sharon Bryan on November 19th, 2013

      Why is there a section for Hungarian, but not other Finno-Ugric languages?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a Finno-Ugric group, with Hungarian as a subgroup?

      I’m trying to work out where Finnish and Estonian would fit with your other groups, at present, and while they both have overlaps with Scandanavian, Nordic and East European, they both really belong with Hungarian.  Such a group would also open the way to discussions about Sami literature and the like.

      Comment by Sharon Bryan on November 19th, 2013

      I agree with Elizabeth.  Global English is lovely, but is it Global English throughout time (and therefore open to discussion of early colonial Englishes) or present day?

      Comment by Sharon Bryan on November 19th, 2013

      Absolutely.  Good to see Heritage Languages in the mix.

      Comment by Sharon Bryan on November 19th, 2013

      “General” is not without merit.

      Where does something like language planning fit in the Language Studies category?  Language revival (e.g. Hebrew, Cornish, aboriginal languages in places like Australia and North America) might fit into Heritage Languages, but what about auxiliary languages?  Or discussion of spelling or graphic reform as a general concept (rather than applied to only one language)?

      The word “General” in the group heading creates a neutral space for discussions about matters that haven’t yet found their own niche in this section, and any emerging concepts that might come along.

      Comment by Sharon Bryan on November 19th, 2013

      I’m also trying to work out where the teaching of reading would fit into these categories.

      Comment by Sharon Bryan on November 19th, 2013

      Yes!  Good.  This absolutly needs a foothold in Transdisciplinary Connections.

      Comment by Sharon Bryan on November 19th, 2013

      In future revisions, this would probably be a good place to consider bringing in language reform and language planning.

      Comment by Thomas F. Shannon on November 19th, 2013

      I also must enter my strenuous objections to this proposed reorganization. Language and linguistics are already terribly marginalized in the MLA as it is, with very few venues open to those of us from language departments who work with the actual languages that have such a prominent place in the name of our organization. Please do not reduce those opportunities even more by conflating two related but very different fields, applied and general linguistics. Both are valuable disciplines but with very different trajectories, topics, approaches, and methodologies. Each should have their own distinct, proper place in an organization whose name is ‘Modern *Language* Association’.

      As for delimiting General Linguistics, it can cover a wide range of topics dealing with language not necessarily found elsewhere in the organizational structure, from pure descriptive research (which is finally being [re]accorded its proper  place in academe) to linguistic comparison, as well as numerous other disciplinary and cross-disciplinary areas.

      Again, I strongly feel that this proposed conflation of applied and general linguistics is a bad idea and sincerely hope that the MLA will not allow linguistics to continure to be eroded in our organization. Thank you for your kind consideration.

      Comment by Enkelena Shockett on November 19th, 2013

      Making  a point while reading carefully MLA group structures which certainly I highly appreciate even in that rendering , nonetheless I state that my concern strongly centers on ‘Mediterranean’ group  – ‘European Literary Relations (including translation)’ and ‘Romance Literary Relations’. To make this explicit, I would like to suggest ‘Balkan Literary Relations’ to narrow the focus much closer to Balkan Languages and Literatures and Cultures so as to spin the interest of scholars and researchers even to the Albanian literature ( Old Albanian Literature; Modern Albanian Literature; Socialist Realism Literature; Translated Albanian Literature affording a bridge to properly apprehend the literary identity of this literature.

       

      Comment by Florence S. Boos on November 19th, 2013

      I’m sorry–I’m having trouble opening a box in the correct place.

      Where are working-class studies in this schema? There should be a “group” which is not confined to American working-class studies. “Class and Literature” would be all right also.

      Thanks,

      Florence Boos

      Comment by Susan Hollis Merritt on November 19th, 2013

      I agree with Marty Gliserman (Hi, Marty–very long time no see!).

      “Psychological Approaches to Literature” include not only psychoanalysis but other influential psychological theories and practical applications to literature.

      Relating to that point: I am also wondering what happened or happens to “Reader Response Criticism and Pedagogy.”  Perhaps one assumes that they are to be included in the “Literary Criticism” subcategory as one of the “Genres” etc. But reader response theories and related practical pedagogical approaches are multiple, not only psychological or psychoanalytic.  Like the latter, they cross disciplines; e.g., in some cases drawing upon more recent cognitive approaches to understanding reading and writing (of various literary genres).  That category (reader response theory, etc.) featured prominently in the MLA International Bibliography volume 2 (when it still came as part of one’s MLA membership).  Such categories are not so obvious in the digital versions of the MLA International Bibliography accessible via EBSCO or other databases.

      Comment by Susan Hollis Merritt on November 19th, 2013

      A category such as “Research Methods” or “Research Methodologies” might be able to include some of the practical aspects of theory (literary and cultural theory).  ” Critical Theory” can still be included in the “Literary Criticism” subcategory in “Genres and Media Studies” (though there are problems mentioned by others with the inclusion of “Digital Humanities” as a “Genre” or as an example of “Media Studies”, suggesting that Media Studies may need its own category.

      Similarly, it seems to me also that the related group of a new subcategory called “Library and Archive Studies” or “Print, Digital, and Information Culture” does not adequately incorporate “Bibliography and Textual Studies” (which also included textual editing of the kind involved in the CEAA, a major MLA awards category).  Such subcategories as “Digital Humanities” and these others could perhaps more logically appear in a larger category like Archive, Bibliography, Library, and Textual Studies, which it seems would include textual editing theories and practices (of the kind used by the CEAA).

      Like others before me, I thank those who have contributed so much time and energy to developing the proposed new MLA Group Structure.

      Comment by Susan Hollis Merritt on November 19th, 2013

      Echoing some  earlier comments by Jonathan Culler, David Shumway,  Jane Gallop, and others about what appears to be a missing category of Literary and Cultural Theory, I wonder if a main category needs adding, such as “Theory and Practice” (as applied to studies of language and literature); or if such a subcategory needs to be added to “Transdisciplinary Connections,” as some already have suggested.

      Like others before me, I thank all those involved in developing the new proposed MLA Group Structure for their hard work.  This process of an open discussion appears to be yielding important results, and I appreciate having access to everyone’s comments in this MLA Commons platform.

      Comment by David Chioni Moore on November 19th, 2013

      Friends and colleagues,
           The outpouring from veteran and newer voices has been clear: it would be irreponsible to divide African Literatures into North African, Sub-Saharan, and Southern African divisions.  I’m grateful that MLA leaders have quickly recognized their initially misguided approach, and have asked us to propose others.
           The key here, as Eleni and others have pointed out, is how to _expand_ African Literature’s divisional MLA footprint without irresponsibly _dividing_ Africa in a way reminiscent of past partitions.  This is a tricky problem, where the solutions seem to cause more problems than they solve.  A historical divide is tricky because most proposed dates (e.g. 1960) are terribly recent and, sadly, might leave the field 90/10 split to the more recent division.  A European vs. African languages split might also have the same 90/10 membership divide – to say nothing of its theoretical flaws. 
           No genre-based split seems possible either: every one I conjure up falls apart under the slightest pressure.  A “full” regional split among West, East, Southern, etc. Africas would likely generate more divisions than our group-size would merit, and bizarrely separate Senghor from Rabearivelo, Armah from Ngugi.
           One thing I like in the MLA’s new proposed structure is the emergence of “regions beyond continents.”  Thus a Moroccan author might now be engaged in at least six somewhat regional MLA groups: the African, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Global South, Modern Arabic, and Francophone divisions. 
           So perhaps we should ask ourselves: by what divisional innovation could writers of the African continent, in all their historical, linguistic, generic, and other forms of diversity, be  maximally engaged?  Would a new Indian Ocean division help, or is the literary or interpretive unity of that sphere as yet insufficiently established?  The Black American Literature and Culture division seems likely to be renamed the African American and African Disaporic division;  my own sense is that these should be _two_ divisions, fully recognizing the important overlap between the two.  One benefit of a split there would be that a separate African Diasporic division would have more leeway to include Africa in its scope.
           Clearly this problem does not readily generate its own solution;  I would be grateful for others to elaborate, extend, or revise these few notes offered here.   – David.

      Comment by Susan Hollis Merritt on November 19th, 2013

      Given the prominence of “performance studies” (including history and theory of performance and peformance practice) and “global drama” in current advertisements for teaching positions in drama (in the MLA JIL and the CHE, e.g.), I agree with parts of the comments by both Bill Worthen and Sarah Werner.

      As a longtime member of the MLA Drama Division (over 40 years), I would not want to lose the main mission of that Division either.  The current Division of Drama: “Drama (History, Criticism & Theory)” is rather broad, however, and it already does incorporate performance studies (theories and practices) and opera, viewed as a musical type of drama, since drama is literary genre that is both read and performed.  I think that the intention is actually to broaden the current division to include specifically performance (studies) but not to lose “History, Criticism & Theory” as  areas of concern.

      The MLA members who will choose the subcategory of Drama and Performance as an area of interest will bring their own concerns with “History, Criticism & Theory” of both drama and performance in selecting future topics of sessions (panels) or the proposed 3-year seminars, it seems to me.

      Omission in the proposed subcategory for “Opera” of “as a literary and peformance genre” might seem to be removing opera from concerns of the Drama and Performance subcategory.  But, as suggested, there are “transdisciplinary connections” which might be made if the two subcategories shared topics of special sessions in the future (which has been a relatively recent possibility in the MLA “Creative Conversations” rubric for divisions and allied organizations (to get together in proposing to share a session).

      Perhaps performance theories (a concern of performance studies) might also be addressed in a new category of “Literary and Cultural Theory,” which has already been proposed by others, or its incorporation in the “Transdisciplinary Connections” category, already part of this current proposal?  Theater (theatre) is a medium of dramatic performance, and so “Media Studies,” a subcategory of the proposed “Genre and Media Studies” might also admit theater (theatre) as a topic of concern.

      Given the mission of the MLA (Modern Language Association of America), which has not (yet!) changed its name to include more than “Modern Language”-related matters, though this proposal might make the Association’s name itself seem outdated), such “performing arts” would still need to be related in some ways to language and literature.

      There already are associations to which scholars and teachers of theater (theatre) belong involving theater (theatre) per se, to which many of us who are members of the Drama division also belong: e.g.,  ATHE and TCG.  It is important to recognize that many MLA members are members of other disciplinary or cross-disciplinary professional associations too; many college and university teachers of dramatic literature (drama) teach courses cross-listed in theater (theatre) or theatre arts departments.

