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  • 18th century folks: please add your comments to the MLA draft proposal before September 18th | The Long Eighteenth

  • A LaVonne Brown Ruoff

    • Good effort but there are complexities not included in the title. We need a term that includes American Indians, Native Alaskans, Canadian Indigenous or First Nations–and, if possible Indigenous Hawaiians. While there are some Indians in Alaska, the U.S. Census categorizes Indigenous people as Native Alaskans (primarily Inuit and Iupiat) in recognition that they are a separate group.Indigenous Hawaiians are increasingly included in Native literature. Welcome to the World of Indigenous North America. I will attend the meeting to help clarify this.

    • Margaret Noodin, outgoing president of the Association for Study of American Indian Literatures, proposed at the open meeting that the title for the Division of American Indian Literatures become Indigenous Literatures of the United States and Canada.  Before making this suggestion, Noodin consulted members of ASAIL and others in the field. They and others whom she and I consulted approved the title change.  Yesterday, I sent an e-mail to ASAIL members discussing the change and pointing out to members the proposal’s inclusion of 183 “Transdisciplinary Connections” and 193 “Indigenous Studies.”  In addition I noted such groups as 80–“Latin American” and 86–“Mexican” as well as 26–“Latina and Latino” and 23–“Chicana and Chicano.”

      The committee has done an excellent job in developing major areas of interest and reorganizing the existing division and discussion groups.

    • I agree with Margaret Noodin’s assessment. Some questioned limiting “Indigenous Literatures” to the “United States and Canada.” In response, I sent out a detailed e-mail to the list serve of the Association for Study of American Indian Literatures, calling attention to the proposed category of “Interdisciplinary Connections” (183) which Includes “Indigenous Studies” (193). I also pointed out the existence of “Latina and Latino” (26), “Chicana and Chicano” (23), “Latin American” (80), and “Mexican” (86). I emphasized that these groups offered possibility for collaboration at MLA convention programs. Except for one scholar who lamented the loss of “American Indian,” the term we formerly used, I received no further questions about why “Indigenous Literatures” was limited to the United States and Canada.

    • In case the MLA committee working on restructuring groups is not familiar with the two abbreviations Margaret Noodin uses, here is a definition: NAISA–Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (an interdisciplinary group). NALS–Native American Literature Symposium.

    • 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.

    • 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.”

    • Correction in paragraph 1,  line 7: Remove “La”

      Correction in paragrpah 2, line 1: “created” not “creaated”

  • Abby Coykendall

    • 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.

  • Adela Ramos

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Adrienne L. Martín

    • The two forums already have 4 guaranteed sessions between them; does this mean if they do NOT agree to merge they will lose sessions?  This should be clarified.

      There are practical, disciplinary and historical reasons for the two separate fields.  Both are huge classical literary fields, equal in individual importance and historical relevance to Spanish literature as are those genres are in English.  I echo Barbara Simerka’s comment that it makes no disciplinary sense to combine them.

      As an affiliated organization, the Cervantes Society of America often submits joint sessions with both Poetry and Prose, and Theater; the possibility for collaborations might be reduced if this merger were to occur, thus reducing our early modern Spanish sessions and presence even more.


  • Alan Galey

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Alan J. Bewell

    • 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?

    • 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.

  • Albert E. Krahn

      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.

    • Help !  I can’t find the MLA group on orthography. Has anyone seen it lately?             krahn@punctuation.org

  • Alejandro Garcia-Reidy

    • As many other colleagues have stated in the comments to paragraph 108, the proposa to merge early modern Spanish drama with prose and poetry will only hinder the research presented at the MLA and the intellectual discussions that it generates. This suggested change in the structure of the divisions offers no benefits to scholars and goes against the dynamics of research and teaching in these fields in the US and abroad. Special sessions can be organized for topics that aim to connect all three genres, and there is a logic behind the current division between the drama division and the poetry and prose division (genres which should actually have their individual divisions due to the vast amount of research that each one generates, may I add), which my colleagues have already clearly presented in their comments.

    • As many other colleagues have stated in their comments, the proposal to merge early modern Spanish drama with prose and poetry will only hinder the research presented at the MLA and the intellectual discussions that it generates. This suggested change in the structure of the divisions offers no benefits to scholars and goes against the dynamics of research and teaching in these fields in the US and abroad. Special sessions can be organized for topics that aim to connect all three genres, and there is a logic behind the current division between the drama division and the poetry and prose division (genres which should actually have their individual divisions due to the vast amount of research that each one generates, may I add), which my colleagues have already clearly presented.

  • Alex Eric Hernandez

    • 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.

  • Alexander Beecroft

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Alexander C. Y. Huang

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

    • 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.


    • 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?

    • 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?

    • Would “critical animal studies” be more appropriate?

    • 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


  • Alix Mazuet

    • 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.”

  • Allison Muri

    • 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?

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

  • Alvan A. Ikoku

    • Thank you for the work in responding to comments on the previous draft.

      In answer to Marianne’s question, while there are arguments for both I think the names for the African forums (paras 131, 132, even 133) do read and work more coherently alongside the forum names in the first general category (LLC). Especially if — as David points out — Latin Am and Slavic remain in LLC. In each of these three cases, there’s a good history of various institutions and organizations placing the adjective before LLC.

      I’d also note that “African Diaspora” (para 133) can work well by itself under the Comparative – CLCS category, alongside forums like Global South, Global Jewish, etc.  

    • I agree with Thomas and Rebecca. Thank you. And yes, looking forward to our work in the MLA and beyond.

    • 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.

    • 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). 

  • Amy Clukey

    • 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.

  • Amy Katz Kaminsky

    • 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.

  • Anca Luca Holden

    • I also subscribe to the proposed model and arguments for “German Languages, Literatures, and Cultures,” but how about creating  a forum called “Austrian Studies” and another one  “Swiss German Studies”?

  • Andreas A. Huyssen

    • 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”


  • Andrew C. Parker

    • 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.

  • Angelika Bammer

    • 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?

  • Anita Mannur

    • 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.

    • I’m curious why Queer Studies is not included as a group?

    • This is a great addition!

    • This is a really important and important innovation. I’m glad it is being included.

    • 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.


    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Ann Baynes Coiro

    • 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).


  • Anna Faktorovich

    • 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

    • 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

  • Anna M. Klobucka

    • 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.

  • Anne Donadey

    • 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.

    • The name change makes sense.

  • Anne J. Cruz

    • 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.

  • Anthony W. Lee

    • 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.

      Tony Lee


  • April Alliston

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Atefeh Akbari Shahmirzadi

    • 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!

  • Ato Quayson

    • 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?

  • Aurangzeb Alamgir Hashmi

    • “Women’s and Gender Studies” is agreeable enough, with the apostrophe in “Women’s” in place.

    • 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.

    • 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”?

    • 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.

  • Baltasar Fra-Molinero

    • I support the creation of a distinct forum for Galician Studies. It should be separate from Portuguese or even Brazilian literary studies, given the history of Galician letters as compared to Portuguese or Brazilian literature.



  • Barbara Ladd

    • 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.” 


    • 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.

    • 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 . . . .

    • 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?


    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.


  • Barbara Mann

    • 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.

  • Barbara Simerka

    • Marianne,

      Note that Spanish chooses to group itself as 16th and 17th century poetry/prose and 16th and 17th century drama where other European divisions choose to lump all genres together but have separate divisions for 16th and 17th century. The specialization by genre rather than century is the way that early modern Spanish courses are taught and that  positions are created in larger depts that have more than one  early modern specialist.  It makes no disciplinary sense to combine these 2 Spanish groups into one –for the same reasons it would be a bad idea  to combine 16th and 17th century French or English lit into one unit.

      In addition, serving on an MLA executive committee is an important professional marker.  Combining the 2 groups would   reduce the opportunities for service and recognition within early modern Spanish studies and also limit the possibility for ascension into the higher ranks of MLA  offices, where Hispanists are already under represented. Having a single committee oversee 4 sessions does not solve this issue

      Finally, mergers might also skew the composition of  committees unless extreme care were taken to include all 3 genres (this is the same issue that would likely cause the much smaller group of 16c French scholars to reject a merger with the 17 century division)

  • Benita Sampedro

    • As one of the more than 300 members that submitted a formal letter of request to the MLA Executive Committee last year, petitioning the creation of a long-overdue “Galician Studies Group”, I, too, am delighted with the consultation through this MLA Commons. However, I strongly believe that Galicia deserves its own forum. Historically, the medieval kingdom of Galicia predates the existence of the kingdoms of both Portugal and Spain and, while the region has had close ties with both, it retains its separate identity. In contemporary terms, the current “Portugal and Galicia” forum proposal does not really address the needs and peculiarities of the growing field of Galician Studies today, with its inherently transnational and transcontinental specificities and histories. Like my colleagues above, I suggest that Galicia be given the same status  as other national cultures and languages (e.g. Catalan), one that it has long deserved. I strongly advocate for a separate Galician Studies Forum.

    • I thank the Executive Committee of 20th- Century Spanish Literature for this proposal; the reorganization under the umbrella of Iberian studies seems natural. I particularly welcome the space proposed for “Hispanophone outside of Spain and the Americas”. This is a much needed and long overdue unit and deserves a forum of its own.  Almost a year ago now a petition letter for the creation of such forum, endorsed by 128 scholars, was submitted to the MLA. It is good to see that the petition is being echoed now as an amendment to this second draft.

      I am also glad to see a proposal for a Galician forum, perhaps even under this umbrella of Iberian Studies. However, for a debate on the rationale and need for an independent Galician studies forum I subscribe to the comments already posted above under paragraphs 90 and 91 of this draft.

  • Benjamin Ridgway

    • 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.”

  • Blair G. Hoxby

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Bonnie Gasior

    • My colleagues have clearly established why this proposed merger is problematic so I will simply say that I, too, strongly support the continued separation of the two genre divisions in question.

  • bonnie lenore kyburz

  • Brad Evans

    • The current executive committee of the division had a long discussion about the proposed change at the Chicago conference. The committee feels that the general shift from “divisions” and “discussion groups” to “forums” could be useful. However, it strongly opposes the proposed change to the title (and presumably the content) of our division. Such a change would be both radical and unwelcome.

      It was the consensus of the Executive Committee that the current division titles not only more accurately represent the work done in the field of American, generally, but that they do so in a way more conducive to future scholarship.

