From the President

Columns by Roland Greene


Speaking for Interpretation

As our convention in Austin approaches, I’ve been reflecting on our profession as I have observed it from the vantage of president of the world’s largest scholarly organization. My three previous columns noted several of the important initiatives that the MLA has recently begun and will continue: an extensive survey of present and past members, which has yielded valuable insights into their needs; the Action for Allies initiative, which confronts the disproportion of undergraduate teaching (as much as 75%) by non-tenure­-track, often precariously employed, and poorly compensated faculty members; and the Connected Academics program, which encourages expanded career paths for humanities PhDs. The theme I proposed for our upcoming convention in Austin—Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future—is meant to provide a common ground for many of the issues, intellectual as well as professional, that bring us together.

Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future

Are you ready to go public? When we convene in Austin on 7 January, we will experience all the familiar elements that make an MLA convention an intellectually rich, sometimes overwhelming event: more panels speaking to our interests than anyone could ever attend, meetings of allied organizations, and the informal encounters that can change minds or careers. But I hope you will also join us in conversations about the presidential theme, Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future. In selecting the theme, I meant to provoke reflection on one of the most salient problems in our common discipline.

Closing the Circle

What should the MLA be five and ten years from now? In a time of acute change in higher education, how should the association adapt to serve its members and our profession? These are questions the officers, the Executive Council, and the staff are considering as we make plans for the near future. I would like to outline three challenges the MLA will confront over the next several years and mention briefly how we are already addressing them. There is much to be done, however, and in the coming months we will want to hear from you.
Photo credit: Daniel Root

A Welcome from MLA President Roland Greene

Welcome to the Modern Language Association. As the MLA’s president for 2015–16, I would like to remark briefly on where we are today and where we are going in the near future. My membership has meant a great deal in my professional life, and sharing my understanding of this association with you is an important part of my work this year.

Telling Our Story

The theme of the 2016 convention in Austin will be Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future. I'd like to anticipate that event with a year of renewed attention to the publics we face as scholars of literature, language, and writing and to the MLA's particular public, its members. In this first column of my presidency, I reflect on how the MLA braids two identities, as a scholarly association and an advocacy organization, in support of our members' professional lives.

From the President

Columns by Margaret Ferguson


Tense Conversations

A few weeks ago, my twin teenage daughters gave me a lesson in how to talk to Siri, the female ghost in my new smartphone. “Ask her a question,” said Marianne. I couldn’t think what to ask, so Christina intervened: “Tell her to make a joke.” Seeing that I still didn’t get it, Christina prompted Siri, and she responded with unnerving speed: “Past, Present, and Future met in a bar. It was tense.”

From the President

Columns by Marianne Hirsch

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