      The MLA Division of Drama (History, Criticism, & Theory)  might seem to be concerned more with drama as a literary genre than as a practical theater (theatre) discipline; however, in my experience of attending many of this Division’s sessions for over four decades, theories and practical aspects of drama in performance are very often topics of papers presented; “History, Criticism & Theory” often has involved and does involve the history of actual performances, critical performance reviews, and theories and accounts of acting, directing, scenic design, and other aspects of theatrical presentation.  Clearly, drama is a cross-disciplinary genre, not only a literary genre.  Its presentation on stage involves so many other disciplines, which often results in non-MLA members from other disciplines getting permission to present or appear in special sessions offered by the Division (e.g., actors, directors, designers, filmmakers, etc.).

      The proposed sectioning off of “Opera” in its own subcategory really does give that type or subgenre of Drama its own separate space, which might be especially useful to scholars and teachers of opera given the importance of music and voice and choreography to the performance of opera and other musical theater.  (I do wonder if the subcategory needs to be larger to include both opera and other types of musical theater?)

      There is some possibility that adding “Music and Literature” (e.g.) as a subcategory in “Transdisciplinary Connections” might perhaps be a space for both operatic and non-operatic interests and studies of other kinds of connections between music and literature not specific to drama.  The same point might pertain to “Art and Literature” as a proposed subcategory in “Transdisciplinary Connections.”

      Comment by Susan Hollis Merritt on November 19th, 2013

      In a comment on paragraph (section) 32, I have suggested adding subcategories of “Music and Literature” and “Art and Literature” to the “Transdisciplinary Connections” category; it seems to me that “Literature and Other Arts” belongs in “Transdisciplinary Connections” more than it does in “Genre and Media Studies.”  (Please see my additional comment on paragraph (section) 38, as it relates to this comment.)

      Comment by Susan Hollis Merritt on November 19th, 2013

      “Media Studies” would seem to include studies of film (cinema); but “Cinema and the Moving Image” is incorporating the medium of film (“the big screen”) and also apparently television (“the small screen”); whereas, perhaps radio will be in “Media Studies.”  (I appreciate the earlier comment about radio by Donald F. Larsson.)

      It would be helpful to have a description (as some have already suggested) of “Media Studies” so that we know which media are to be included.   Newer generations of students seem to thing media involves television, blogs (web logs or web-based diaries), social media like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other electronic bulletin boards); but scholars and earlier generations of students would think of Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” and of media in a larger sense as the technological platform (screen) through which content (“the message”) is communicated.  Given that “Cinema and the Moving Image” has been given a separate category, I do fear the loss of this historical understanding of media studies.

      Please see my related comments on section 32 (Drama and Performance) and 37 (Literature and Other Arts).

      Comment by Isabel Jaén-Portillo on November 19th, 2013

      Only one comment on the nomenclature: the right way to phrase it would be “Cognitive Literary Studies” (name most commonly used for the field).

      Comment by Lewis C. Seifert on November 19th, 2013

      I wholeheartedly endorse Cristina Bacchilega’s comments:

      1) “Folklore” is indeed a very broad category that encompasses cultural production not often studied by scholars affiliated with the MLA.  I too question why this division name was changed.

      2) Folk- and Fairy-Tale Studies is now a thriving field with a strong comparative dimension.  While scholars working in this field generally find a “home” under the “Folklore” label, this field deserves its own division.

      3) Finding a way to develop connections between “Folklore” and “Children’s/YA Literature” is a good idea, even though the two remain distinct fields.

      Comment by Carla Sassi on November 19th, 2013

      The new label is very appropriate, as it highlights the rich potential of this relatively new and already very important field of studies – “Scottish Literatures, Languages and Cultures” accounts for the complexity and plurality of this field, as well as for its many dynamic intersections with different theoretical and empirical fields.

       

      Comment by Wolfram Michael Schmidgen on November 19th, 2013

      Stephen,

      it is not the case that the division on restoration and early eighteenth-century English literature has signed this petition. I have not and other colleagues on the division have not, either. I would therefore ask that you remove the division’s name from this letter–the sooner, the better.

      Comment by Jaime Goodrich on November 19th, 2013

      Belatedly, I would also like to express my dismay about the way that the name Book History and Print Culture omits or marginalizes manuscript culture and editing.  As vital components of many MLA fields, these two activities surely deserve an identifiable place within the MLA groups.   Furthermore, neither manuscript studies nor editing is immediately recognizable as part of Library and Archive Studies.  I support Matthew Kirschenbaum’s suggestion to rename this group Textual Scholarship and History of the Book, which is a much more inclusive way of framing this field.

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 19th, 2013

      Stephen,

      That letter was not “endorsed” by the Executive Committee for the Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century. Indeed, the letter goes against the letter written by the Exec Committee, as well as against the individual letters posted here on the Commons by dozens of colleagues (including the individual letters written by various  officers of the Exec Comm).

      Clearly, the dozens of letters posted on this site over the past months attest to what appears to be a unanimous desire to preserve, or strengthen, the Restoration as the defined period of study that in fact it IS.

      I don’t know if the other division committees and society committees whose names have been signed to this letter as endorsers did indeed endorse the letter, but I know that the Exec Comm for the Restoration and Early C18 did not.

      Therefore, I echo my colleague Wolfram Schmidgen in asking that you kindly print an unequivocal retraction as soon as possible–the Commons closes tomorrow , so it truly is important that this be done immediately!

      Thank you.

       

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 19th, 2013

      (I would add, too, that the letter also goes against the petition/open letter, drafted and circulated by Jonathan Kramnick, Deidre Lynch, Danielle Spratt, and me, signed by some 291 of the colleagues whose work is represented by the Division for the Restoration & Early Eighteenth Century.)

      RS

      Comment by Jaime Goodrich on November 19th, 2013

      I also agree that we should keep three groups, if possible, and that using century designations is more neutral than Renaissance or early modern.  There is so much cultural distance between, say, the 1520s and the 1620s that I think it is important that both centuries be represented separately.

      Comment by Norman N. Holland on November 19th, 2013

      The comments above are right.  Psychoanalysis is much too narrow a term.  The old “psychological” or a new “psychology” would be more accurate and more likely to elicit open discussion.

      It might include reader-response as Susan wishes.

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 19th, 2013

      To the contrary, there is “so much cultural distance between” the early 1600s and the distinct period called the Restoration that I don’t see how it could possibly be “neutral” to have a period called “The 17th Century”…as dozens upon dozens of the people whose research pertains to the Restoration have attested to under paragraph #82.

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 19th, 2013

      Stephen:
       
      That letter was not “endorsed” by the Executive Committee for the Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century. Indeed, the letter goes against the letter written by the Exec Committee, as well as against the individual letters posted here on the Commons by dozens of colleagues (including the individual letters written by various  officers of the Exec Comm).
       
      Clearly, the dozens of letters posted on this site over the past months attest to what appears to be a unanimous desire to preserve, or strengthen, the Restoration as the defined period of study that in fact it IS.
       
      I don’t know if the other division committees and society committees whose names have been signed to this letter as endorsers did indeed endorse the letter, but I know that the Exec Comm for the Restoration and Early C18 did not.
       
      Therefore, I echo my colleague Wolfram Schmidgen (under paragraph 82) in asking that you kindly print an unequivocal retraction as soon as possible–the Commons closes tomorrow, so it truly is important that you issue your correction immediately!
       
      Thank you.
       
      (I would add, too, that the letter, also goes against the petition/open letter, drafted and circulated by Jonathan Kramnick, Deidre Lynch, Danielle Spratt, and me, signed by some 291 of the colleagues whose work is actually represented by the Division for the Restoration & Early Eighteenth Century.)
       
      –RS (Delegate for the Exec Comm for the Division on the Restoration and Early C18)

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 19th, 2013

      N.B.: my statement that the letter goes against “the letter written by the Exec Committee, as well as against the individual letters posted here on the Commons by dozens of colleagues” pertains to the 75 comments under paragraph 82 (“Restoration and Early 18th-C British OR The Long 18th Century”).

      Comment by Anne Donadey on November 19th, 2013

      We include film in the Francophone sessions, together with literature. Sometimes we’ll have a session specifically on film and new media, and sometimes we’ll mix film and literary studies. I don’t think we need a separate category for film.

      Comment by Anne Donadey on November 19th, 2013

      The name change makes sense.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      This is one of the most exciting innovations, as it is not only a geographic region but a mode of study and an articulation of relationship–there is no Global South on the world map per se, but an immanent Global South wherever relations of discrepancy, alterity, hierarchy and yes hegemony obtain, while at the same time the GS is a locus for response, reconfiguration, and creative agency.  I’d be thrilled to be part of such a division, which would embrace work, authors, and questions as disparate and unpredictable as literary economies of scale, interstitial modernities, the GS commons, and literature and language from Faulkner to Darwish, Ngugi wa-Thiong’o to Tagore and Soueif.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Brilliant addition and the comments are especially pertinent on why this is so timely and urgent an addition to the Comparative Literature division, since Hemispheric American is coming to be the default position “even” for what used to emerge under the American Studies banner–that is, it represents the ineluctable comparative nature of US American studies too.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      The ascendancy of YA is crucial to acknowledge, and for the moment it makes most sense to add it here as a full equal to the established “children’s literature” field.  Bravo.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      I would regret Digital Humanities occupying all of Research Methods while at the same time agreeing that this consolidation is important and overdue.  Since Library and Archive Studies and Media Studies are going to go forward, though, it seems on balance to be really powerful.  The interdisciplinarity of DH is somewhat at odds with DH practices within language and literary study, as discussed in comments above, and thus the Genre division is always going to prompt some objections on that score.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      I have been in this group as well as the late 19th and early 20th century English group.  In both groups there was an attempt in setting up panels to be transatlantic and/or transnational.  I can’t quite tell if the proposal here is to merge two groups into a Transatlantic Late 19th and Early 20th Century single group.  The problem with this is that, oddly enough, the “transatlanticism” plays out differently between the two groups, with the American group using this not only as a vector to the UK etc. but also to Latin America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and so on; the converse happens in the English or British Late 19th and early 20th century, which for example would lose its chances to do diasporic Irish, global/empire concerns unless these fell under a “transatlantic” rubric that currently is stretched taut.  That makes me more eager to see two groups remain, one Late 19th-and Early 20th Century Transnational American, and for British, ditto (English I think is a confusing term these days).