      Regarding the accuracy of the name, it is telling that the four sessions sponsored or co-sponsored by our division at the MLA in Chicago all fell in the “late 19th/early 20th century” rubric; while one panel dipped back to Melville and another forward to black writing in the 1940s, they all turned on the axis of the twentieth century, being neither fully one nor the other. The current rubric is of interest precisely for the way it is set on the cusp between centuries. It reflects not merely a period of political and technological ferment, but also, and essentially in our view, a neatly defined literary period. It is the era of realism and naturalism, linked to but distinguished from the American renaissance, and also from that of modernism taking shape in the 1920s. Moreover, the current division productively describes the period after the Civil War and the Indian Wars when issues of race, class, gender and ethnicity were of particular cultural significance, as can be seen in the period’s attention to dialect and regionalism. It is a moment of emergence of mass media forms, with illustrated magazines, dime novels, and motion pictures coming to the fore. It is the period known for the “incorporation of America,” as Alan Trachtenberg usefully termed it many years ago. I could go on, but the point is that the specificity of our field is lost with the new suggestion. Indeed, those of us on the executive committee were entirely uncertain whether the proposal intended us to disperse into the current 19th or the new 20th century division. We would become a field without a divisional home.

      We feel, furthermore, that the proposal by the MLA would lock the divisions into a paradigm that would prove more constraining and antiquated than what we currently have. The proposal would seem to resituate our division firmly in the 20th century, presumably in order to allow for the expansion of the 20th century into two groups (20c American to 1945 and American since 1945), and in effect taking away one division from the 19th century in order to do so. The logic for this move seems arbitrary from both historical and literary perspectives. It would seem to privilege a state paradigm that became dominant in the period of the 1920s, the “American century,” but loses the opportunity for a productive reimagining of the American field tracing national transformation over a longer history. The only comment in the MLA Commons on the change, from Paula Moya, suggests that the Division on 20th Century American Literature agrees. The proposal, in sum, feels tone-deaf to the aesthetic rubrics that should, in our opinion, define the historical divisions (and in this regard, we particularly regret the elimination of “literature” from the division titles). It also feels historically constricting.

      Our final concern is more practical. The divisions of the MLA remain extremely important in organizing the academy. They shape the way dissertations are written, scholarly books are published, undergraduate and graduate curriculums are organized, and faculty lines are negotiated with university administration. The proposed change emphasizes the twentieth century in a way that is harmful to the institutional significance of the MLA’s dedication both to the historical tradition and the future disciplinary shape of the study of American literature. And, moreover, it would seem to eliminate a field of study in which departments hire regularly—a move that seems strategically short sighted in an era of diminishing institutional resources.

  • Brad Pasanek

    • 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.

  • Brian Abel Ragen

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

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

    • 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?

    • 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.)

    • “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?

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

    • 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.

    • “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.

    • Why wouldn’t simply “Gender Studies” do?

    • 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.?

    • Why both Chicana and Chicano and Latina and Latino? I ask especially because other groups, such as Irish Americans, are not mentioned at all.

  • Brian Bernards

    • 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.


      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.

  • Bruce E Brandt

  • Candace Barrington

    • I join the chorus of those who urge us to continue to have a division labelled “Chaucer.”  As my colleagues have ably argued, keeping that designation makes sense in our classrooms, in our scholarship, and in our profession.

  • Carla Sassi

    • 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.


  • Carla Zecher

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Carmela Mattza

    • I also concur with everything written by my colleagues to explain why the change proposed is unfortunate. It denies our two existing areas of research and therefore specialization. How fruitful and vibrant are these two can be picture by these two facts,

      1. Yesterday, it was announced that a play written by Lope de Vega was rescued from ignoto mundo by one of us, Dr. Garcia Reidy from Siracuse University. The discovery of this manuscript can only be compared to finding a play by William Shakespeare that was never edited. I am sure that his finding will originate a very intense discussion on the panels organized by the 16th and 17th century drama in the next MLA.

      2. In Chicago, in April there will be a National Symposium on Cervantes’s Works . A venue that will help to launch the themes for the next MLA  panels hosted by the 16th and 17th century prose and poetry division.    


  • Carmen Nocentelli

  • Carmen Sanjuan-Pastor

  • Carolina Gonzalez

    • 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.

  • Caroline Elizabeth Webb

    • 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).

    • This brings the group into conformity with common practice in this field.

  • Caroline McCracken-Flesher

    • 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.

  • Carrie Shanafelt

    • 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.

  • Catherine Elizabeth Ingrassia

    • 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).

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Catherine Fung

    • 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.

    • NO it is not a subset of Latino/a.
      YES there is a need for both groups.

    • A welcome and necessary addition!


  • Catherine Jean Prendergast

    • 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.

  • César Augusto Salgado

    • 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.

    • 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.


  • Cesar Braga-Pinto

    • I agree with Luiz Valente as to the names of the divisions. I also think that Brazil should be under Latin America. True, there are reasons to stress the literary ties between Brazil and Portugal, but I think that in the recent debates there is more reason to connect it with Latin America: studies of diaspora, slavery, indigeneity, post/colonialism, not to mention traditional fields of comparison such as Brazil/Argentina, Brazil/Mexico, etc. As Luiz indicates, there is not reason why we should not organize collaborative sessions with the Continental Lusophone division.

  • Chandrima Chakraborty

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • This would be a fabulous addition, but why not affect as well, as others have noted.

    • 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.

  • Charles A. Perrone

    • 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!

    • Romance literary relations do not all have Mediterranean shores.

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

    • Like.

    • 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.”

    • 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.

  • Cheryl E. Ball

    • 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.)

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

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

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

    • huh, this is a cool addition.

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

    • 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.

    • 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!

    • 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….)

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

    • 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. 😉

    • 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.

    • 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.


    • 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.

    • 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!

    • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.)

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • And rhetoric/composition, which doesn’t have anything to do with literary studies. 😉

    • Yay! So glad to hear this. Thank you for hearing us.

    • 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.

  • Cheryl E. Ball

  • Cheryl Narumi Naruse

    • 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.

    • Yes–indigenous would allow for Hawaiian literature as well.

  • Chloe Wigston Smith

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Chris Palmer

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Christina M. Czajkoski

    • 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

    • 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.

  • Christine Blackshaw

  • Christopher E. Larkosh

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Christopher Loar

    • 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.

  • Christopher Looby

    • 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.

  • Christopher M. Lupke

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Good — or maybe “Ming and Qing Chinese”.

    • 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.”

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • The revisions to the East Asian “fora” look great to me and reflect the comments I have read and heard from my colleagues in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and East Asian Comparative Studies. I think the largest of these fora is going to be the Modern and Contemporary Chinese one. I hope it will receive more than one session per annual conference.

      Some have called this effort on the part of the Working Group “thankless.” I hope not. So, for the record, THANK YOU for getting us this far and I hope my colleagues will join me at the MLA this year in helping steer it to the next stage.

      Christopher Lupke, Washington State University, Delegate for West Coast/Pacific Region

  • Cilas Kemedjio

    • 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

  • Claire M. Waters

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Claude Willan

    • 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.

  • Coleman Hutchison

    • 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?

    • 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”?

    • 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?

  • Cory A. Reed

    • I strongly support the sensible comments of my colleagues. The proposal seems capricious, sadly ignorant of how the most current research in this vibrant, growing field is conducted, and inconsistent with the divisions being maintained in other fields like English and French.

  • Courtney B. Beggs

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Cristina Bacchilega

    • VERY glad to see this!

    • 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.


  • Cristina Ferreira-Pinto Bailey

    • I’m always concerned re. the exclusion of Brazil from Latin America, although I realize that being its own Division (or Forum) guarantees the minimum attention Brazilian lit. needs and deserve. I can only encourage our colleagues in Spanish American Lit to make an effort to include Brazil in their panels and sessions, given that there’s so much in common, historically and culturally among these countries. Not to forget, of course, Brazil’s strong historical and cultural ties to Portugal.

      I think it’s something similar to Galicia and its’ linguistic relationship with Portugal and, at the same time, cultural and political connections to Spain (re. Fra-Molinero’s comment).

      But considering the numbers of scholars and academic programs in the US and Canada that work with Brazilian, Portuguese, and other Lusophone literatures (since most participating in the convention are from these two countries), I’m wondering if it’s indeed an equitable division to have one forum for Brazil, one for Portugal and Galicia, and one for other Lusophone countries. I’m assuming each forum would be allotted  the same number of sessions or panels.

  • Cristina Moreiras-Menor

    • Portugal is a Nation State with a very rich literary tradition; Galicia is a nationality included in the Spanish Nation State, like Catalonia (so far, at least). Galician Literature,  like Catalan  or Basque literatures, is a entirely different literary tradition, with a different language, a different tradition and a different culture. While the relation between Portugal and Galicia is one of friendship and respect, these two literatures are completely different.  It isn’t fair to either one to share the same space. Both deserve a space of their own.  Why does Catalonia merit its own forum while Galicia (with a large and internationally renowned  literature) doesn’t?  Would we include Catalonia with France?  The Basque country with France?  Why Galicia with Portugal?  As a scholar and teacher  dedicated to both Spanish and Galician literature, and in a more private way, to Portuguese literature as well,  I would like to respectfully state that this sharing doesn’t make any sense.

    • Portugal is a Nation State with a very rich literary tradition; Galicia is a nationality included in the Spanish Nation State, like Catalonia (so far, at least). Galician Literature,  like Catalan  or Basque literatures, is a entirely different literary tradition, with a different language, a different tradition and a different culture. While the relation between Portugal and Galicia is one of friendship and respect, these two literatures are completely different.  It isn’t fair to either one to share the same space. Both deserve a space of their own.  Why does Catalonia merit its own forum while Galicia (with a large and internationally renowned  literature) doesn’t?  Would we include Catalonia with France?  The Basque country with France?  Why Galicia with Portugal?  As a scholar and teacher  dedicated to both Spanish and Galician literature, and in a more private way, to Portuguese literature as well,  I would like to respectfully state that this sharing doesn’t make any sense.

  • Cristina V. Bruns

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • I’m wondering what areas of scholarly work this new forum covers. The term “literacy” usually seems used for a rudimentary level of reading and writing. My scholarship focuses on the practice, experience, and effects of literary reading with proficiency assumed. Could it be classified as “literacy studies”?

