Modern Language Association

The Modern Language Association of America (usually referred to as simply Modern Language Association or MLA) is the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature. The MLA aims to "strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature. Reportedly, it has "30,000 members in 100 countries," primarily academic scholars, professors, and graduate students who study or teach language and literature, including English, other modern languages, and comparative literature. Although founded in the United States, with offices located in New York City, the MLA's membership, concerns, reputation, and influence are international in scope.


The MLA was founded in 1883 as a discussion and advocacy group for the study of literature and modern languages (that is, all but classical languages such as ancient Latin and Greek).

Officers and governance

The officers of the MLA are elected by its members. Its 2007 president Michael Holquist, professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University, served until 31 December 2007. The 2008 president is Gerald Graff, professor of English and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The MLA is governed by an Executive Council, elected periodically by its members ("MLA Constitution", official MLA website).

Activities of the MLA

The MLA publishes several academic journals, including PMLA, one of the most prestigious journals in literary studies, and Profession, which discusses the professional issues faced by teachers of language and literature. The association also publishes the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, a guide that is geared toward high school and undergraduate students and has sold more than 6,000,000 copies. The MLA Style Manual is geared toward graduate students, scholars, and professional writers, and the third edition of this guide was published in May 2008. The MLA produces the long-standing print and online database, MLA International Bibliography, the standard bibliography in language and literature.

The MLA's official Web site features the MLA Language Map, which presents overviews and detailed data from the United States 2000 Census about the locations and numbers of speakers of thirty languages and seven groups of less commonly spoken languages in the United States.

The MLA sponsors a radio program, What's the Word?, that shows how the study of language and literature enriches people's lives. Programs cover a wide range of topics and have attracted the attention of directors of public and community radio stations.

The MLA holds a national, four-day convention from December 27 to December 30 every year. Approximately eight to ten thousand members attend, depending on the location, which alternates among major cities in various regions of the United States. The MLA Annual Convention is the largest and most important of the year for scholars of languages and literature; major university and many smaller college literature and language departments interview candidates for teaching positions at the convention, although hiring occurs all year long. In addition to its job-placement activities, the convention features about eight hundred sessions, including presentations of papers and panel discussions on diverse topics (special sessions, forums, poetry readings, film presentations, interdisciplinary studies involving art and music, governance meetings) and social events hosted by English and language departments and allied or affiliated organizations. There are also massive book exhibits located in one of the main hotel or convention center exhibition areas. The name MLA is often used colloquially among academics to refer to this convention (as in "Are you planning to attend MLA this year?").

There are several regional associations that are independent of the MLA. These organizations host smaller conventions at other times during the year. These associations are:

  • Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA)
  • Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
  • Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA)
  • Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (RMMLA)
  • South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA)
  • South Central Modern Language Association (SCMLA)


See also

Further reading

External links

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