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      This may come under the heading of “if it’s not broken . . .” but I could imagine a dynamic group under the heading Celtic and Celtic Diaspora Studies.  Cf the new hypothesis by Robb about the pre-Roman Celtic patterns for European life, etc., as these now seem to have offered an alternative and highly sophisticated mode of a non-imperial scattered  tribal polis.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Cf my previous comment on the Late 19th and Early 20th Century American group.  I highly favor the change to “British” over “English”–a true must, thanks!–and yet would argue that if the first group heading in blue were not adopted, a somewhat better title for what now appears in green would be Transnational Late 19th and Early 20th Century British (keeping the British for the end).

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      I think the awkwardness in this case sends a misleading signal rather than a useful blurring of borderlines, so I very much concur that “Anglophone World Literatures other than …” could do this work, if “global Anglophone” is seen as too problematic.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Since no one else has commented I feel on uncertain ground here, but here goes:  there probably is another place where the “borderlands” Latino/a American work can get done, but since LA is being viewed as so vital a part of Pacific Rim discourses, for example, and in Indigenous Peoples crucibles,  and internally for its participation in innumerable border valences that are not encompassed by the Cuban diaspora, I just wonder if something is going missing.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Contemporary Global English?  Love the name change, wonder about temporalities.  But Global English has a fine ductility to it!

      Comment by Vicky Unruh on November 19th, 2013

      This is a wonderful addition, and I, too, agree that Larry LF-S sums it up best.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      This is a vital addition and there would be many besides myself who would be eager to be part of such a group that, of course, would be spearheaded by graduate students themselves.

      Comment by Vicky Unruh on November 19th, 2013

      As an active member of this group, whose continuation I strongly support, I am comfortable with the more concise name that still captures effectively what we do. From the beginning, as Larry LFS notes, we have worked to bring together those working on island-identified cultural production and those working on  the diasporas and these have often been productive encounters. The submission rate for our MLA sessions is typically quite healthy and we are thus often able to generate high quality conversations among our members.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Fabulous–I don’t think “critical animal studies” is needed for reasons delineated in other comments; I could imagine that the breadth and acuity of this new field and method might be signaled by “Animality Studies,” since Animal Studies already has a slight whiff of a decade ago.  However, it’s simply wonderful to have the category.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Fantastic–I really applaud this as a key transdisciplinary area, and a nodal point.  It is capacious yet very honed.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Love this change–for me, the literature and/or humanities interaction is implicit, and this gives a far more galvanizing name for this arena.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      I think this is so prescient and exciting, and in addition to its admirable economy, Memory Studies sends out signals that it is NOT a variant within cognitive studies or the like.  Memory is a cultural dominant, a political dynamic, a literary and aesthetic crux, a historical modality, and even a set of methods–archival, curatorial, monumentalizing, editorial, compositional, collective etc.  So this is a superb group marking this convergence point and all it summons–transdisciplinary to the core.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Love this–I think it is going to be a locus for exciting work.

      Comment by Jennifer Wicke on November 19th, 2013

      Seems invaluable as an umbrella for myriad kinds of work; I agree that Public Humanities sorts of initiatives might seem at odds with intra-professional activism, yet perhaps it is seizing this terrain for both kinds of advocacy missions that would be in the end most dynamic for the MLA and its members–in all their activist diversity.

      Comment by Vicky Unruh on November 19th, 2013

      I’m joining this lively and productive conversation very late, but I, too, want to congratulate and thank Marianne Hirsch, Margie Ferguson, Rosemary Feal and the entire committee for such an excellent initiative at bringing the division and discussion group structure into more organic alignment with our work as it is imagined and practiced today. This was a daunting task and the results so far are truly impressive and exciting. I do agree with the comments about the theory lacuna (and other suggestions for tweaks sound persuasive as well). One could of course argue that theory is everywhere and permeates much of what we do and even that the draft’s re-conceptualized structures themselves constitute strong evidence of theory’s impact. But the fact that theory as an object of study helped bring about those very changes in what we do and will continue to warrants its location somewhere on the map.  Overall, though, this is a remarkable proposal.

      Comment by Stephen M. Fallon on November 19th, 2013

      Note, the signatories to the letter posted on November 16 should not include The Division on Restoration and Early-18th-Century English Literature.

      Comment by Stephen M. Fallon on November 19th, 2013

      Note, the signatories to the letter posted on November 16 should not include The Division on Restoration and Early-18th-Century English Literature.

      Comment by Stephen M. Fallon on November 19th, 2013

      Thanks to Wolfram Schmidgen and Rivka Swenson for your clarifying posts. There was apparently some miscommunication between your division and the Milton Society. The Society apologizes for the unintentionally misleading signature line.q

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 19th, 2013

      I applaud the creation of Scottish Studies as a division, but it makes me wonder why the Restoration & Early 18th-Century British division and the Later Eighteenth-Century British Division should continue as “British.” ESPECIALLY since there’s a proposal to possibly squish the two divisions into a single “Long 18th Century” (which in that case should be re-titled “The Restoration and 18th Century,” since the Restoration is ITS OWN distinct era critically and pedagogically). If Scottish Studies is to have its own division, which I think it would be great for it to have (either as a stand-alone or with Irish and Welsh as “Celtic Studies”), then the Restoration & C18 groups (or, worse, the squished single group with hardly any panels) should be altered to “English,” not “British.”

      Comment by Ken Hiltner on November 19th, 2013

      Rivka, allow me to offer my personal apology. As Secretary for the Milton Society, I (and not Steve) was in contact with the chair of your Division.  Owing to some miscommunication, I was under the impression that your Exec Comm had agreed to the letter, which I now realize was not the case. Apologies for any confusion that this has caused and for my role in this mixup. As Steve rightly notes, the Division on Restoration and Early-18th-Century English Literature has not endorsed the letter of Nov 16.

      Comment by Ken Hiltner on November 19th, 2013

      Rivka, allow me to offer my personal apology. As Secretary for the Milton Society, I (and not Steve) was in contact with the chair of your Division.  Owing to some miscommunication, I was under the impression that your Exec Comm had agreed to the letter, which I now realize was not the case. Apologies for any confusion that this has caused and for my role in this mixup. As Steve rightly notes, the Division on Restoration and Early-18th-Century English Literature has not endorsed the letter of Nov 16.

      Comment by Nigel S. Smith on November 20th, 2013

      While there are many useful and important innovations in some aspects of the proposed rearrangements, the proposed fusing of four divisions to make two is not the way to go.  It squashes together far too rich a landscape in literary history and will leave thriving areas of scholarship unacceptably underrepresented.  In short, the proposal to fuse the Restoration and the eighteenth century is Philistine, and I support the many comments asking that the Restoration stand as a separate entity.

      Comment by Nigel S. Smith on November 20th, 2013

      For the reason of keeping two rich areas of scholarship as open to representation at the MLA convention as possible I would propose retaining two divisions, one each, for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  I see the advantages that have been mentioned with regard to matters that cross the 1600 divide.  Nonetheless, and since I presume one division for the 16th and 17th centuries will mean fewer sessions, we should not abandon a division per century.  A single Renaissance/early modern division with the same number of sessions as enjoyed currently by both of the current divisions would be another matter.

      Comment by Nigel S. Smith on November 20th, 2013

      For the reason of keeping two rich areas of scholarship as open to representation at the MLA convention as possible I would propose retaining two divisions, one each, for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  I see the advantages that have been mentioned with regard to matters that cross the 1600 divide.  Nonetheless, and since I presume one division for the 16th and 17th centuries will mean fewer sessions, we should not abandon a division per century.  A single Renaissance/early modern division with the same number of sessions as enjoyed currently by both of the current divisions would be another matter.

      As for accurate names (see Rivka Swenson’s comment above), ‘The 17th century to 1660’ would be a solution.

      Comment by Laurence D. Roth on November 20th, 2013

      I agree that “Jewish Diasporic” is  confusing. I oppose adopting it for the same reasons that Anita Mannur and Richard Rodriguez oppose adopting “Asian Diasporic”––Jewish American literary study must also be acknowledged on its own terms and in regard to its historical and aesthetic specificities. Similarly, I’m not against “Transnational Jewish American,” but I’m open to other suggestions as well.

      Comment by Samara Cahill on November 20th, 2013

      It’s extremely worrisome that the Restoration could be collapsed into a “17th-Century British” group (or a “Long 18th Century” group, for that matter). The Restoration was a unique period and its political reality had consequences for women (who worked as professional writers and actresses for the first time) and for those marginalized for their religious or political beliefs. It is also a period that lends itself to rich historical revisionism in the analysis of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations in England. These two very historically specific phenomena (women’s professional work in literature and theater and the politicized discourse of religious toleration after the Civil Wars) have implications for the study of feminism, female professional authorship, and the marginalization of Roman Catholics and Dissenters (and non-Christians) in the service of stabilizing England’s national identity. By collapsing the representation of Restoration studies wouldn’t we not only be doing a disservice to the scholars who focus on these areas but also be failing to acknowledge the ongoing discoveries that revisionary scholarship has unearthed about how these historical developments occurred and their consequences for the eighteenth century and beyond?

      Comment by César Augusto Salgado on November 20th, 2013

      I agree with Profs. La Fountain-Stokes and Unruh.  Eliminating the Cuba and Cuban Diasporic and Puerto Rican groups to set up a general category would be very unfortunate given the vibrancy of the discussions, the commitment and breadth of their memberships, and the need for ethnic-specific forums that encourage a conversation between island and US diaspora concerns and themes.  It would impoverish the MLA commitment to both scholarly rigor and diversity when defining and approving special groups.

      Comment by César Augusto Salgado on November 20th, 2013

      I fully endorse Prof.  La Fountain-Stokes’ statement.  I would only add that I would prefer the name of the group to be “Puerto Rican and Boricua.”  I will explain why in a future note.

       

      Comment by Pauline Wakeham on November 20th, 2013

      Hello,

      I’m writing as the current Chair of the Canadian Literature in English Discussion Group Executive Committee (the current name of the Discussion Group). The executive committee decided to suggest a new name for the group. Our reasoning was that “Canadian Literature in English” seemed to exclude a range of potential other literatures (including Quebecois literature written in French). The goal was to remove the “in English” so as to be less restrictive. To my group’s knowledge (we have all only assumed our role on the executive committee over the past four years or less and there is no significant past institutional memory among us), there was never a “Canadian Literature in French” discussion group. If specialists in that field would like to create one or other variations of “Canadian Literature” discussion groups, we welcome that. In the interim, as the “Canadian Literature in English” discussion group is currently the only existing discussion group representing Canada, we thought that it was best to frame the group as expansively as possible so as to enable diverse participation.