    • It seems odd that The Teaching of Literature is tucked away here under Higher Education and the Profession while Writing Pedagogies has a seemingly more central place in the disciplinary category of Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies. It suggests–inadvertently, I’m sure–that pedagogy in  literary studies is merely an issue of professionalization, almost an afterthought, rather than a more fundamental component of literary studies. Perhaps this accurately describes the status of literary pedagogy, in contrast to the way writing pedagogy has developed as a primary constituent of composition studies. However the structure of the forum list need not reinforce that marginalized position.  Because the vast majority of the forums on the list involve literature, a alternative location for The Teaching of Literature isn’t obvious. What about placing it in Theory and Method as it involves both?

  • Crystal Parikh

    • 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.

  • Cynthia Scheinberg

    • 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!


  • Cynthia Wu

    • 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.

  • Dale J. Pratt

    • I echo Barbara Simerka’s sentiments about dividing the Spanish Golden Age along genre lines. At Cornell, I took courses like “Mystics and Moralists” and “Picaresque Novel” (Poetry and Prose Division), “Calderón de la Barca” and “Golden Age Theater” (Drama division). We don’t have a “Cervantes” division, a “Lope de Vega” or “Calderón” division, but we should not compress our two existing divisions into one monster division at the same times as we consider expanding the number of divisions on the Latin American side of things.

  • Dana C. Bultman

    • There doesn’t seem to be a strong enough rationale for merging these two divisions and there are a lot of reasons for keeping them as they are. The genre divisions allow us to create coherent and precise conversations in a field of Early Modern primary texts that is complex and rich. Theses aren’t necessarily conversations about genre per se, but explorations of shared theoretical frameworks, questions of models and reception, etc. Spanish Drama merits its own space.  I am strongly in favor of maintaining what is in place with 4 guaranteed sessions.

  • Daniel Frost

    • 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.

    • Why doesn’t Galician merit its own forum, like Catalan?

  • Daniel O'Quinn

    • 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.

  • Daniel Powell

    • 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?


    • 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?

  • Danielle Spratt

    • 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.

    • (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.

  • Danny Barreto

    • While I’m pleased to see there will be a space for discussing Galician Studies outside of Spanish Studies it seems lumping it together with Portuguese literature will be just as problematic. I personally support Galician Studies being a distinct forum.

      Scholars in North America working in Galician Studies, however problematically, seem to be doing so largely from departments of Hispanic and Latin American Studies. I’d even dare say that if one looks at the most recent MLA Programs, when there have been presentations on Galician Studies that weren’t part of an all-Galician panel, scholars seem to present on panels about Spanish and Iberian culture/literature. Galician studies clearly needs increased visibility and institutionalization to be acknowledged as more than a subcategory of Spanish literature, but having that conversation within a Lusophone context isn’t going to do justice to the transnational and multilingual contexts in which Galician writers and scholars work.

  • Dara Rossman Regaignon

    • 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.

  • David A. Wacks

    • 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.

  • David Chioni Moore

    • 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.

    • My comment here will apply to both the “African to 1990” and “African since 1990” proposed forums..

      First, thanks to the architects of this ongoing process for scrapping the initially proposed “southern” vs rest-of-Africa distinction.  I could quibble with the pre/post-1990 approach, but, lacking any better, less problematic way to give African Lit more than a single forum, the pre/post-1990 works well enough.  The year 1990 seems a touch arbitrary, but lacking a truly transformational year like 1945 for Europe, the year of Mr. Mandela’s release seems fine, though it does signal the regrettable “presentism” of work done in our field.

      Thanks also to Marianne Hirsch for asking whether we would prefer to be under the “Comparative” or “Languages, Literatures and Cultures” macro-heading.

      Most but not all of the currently proposed forums under the LLC macro-heading are linguistically organized, such as Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Occitan, the various forums under Italian, French, German-Germanophone, etc.  Some are national-multilingual (e.g. Canadian, “American”), while others are an unclassifiable mix, most notably “Russian and Eurasian” (!). The first three of the seven listed Latin American forums (colonial, 19th century, and 20th-21st century) are closest to the pre/post-1990 Africa forums currently under consideration for us: continental in scope, historically organized, and (ideally) multilingual.  On this basis, we would fit well under Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

      The “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies” macr0-heading encompasses a wider mix of organizational principles for its individual forums, such as regional (e.g. Nordic); linguistic (e.g. Global English); diachronic (e.g. Classical & Modern); synchronic (e.g. the several “century” forums); cultural-diasporic (e.g. African Diasporic, Global Jewish); terraqueous (e.g. Indian Ocean, Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean); and more.

      Does or should “Africa to 1990” and “Africa since 1990” fit in that heterogeneous array?  Of course yes, since both of our proposed forums would be geographically, culturally, and linguistically vast, yet contemplate a certain unity — characteristics for which “comparison” seems best.

      Having made this argument for inclusion in the “Comparative” sector, there is something about the Languages-Literatures-Cultures macro-heading, and the forums contained within it, which somehow seem more solid, stable,  traditional, or, if you will, real.  I’m concerned what signal would be sent by excluding ourselves from that.  And of course I’m keen on hearing what others have to say.

      all best,  — David (Chioni Moore).


    • (Please see my comment, and Marianne Hirsch’s initial comment, on the closely related “Africa to 1990” discussion thread.  — David.)

  • David Harper

    • 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.

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

  • David J. Bartholomae

      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.    


    • Let me fill in some additional details on the place of Composition, Rhetoric, and Writing Studies in the proposed new MLA structure.   I am pleased that our field is now recognized as a major area of teaching and research.   And I think the new categories provide space for a wide range of scholarship, issues and concerns.

      Let me note that there is also a forum titled “Program Administration” under the general section, “Higher Education and the Profession”  (formerly “Teaching and the Profession”).   It is meant to bring together composition, creative writing, and undergraduate program administration more broadly.

      There were two areas that I had hoped for that didn’t make the final cut.   The committee considered a forum titled “Technical, Scientific and Professional Writing.”    Apparently there is an allied organization for Business Writing, one with a guaranteed spot on the program, and that was felt to be enough.

      We also were hoping for something like “Digital Composition,” but the general sense was that the current category , “Digital Humanities,” was sufficient.

      New forums, however, may be proposed at a later date, once the new area of Rhetoric, Composition and Writing Studies has shown it can attract people and proposals.    If you are reading this and you will be in Chicago, please make a point to attend the open discussion.    Now that there is new room for us, we need to move in and make our presence felt.

  • David J. Hildner

    • I would like to echo Barbara Simerka’s and other colleagues’ comments on paragraph 108, but from the perspective of a drama specialist.  The theatrical life of early modern Spain, both in terms of texts and of the variety of cultural forms originated and performed, continues to merit, from my point of view, a separate division.   As one of the first commercial venues of cultural production in early modern Europe, the Renaissance/Baroque theater involves issues noticeably different from those of the poetry and prose of the same period. Furthermore, as the number of classical dramatic texts read and written about  continues to decrease, it behooves us to keep the incredible wealth of Hispanic classical theater before the eyes of humanities scholars and the general public.

  • David John Wallace

    • i agree with Richard Newhauser: let’s stick with Chaucer. I now teach Chaucer as a 101 course for our General Education requirement. No other Middle English author has the global reach implied by ‘Chaucer’, which enables the teaching of Islam and its trans-Mediterranean reach, the history of Jewish thought and anti-semitism, animal studies, militarism, gender, sexuality, and queer studies, etc. In a very real sense, in variety of genres and geographies, of class range and faith systems, of personalities and sexualities, Chaucer is much more ‘global’ than Shakespeare.

  • David Lee Miller

    • 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”!

    • 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”!

  • David Marshall

    • 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.

  • David R. Shumway

    • 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.

  • David Rodriguez-Solas

  • David Samuel Mazella

    • 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.





    • 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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

  • Deanna Shemek

    • Hello Everyone. Is there any reason not to make 109 consistent with 15 and call it Medieval and Renaissance/Early Modern?

    • 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!

    • 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.



    • Replying to myself here, with a change. Given that paragraph 38 names Media Studies, Digital Humanities seems suitable here.

    • Replying to myself here, with a change. Given that paragraph 38 names Media Studies, Digital Humanities seems suitable here.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Deborah Forteza

    • 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.

  • Deborah H. Holdstein

    • 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.

    • Sorry:  Make that “reiterated in John Schilb’s post of 9/19.”

  • Debra Ann Moddelmog

    • This is a late suggestion, but the more I’ve thought about the change of GLBT Studies to Sexuality Studies, the more I’ve thought that there should also be (in addition to Sexuality Studies) a forum for Queer Theory and Studies. At the last MLA, there were 43 panels that had “queer” in the panel title or in one or more of the panelist’s papers, and while this might suggest that queer is going to be included regardless of whether it’s in the name of a forum, it also indicates that there’s sufficient interest in queer studies for it to deserve to be a forum of its own. Moreover, Sexuality Studies and Queer Theory/Studies, while overlapping in some cases, aren’t the same thing, and we need some forum in the MLA structure that not only accommodates the research and teaching  interests of a significant number of members but also signals support for queer students and faculty.  Debra Moddelmog, Ohio State University

  • Deidre Shauna Lynch

    • 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.)

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

    • 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!

  • Deniz Göktürk

    • “German and Germanophone,” “Dutch and Dutchophone” – please! I wonder what colleagues were thinking? This translation of “Francophone” across the board simply does not work. Imagine an interested reader from some other discipline opening our conference program and reading this nonsense. Wouldn’t this person be at a complete loss of what we are working on? In my opinion – and I am speaking as the chair of the division for 2oth-century German literature – this renaming would be a recipe for self-destruction.

      How about “German Studies,” “Dutch Studies”?

      Also, didn’t we initially set out to also rethink the century-based model?

    • While the discussion with colleagues at the open hearing clarified that “Germanophone” emulates “deutschsprachig” and is designed to include Austrian, Swiss, Yiddish etc, we are still opposed to this renaming, the three main arguments being:

      1. There is no program that calls itself “Germanophone.” This renaming would be out of touch with common usage.

      2. “LLC – Languages, Literatures, and Cultures” is already in plural. Hence, the renaming would create a tautology.

      3. Our recognizable common ground is the German language. Clearly, none of us is waving the flag for Germany as a nation state.

      Thanks to everyone who has put thought into this difficult rethinking of given categorizations!


  • Denys Van Renen

    • 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.

  • Diane Price Herndl

    • 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)”

  • Donald F. Larsson

    • 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.

    • Please see my comment under paragraph 38.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Donna M. Campbell

    • 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.

