New Session Formats in 2018

The Executive Council, acting on the advice of the Program Committee, has approved several new formats for sessions at the convention as well as some changes to existing formats. We’re excited to launch these new ways for MLA members to discuss their work with one another at the 2018 convention in New York City. In this post, we’ll briefly introduce the new formats and the changes to existing formats; we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments section below.

What’s New?

In addition to our existing session formats—including formal panels, roundtables, workshops, and special events—we will in 2018 offer working groups and poster sessions.

Working Groups

Like the seminars offered at some other conferences, working groups will provide a means for a group of members to meet together to discuss their work in multiple sessions during the convention. Working groups can be proposed by any MLA member. Organizers must submit a call for participation by 28 February, which will be publicized to the membership on MLA Commons. The organizers will then identify a group of eight to twelve participants, who commit to meet on two or three mornings during the convention, and submit a proposal that will be evaluated by the Program Committee. Forums and other MLA entities may not submit a working group as one of their guaranteed sessions.

All approved working groups will be required to establish groups on MLA Commons, through which papers and other materials must be circulated to participants and auditors before the convention. Session time will then be used for very brief presentations and extended discussion rather than for the reading of papers. Working groups will be strongly encouraged to develop a collective project or outcome from their session.

Note that, because a working group extends over multiple sessions during the convention, participation will constitute multiple appearances in the program and will thus be subject to the limitations on convention participation. (Participants are limited to two appearances in the convention program.)

Poster Sessions

The existing electronic-roundtable session format has for several years functioned very successfully as a small-scale poster session, but in 2018 we are creating larger-scale poster sessions for presenters who are working on projects that may or may not be digital. Poster sessions such as these form important parts of many large conferences, bringing attendees together for lively one-on-one discussions.

Individual members may propose posters or project demonstrations highlighting work that may be pedagogical, institutional, or research-oriented. Proposals will be evaluated by the Program Committee. Presenters will be available during the poster session to discuss the projects with attendees. Presenters may bring their laptops to display their projects, if electronic, or bring posters for display.

What’s Changing?

In addition to the new session formats above, we are making a few changes to existing formats.


Roundtables are intended to focus on open discussion of broad scholarly or professional questions. As a result, we are strongly discouraging formal presentations during these sessions. Proposals must demonstrate an emphasis on engagement between panelists and attendees.


This year in Philadelphia, we were pleased to offer a rich slate of workshops, many of which focused on career development for participants with a wide range of interests and at various stages of their careers. We are encouraging the expansion of these offerings in 2018, and we are giving proposers an opportunity to present their workshops twice, if desired. Such workshops will likely be offered in two streams, on Thursday/Saturday and on Friday/Sunday, making it possible for more attendees to take advantage of these offerings.

Workshops should focus on hands-on learning and career development with clear takeaways for participants. We encourage advance registration, but walk-in attendance may be allowed, space permitting.



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