      The name that our group proposed, however, is not reflected here. We recommended “Literatures and Cultural Studies in Canada.” Although we recognized that the phrasing was a bit long and awkward, it was important to us to make the shift from the potentially proprietary “Canadian Literature” to “Literatures in Canada” due to the problems of subsuming First Nations, Inuit, and Metis writing under the category of “Canadian” (and the effacement of these nations’ sovereignty such a subsumption might entail).

      Thanks and best wishes,

      Pauline

       

       

       

      Comment by Leah Strobel on November 20th, 2013

      This is a great addition and I would support the inclusion of a section on “Public Humanities.” The type of activist and advocacy work that NTT faculty do often extends outside of the academy. As one of these faculty members in a community college I am called on to advocate for the humanities in the larger community. This inclusion would speak to those engagements.

      Comment by David Samuel Mazella on November 20th, 2013

      As someone who has taught and published at both ends of the “Long 18th century,” I wanted to endorse William Beatty Warner’s opposition to the assumptions driving this “reorganization,” which was apparently designed to reduce the absolute number of divisions and sessions associated with the historical study of past literatures. This is a short-sighted move for our discipline and our organization, because as many others have argued, it neglects the important developments in the historically-based fields from the last 40 years, and because it puts the structure of the MLA at odds with the considerable numbers of people in English and other departments still working within those nation- and period-based fields, and who will feel singled out and disenfranchised by this kind of treatment by their supposed disciplinary organization.  Treating the interests of past vs. contemporary literature as a zero-sum game is divisive and unnecessary, since people expect to find both taught in literature departments.

      Comment by Catherine Elizabeth Ingrassia on November 20th, 2013

      The executive committee of the Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Division thanks Steve Fallon and Ken Hiltner for correcting the erroneous listing of the committee as a signatory for Fallon’s letter above. To be clear, we do not support a proposal that would essentially subsume the Restoration, a distinct teaching and research field in and of itself, one which extends solidly into the eighteenth century, into a larger category classified as “The Seventeenth Century.” As has been made evident by the committee’s initial comments to the MLA working group and by the subsequent comments of individual committee members to this discussion board, we do not support the changes proposed by the MLA nor do we support those laid out in the letter above.

      Comment by Catherine Elizabeth Ingrassia on November 20th, 2013

      The executive committee of the Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Division thanks Stephen Fallon and Ken Hiltner for correcting the erroneous listing of the committee as a signatory for Fallon’s letter above. To be clear, we do not support a proposal that would essentially subsume the Restoration, a distinct teaching and research field in and of itself, into a larger category classified as  “The Seventeenth Century.” As has been made evident by the committee’s initial comments to the MLA working group and by the subsequent comments of individual committee members to this discussion board, we do not support the changes proposed by the MLA nor do we support those laid out in the letter above.

      Comment by David Samuel Mazella on November 20th, 2013

      I second Rivka Swenson’s and Nigel Smith’s comments here.  I don’t think 17c or 18c scholars mind a change in nomenclature, as long as the number of available sessions or slots remains the same.  A 17c to 1660 panel would be fine, because it would enable Restoration scholars to address one another at the face to face panels, as indeed they would do when they publish and read one another’s scholarship.

      Comment by Sandra Macpherson on November 20th, 2013

      As a member of the Executive Committee of the Division on Late 18th century British Literature, I received a draft of a letter from the Milton Society that began the way you letter above begins, Stephen, but which did NOT recommend the retention of the 17th century *including* the Restoration. In fact, that letter ended by recommending the retention of the original four divisions: 16th c., 17th c., Restoration and Early 18th c., and Late 18th c. Why the change? Isn’t it possible for your constituency to support the needs of our constituency as well? I have no problem endorsing a bid to retain the three divisions allotted your period. But if *our* period is to be the casualty–that I cannot accept. I propose that you revise your recommendation along the lines suggested by Nigel Smith in a earlier post: 17th c. (excluding Restoration). Otherwise, the Eighteenth-Century alone stands to lose half of its panels.

      Comment by David Samuel Mazella on November 20th, 2013

      Once again, I second Rivka Swenson’s sentiment here, and am happy to see the Milton Society’s correction about the sentiments of 18c scholars about the absorption of Restoration studies into some other field.  This is an overwhelmingly unpopular view among 18c scholars like myself, who feel that it overrides existing scholarship and scholarly communities for very little gain besides downsizing. There is plenty of evidence for the opposition to this move available at par. 82.

      I hope in the future the MLA will conduct this process with more transparency and broader input from the affected scholars than it has thus far.

      Comment by Sandra Macpherson on November 20th, 2013

      Thank you so much Nigel. Would you mind terribly posting this at paragraph 80 as well? It would help push back against some of the dangerous consequences for Eighteenth-Century Studies should a centuries model (16th and 17th) seem what it is called: “neutral.” It is NOT neutral for Restoration scholars. And nor would a centuries model benefit those of us who feel strongly that the later eighteenth century is its own distinct moment in Anglophone literary history.

      Comment by Deidre Shauna Lynch on November 20th, 2013

      Dear Ken , if I may,

      A couple of weeks ago Bill Warner, who is currently chairing the Division for Late Eighteenth-Century English Literature, shared a version of the letter that you’ve posted above with the executive of that Division.  In that letter, you concluded by proposing that the current divisional structure be retained.  It’s not at all clear to any of us WHY the Milton Society is now advocating for a structure that sacrifices the distinctiveness of the Restoration and that overall will fail to do justice to the robustness and diversity of scholarship on eighteenth-century British literature.  I hope that this is just a mistake and that you’ll revise your proposal to return it the version which you showed to us earlier this month.

      At any rate, the huge issue here has to do with the representativeness of the MLA.  Since only ONE scholar among the dozens who have commented in this forum on the MLA proposal actually supports the merging of the eighteenth-century divisions into a single division (and the submerging altogether of the Restoration), it really baffles belief that either the Milton Society or the MLA itself would believe it to be a good idea to go ahead with this proposal!

      Comment by Misty G. Anderson on November 20th, 2013

      Along with Rivka, Dave, Catherine, Samara, Sandra, and so many others who have taken time to comment on multiple versions of the draft proposal in multiple formats, as a member of the late 18thC executive committee, and as the current editor of the journal Restoration, I want to say once again that I thoroughly oppose collapse of the Restoration into a 17thC division. Furthermore, I oppose the attempt to shrink the representation in our field and in the British fields before 1900.  The fact that so many have taken time to protest this move in so many different venues will, I hope, persuade the MLA that little is to be gained and much is to be lost (most significantly, panels at the MLA and representation within it)  if this change happens.  While I find much of the process behind this proposed change as lacking in transparency, it is abundantly clear that scholars in the Restoration and 18thC see this as a very bad idea.

      Comment by Rebecca Jane Stanton on November 20th, 2013

      I agree with those who argue that it is weird to break out “Film/New Media/Pop Culture” for this one particular geographical area but ot for others.

      Comment by Rebecca Jane Stanton on November 20th, 2013

      To chime in with what others have said above: where is Central Asia?  It appears to be wholly unrepresented in the entire group structure laid out in this proposal.

      A lot of Russianists/Slavists are now doing serious work on Central Asian langs and lits and also on Caucasian langs and lits.  We need one or two categories that can accommodate this, either by incorporating them into the Russian” category and renaming that category accordingly (Russian and Eurasian?  Russian and former Soviet?) or by giving them a groups or groups of their own (Caucasian and Central Asian?  Two separate groups, one for Caucasian and one for Central Asian?).

      Comment by Rebecca Jane Stanton on November 20th, 2013

      A lot of Russianists/Slavists are now doing serious work on Central Asian langs and lits and also on Caucasian langs and lits.  We need one or two categories that can accommodate this, either by incorporating them into the Russian” category and renaming that category accordingly (Russian and Eurasian?  Russian and former Soviet?) or by giving them a groups or groups of their own (Caucasian and Central Asian?  Two separate groups, one for Caucasian and one for Central Asian?).

      Comment by Chloe Wigston Smith on November 20th, 2013

      I want to echo Catherine Ingrassia’s thanks above to Stephen Fallon and Ken Hiltner for clarifying the confusion surrounding the support of a group devoted to the seventeenth century. I have commented already on paragraphs 82 and 83, but would like to reiterate my opposition to collapsing our areas of research and teaching into one long eighteenth-century group. For a rich variety of reasons expressed by my colleagues above, I also oppose folding the Restoration period into the seventeenth century. Thank you to everyone who has posted here and to our division representatives.

      Comment by Feisal G. Mohamed on November 20th, 2013

      As current Vice President of the Milton Society of America, I will try to offer some explanation of our letter on division reorganization to our colleagues studying the Restoration and early eighteenth century.  Though our initial reaction was shock and dismay at the reduction of divisions in early modern studies, many of us upon further reflection were sympathetic to the aims governing restructuring: to create space for literary traditions underrepresented under the old structure, and to collapse hierarchies between English and other modern languages.  We were somewhat torn between our obligations as officers of the Milton society, and our commitments, intellectual and professional, to MLA’s unique role in providing a forum for scholarship in all modern languages. 
      For that reason, we opted not to clutter the MLA Commons with histrionic defenses of our traditional turf.  We hoped instead to offer a measured alternative: recognizing that some compression of English literature might be necessary to the MLA’s aims, we wished to see that compression distributed evenly across periods before 1800.  We also wished to encourage fuller application of the vey laudable principles governing restructuring.  If anything the proposed changes do not go anywhere near far enough, especially in American literature, to create an association, and a convention, dispensing with a privileging of the Anglo-American tradition.
      So we would like to see the committee go much further than it has done.  But further must not mean focusing compression in early periods.  If the MLA becomes an association of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it will focus its attention on precisely on the historical moment of European and American hegemony.  In their multi-polarity, the medieval and early modern periods show us that it was not always so.
      Though I cannot speak for every member of the Milton Society executive, I stand by the principles that guided our position and take some pride in the fact that we considered more than our immediate interests.

      Comment by Shawn Salvant on November 20th, 2013

      I oppose grouping African American and African Diasporic together in this fashion.  I agree with many of the objections already discussed on this thread.  This grouping is particularly confusing and problematic in that it places African Diasporic under the section designated as American (seeming to limit the range of the African diaspora). I’m not sure if placing African Diasporic under the African section would create more problems than it would solve (considering issues of language, for example), but it seems that some other configuration should be considered.  I believe someone in the “Asian American and Asian Diasporic” thread (also showing much opposition) has suggested a Diasporic heading under which the various Diasporas could be grouped.