  • Dr. Jacquilyn Weeks

    • I like the specificity of “Fairy Tale” as a modifier, but it seems too narrow because it fails to address the related and equally important category “Myth” (which has no other specific forum representation in this draft). So many texts combine elements of myth and fairy tale that “Folklore, Myth, and Fairy Tale” would seem to be a title that better reflects the kind of texts and materials currently being studied by this group.

  • Dwight Codr

    • 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.

  • Edgar Illas

    • I agree with Elisa Martí-López’s previous comment. The proposal for an Iberian umbrella is a valuable and refreshing one indeed. As a member of the Catalan Discussion Group, however, I also feel that an alternative is to maintain Catalan as a separate forum. I do not have categorical reasons to support this second option. One could say that maintaining Catalan as a separate forum is a way of not privileging the Iberian connections over other possible dialogues between Catalan culture and any of the cultures of the globe. But of course one can argue the opposite, namely that Catalan culture cannot be understood outside the Iberian context. But perhaps maintaining Catalan as a separate forum and then creating a forum on Iberia within the larger category of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, as Martí-López suggests, could be a satisfactory way of solving this unsolvable conundrum.
      At any rate, a key point of agreement is that Catalan warrants two forums: one on Pre-Modern Catalan Studies and one on Modern and Contemporary Catalan Studies. These elastic categories offer a vital periodization of the millenary history of Catalan culture, which is commonly divided into the medieval period from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, and the modern period from the end of the nineteenth century to the present.

  • Eileen M. Julien

    • 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.

  • Elaine Treharne

    • Perhaps equally important is that Old Norse is often taught within the context of Germanic Studies, in German Departments, as here at Stanford. Old English, on the other hand, is taught, generally, in English Departments, by English specialists. That’s not to say that there isn’t crossover (as there is, and should be, indeed, between Early Middle English and Old French, or Anglo-Latin and Theology), but these are not mergeable fields/sub-disciplines by virtue of their chronological, or linguistic proximity. There’s a whole academic article here, which someone somewhere could write.

    • Please scroll down to read my comments at the site of the Old Norse group. Early British culture is multilingual and multicultural, but to assume that this might somehow be more usefully reflected by the merging of modern academic fields is to misunderstand the nature of the growth, theory, practice and successful futures (both pedagogically and in research) of those fields. Medievalists already work very closely together, but each particular area is specialized and distinct.

  • Eleanor F. Shevlin

    • Many thanks for restoring/retaining this MLA Division–and its counterpart, the Late-18th-Century English.  We are pleased that that our voices were heard.

    • Many thanks for restoring/retaining this MLA Division–and its counterpart, the Restoration and Early-18th-Century English.  We are pleased that that our voices were heard.

    • On behalf of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP), the premier international society for book History–that is,  the study of the written word in all its multiple forms [www.sharpweb.org], I am writing to express our thanks that Book History, Print Cultures as been recognized as an relevant, needed forum at MLA. We are pleased to have “Lexicography” as part of our group. A number of scholars working in lexicography also work in book history (though a number of lexicographers  are also aligned with linguistics).

      I should also not that “book history” deals with formats from clay tablets to the digital page and all related issues in the creation, production, dissemination, and reception of the written word.  In other words, book historians look not only to the past but also very much to the future.

      Eleanor Shevlin





  • Elena Lanza

    • 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.

    • 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…

    • 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.

    • I agree

  • Elena Machado Sáez

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Eleni Eva Coundouriotis

    • 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?


  • Elisa Martí-López

    • I find the proposal made by the Executive Committee on 20th-Century Spanish a very valuable one.

      However, taking into consideration that two of the priorities guiding this revision are “the protection of  small fields, including the study of less commonly taught languages” and “the attempt to minimize hierarchies and exclusions among fields, large and small” (see “Proposal Overview and Frequently Asked Questions”), an alternative would be to maintain Catalan (and Basque, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish) as distinct “first level” forums (like French, Italian, Hebrew, etc) and create a forum on Iberia within the larger category of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies.


    • I find the proposal made by the Executive Committee on 20th-Century Spanish a very valuable one (see Jo Labanyi’s comment on paragraph 106).
      However, taking into consideration that two of the priorities guiding this revision are “the protection of  small fields, including the study of less commonly taught languages” and “the attempt to minimize hierarchies and exclusions among fields, large and small” (see “Proposal Overview and Frequently Asked Questions”), an alternative would be to maintain Catalan (and Basque, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish) as distinct “first level” forums (like French, Italian, Hebrew, etc) and create a forum on Iberia within the larger category of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies.

    • I also support the proposal for a Galician Forum

  • Elizabeth Bell Canon

    • 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.

  • Elizabeth F. Abel

    • 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.

    • Just a revision to my own comment: I see that there’s already a category for “Drama and Performance.” Sorry!

  • Elizabeth J. Donaldson

    • 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.

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

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

    • I think this is much more inclusive.  Nice change.

  • Elizabeth Kraft

    • 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.

    • Ditto to Michael McKeon’s comment above.

  • Elizabeth Mathews Losh

    • 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.

  • Elizabeth Rhodes

    • I’ve read the letter introducing the new forum structure as well as the FAQs.  The rationale for this recommended change is not stated and  the relationship between this proposal and the  objectives presented to members is not clear. What exactly are you trying to accomplish with this recommendation? As far as the “reduction of Eurocentric disciplines” goes, let us recall that Spain inherited a tri-part culture unique in Europe, one that can hardly be called simply European.

      Regardless, my colleagues have eloquently explained the intellectual justification for the present fields.

      Elizabeth Rhodes

      Prof. of Hispanic Studies, Boston College

  • Elke Heckner

    • 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.

  • Emily Hegarty

  • Emily Petermann

    • Might it be appropriate to further divide this forum into two sections – children’s vs. young adult literatures? I’m only beginning to work in the field, so I cannot yet comment on the current usage, but my impression at the last MLA was that nearly all the “children’s literature” sessions were in fact young adult sessions and that children’s literature would merit additional slots. Alternatively, one could subdivide this forum based on genre (this is, after all, located within the genre category in this forum structure), such that there is a distinction between, say, novels (generally YA) and poetry, picturebooks, etc., which seem to be underrepresented by comparison.

      Just some food for thought from a (so far) outside voice…

      Emily Petermann

      University of Konstanz, Germany

    • I welcome the division of the very broad “Literature and the Other Arts” forum into “sound” and “visual culture”, but am curious whether “sound” accurately describes the kind of work that is done here. Do “Word and Music Studies” fit comfortably in this forum? Certainly there is overlap, but literature’s engagement with music cannot be reduced to elements of sound (as when a novel imitates jazz’s improvisatory qualities or structural patterns borrowed from music) – and sound in, say, poetry, need not be connected to the “other art” of music at all.

      Again, I’m glad to see a section focused particularly on music/sound as distinct from images but am not sure about the title.


      Emily Petermann

      University of Konstanz, Germany

  • Enkelena Shockett

    • 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.


  • Enrique García Santo-Tomás

    • 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”

    • I would change to “Early Modern” Iberian Poetry and Prose to be consistent with #103

    • I propose Medieval Iberia.  It’s cleaner, more inclusive, and makes more sense in relation to (my proposed) #102, and the current #103.

  • Eric Calderwood

    • I strongly support the creation of a “Hispanophone outside of Spain and the Americas” forum.  Such a forum would give recognition and structure to a growing subfield within Hispanic studies.  I know of a number of scholars who are currently working on cultural and literary relations between Spain and Africa – with a particular emphasis on Morocco and Equatorial Guinea.  The new forum will bolster this surge in scholarly interest in Hispano-African relations, and it will also create a space for other Hispanophone literatures (such as Hispanophone literature from the Philippines) that have received less scholarly attention.


  • Erik Johnson

    • 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

  • Erin Mackie

    • No user edit function on this site.

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

    • 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.

  • Ernest Walter Sullivan

    • 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.

  • Esther Leysorek Goodman

    • 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.

  • Eugenia Zuroski Jenkins

    • 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.

  • Evan M. Gottlieb

    • 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.

  • Evie Shockley

    • 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.

  • Feisal G. Mohamed

    • 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.

  • Fern Kory

  • Fiona Tolhurst

    • 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.

  • Florence S. Boos

    • 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.


      Florence Boos

  • Frank A. Dominguez

    • 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

  • Fred L. Gardaphe

    • 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.

  • Gabriel Rei-Doval

    • This would be a fantastic additional group!

    • First of all, thanks to MLA for responding to the petition of a Galician Studies group (the document containing such a petition can be read and downloaded at http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/spanish/faculty/upload/galicianpetition.pdf). This petition was endorsed by over 300 scholars worldwide.

      I completely agree with all other colleagues who support and advocate on this MLA Commons for a separate Galician Studies group. Most of the reasons why MLA should create such a group have already been named. In any case, I’d like to add that the group of scholars interested/working on Galician Studies is highly diverse. As previously mentioned, GS is relevant not only for European Portuguese Studies, but also for Brazilian Studies, due to the Galician diaspora as well as to Sociolinguistic reasons. Yet, GS is also extremely relevant in Spanish/Hispanic/Iberian/Latin American perspectives, not to mention other highly relevant areas, such as Cultural, Transatlantic, Postcolonial, Celtic, or Romance Studies, among others.

      This diversity in the interest for Galician Studies is also demonstrated by the ongoing MLA Galician Studies Survey (http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/spanish/research/galician/upload/MLAGalicianStudies-QualtricsSurvey.pdf), whose fieldwork was conducted in Nov/Dec 2013 by the UW-Milwaukee Galician Studies Research Group. Although, as I just said, the report corresponding to this survey is still unpublished, we can advance some preliminary and highly relevant data.

      When asked about their background, scholars advocating  worldwide for a separate MLA Galician Studies group declared as their foundational area:
      49.3%: Spanish/Hispanic/Iberian Studies
      5.9%: Lusophone Studies
      26.3%: Language & Literature Studies
        4.6%: Humanities & Social Sciences
      2.6%: Minorities & Nationalism Studies
      2.0%: Cultural Studies
      9.2%: Other

      Other unpublished data from this ongoing survey also support that Galician Studies does not fit in any existing wider umbrella under the Language, Literature & Cultures MLA section.

      And last but not least, the existence of a similarly positioned group such as the Catalan one also indicates that Galician should enjoy a similar status. Given the overwhelming evidence, a different option would be perceived by most MLA members as an unjustified marginalization of Galician Studies.