      Comment by Chandrima Chakraborty on November 20th, 2013

      This title change, I think, would accurately represent the kind of scholarly work that gets presented in the panels organized by this  group.  It will also open up space for including South Asian diasporic texts produced in non-Western venues and address the increasing cultural, political, and economic importance of the South Asian diaspora to South Asian countries.

      Comment by John Alba Cutler on November 20th, 2013

      While discussion is still open, I want to voice my support for maintaining a group in Chicana and Chicano literature as well as for adding a group in Latina and Latino literature. The institutional formations of these fields are distinct, as are their particular histories. I hope that this new group structure will in fact facilitate more robust exchange between the fields than the former division/discussion group structure.

      Comment by Sandra Macpherson on November 20th, 2013

      And yet, Professor Mohamed, your position serves your field’s interests rather well, since it retains intact the original numbers and even titles of divisions in the Early Modern Period. The proposed restructuring pits early fields against one another in a zero sum game. And it is quite disheartening to see that whereas scholars of the eighteenth century are uniformly horrified at the idea that the 17th century should cease to be represented at the MLA, our defense of our own sub-discipline is felt to be conservative and opportunistic.

       

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      I know the history of why there is a category of classical and modern, but there could bed just as much a case for classical and other cultures: medieval, for instance, or Arabic or Moghul — as well as modern.

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      I agree that this is a very promising new category inviting cis-Atlantic studies, not only in the colonial but in all later time-frames.

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      Agreed, and hoping that such categorization would encourage interdisciplinary studies; of course it’s the Modern Language Association, but more and more we see approaches to cultural studies that are not focused exclusively on language-based study, but that involve inseparable components of language, literature, orality, art, folk and popular culture, material culture, etc.

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      Agreed, and hoping that such categorization would encourage interdisciplinary studies; of course it’s the Modern Language Association, but more and more we see approaches to cultural studies that are not focused exclusively on language-based study, but that involve inseparable components of language, literature, art, folk and popular culture, material culture, etc.

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      I hope that in particular this would also in effect intermesh with Native American Studies and also open the MLA to more discussion of Pre-Columbian literature and culture

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      Agree with Sidonie that this is a very useful, more “encompassing term.”

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      Question again about whether “Early American” means “American” as in current “U.S. American”? Does it invite Native American studies, and again, if so, in what relation to modern nation-state boundaries? Native American is of coursed its own category, but I wanted to question whether these should be more formally inter-engaged throughout all the categories of “American…..”

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      There will not be universal agreement about this terminology at the moment, as it will depend on whom you ask.

      I think that the arguments against indigenous made above are compelling. I would suggest “Native American/First Nations” LLC

      as most immediately recognizable and current in the US and C anada

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      Not at all my field except for occasional teaching of various texts in translation, but from the periphery I can only say that it seems absurd to name a Group “Republican and Communist Chinese” — it would be like calling study of fin-de-siecle Vienna by the name Franz-Josef Studies or US culture of the 60’s “Nixonian”

      Comment by Rachel S. Harris on November 20th, 2013

      I second Barbara Mann’s observations

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      Agree with previous comments that would broaden the scope:

      “Public Humanities: Activism, Advocacy, and Academic Freedom”

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      Yes, as Stacey notes, this is an appropriate name change from the Two-Year college or Junior college designation used in previous contexts. But it will be crucial not to ghettoize our community college members; this group should b e a forum for discussing matters particularly from the perspective of community college environments — but should in no way imply that MLA members from community colleges  should somehow feel “confined” to participation in this group!

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      It occurs to me that a better designation here would be “Religion and Culture” or perhaps “Religious Studies and Literary/Cultural Studies” to give this group a more “anthropological” feel, and that would reflect the interdisciplinarity of religious studies today.

      Comment by George Louis Scheper on November 20th, 2013

      Our Odyssey program in adult education and lifelong learning at Johns Hopkins uses the designation “Medicine, Health, and the Humanities” — which I think might address some of the concerns addressed above. I agree that “Medical Humanities” would sound completely awkward or even muddled from the perspective of ordinary language usage.

      Comment by Thomas Augustine Prendergast on November 20th, 2013

      I would only add that, in addition to reflecting institutional and historical practice, the retention of a separate Chaucer group also recognizes that many non-academics know the Middle Ages exclusively though Chaucer. Often, when I tell people that I’m a medievalist, they fondly recite the first eighteen lines of the General Prologue.  For that moment, a voice over seven hundred years old speaks again to those who consider themselves modern.

      Comment by Jonathan Kramnick on November 20th, 2013

      Let me agree with Sandra Macpherson in articulating my dismay that a robust defense of studying the past should somehow be conflated with defending or one’s turf or with political or intellectual conservatism (or for that matter that defending the MLA’s proposal puts one on the side of the angels, of progress, and of the unrepresented). As Deidre Lynch points out , the question is now whether the MLA will listen to the members whose opinions it solicited. If the Milton Society prefers to roll up the carpet on its period, that is its own business with respect to its own division, tragic and misguided as I might think it to be. However, every single member of the Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Division and Later Eighteenth Century division alike objected to the merger proposed in paragraphs 81 and 82, and did so in eloquent, intellectually expansive, and passionate terms. For the MLA to proceed to merge those two divisions would be to flaunt the very process it instigated and to violate the democratic procedures it ostensibly upholds. It would permanently alienate every member of the divisions.

      Comment by Jonathan Kramnick on November 20th, 2013

      sorry, paragraphs 82 and 83

      Comment by David Samuel Mazella on November 21st, 2013

      I’m not sure how to engage a scholar who informs me that defending the value of my scholarship, my scholarly field, and my scholarly community is a defense of “immediate interests.”  So I will move instead to the points that I think are abundantly clear to all concerned in this proposed reorganization:

      1.  Merging divisions and reducing overall numbers of panels for eighteenth-century topics is hugely, massively, uniformly unpopular among the 18th century members of MLA.  The pushback on this truly terrible idea is one of the most visible products of the convoluted and opaque online proposal review.

      2. Sadly, the MLA leadership remains unwilling to acknowledge the highly public unhappiness of this segment of its membership with the proposal. For whatever reason, the MLA leadership insists on ignoring both the Exec Committees in charge of these 18c divisions and the rank and file comments here.  What we have been seeing since the appearance of these proposals is a series of trial balloons that always end up rationalizing the same outcome: dividing up and reducing the contributions of 18c scholars to the MLA conference.

      3.  This insistence on ignoring the feedback given to their own proposals, and dismissing disagreement with restructuring as the pursuit of “immediate interests,” certainly makes 18c members of MLA question the commitment of this leadership to the principles of transparency and appropriate governance.  Unless I see some evidence, very soon, that 18c MLA members’ views are being taken seriously enough to rethink this portion of the proposal, my conclusion would have to be that the MLA leadership is no longer acting as good stewards of the entire discipline.

      4.  As we all know from our experience in departments, colleges, and universities, self-divided units are much easier to defund and eliminate than united ones.  It seems particularly strange to me that the MLA leadership at this time would embark on an initiative that would force fields to justify themselves at the expense of their colleagues and neighbors.

      I do hope that the MLA leadership reconsiders the path it has taken with this, and begins to attend more closely to the very public feedback this part of proposal has provoked, from its own Divisions and from the rank and file.  Thanks, DM

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 21st, 2013

      Thank you, Ken. Understood.

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 21st, 2013

      Professor Mohamed: We agree that any needed compression should not be distributed in an imbalanced way within early periods, and I think posts on this paragraph from Catherine Ingrassia, Misty Anderson, Dave Mazella, Samara Cahill, Sandra Macpherson, Jonathan Kramnick, and others are trying to speak to this very matter. With all due respect, people whose professional profiles (their research, their teaching) encompass the breadth of the period called The Restoration — which comprises almost half of “The 17th Century” and has actual continuities with the 18th century — cannot be justly accused of “clutter[ing] the MLA Commons with histrionic defenses of our traditional turf.” For one thing, this is a “Commons.” This is a place for (civil) speech; one person’s speech is not more cluttery than another person’s. Some posts may be more or less civil than others. Some may be more or less transparent than others. Or whathaveyou. But not cluttery. Second, there are very few posts on the Commons that do not show evidence of “self-interest” (as Sandra Macpherson points out); in our case, I believe it would be accurate to say that we respect the integrity of the Restoration as a distinct period that has distinct extensions into the early eighteenth century. Third, references to “turf” do often sound suspicious. But, you see, The Restoration is not “turf” any more than, say, “Romantic” or “Victorian” is “turf.” It’s what we work on, along with the early 18th century with which it has real continuities (the Later 18th Century should continue to have its own division, meanwhile, for its marked differences from the early part of the century). –Rivka Swenson (with apologies for any typos or other iPad-related infelicities)

      Comment by Rivka Swenson on November 21st, 2013

      Ken and Stephen, I tried to reply to this, but now I’m not sure if it did (iPad and Commons don’t work well together). Thanks for posting here as well as on the other relevant paragraphs–understood! –Rivka

      Comment by Adela Ramos on November 21st, 2013

      I, too, have already commented on paragraphs 82 and 83 but wish to reiterate my opposition to collapsing our areas of research and teaching. I think my colleagues have said it all very clearly and well! Please reconsider this change! Thank you.

      Comment by Ann Baynes Coiro on November 21st, 2013

      Sometimes threads can drift away from original issues. Here is my own sense of the question: MLA wants to do some paring of divisions so as to make the MLA more inclusive of literatures beyond English. Distressingly (as we all clearly agree), the  (mid!) earlier periods were asked to think about moving from four (16th, 17th, Restoration & 18th-c, later 18th-c) to two (“early modern” and “long 18th-century”). I think we can all agree (I am speaking here as someone who thinks of herself as a 17th-c AND Restoration scholar) that that collapse from 4 into 2 is a very, very bad idea.

      A compromise position (put forward by the Milton Society) is three periods: 16th, 17th and 18th-centuries.

      Having said this, I want to argue that the notion of the “long 18th-century” is a recent and dangerously flattening one (I think most posters on this thread would agree). At the same time, I would argue that a 57 year long 17th-c (1603-1660) is intellectually, politically, aesthetically, historically (and …..no doubt many other “-ly’s”) wrong-headed. The Restoration should not be separated from the English Revolution or from the rest of the 17th century. Not only Milton but Dryden and other major figures such as Marvell, Denham and Davenant get distorted in such a division.

      Therefore, rather than argue from a negative position, I argue positively that the Restoration would not lose but gain from joining the 17th century (where, historically, it belongs).

       

      Comment by April Alliston on November 21st, 2013

      To my dear friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors, and exemplars who have worked so hard on the aptly-named Working Group, my immense gratitude for having taken on all this Work so that I haven’t had to do it!  In return I offer the present trifling bit of Work, which is simply to register my agreement with all my dear friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors and exemplars who, for all the important reasons they so eloquently explain, and in which I concur fully, have taken the trouble to beg you to reconsider.  Thank you also to the Working Group for having occasioned this serious open discussion of our field, but please don’t do as you’ve proposed.  Srinivas, I could never think of you as a “field traitor,” but the rest of us cannot all be wrong.  Many in these comments have given back much more Work to the process than I have, and I urge that their suggestions be taken seriously.

      Comment by Chandrima Chakraborty on November 21st, 2013

      I strongly support having two groups on South Asia as well as having similar groups for other geographical areas. But, in lieu of the above comments, I wonder if  South Asian Cultural Studies, similar to Jewish Cultural Studies might work better.

      Comment by Chandrima Chakraborty on November 21st, 2013

      This would be a fabulous addition, but why not affect as well, as others have noted.

      Comment by April Alliston on November 21st, 2013

      Like many here, I’ve already posted my comments on paragraph 82, and like some, I’ll re-post them here for the benefit of anyone who is only concerned with the late 18th century.  For good measure, I’ll add my voice to the chorus of huzzah’s and hallelujah’s for Deidre Lynch’s remarks near the head of these scholia on paragraph 83.  So here’s what I already appended to 82:

      To my dear friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors, and exemplars who have worked so hard on the aptly-named Working Group, my immense gratitude for having taken on all this Work so that I haven’t had to do it!  In return I offer the present trifling bit of Work, which is simply to register my agreement with all my dear friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors and exemplars who, for all the important reasons they so eloquently explain, and in which I concur fully, have taken the trouble to beg you to reconsider.  Thank you also to the Working Group for having occasioned this serious open discussion of our field, but please don’t do as you’ve proposed.  Srinivas, I could never think of you as a “field traitor,” but the rest of us cannot all be wrong.  Many in these comments have given back much more Work to the process than I have, and I urge that their suggestions be taken seriously.

      Comment by Chandrima Chakraborty on November 21st, 2013

      This would be a great addition that would enable rich, historically-specific  conversations, demonstrate the intersections and differences within the Global South, and, potentially, enable collaborative work  among scholars across nations, genres and time periods.

      Comment by Samara Cahill on November 21st, 2013

      Bracketing my reaction to being called histrionic, can I simply point out that if we are, as we should be, interested in multi-polarity, than we *must* acknowledge the significance of the historical and cultural specificity of the Restoration by continuing its explicit representation within the MLA. Feminist orientalism, the prehistory of colonialism, Anglo-Ottoman relations, and a whole host of issues involving Islam and the “West” cannot be understood without a thorough familiarity with the Restoration and its aftermath.

      Comment by Blair G. Hoxby on November 21st, 2013

      As a member of the executive committee of the MSA, I agreed to support a proposal for three sessions, on 16th, 17th, and 18th century literature.  Some of my colleagues genuinely believe that these new periods divisions would be desirable on intellectual grounds.  My motivation was pragmatic: that three groups would preserve more of the study of literature from 1500 to 1800 than two could.  I am heartened to see the outpouring of reasoned and conscientious support for 18th century studies, and I hope this will encourage everyone who studies literature from 1500 to 1800 to value what we do and to defend its importance to the larger study of literature, rather than engaging in internecine conflict.  Given the vibrancy of the research in our fields, and their centrality to literary history, I cannot see what is to be gained by diminishing the number of sessions devoted to literature produced between 1500 and 1800, particularly when that period seems to have been singled out for such treatment.  I have not seen it clearly stated why established groups (rather than proposed sessions) should be diminished to make room for the warranted growth in developing fields such as Chinese or Arabic.

      Comment by Christina M. Czajkoski on November 21st, 2013

      In regard to the new name of the proposed combined Applied Linguistics Division and the General Linguistics Discussion Group, I respectfully disagree with the reclassification. In order to add new groups (22 in all) to the overall MLA structure, the need arises to reconfigure existing groups to make room for the new ones. In looking at the proposed groups with the name ‘Linguistics’ in the title, there are four (Applied and General, Germanic Philology and Linguistics, Romance Linguistics, and Linguistics and Literature). Germanic and Romance Linguistics are specialized, focused and theoretical in nature. Linguistics and Literature

      Comment by William Beatty Warner on November 21st, 2013

      Like many others, I reject Feisal G. Mohamed’s defense of the consolidation of Restoration into the 17th group. I would characterize his argument this way:
      OUT OF A DISINTERESTED REGARD FOR ALL (“we opted not to clutter the MLA Commons with histrionic defenses of our traditional turf”) AND GROUNDED IN THE REPRESENTATIONAL LOGIC OF THE SUFFRAGE (“to create space for literary traditions underrepresented under the old structure”), AND A JUST RESENTMENT OF THE OLD HEGEMONY–“dispensing with a privileging of the Anglo-American tradition” the MANY scholars of the 16th through 18th century period of English literature, MUST BE SACRAFICED TO THE POLITICAL VIRTUE OF A FEW.Many years ago, Todd Gitlin had a nice way of characterizing the symbolic engine behind this “politics.” It is called MARCHING ON THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT.

      Comment by William Beatty Warner on November 21st, 2013

      Dear Stephen:

      Please note, as others explain below, that this was NOT the letter that your secretary showed us and we “signed.”

      –I write as current Chair of the Division Late 18th-Century English Literature

       

      Comment by Christina M. Czajkoski on November 21st, 2013

      To continue my thoughts: Linguistics and Literature is more broad but still theoretical. Applied Linguistics encompasses all languages and has some overlap with the Teaching of Language, Literature and Writing. General Linguistics can be applied and theoretical and closely aligned with Global English. Combining all of this together is just too broad. Both the Applied and General Groups would be shortchanged when vying for convention sessions. This is not to offend anyone, but I just don’t understand why a new group entitled “Animal Studies” would be an entity in and of itself. I’ll end with a note of thanks to the MLA committees and commentators who work so diligently on this herculean task.

      Comment by Indrani Mitra on November 21st, 2013

      This is a very useful new group which should invite comparative studies across nations and cultures, based on colonial histories and present economic realities under global capitalism.

      Comment by Indrani Mitra on November 21st, 2013

      I agree!  Timely addition inviting innovative work.

      Comment by Indrani Mitra on November 21st, 2013

      I also like the addition of “diasporic.”  But I would like to retain the original emphasis on languages:  “Languages and Literatures of South Asia and the Diaspora”

      Comment by Indrani Mitra on November 21st, 2013

      I agree with Chandrima:  South Asian Cultural Studies is a more broadly conceived group and would invite a variety of cultural studies work, including folk cultural forms.

      Comment by Indrani Mitra on November 21st, 2013

      From Rajinder Kaur:

      The new name is broad and inclusive and represents the diverse interests of our members in gesturing to the growing scholarship on the South Asian diaspora

      Comment by Ken Hiltner on November 21st, 2013

      Bill, the Division on Late 18th Century Literature is NOT listed as a signatory on the above letter. The confusion stems from the fact that the earlier  draft that we circulated did not become the version posted here. 

      Comment by Shaden M. Tageldin on November 21st, 2013

      Dear colleagues: 
      I deeply appreciate the MLA’s efforts to rethink the organization of its divisions and discussion groups.
      First, let me say that I support the proposal to dissolve the distinction between “discussion groups” and “divisions” into a new category:  “groups.”  Symbolically, at least, this change will go some way toward eliminating the intellectual hierarchy that the current distinction implies.  And as scholars of language, literature, and other media, we know that symbolic capital is important.  Yet words just as surely mystify.  Whether material distinctions also will disappear is less sure:  I note that the MLA still intends to apportion resources unequally, giving some “groups” one guaranteed session and others two during the proposed transition period.  To invoke Orwell, then, some groups will be more equal than others.
       
      That said, I find the proposed “map” of networks—presently organized under the broad categories “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies,” “Genre and Media Studies,” “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures,” “Language Studies,” “Teaching and the Profession,” and “Transdisciplinary Connections”—out of sync with the MLA’s interest in jettisoning tired intellectual frameworks and in promoting more dynamic, fluid, transversal modes of knowledge-making in research and pedagogy, activism and advocacy.  The subdivisions proposed in the “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” category strike me as not as forward-looking as they could be.  Why atomize the world’s languages, literatures, cultures into ever more infinitesimal particles?  Why array these in such a way that they appear unrelated?  I for one would like to see the “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” category revised along the transcontinental lines currently envisioned under “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies,” and perhaps also along transhistorical lines that at once concede and resist current periodizations. 
      Is there any unit, after all, that is not inherently heterogeneous—for all its apparent self-sameness—and therefore also inherently comparative? 
      I will cite just two cases in point:  “African” and “Arabic.”  First, I strongly oppose the proposed subdivision of the current Division on African Literature into “Southern African” and “Sub-Saharan African.”  I echo the sentiments of many of the colleagues who already have posted here.  The proposed subdivision perpetuates a fundamentally Eurocentric notion, at least as old as Hegel, that Africa “proper” is “sub-Saharan Africa”; it also, as Ato Quayson has noted, reifies the egregious apartheid-era distinction between South Africa and a denigrated African “core.”  We would do well to recall the words of the South African writer and ANC activist Mazisi Kunene, who declared (in the pioneering trilingual, Third Worldist journal Afro-Asian Writings, in 1967), “There is a political fallacy which seeks to divide Africa into two segments:  Africa, South of the Sahara and Africa, North of the Sahara. […] Arabic literature of North Africa, Nigerian, and Ethiopian literatures are as much an African heritage as Japanese is part of an Asian literary heritage,” and the better-known words of Frantz Fanon, whose Les Damnés de la terre (1961) warned against the desire to divide Africa into an “Afrique noire” and an “Afrique blanche.”  I would suggest, then, that the current category “African Literature” be left as is—perhaps amending the present focus on literature be amended to “African Orature, Literature, and Media”—and the number of sessions accorded to the group expanded.  The current category holds far more intellectual integrity than the subdivisions proposed, and the capaciousness and productive ambiguity of “African” better serve local, regional, and transregional scholarship on the continent’s oratures, literatures, and media.
      Second, while the proposed subdivision of the current Division on Arabic Literature and Culture into “Classical and Postclassical Arabic” and “Modern Arabic” is, on its face, less egregious than the proposed vivisection of Africa, here too the strategy—while well-intentioned and in fact supported by some of my colleagues in the field—unwittingly ends up dividing and conquering a relatively small (if strong) community of established and emerging scholars.  Here too I would propose that the MLA retain the category “Arabic Literature and Culture”—perhaps amending the name to “Arabic Literatures, Cultures, and Media,” which might better reflect the plurality of “Arabics” and modes of Arab cultural production that flourish in the world—and expand the number of sessions accorded to the group.  As other scholars have pointed out, some of the most exciting work in Arabic literary and cultural studies today challenges the modern (and deeply ideological) theses of “decline” and “renaissance” that often have sequestered the “classical” from the “postclassical,” the “premodern” or (denigrated) “medieval” from the “modern.”  To my mind, at least, keeping Arabic “one” would be far better, intellectually and politically, than subdividing it by period or geography, given that so many of us in the field are working now—and many more of us will—to challenge and redefine hermetic periodizations and geographies.