    • In addition to the many and relevant reasons already given above by other colleagues to justify a separate category and forum for Galician Studies at MLA, I’d like to mention the international presence of Galician communities worldwide, in particular in the Americas. Very few, if any, stateless nations in the world have such an important diaspora. According to official data provided by the Galician Government (Xunta de Galicia) to the UW-Milwaukee Galician Studies Research Group, the presence of organized Galician communities worldwide is as follows:
      Galician Communities outside of Galicia by country
      (Source: Xunta de Galicia; Elaborated by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Galician Studies Research Group)

      Africa: 1Andorra: 1Argentina: 106Australia: 1Belgium: 3Bolivia: 1Brazil: 28Canada: 3Chile: 3Costa Rica: 1Cuba: 66Denmark: 1Dominican Republic: 1Ecuador: 1France: 5Germany: 12Guatemala: 1Holland: 4Liechtenstein: 1Mexico: 6Panama: 1Paraguay: 1Peru: 1Portugal: 1Spain: 90Sweden: 1Switzerland: 24UK: 1Uruguay: 23USA: 9Venezuela: 23

      The presence of Academic (University) Centers for Galician Studies worldwide has been already highlighted in the MLA Galician Studies petition.

    • In addition to the many and relevant reasons already given above by other colleagues to justify a separate category and forum for Galician Studies at MLA, I’d like to mention the international presence of Galician communities worldwide, in particular in the Americas. Very few, if any, stateless nations in the world have such an important diaspora. According to official data provided by the Galician Government (Xunta de Galicia), the presence of organized Galician communities worldwide is as follows:
      Galician Communities outside of Galicia by country(Source: Xunta de Galicia; Elaborated by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Galician Studies Research Group)
      Africa: 1. Andorra: 1. Argentina: 106. Australia: 1. Belgium: 3. Bolivia: 1. Brazil: 28. Canada: 3. Chile: 3. Costa Rica: 1. Cuba: 66. Denmark: 1. Dominican Republic: 1. Ecuador: 1. France: 5. Germany: 12. Guatemala: 1. Holland: 4. Liechtenstein: 1. Mexico: 6. Panama: 1. Paraguay: 1. Peru: 1. Portugal: 1. Spain: 90. Sweden: 1. Switzerland: 24. UK: 1. Uruguay: 23. USA: 9. Venezuela: 23
      The presence of Academic (University) Centers for Galician Studies worldwide has been already highlighted in the MLA Galician Studies petition.

    • Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions on the Galician setting.

      Whatever structure or position is established for Catalan at MLA should be duplicated  for Galician, yet Galician is also highly relevant -at least- for Lusophone, Transatlantic and Diaspora Studies.

      Galician should have the same status as Catalan or Scottish.

  • Gaurav G. Desai

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

    • My thanks to the Working Group for the revised proposal. For the most part, I am very happy with the suggestions and think that the new structure will go a long way in addressing the changing needs of our profession and help foster new energies and debates. The one thing that I didn’t quite follow is the difference being made between “Languages, Literature, and Cultures” and “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies.” I realize that these are rubrics of convenience and ultimately meant to be fluid, but nonetheless, it seems that some of the forums under the first rubric (such as the entire list under Latin American) could easily be moved to the Comparative section and some from the second rubric (such as the two forums on African Literatures) could just as easily be moved under “Languages. Literatures and Cultures.” I was trying to figure out whether the committee thought that work in some fields was more “comparative” than others — but I doubt that that was the intent. Maybe it was just a way to find some quantitative symmetry under the various general categories (and not have one general category that overwhelmed all the others by sheer bulk), but then again they aren’t necessarily all equally populated anyway. Just curious.

  • Geffrey Davis

    • 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”)?

  • George D. Greenia

    • I support creation of an independent division for Galician Studies.  Portugal has not embraced Galicia as a sister state with convergent concerns nor the Galician language as another Portuguese language and literature.  Galicians do not derive their sense of identity or cultural accomplishment from affiliation with Portuguese literary or linguistic traditions.  While there’s a sense of a shared history on either side of their friendly and unguarded border, and although their tongues are mutually accessible, each deserves independent attention much as the US and Canada can be honored as distinct cultural bodies.

  • George Louis Scheper

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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

    • Agree with Sidonie that this is a very useful, more “encompassing term.”

    • 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…..”

    • 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

    • 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”

    • Agree with previous comments that would broaden the scope:

      “Public Humanities: Activism, Advocacy, and Academic Freedom”

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Gerardo Augusto Lorenzino

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • I support the name change;  the original ‘comparative romance linguistics’ seemed redundant.

  • Ghirmai Negash

    • 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.

  • Giovanna Covi

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • I would insist on keeping African American Literature by itself, too.

    • totally so: indeed let us not take theory out of the MLA plural identity, please!

  • Giovanna Montenegro

    • 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.

    • Yes, happy to see Heritage Languages in here. Many times they’re just lumped together as bilingual/ multilingual.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • See comments on paragraph 75 Dutchophone lit.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Gregory S. Hutcheson

    • 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….

    • 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….

  • Hannibal Hamlin

    • 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.

  • Heather Houser

    • The 20th-Century American Literature Division recommends extending the coverage of the current division to include the 21st century, as Paula Moya recommends above. In a decade or so, this 20th- and 21st-Century American Literature Forum can be split into two.

  • Heather Keenleyside

    • 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. 

  • Héctor Hoyos

    • 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.

  • Heidi Schlipphacke

    • 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.

  • Helen Deutsch

    • 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!

    • 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.

  • Helen Thompson

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Hester Blum

    • 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.

  • Hillary L. Chute

    • 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…

    • 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.

    • 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…

    • 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.

    • 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”?

    • 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.

  • Holly Crocker

    • I also believe we should retain the Chaucer designation. Chaucer has long allowed scholars to think through new theoretical approaches. MLA panels on Chaucer always feature cutting-edge and emerging topics in the field of late medieval literary studies, and these sessions are never dedicated to Chaucer’s poetry alone.

  • Howard B. Tinberg

    • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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.

  • Ian Duncan

    • I too applaud the MLA’s recognition of this important field.

    • 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.

  • Idowu Omoyele

    • 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.

  • Ignacio Lopez

    • If the goal of the MLA proposal is to organize languages homogeneously so they look clean and pretty, then this change makes a lot of sense. However, if the goal is to try to better accommodate the research done in the field of early modern Spanish literature, then it is almost sure to fail. The assurance of keeping the same number of sessions for the next five years is, for me, besides the point. The bigger issue is that the field of early modern Spanish literature is not organized by centuries, but by genres. If the MLA makes the change, then they will have a nicely organize set of divisions, but they will also have taken a step away from how the members of those division see their specialties and identify themselves and, perhaps, even two steps farther from how our courses are taught, and how our research is published. In summary, the divisions will be at risk of looking pretty at the cost of becoming irrelevant for its members and then, then they might just walk away.

  • Indrani Mitra

    • 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.

    • I agree!  Timely addition inviting innovative work.

    • 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”

    • 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.

    • 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

    • While the addition of the word “diasporic” to the proposed name change of SALL reflects the current broadening of the field of South Asian Studies, the removal of the word “language” from the new forum title also reflects a major loss. It gives the proposed forum an Anglophone slant. As we know, the linguistic diversity of South Asia is significant as is the range of literary and cultural productions in these languages. Given the fragility of non-European languages around the world, we think it important that the forum title invite conversations in the many South Asian Languages. Therefore we propose that MLA consider revising the proposed title to the following: Languages and Literatures of South Asia and the Diaspora (LLSAD).

      Indrani Mitra, on behalf of SALL Executive Committee

  • Ira Allen

    • 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).

  • Irene Kacandes

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Isabel Jaén-Portillo

    • Only one comment on the nomenclature: the right way to phrase it would be “Cognitive Literary Studies” (name most commonly used for the field).

  • Isidro de Jesús Rivera


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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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.

  • Jacqueline Vansant

    • 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.





  • Jaime Goodrich

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • James D. B. McCorkle

      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.


  • James J. Brown

    • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • James Kyung-Jin Lee

    • 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.

  • James Mulholland

    • 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.

  • James Wood

    • 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.

  • Jane Gallop

    • 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!

    • 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.


  • Jason B. Jones

    • 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.

  • Jason H. Pearl

    • 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.

  • Jean Elizabeth Howard

    • A big thanks to the Working Group for taking on this difficult and largely thankless task.  I am especially glad to see the expansion of the forum system to include emergent fields and a greater range of the world’s literatures. Since we can’t expand to accommodate new realities and also keep every session to which we have grown accustomed, I hope we can find further ways to slim down the number of sessions devoted to well-established fields, many of which have their own specialized conferences where the most robust discussions of the literatures in question occur.  Being an early modernist I am acutely aware that one kind of diversity we want to keep alive is historical.  I hope we won’t become a presentist organization only, though increased attention to the urgent matters of the profession is one of the changes I most welcome. In regard to the comment registered by Margaret Ferguson concerning 17th century literature, the numbers she cites suggest that this is one place where I little belt-tightening might be in order.  I myself favor combining 16th and 17th English literature under the rubric early modern or Renaissance in line with the title now used for comparative sessions in this field. For the Shakespeare forum, a more inclusive title might be Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama or Early Modern Theater Culture.  Sessions under the Shakespeare rubric often already do reach beyond this one writer, and our forum title might register that more directly.

  • Jeffery Stoyanoff

    • 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.

  • Jenna Lay

    • 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.

  • Jennifer Blair

    • The executive committee of this group was delighted about the prospect of changing our group name. At the beginning of the restructuring process, we requested that the name be changed to “Literatures and Cultural Studies in Canada” for reasons that are likely clear to MLA members: to reflect an increasing prevalence in the field of scholarship on texts that are outside of the strictly “literary” realm, and to acknowledge the fact that, for a variety of reasons, texts produced within Canada do not necessarily identify (i.e. do not want to be identified) as “Canadian” or “Canadian” only. The latter issue is important to us, and we are concerned with the fact that the new name that has been given to the group—“Canadian”—entrenches it in a nationalist category even while our field is increasingly less likely to define itself and the texts we study under the banner of the nation, and while much of the scholarship we conduct in the field is quite invested in the critique of such disciplinary adherences to the nation above other forms of categorization. It’s one thing to use the term “Canada” in our group name to signify a region in which cultural texts are produced (perhaps also to signify the fact that this nation might inform aspects of many of these texts), and another thing to say these texts are themselves “Canadian.” We would like to register here, as we did in a comment made on the previous draft, that we still prefer our initial requested name. If the MLA prefers shorter names, “Literatures in Canada” is more agreeable to us than the current suggested name of “Canadian.” We appreciate the work that is being done at the MLA to update the groups and the opportunities provided for input on the process.
      From the executive committee,
      Jennifer Blair
      Pauline Wakeham
      Jade Ferguson
      Larissa Lai
      Karis Shearer

  • Jennifer Sano-Franchini

    • 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.