      Comment by Jessie M. Labov on November 21st, 2013

      This was also my intuition about how to use this new category to find a place to study some of these land-locked European countries that do not have Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts!

      Comment by Shaden M. Tageldin on November 21st, 2013

      Dear colleagues: 
      I deeply appreciate the MLA’s efforts to rethink the organization of its divisions and discussion groups. 
      First, let me say that I support the proposal to dissolve the distinction between “discussion groups” and “divisions” into a new category:  “groups.”  Symbolically, at least, this change will go some way toward eliminating the intellectual hierarchy that the current distinction implies.  And as scholars of language, literature, and other media, we know that symbolic capital is important.  Yet words just as surely mystify.  Whether material distinctions also will disappear is less sure:  I note that the MLA still intends to apportion resources unequally, giving some “groups” one guaranteed session and others two during the proposed transition period.  To invoke Orwell, then, some groups will be more equal than others. 
      That said, I find the proposed “map” of networks—presently organized under the broad categories “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies,” “Genre and Media Studies,” “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures,” “Language Studies,” “Teaching and the Profession,” and “Transdisciplinary Connections”—out of sync with the MLA’s interest in jettisoning tired intellectual frameworks and in promoting more dynamic, fluid, transversal modes of knowledge-making in research and pedagogy, activism and advocacy.  The subdivisions proposed in the “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” category strike me as not as forward-looking as they could be.  Why atomize the world’s languages, literatures, cultures into ever more infinitesimal particles?  Why array these in such a way that they appear unrelated?  I for one would like to see the “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” category revised along the transcontinental lines currently envisioned under “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies,” and perhaps also along transhistorical lines that at once concede and resist current periodizations. 
      Is there any unit, after all, that is not inherently heterogeneous—for all its apparent self-sameness—and therefore also inherently comparative? 
      I will cite just two cases in point:  “African” and “Arabic.”  First, I strongly oppose the proposed subdivision of the current Division on African Literature into “Southern African” and “Sub-Saharan African.”  I echo the sentiments of many of the colleagues who already have posted here.  The proposed subdivision perpetuates a fundamentally Eurocentric notion, at least as old as Hegel, that Africa “proper” is “sub-Saharan Africa”; it also, as Ato Quayson has noted, reifies the egregious apartheid-era distinction between South Africa and a denigrated African “core.”  We would do well to recall the words of the South African writer and ANC activist Mazisi Kunene, who declared (in the pioneering trilingual, Third Worldist journal Afro-Asian Writings, in 1967), “There is a political fallacy which seeks to divide Africa into two segments:  Africa, South of the Sahara and Africa, North of the Sahara. […] Arabic literature of North Africa, Nigerian, and Ethiopian literatures are as much an African heritage as Japanese is part of an Asian literary heritage,” and the better-known words of Frantz Fanon, whose Les Damnés de la terre (1961) warned against the desire to divide Africa into an “Afrique noire” and an “Afrique blanche.”  I would suggest, then, that the current category “African Literature” be left as is—perhaps amending the present focus on literature be amended to “African Orature, Literature, and Media”—and the number of sessions accorded to the group expanded.  The current category holds far more intellectual integrity than the subdivisions proposed, and the capaciousness and productive ambiguity of “African” better serve local, regional, and transregional scholarship on the continent’s oratures, literatures, and media. 
      Second, while the proposed subdivision of the current Division on Arabic Literature and Culture into “Classical and Postclassical Arabic” and “Modern Arabic” is, on its face, less egregious than the proposed vivisection of Africa, here too the strategy—while well-intentioned and in fact supported by some of my colleagues in the field—unwittingly ends up dividing and conquering a relatively small (if strong) community of established and emerging scholars.  Here too I would propose that the MLA retain the category “Arabic Literature and Culture”—perhaps amending the name to “Arabic Literatures, Cultures, and Media,” which might better reflect the plurality of “Arabics” and modes of Arab cultural production that flourish in the world—and expand the number of sessions accorded to the group.  As other scholars have pointed out, some of the most exciting work in Arabic literary and cultural studies today challenges the modern (and deeply ideological) theses of “decline” and “renaissance” that often have sequestered the “classical” from the “postclassical,” the “premodern” or (denigrated) “medieval” from the “modern.”  To my mind, at least, keeping Arabic “one” would be far better, intellectually and politically, than subdividing it by period or geography, given that so many of us in the field are working now—and many more of us will—to challenge and redefine hermetic periodizations and geographies.

      Comment by Shaden M. Tageldin on November 21st, 2013

      Dear colleagues: 
      I deeply appreciate the MLA’s efforts to rethink the organization of its divisions and discussion groups. 
      First, let me say that I support the proposal to dissolve the distinction between “discussion groups” and “divisions” into a new category:  “groups.”  Symbolically, at least, this change will go some way toward eliminating the intellectual hierarchy that the current distinction implies.  And as scholars of language, literature, and other media, we know that symbolic capital is important.  Yet words just as surely mystify.  Whether material distinctions also will disappear is less sure:  I note that the MLA still intends to apportion resources unequally, giving some “groups” one guaranteed session and others two during the proposed transition period.  To invoke Orwell, then, some groups will be more equal than others. 
      That said, I find the proposed “map” of networks—presently organized under the broad categories “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies,” “Genre and Media Studies,” “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures,” “Language Studies,” “Teaching and the Profession,” and “Transdisciplinary Connections”—out of sync with the MLA’s interest in jettisoning tired intellectual frameworks and in promoting more dynamic, fluid, transversal modes of knowledge-making in research and pedagogy, activism and advocacy.  The subdivisions proposed in the “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” category strike me as not as forward-looking as they could be.  Why atomize the world’s languages, literatures, cultures into ever more infinitesimal particles?  Why array these in such a way that they appear unrelated?  I for one would like to see the “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” category revised along the transcontinental lines currently envisioned under “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies,” and perhaps also along transhistorical lines that at once concede and resist current periodizations. 
      Is there any unit, after all, that is not inherently heterogeneous—for all its apparent self-sameness—and therefore also inherently comparative? 
      I will cite just two cases in point:  “African” and “Arabic.”  First, I strongly oppose the proposed subdivision of the current Division on African Literature into “Southern African” and “Sub-Saharan African.”  I echo the sentiments of many of the colleagues who already have posted here.  The proposed subdivision perpetuates a fundamentally Eurocentric notion, at least as old as Hegel, that Africa “proper” is “sub-Saharan Africa”; it also, as Ato Quayson has noted, reifies the egregious apartheid-era distinction between South Africa and a denigrated African “core.”  We would do well to recall the words of the South African writer and ANC activist Mazisi Kunene, who declared (in the pioneering trilingual, Third Worldist journal Afro-Asian Writings, in 1967), “There is a political fallacy which seeks to divide Africa into two segments:  Africa, South of the Sahara and Africa, North of the Sahara. […] Arabic literature of North Africa, Nigerian, and Ethiopian literatures are as much an African heritage as Japanese is part of an Asian literary heritage,” and the better-known words of Frantz Fanon, whose Les Damnés de la terre (1961) warned against the desire to divide Africa into an “Afrique noire” and an “Afrique blanche.”  I would suggest, then, that the current category “African Literature” be left as is—perhaps amending the present focus on literature be amended to “African Orature, Literature, and Media”—and the number of sessions accorded to the group expanded.  The current category holds far more intellectual integrity than the subdivisions proposed, and the capaciousness and productive ambiguity of “African” better serve local, regional, and transregional scholarship on the continent’s oratures, literatures, and media.
      Second, while the proposed subdivision of the current Division on Arabic Literature and Culture into “Classical and Postclassical Arabic” and “Modern Arabic” is, on its face, less egregious than the proposed vivisection of Africa, here too the strategy—while well-intentioned and in fact supported by some of my colleagues in the field—unwittingly ends up dividing and conquering a relatively small (if strong) community of established and emerging scholars.  Here too I would propose that the MLA retain the category “Arabic Literature and Culture”—perhaps amending the name to “Arabic Literatures, Cultures, and Media,” which might better reflect the plurality of “Arabics” and modes of Arab cultural production that flourish in the world—and expand the number of sessions accorded to the group.  As other scholars have pointed out, some of the most exciting work in Arabic literary and cultural studies today challenges the modern (and deeply ideological) theses of “decline” and “renaissance” that often have sequestered the “classical” from the “postclassical,” the “premodern” or (denigrated) “medieval” from the “modern.”  To my mind, at least, keeping Arabic “one” would be far better, intellectually and politically, than subdividing it by period or geography, given that so many of us in the field are working now—and many more of us will—to challenge and redefine hermetic periodizations and geographies.

      Comment by Jonathan Kramnick on November 21st, 2013

      Dear Ann and Blair,

      Your so-called compromise position is a compromise only for the two eighteenth century divisions. The completely avoidable and in fact depressing internecine squabble among the early periods is entirely from the Milton association having floated a soi-disant compromise that would keep the two early modern divisions and demand of the eighteenth century both that it give up a division and that it dissolve the Restoration into the seventeenth century. This has been roundly rejected by everyone–EVERYONE–in the two eighteenth century divisions.

      Jonathan

      Comment by Jessie M. Labov on November 21st, 2013

      I’m going to agree strongly with Martha Kuhlman above, and also comment on behalf of the Slavic Division and Discussion Groups (now the “Russian” and “Slavic and East European” groups).