  • Jennifer Wicke

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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).

    • 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.

    • 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).

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Contemporary Global English?  Love the name change, wonder about temporalities.  But Global English has a fine ductility to it!

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Fantastic–I really applaud this as a key transdisciplinary area, and a nodal point.  It is capacious yet very honed.

    • Love this change–for me, the literature and/or humanities interaction is implicit, and this gives a far more galvanizing name for this arena.

    • 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.

    • Love this–I think it is going to be a locus for exciting work.

    • 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.

  • Jeroen Dewulf

    • Due to the Netherlands’ colonial history, the Dutch case is different from that of German. Authors from Suriname or Curaçao do not feel comfortable when their literature (if written in Dutch) is referred to as “Dutch literature”. I believe that this is a crucial difference with Austrian and Swiss authors writing in German. Despite this difference, I feel that our field would also benefit from a term that  opens up to more diversity and that respects the cultural specificity of literature written in an Austrian or Swiss context. Instead of the artificially sounding terms Dutchophone and Germanophone, however, I would like to suggest the terms Dutch-speaking and German-speaking.




  • Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

    • 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.

  • Jess Keiser

    • 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. 

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

  • Jessie M. Labov

    • 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!

    • 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?

  • Jesús Rodríguez-Velasco

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Jigna Desai

    • 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.

  • Jim Cocola

  • Jo Labanyi

    • From: Executive Committee of 20th-century Spanish Literature Division
      Comments on the Revised Draft of MLA Forums
      Our comments affect the forums in the following proposed groups:
      ·         Catalan
      ·         Portuguese and Galician
      ·         Spanish
      We feel that the current proposal does not sufficiently recognize the four languages/cultures of Spain: Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Basque. We do not feel it makes sense to group Galician and Portuguese together; although the languages have much in common, their cultures have very different histories. We thus feel there should be a separate forum for Galician, and another separate forum for Basque (which at present does not appear at all). We also feel strongly that Catalan warrants two forums, since its cultural production prior to 1900 is very substantial. We are mindful here of the priority given by the MLA in rethinking its structure to “the protection of small fields, including the study of less commonly taught languages” (http://groupsdiscussion.mla.hcommons.org/introduction/faq/).
      We suggest that the present separate groups for Catalan, Portuguese and Galician, and Spanish be put under the single common umbrella “Iberian.” This would not in any way diminish the importance of Portuguese, nor of Catalan (indeed we propose increasing Catalan from one forum to two).
      We find the term “Continental Lusophone” unclear (both Brazil and Lusophone Africa are “continental”) and propose the wording “Lusophone outside of Portugal and Brazil.” We also proposal a parallel panel “Hispanophone outside of Spain and the Americas” to allow coverage of Equatorial Guinea, Western Sahara, North Morocco, and the Philippines, as well as migrant communities in Western Europe and Australia.
      We also find it anomalous that the two forums proposed for early modern Spanish literature remain, as at present, divided according to genre: one on 16th and 17th century Spanish poetry and prose; the other on 16th-and 17th-century Spanish drama. There is no similar division by genre for the other languages/cultures, and it seems an artificial division since many writers wrote in several genres. A simple solution would be one forum on 16th- and 17th-century Spanish; however, we appreciate that our early modern colleagues are likely to want to keep two forums, in which case we suggest one forum on 16th-century Spanish and another on 17th-century Spanish.
      We therefore propose the following, and invite comments from our colleagues in Portuguese and Early Modern Spanish:
      ·         Medieval Iberian
      ·         Basque
      ·         Catalan
      o   Catalan before 1900
      o   Catalan after 1900
      ·         Galician
      ·         Portuguese
      o   Peninsular Portuguese
      o   Lusophone outside of Portugal and Brazil
      ·         Spanish
      o   16th- and 17th-century Spanish (or 2 forums: 16th-century Spanish + 17th-century Spanish)
      o   18th- and 19th-century Spanish
      o   20th-and 21st-century Spanish
      o   Hispanophone outside of Spain and the Americas

    • Please see the comment of the Executive Committee of the Division on 20th Century Spanish Literature posted under Paragraph 106 “Spanish.” Our comment affects the proposal for “Portuguese and Galician.”

    • Please see the comment of the Executive Committee of the Division on 20th Century Spanish Literature posted under Paragraph 106 “Spanish.” Our comment affects the proposal for “Catalan.”

  • Joanne van der Woude

    • Great question . Yes, I think it would make a good home. To avoid confusion or other members’ searching in vain, could we call it “cognitive literary and affect studies”?

  • Jodi Melamed

    • On behalf of the entire Executive Committee for the Division hitherto known as “Sociological Approaches to Literature,” I am writing to protest the change of the name of our Division/Forum to “Sociology and Literature.” We feel this name greatly misrepresents the scholarship our division features, both historically and in the present.  We have little relation to the traditional discipline of sociology. Rather, our Division approaches literature, culture, and society through a historical materialist approach, in the tradition of marxist cultural criticism, the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies, and more recently, queer of color critique. In the manner of scholars such as  Max Weber, Stuart Hall, and Avery Gordon, we align with a critical tradition in which sociology is always already critically engaged with political economy, materialism, and critical theory.  In light of the call to rename Divisions/Forums to better fit their actual  preoccupations, we suggested our division be renamed “Marxist Literary and Cultural Studies.” Apparently, this has been summarily rejected. In light of that, we suggest the names “Marxism and Literature” or “Literature and Society.” We would appreciate hearing from MLA Staff on this issue.

      Many thanks,
      Jodi Melamed

      Secretary for the Division Sociological Approaches to Literature 2014-2015




  • John Alba Cutler

    • 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.

  • John B. Bender

    • 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


  • John C. Brereton

    • 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.

  • John H. Shanahan

    • 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

  • John Hunt Muse

  • John J. Richetti

    • 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?

    • 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.

  • John L. Schilb

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • John Protevi

    • 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.

  • John Savarese

    • 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.

  • John Slater

    • I’d like to echo Steven Wagschal’s questions.  If the forums do not merge would there be fewer than 4 guaranteed sessions?  I don’t understand the stakes or the potential benefits.  I also would like to comment about the following: “a split of periods along genre lines is unique to Spanish among languages represented in the MLA.”  First, my understanding is that a forum such as “16th- and 17th-Century Spanish Poetry and Prose” represents a national (or proto-national) or regional tradition and not a “language.”  Second, it strikes me as relatively common to sift apart elements within a given century or period.  I don’t know if you are suggesting that we should do things like English and have a “Cervantes” forum (a la “Shakespeare”) rather than prose and poetry, but I like the more capacious forum.

    • I heard a very strange rumor that “Medieval Iberian” meant Iberia without Portugal, perhaps without galego-portugués and maybe not even català.  Is this what Robert Simon alludes to above?

  • John T. Matthews

    • 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

  • John Young

    • 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.”

  • Jolene Hubbs

    • 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.

  • Jolie Sheffer

    • 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.

  • Jon Smith

    • 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!

  • Jonathan Culler

    • 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?



  • Jonathan Hsy

    • I agree with the others above: let’s retain “Chaucer” here. The designation not only makes sense on professional grounds (see Lavezzo above) but also for pedagogical reasons. Teaching Chaucer often gives students an entry point into many medieval genres and discursive modes, and (as Wallace states above) Chaucer also has a certain global “reach” and import (including appropriation, adaptation into languages other than English and readership outside of Anglophone countries) that other medieval English authors do not have.

    • I agree with Treharne’s comments above!

    • I would also like to add that the medieval sessions (Old English, Middle English, and Chaucer) were some of the vibrant and active sessions on social media compared to other divisions (with the exception of DH). For instance, check out these stats on the #medievaltwitter hashtag.

      #MLA 14: A First Look (IV)


    • Actually I think it *is* valuable to have this comment appear here too. Ferguson’s question about the Chaucer forum mentioned Shakespeare but she didn’t ask about re-naming the Shakespeare forum over here — even if (as I understand it) work by Shakespeareans also goes further than what “Shakespeare” signifies (yes?). I’m just curious why some version of this question wasn’t also posted here.

  • Jonathan Kramnick

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.


    • 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.

    • 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.

    • sorry, paragraphs 82 and 83

    • 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.


  • José del Valle

    • I support establishing an autonomous section devoted to Galician studies. Fully agree with Danny Barreto. I will add that the MLA would be perpetrating a marginalizing move very much against the spirit that our organization claims to embrace vis-à-vis minoritized cultures.

  • Joseph Fruscione

    • 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

  • Joya F. Uraizee

  • Joyce Lynn Tolliver

    • Given that the original petition (which I signed) was to establish a new group on Galician studies, I’d be interested to hear how and why the scope of the group was expanded to include Portuguese. Those making this decision may not be aware of its significant political and ideological impact: effectively, they are taking a stand in favor of  “reintegracionismo,”  a controversial position that posits that Galician and Portuguese are not different languages and that  therefore Galicians should “reintegrate” culturally with Portugal.  I cannot imagine  that this was the intention, but the merging of the two discussion groups could certainly be portrayed as one more  controversial political statement on the part of the MLA.

  • Judith Lockyer

    • 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?

  • Judith Sierra-Rivera

    • 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.

    • Finally!!!

  • Judson D. Watson

    • 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.

  • Judy Bertonazzi

    • 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.

  • Julia Lee

    • 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.

  • Julia Reinhard Lupton

    • 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.”


    • 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

      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.


  • Julie Candler Hayes

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Julie Rak

    • 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?

    • I am currently the Chair of what will be the Life Writing Division. This tile for Nonfiction prose is less unwieldy than what it used to have, but how will people know that it isn’t life writing? Why not collapse these areas? If not, we need to show how this is different from life writing, which is a developed field in its own right.


  • Karen Bayne

    • 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.

  • Karen Lentz Madison

    • 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.

  • Karen Thornber

    • 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.

  • Kate Flint

    • 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.

  • Katherine A. Rowe

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Katherine Arens

    • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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..


    • Thanks to the committee for offering this formulation that will help the various germanophone studies areas negotiate more effectively with traditionalist scholarship and its nationalist bias.

      Given the variability of what “German” means politically (with no version of that “state” having to date lasted even 50 years with anything close to identical borders), and the commitment of many intellectuals in the countries in various areas to consider “German” culture as absolutely not the sole property of “Germany”, this is a wonderful evolution.  It acknowledges those eras when there were multiple centers of “German” culture as independent, entitled producers of culture, not burdened with any particular legacy of bowing to “the center,”, and might lead to some more culturally and historically sensitive session proposals.

    • Actually, the plural will not take care of anything.  In practice, the “understanding” that “German” is a language and not a culture-nation is simply not in place.  “Germanists,”  of which I am one by training, simply ignore the different politics of the other German-speaking regions, including East Germany, except as “historical mistakes.”  Not to rename these divisions is to buy into a continuation of the Cold War.  Dewulf is right:  “Germany” is a market, not a cultural space, for culture producers from other regions.  Germanophone has been in use for over a decade, principally by a younger generation of non-German Germanists who have actually done their historical homework.


    • Addendum:  to equate the scope of intellectual activities with department structures is absurd.  The vast number of “German majors” exist as tracks in departments of Modern Foreign Languages, or German and Russian, or even “German, Scandinavian and Dutch.”  Mine is “Germanic”.  Any number of undergraduate “German” majors are actually “German studies  majors” with language components that aggregate coursework from all over their campuses.  A large number of graduate degrees in “German” are actually now in Comparative Literature programs.  Institutional configurations do not reflect the structures of intellectual work in many of our fields, and CANNOT be taken as illustrative of anything but local finances.

    • that is a solution ONLY if the MLA then monitors that Austrian and Swiss authors aren’t uncritically lumped together as “German”.   In other words, no “German” sections on Kafka, Rilke, Jelinek, Handke, Max Frisch, etc.

    • To answer some of the nameless colleagues cited as opposing the concept of germanophone literatures, Prof. Wynfrid Kriegleder, a senior literature professor at the U of Vienna, Austria, offers the following statement.  He is not an MLA member, but offers a perspective from one of those germanophone countries who know that they are not “German”:


      I am unfortunately not an MLA member, but am following this debate with amusement.  Is it not time that the colleagues, male and female, in Germanistik give up on their Germany-provincialism?

      As long as one says “German chancellor” and means by that Mrs. Merkel, it is obvious that the word “German” refers to a nation and not to a language.  Naturally, then, one needs an English   word that corresponds to the term “German-speaking” (deutschsprachig).


      ich bin leider kein mla-mitglied, verfolge diese debatte aber amuesiert. waere es nicht an der zeit, die kollegen und kolleginnen aus der germanistik gaeben ihren deutschlaendischen provinzialismus auf?
      so lange man “German chancellor” sagt und damit frau merkel meint, ist offensichtlich, dass sich das wort “German” auf eine nation und nicht eine sprache bezieht. selbstverstaendlich braucht man daher ein englisches wort, das dem terminus “deutschsprachig” entspricht.

  • Katherine M. Quinsey

    • 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.

  • Kathleen M. Lubey

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • On behalf of the a very vocal community of Restoration and 18th British century specialists, thanks to the committee for preserving those two divisions, rather than collapsing them as had been previously considered. And thank you for your hard work!

  • Kathryn Strong Hansen

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

  • Kathy M. Lavezzo

    •  Two reasons we should retain the Chaucer designation: 1) it matches the central professional organization _within_ the field (i.e. the New Chaucer society), and  2) as a result, the arguably central journal in the field is also designated as Studies in the Age of Chaucer. Thus, the current MLA categories have the virtue of lining up with the internal categories organizing substantial research within the field. 

  • Ken Hiltner

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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. 

  • Kevin Brock

    • 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.

    • 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).

  • Kevin Curran

    • “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.

    • “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.

  • Kevis Goodman

    • 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.


    • 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.

    • I and my fellow members of the Executive Committee for the Later 18th Century Division are so very glad that the Working Group has listened – and preserved our two divisions. Thank you: this was an important decision. Great thanks as well to all my colleagues both in Restoration/Early C18 and Later C18 for coming together in support, as the remarkable community that you are.

  • Kirk Belnap

    • 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.

  • Kirsty Hooper

    • While I’m delighted that MLA has responded to members’ requests for a Galician forum, I’m surprised to find Galician included under ‘Continental Lusophone’ in the proposed structure. Like Daniel (above), I’d like to see Galician with its own forum. Galician Studies is a rapidly-growing field of study that crosses linguistic, national and even continental borders. While the Galician language shares a history with Portuguese (hence, I assume, its inclusion here under Lusophone), and Galicia has been part of the Spanish state since its inception, neither affiliation really gives the discipline the space it needs. Galician culture is inherently diasporic, with significant nodes in Europe, the Caribbean and South America – and an independent forum would give us the space to explore these networks to the full.

  • Kristina Booker

    • 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!

  • Laura Mullen

    • 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.

    • I remain concerned about the “Genre” category, specifically I am concerned about the lack of a space for the kind of work which is being produced by contemporary writers across the globe. It is likely that we will need to recognize the complex crossing of the genres known as “hybridity” and I’d urge the MLA to do so as part of the current revision. With the exception of “Comics and Graphic Narratives” the genres as listed are inherited from previous eras, and they do not fully describe the innovations which have occurred and are occurring in our field.

  • Laura Rosenthal

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

  • Laurence D. Roth

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Laurie Taylor

  • Lawrence M. La Fountain-Stokes

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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).

    • 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).

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Welcome!

    • 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.

    • This is an important group.

    • Thanks!

  • Lawrence M. Venuti

    • 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.”

  • Leah Strobel

    • 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.

  • Leigh Anne Duck

    • 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.

    • I agree.

  • Lenuta Giukin

    • “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?

  • Lewis C. Seifert

    • 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.

  • Liam Corley

    • The Literature and Religion Executive Committee unanimously dissents from the proposed retitling of the division to “Religion and Culture.” We propose renaming the division “Religion and Literature,” a formulation that parallels other Transdisciplinary Connections forums, e.g. History and Literature, Philosophy and Literature, Anthropology and Literature, and Sociology and Literature. “Religion” as a category is already chronologically, linguistically, and ecumenically expansive, and the consensus of the Executive Committee is that we need to retain the disciplinary specificity of “and Literature” to maintain a distinct identity. Furthermore, the “Religion and Culture” name appears to have originated in a single comment on the first draft of the proposed reorganization document. That is not sufficient in our view to overrule the unanimous assessment of the Executive Committee.

  • Liana Silva-Ford

  • Lila Marz Harper

    • 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.

    • I am not sure about this change. It seems to exclude literature and the humanities interaction with the sciences.

    • I don’t think research methods is really covered by DH. Not everything is digital nor will it be digital.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • I think this is a promising addition and don’t think “critical” is needed.

    • Very happy to see this addition.

    • I am also a bit unsure as to what would be included here. This is a new field for me.

    • 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.

  • Linda Hutcheon

    • 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.

  • Linde M. Brocato

    • 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?

    • 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.


  • Lindsay Rose Russell

    • 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.”

  • Lisa A. Freeman

    • 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.

    • 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)

    • Wonderful to see that MLA has responded to the outcry and decided to keep our divisions intact.  Especial thanks to all those on the division executive committees, who wrote so eloquently on our behalves and alerted us to make our sentiments known.

  • Lisa A. Hinrichsen

    • 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. 

  • Lisa Berglund

    • 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.

  • Lisa Gordis

    • I agree with Steven Fallon and Liam Corley that the new proposed is unnecessarily broad, and blurs the division’s focus on connections between religion and literature. I  endorse Liam’s suggestion that the committee be renamed “Religion and Literature.”

  • Lisa Nalbone

    • 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.

    • 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).

  • Lisa Vollendorf

    • I don’t understand “regional”

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

    • I like early modern as a designation.

    • Global Anglophone = good.

    • 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.

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

    • Thank you for your work on this difficult task.

    • 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.

  • Lisa Zunshine

    • 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.

  • Lucinda Cole

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Lucy Graham

    • 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,



  • Luiz Fernando Valente

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • I hope Iberian  includes Portugal “Iberian” shouldn’t be equated with the literary traditions of Spain.

    • 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.

    • I’m assuming that Latin American includes Brazil. Often the terminology is misappropriated to mean Spanish American.

    • I have to disagree with my friend Robert Simon. I think the proposed new division alignment for the field of Luso-Brazilian Studies is fine. First of all, whereas right now we have only one division and one discussion group, under the proposed new structure we would have three divisions, allowing for wider member participation in MLA governance. The executive committee of the existing Luso-Brazilian Division has always tended to be Brazil-heavy  (right now all five members work primarily on Brazil). The new alignment would give a stronger voice to colleagues who work primarily on Portugal and Lusophone Africa. I understand Simon’s concern about a possible “split” between Brazil and the rest of the Lusophone world, but I don’t believe that has to be the case. We can, and probably will organize cooperative sessions across the new divisions. Furthermore, if I understand the reorganization correctly, the American Portuguese Studies Association (APSA), as an allied organization, will continue to be able to organize sessions, alone or in cooperation with the new divisions. As a former President of APSA I am confident that the association would be open to the idea that its sponsored sessions at MLA conventions should strive to focus on the Portuguese-speaking world broadly conceived. Therefore, as long as the three new divisions set the tone, as it were, by working together from the very beginning, the field will emerge a stronger participant in future MLA conventions and in MLA governance.

      It’ll also be important for colleagues who work on Brazil to have stronger participation in some of the “Latin American” divisions, such as, for instance, Colonial Latin America. Latin American is often erroneously equated with Spanish-American. I mentioned the “Colonial” division because I believe it’s probably the ideal place to strengthen the collaboration between scholars oriented towards Portuguese America and towards Spanish America. It wasn’t unusual for writers such as Gregório de Matos Guerra to write in both Portuguese and Spanish. Furthermore there is a growing number of young scholars who were on both Brazil and Spanish America (Rob Newcomb, Richard Gordon, Tracy Guzmân, Thayse Lima, etc.), and who have followed on the footsteps of pioneers such as Leopoldo Bernucci, Lucia Costigan and others.

      Let me take this opportunity to thank Marianne for her leadership in this needed reorganization of the MLA division structure.

      Luiz F. Valente, Professor of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies and Comparative Literature, Brown University.


    • Correction: I meant “there is a growing number of young scholars who WORK [not were] on both Brazil and Spanish America. Also, the correct spelling of Tracy’s name is GUZMÁN, not Gumân. I apologize, but I’ve never been the greatest typist in the world.