      While I completely endorse the effort to re-imagine the MLA’s group structure, and appreciate the logic of using oceanic categories to reflect the direction of comparative literature and comparative studies, I think we still have a problem here. These groups follow the legacy of maritime European colonialism, but elide the impact of land-based empires on the continent (primarily Russian and Austrian, but also to some extent Ottoman). In other words, how do we compare anything with the landlocked countries of formerly Eastern Europe?

      Comment by Kevis Goodman on November 21st, 2013

      I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathan Kramnick, Deidre Lynch, Sandra Macpherson, Misty Anderson, and so many others who have posted above.  Eloquent, intellectually substantive accounts of the distinctness of the fields have emerged with force and conviction. It is hard to know what is more dismaying: a long, reasoned response that is dismissed as a self-interested defense of one turf or multiple long reasoned responses, absorbing the valuable hours of many brilliant scholars, set to the side because the “view of the commons” was not the view hoped for. I fear both are happening as I type.

      Comment by Blair G. Hoxby on November 21st, 2013

      Dear Jonathan,

      My previous post was obviously not clear, so let me try again: I would prefer to see the Restoration and Early-Eighteenth Century British group and the Late 18th-Century British group both persist as separate groups.  I do not wish to see the study of eighteenth-century literature folded into a single group.  My record of teaching and research should make it clear that I believe in the importance of Restoration literature as a subject of study and a (permeable) category literary history.

      Comment by Giovanna Montenegro on November 21st, 2013

      Super excited about this addition. I endorse Larry LF-S ‘s comparative proposals and/ regional proposals ( The forgotten Caribbean coasts of Central and South America). I would hope that this group could eventually propose some Comparative panel with the Mediterranean and/ or Indian Ocean group.

      That said, I am excited to have an arena at the MLA where we can discuss Critical Caribbean studies.

      Comment by Nigel S. Smith on November 21st, 2013

      I was last year’s president of the Milton Society of America, and I’m now no longer on the MSA executive committee.  So I can only now speak as an individual seventeenth-century scholar.  I do so to repeat my support, as stated yesterday, for the Restoration scholars keeping the integrity of their field in the new group structure.  Like others I take exception to Feisal Mohamed’s apparent disregard for the legitimate scholarly objectives of the Restoration scholars.

      I too want to see the incorporation of marginalized, new or hitherto ignored areas of study.  Some more creative thinking about what the actual finite boundaries of the convention might be is now needed, and the MLA officers will I hope honor the interests of the members and not ride roughshod over them.

       

      Comment by Giovanna Montenegro on November 21st, 2013

      Yes, happy to see Heritage Languages in here. Many times they’re just lumped together as bilingual/ multilingual.

      Comment by Giovanna Montenegro on November 21st, 2013

      As a former member of the Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Profession, I am very excited to see the creation of this group. That said, I would hope that discussion about graduate studies, graduate students as teachers and researches in the academy, graduate students as workers, and alt ac careers continues beyond this one group. I hope the programming committee will continue to schedule such topics across various groups, rather than limiting it to section 135.

      Comment by Giovanna Montenegro on November 21st, 2013

      It seems almost as if need two groups: Advocacy, Activism, and the Academy could very well fall under ” The Profession and The Academy.” Yet at a time when humanists are asked to justify their work, the community advocacy work under Public Humanities would seem crucial to the future of higher education.

      Comment by Giovanna Montenegro on November 21st, 2013

      See comments on paragraph 75 Dutchophone lit.

      Comment by Giovanna Montenegro on November 21st, 2013

      I second Sharon Kinoshita’s concern that Mediterranean studies simply not just replace Eurocentric Mediterranean studies. I see this addition as well as the Caribbean addition as groups that would welcome interdisciplinary studies. These would be forums that would welcome projects such as the Ottoman exploration of Africa as well as that of European navigators on the Mediterranean, etc.

      Comment by Héctor Hoyos on November 21st, 2013

      A last-minute thank you to the committee for their work. The proposal provides an excellent road map for the years ahead. My two cents on the table:

      1) I do not agree that “literary theory,” because it is already present under other rubrics, would not need a stand-alone category. It does. Mutatis mutandis: Mexican literature is already implied in Latin American literature, but the internal coherence of that scholarly endeavor justifies its existence. If this creates redundancy, all the better, as this is a way of conferring emphasis and rewarding specificity. Duplication has its own risks (diluting constituencies), but if it seems like the thing to do, then there might be enough interest to sustain multiple, partially overlapping categories in the foreseeable future.

      2) In the spirit of “taking the long view” mentioned in the participation guidelines, a point of concern for the future is the limited scope of the Latin American sub-categories. As Delegate Assembly representative for the Division Executive Committee on 20th Century Latin American Literature, I participated in an e-mail exchange with several colleagues where this point was debated. (I mention it here, and not in the paragraphs devoted to the region, because I think the implications are global.) Some wanted more sub-regional categories, while others worried this would lead to very small groupings. For the future, then: it is obvious that, if the MLA group structure is to be, in some sense, encyclopedic, there is more than enough good scholarship and literature to justify, say, an Andean, Colombian, Central American, or Southern Cone group —in addition to the existing Latin American period groups. It becomes something of a chicken-and-egg problem: do such groups not gain traction because the category does not exist? Do they not exist because there is not enough going on there? It is also the case that other organizations, especially the Latin American Studies Association, have more convening power than the MLA for some of these research agendas. These notes could be extrapolated for other regions as well.

      Comment by Giovanna Montenegro on November 21st, 2013

      I am surprised to see that there’s only been one comment on here on this great addition even though the Presidential Forum last year focused on “Avenues of Access.” It would be interesting to see if this group also did work comparative work on other sign languages.
      I am sure those of us hearing literary/language scholars would have a lot to learn from the fields of interpretation across sign languages.

      Comment by Giovanna Montenegro on November 21st, 2013

      As a Venezuelan/ American of Italian descent and as a Comparatist, I think the idea of “diasporic” would allow for interesting work to be done that focuses on Italian identities worldwide. That said, I do agree with the comments above that question the implied limitations for discussion on Italian American work. Perhaps the group could take this multilingual diasporic crisis of Italian and Italian American Studies as its first conference topic.

  • Revised Draft Proposal, 3 January 2014 (216 comments)

    • Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      Note that this large category is organized both by languages, often working transnationally, and by national and regional formations.  This rubric reflects current field formations; we have made no attempt to impose parallelism among among different subfields.
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      This change allows more space for contemporary literature than a 20th/21st American forum would. Members might prefer 1960 as the cut-off; please weigh in.
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      This change allows more space for contemporary literature than a 20th/21st American forum would
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      This allows for comparative work on US and Canadian indigenous literatures.
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      Note that in this draft Latin American is under LLC, while African and regional Asian Literatures are currently under “Comparative.” We’d be grateful for feedback on this choice

       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      Brazilian could be included either with Latin American or with Portuguese and Galician; please advise.
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014

      This new rubric makes space both for the literature and culture of Portugal and for Gallego literature and culture, a new group requested by members.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      The changes respond to member requests to find names that are more inclusive of Austrian, Swiss, and other German-language literatures. Germanophone is different from francophone: it does not result  from Germany’s colonial history but instead refers to the multiple German-language literatures that are not fully reflected in the name “German.” We welcome member responses to this formulation.
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      This change responds to member comments
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      Note that a split of periods along genre lines is unique to Spanish among languages represented in the MLA. If these two 16th and 17th century Spanish forums agree to merge, they can have 4 guaranteed sessions for the next five years. 
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


       


      Note that this category includes chronological, regional and diasporic field formations.
       

       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014

      Do the African forums wish to be under “Comparative” or under “Languages, Literatures and Cultures?”

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      This name change aims at greater parallelism with other Forum names.
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      In response to member comments about the absence from the MLA map of Jewish literatures outside the US, Hebrew, Yiddish and Sephardic , this rubric replaces “Jewish Cultural Studies.” This latter group did not respond to any of the invitations to comment on the revision process.
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      The aim here is to shorten “Science Fiction and Utopian and Fantastic Literature”
       

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014


      In response to member suggestions, we have separated media from genres and have reconfigured the media categories to reflect current work in these fields.
       

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      Is there another name that might better signal the several additional  languages that Anglo-Saxonists regularly engage with?  Does it make any sense to you to join with Old Norse?

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      We have gone with  “English” as the large category rubric because there are other groups (Irish, Scottish, Gaelic (the latter under the comparative category of “Celtic”) that engage with the complex historical meanings of “British.”

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      Chaucer and Shakespeare are the only forums on this map devoted to single authors. Colleagues in Chaucer studies have indicated that their work goes beyond what “Chaucer” signifies. We invite members to rename this forum in a way that may better reflect its scope.  

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014


      Members made very clear objections to any amalgamations of divisions organized by historical period during the period between 1600 and 1837 (when Victoria came to the throne).  Nonetheless, some members suggested that “comparative” amalgamations might be preferable to historical ones from an intellectual point of view, and some members embraced a possible amalgamation of the English 16th and 17th century divisions under the rubric of “Renaissance / Early Modern.” Please consider the numerical facts for this period:  There are currently 12 guaranteed sessions for MLA divisions of English Literature focusing on the years between 1600 and 1837: these divisions are devoted to Shakespeare, the 16th c., the 17th c. the Restoration and Early 18th c., the late 18th c. and the Romantics.   There are in addition 9 guaranteed sessions for topics in this period through its rich set of Allied Organizations:   the Marlowe Society, the International Spenser Society, the Donne Society, the Society of Early Modern Women,  the Renaissance English Text Society, the Milton Society the Byron Society, the John Clare Society of North America, and the Wordsworth-Coleridge Association.  This makes for a minimum of 21 guaranteed sessions; more are possible through proposals for collaborative sessions, and there is also a guaranteed session for the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society.    

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      Please see comment on paragraph 47.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      Having respected the group’s wish to drop “Anglo” before “Irish,” we wonder whether the new name is understood as including Irish Gaelic and Northern Ireland?

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      Does your group see any intellectual benefits to joining with Old English?  See paragraph 42 above.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      Does this group name include Scots Gaelic?  And see Celtic, paragraph 116 below, under Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies. Please advise!

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      Does your group consider modern literature in Irish and Scots Gaelic? We are hoping for advice from members of your group and from the groups called “Irish” and “Scottish” (under Languages, Literatures, and Cultures) about how the MLA should handle Celtic languages/literatures with both medieval and contemporary lives.

      Comment by Margaret W. Ferguson on January 2nd, 2014

      This name change responds to member suggestions but if you would prefer to keep “baroque,” which has its own history and set of interdisciplinary resonances, please advise.

      Comment by Marianne Hirsch on January 2nd, 2014