    • In my opinion Galician Studies deserves its own division. After the medieval period Galician and Portuguese letters developed in separate directions. Therefore I second my colleagues who support the separation of Portuguese (or “Continental Lusophone”) and Galician.

  • Lutz Koepnick

    • At the open hearing at the MLA convention on Jan 10, the current and future chair of the Division for 20th Century German offered compelling arguments why the term “germanophone” is really inappropriate as a name for the entire division. Not one of the other divisions has a “phone” in its name (with the exception of Dutch), so why is German singled out for this? There is to my knowledge not one department in the world called Department of Germanophone Studies. No job description has ever been posted asking for a PhD in Germanophone literature and culture. And even literature departments in say Switzerland or Austria have no problem to use the term German in their title.

      Let me underscore Deniz’s point. To eliminate the “germanophone” does not mean to deny multiplicity and diversity. On the contrary. “LLC ” stands for “Languages, Literatures, and Cultures;” All three terms are in the plural and are meant to recognize the plurality and multiplicity of things German. They cover cultural production in the German language in Germany or Austria or Switzerland; they serve perfectly fine to include the work of writers who write in German but are not German national, whereever and under whatever conditions they may write; they are not even in the way of addressing the work of say Turkish-German writers writing in Instabul or Berlin or Vienna or New York . LLC does more and more effectively than what “germanophone” is intended to do. I am quite certain that the LLC denominator will receive much greater support among the membership than “germanophone.” Significantly enough, no one raised an argument for “germanophone” during the open hearing  in the audience–whereas various people spoke out against it.

      P.S. The MLA’s spell checker underlined the word “germanophone” in read each time I  typed it into this box. Could it be that the word does not even exist in the dictionary  . . . :)?

  • Lynn M. Festa

    • 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.

  • Lynn Ramey

    • 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.

  • Marcie Frank

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • It’s gratifying to see that the voices of the membership were heard. Thanks for retaining the original divisions for Restoration and Early 18th century English and Lat 18th century English.

  • Margaret A. Noodin

    • I have kept a record of all comments exchanged on the SAIL listserv and discussed the issue with leadership in NAISA and NALS.  While consensus is difficult to verify in an email format, the majority of individuals agreed on “Indigenous Literatures.”  A robust conversation tracked the history of the field and included many good points about inclusion, exoticism and the implications of many different words, but most agreed that “Indigenous Literatures” is a broadly functional term at this time.  Conversations about including “of the United States and Canada” ranged more widely and often depended on the personal, institutional or community context of the scholar.  In many cases, these national references might be limiting and dependent upon the politics of recent centuries.  However, in the specific landscape of MLA Forums where other groups clearly focus on the language and literature of South American nations, many felt it would be useful for us to balance the discussion with a northern conversation.  We expect collaboration will bring many of these forums together. Therefore, it was suggested at the meeting that the Forum proposed in paragraph 21 of the document be “Indigenous Literatures of the United States and Canada.”  I respectfully submit this suggestion in writing here and encourage others to reply.

  • Margaret Hanzimanolis

    • 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.

    • 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!


    • 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!


    • 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!


    • 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.”

    • 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.!


    • I like that idea, Lila: Part-time Faculty Issues


  • Margaret R. Christian

    • I hold with those who favor retaining as many sessions as possible, and I like the neutrality of the century designations.

    • 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.

  • Margaret W. Ferguson

    • 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.

    • “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?”

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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”?

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Thank you, Paul.  Would you recommend a separate category, or could this go as a named part of another group?

    • 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?

    • 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.”

    • 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.  

    • 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.    

    • Please see comment on paragraph 47.

    • 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?

    • Does your group see any intellectual benefits to joining with Old English?  See paragraph 42 above.

    • Does this group name include Scots Gaelic?  And see Celtic, paragraph 116 below, under Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies. Please advise!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • María Antonia Garcés

    • Marianne,
      As my colleagues in Spanish have stated, the proposal submitted reflects an utter incomprehension of the way scholarship in Early Modern Spanish functions. May we suggest, in turn, that English Renaissance literature should be reorganized according to the same criteria, with only two categories: 16th and 17th century literature, which should include poetry, drama, and prose, including Shakespeare? This would make things easier for everyone involved, and there would be no inequalities and differences between disciplines, languages,mand periods.
      I agree with all the colleagues in Spanish who have written in regard to the advisability of such decision. I do hope you take into account our protest and commentaries. Susan L. Fischer and Adrienne Martin have eloquently explained the reasons behind our current session divisions. I concur with their views.
      María Antonia Garcés
      Cornell University

  • María Hernández Ojeda

  • Maria Maisto

    • I don’t think that this name change is necessary.  There was no evidence that it was preventing people from addressing the issues that affect contingent faculty broadly — like lack of academic freedom protections, and it did  serve as a reminder that part-timers are the majority.

  • Maria Shine Stewart

  • Marianne Hirsch

    • 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.

    • There are no narrative descriptions at this time

    • 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.

    • Please help us define this group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • 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.

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

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

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • I would love to hear others weigh in: do we need a Nonfiction Prose group?

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Thank you for this fruitful discussion. The working group will revisit these categories with your suggestions in mind.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • The division proposed by a group of Africanists has been close to the one you suggest,  1990.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • David Bartholomae will join the working group and we will revisit writing and composition studies in a fundamental when we revise the entire proposal.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • This change allows more space for contemporary literature than a 20th/21st American forum would

    • This allows for comparative work on US and Canadian indigenous literatures.

    • 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


    • Brazilian could be included either with Latin American or with Portuguese and Galician; please advise.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • This change responds to member comments

    • 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. 


      Note that this category includes chronological, regional and diasporic field formations.


    • Do the African forums wish to be under “Comparative” or under “Languages, Literatures and Cultures?”

    • This name change aims at greater parallelism with other Forum names.

    • 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.

    • The aim here is to shorten “Science Fiction and Utopian and Fantastic Literature”

    • In response to member suggestions, we have separated media from genres and have reconfigured the media categories to reflect current work in these fields.

    • Might this be a home for Affect Studies?

    • We are hoping that Memory Studies  will include Trauma studies as well


    • Thank you for your comment, we can change this.

    • This is great LaVonne, thank you!!

    • Thank you all for your thoughtful comment. This is easily fixed.

    • Good point, thank you.

    • I hope the plural will take care of this for everyone.

    • A forum on “Hybrid Genres” was suggested, how does that sound?

  • Mario Santana

    • I also support the proposal of giving Galician its own forum.

    • Whether or not the currently proposed forums on Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish are established either as separate forums (as it is the case with other languages) or under the umbrella of Iberian, I think it is important to request (as the proposal submitted by Jo Labanyi does) the creation of a space for Basque, which is not contemplated in the 3 January 2014 draft.  This would be consistent with the MLA priority to protect the study of less commonly taught languages.

  • Mark A. Reid

  • Mark Goble

    • The 20th-century division members discussed potential changes last year, and agreed that renaming the current division 20th-and 21st century American literature best reflected our sense of how the field was currently constituted. Several of us felt very strongly that dividing the period pre- and post-1945 would arbitrarily restrict our ability to pursue conversations and critical initiatives in a field that increasingly operates as a “long” 20th-century. Also, while acknowledging the eventual need for a more contemporary or 21st-century division of some kind, we concluded that post-1945 American literature would be a shortsighted solution since in a few years it too would be a formulation that would need to be rethought in order to address emergent 21st-century fields. For the time being, we felt that the longer, more encompassing period best allowed for the operational and intellectual flexibility that currently distinguishes a great deal of the work we see being done in 20th-century US literary studies. Establishing 1945 as a dividing line between two periods would enshrine US modernism as a separate enterprise at a time when few departments in the profession are actively conceiving of, or hiring in, this period apart from a more broadly formed notion of “20th-century” US literature. Some of us also wondered whether the “contemporary” would in fact be better served if it was not attached to a particular national literature, since so many scholars are approaching recent literatures in English (American, British, and Anglophone) in global or transnational contexts.

      Speaking personally as someone whose work very much looks back to the late 19th-century, and who has participated in several late 19th-century division panels, I also strongly support the arguments laid out by Brad Evans above.


  • Mark L. Kamrath

    • Based on any number of articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education, books published in the last two decades, the growth of digital humanities organizations and centers around the world, the development of digital humanities curricula at the graduate (and now undergraduate) level, and long-standing funding initiatives by the NEH and other agencies, the time has clearly come to say that “digital humanities” is an important field of study in the MLA, especially from a scholarly editing (e.g., TEI) and pedagogical point of view. 

      The “field” merits a forum, along with more PMLA essays like “Database as Genre:  The Epic Transformation of Archives” (2007) and other initiatives that make our profession understandable and “pertinent” to State Legislatures, Governors, etc like that of Florida.  Jerome McGann has argued all of this for years, and now it falls to us to carry forward.

      Thank you for this open discussion forum.  I hope that next year when I renew my MLA dues I’ll see a research category that reflects what many of us now do alongside early American literature, British literature, etc–digital humanities


  • Marlene Manoff

      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.


    • 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.

    • 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.


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

    • 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.


      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.


  • Marshall J. Brown

    • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Marta C. Peixoto

    • 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.

    • 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).

  • Martha B. Kuhlman

    • 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?

  • Martin Joel Gliserman

    • 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

  • Mary Agnes Edsall

    • 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.



    • 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


  • Maryrica Ortiz Lottman

    • I firmly support what my colleagues colleagues have written in opposition to this proposed change. There is every reason NOT to merge early modern Spanish drama with prose and poetry.

  • Matt Cohen

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Matthew D. Stroud

    • I’m trying very hard to imagine the benefit of such a merger, and the best I can come up with would be the (very) infrequent thematic-theoretical topic that might apply equally to all three genres (e.g. Seneca in early modern Spanish literature, or Cultural production in early modern Spain). As interesting as those sessions might be, I cannot help but think that the promised 4 sections (which, as Susan Fischer notes, is already down from what it used to be) would almost assuredly be divvied up as 1 section on drama, 1  section on poetry, one section on prose, and one open topic or rotating section. In no way do I see this as a positive development. I strongly encourage leaving the 2 divisions dedicated to 16th and 17th century Spanish literature as they are.

  • Matthew Fraleigh

    • 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.

    • I agree with Christopher Lupke’s suggestion that “Comparative East Asian” would be better housed under the “Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies” theme.

    • 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.

  • Matthew Kirschenbaum

    • 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.







    • 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.


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

    • 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.

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

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

    • 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 interweevi