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.



Philadelphia and Beyond

Thank you!

Tyler Sprague via Flicker

Tyler Sprague via Flickr

It’s been a little over two weeks now since the 2017 MLA Annual Convention ended in Philadelphia. I’d like to thank you all—attendees, presenters, facilitators, session organizers—for creating a wonderful meeting. Hundreds of sessions addressed the presidential theme, Boundary Conditions. We had a number of new initiatives, from K–16 partnerships to more workshops on professional issues. We expanded offerings from the Connected Academics project. And, of course, we had sessions on everything from Austen to zombies, thanks to the allied organizations, forums, MLA committees, and individual members who proposed and organized sessions.

If you haven’t done so already, please post your presentation to CORE and continue the conversations you started in Philadelphia on MLA Commons. And if you missed Kwame Anthony Appiah’s presidential address, we hope you’ll take the opportunity to listen to or read it online.

Many thanks to our exhibitors. They bring the latest publications, software, and services to attendees at great discounts, and I hope you were able to stop by one of their many receptions and book signings. Our exhibitors support authors and the convention by taking part—please continue to support them!

Thank you to the volunteers who helped greet and direct attendees. I hope you all had a chance to interact with them. We’ll be continuing this program next year.

There are many people behind the scenes at the convention: hotel workers, convention center staff members, audiovisual technicians, to name just a few. Every year they tell me how happy they are to have the MLA in town and how much they enjoy hosting you. Thank you for starting off their year on a great note!

So, now that you’ve all had a chance to catch your breath, what about next year? No, it’s not too early to start thinking about 2018 in New York City! The presidential theme for 2018 is #States of InsecurityCalls for papers can be posted and browsed now—the deadline for posting is 28 February. We’re especially looking for session proposals that fit into the new categories brought before the Delegate Assembly—check out the descriptions here and please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or ideas.

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Surviving and Thriving at the MLA Convention

If you’ve never attended the MLA convention before, or if you haven’t been to it for a few years, you might be wondering what to expect. Because of its size and the range of professional activities that occur there, the MLA convention is very different from most other academic conferences. Here are a few suggestions drawn from my experience and that of my fellow contributors at ProfHacker that can help you make the most of your time at the convention.

What to Bring

  • Your convention badge, which you should receive via postal mail a couple of weeks before the convention. If you forget or lose your badge, you will need to pay a $15.00 fee for a replacement. Once you arrive at the convention, there will be badge holders available at the registration tables and welcome centers. You need to wear your badge in order to attend most sessions and the book exhibit.
  • Shoes/boots/hat/umbrella, etc., for bad weather. Some hotels will have a check room if you want to check your coat or a bag with muddy shoes, etc. The Convention Daily list of updates (available at the welcome center in the Pennsylvania Convention Center) will provide information about coat check locations and fees.
  • Portable snacks. The convention schedule is really full and sometimes so are the cafés and restaurants near the main hotels. Having an energy bar, nuts, or dried fruit in your bag can be a useful resource, especially if you’re nervous or hurried.
  • In Getting Ready for Conferences, Mark Sample reminds us to consider various aspects of what we need to pack and bring for a conference.

Navigating the Convention

  • There are eighteen MLA hotels, often at some distance from each other. Wear comfortable walking shoes. The Convention Guide (available as PDF or print brochure) includes a map with all of the conference hotels.
  • The elevators, particularly in the main venues where sessions are held, are often slow due to the large numbers of attendees. Plan extra time to get to an interview or session.
  • If you will be interviewing while at the convention, you will probably be told you will either “look us up at the Job Information Center” or “we are in Dr. John Doe’s room at the Hotel X.” Since room numbers are not assigned until a person checks in, you will need to obtain room numbers on site. Keep in mind that hotel operators cannot give out room numbers. One way to find the room number is to visit the Job Information Center at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (204, level 2). Here, MLA staff members will have room numbers for many departments that are conducting interviews in a hotel room and table numbers for all departments that are conducting interviews in the Job Center’s interview area.
  • Not all schools use the Job Information Center, so don’t rely on it if you haven’t been told to check there. In such a case, before your interview, you need to call the front desk of that hotel to be connected to the room of your contact person. When s/he answers, identify yourself and ask for the room number. (Most hotels have house phones available in the lobby that you can use for this purpose.) A flyer with additional information, including telephone numbers for all convention hotels, will be available at MLA convention registration desks and in the Job Center.

Attending and Presenting at Sessions

  • Before you arrive at the convention, take some time to browse through the convention program, available in a print form (as an issue of PMLA), online, and as a mobile app, and choose a few sessions in advance that you want to attend. Note down the session number, venue, and room number.
  • Convention sessions are typically held in two main venues. Sessions now include a variety of formats, such as roundtables and poster sessions, as well as conventional three-speaker panels.
  • Try to arrive a few minutes early, as some sessions fill up quickly.
  • Brian Croxall’s suggestions on Attending A Conference Productively include advice about preparing your presentation, being a responsible copanelist, and how to introduce yourself to people you meet.
  • Erin Templeton’s post How to Deliver an Effective Conference Paper offers excellent tips for preparing your reading copy and practicing your delivery.
  • If you’re presenting or moderating a panel, I suggested some Best Practices for Timekeeping at Conference Panels.

Connecting with People

  • There are lots of opportunities at the MLA convention to meet people who share your interests. Because there will be thousands of people attending the convention, whatever steps you can take to connect with people before you arrive will make it easier when you’re there. That might mean arranging to meet a friend for lunch or dinner on a certain day; e-mailing someone who’s giving a talk on a topic related to your own work to say you’re looking forward to that session; or joining in the preconference conversation on Twitter (follow hashtag #MLA17).
  • If you feel a bit nervous or socially awkward, just remember that many of the other people attending MLA feel exactly the same way. Being the first person to say something can be an act of social generosity.
  • If you’re a graduate student, be sure to check out the list of panels and gatherings of interest to graduate students.
  • As Brian puts it, “Plan meals or coffee breaks with the interesting people that you know you want to catch up with so you make sure that it will happen” while also leaving space in your schedule for serendipity. You never know who you’ll run into in a crowded hotel lobby.


  • Pace yourself. Don’t try to attend every panel session in a given day. It’s OK (recommended, even!) to go out for a walk or back to your room for some quiet time.
  • Take care of your body: fit in some exercise, a bath, or a nap. (Or the self-care trifecta of all three!) Research some dining options online before you arrive so that you’ll know where to go when you walk out of your hotel for dinner. Heather Whitney offers A Few Strategies for Eating Well at Conferences.
  • Drink more water. Dry winter air and overheated hotel rooms can rapidly dehydrate you, leading to headaches and mental fatigue.
  • Do whatever will make you feel relaxed: if that’s going out with your grad school pals or sitting in your hotel room watching TV, then do it.

For all kinds of reasons, there’s nothing quite like the MLA convention. Plan a little before you arrive, get involved, and enjoy yourself!

Welcome to the 2017 Convention!

Photo by for PHLCVB

Photo by for PHLCVB


Welcome! Philadelphia has hosted the MLA convention several times in this millennium and will do so again this January. For those of you who’ve attended those conventions—and certainly for many of us on staff—Philadelphia has become a home away from home. This year all sessions will take place at the Philadelphia Marriott and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which are connected by an interior skyway.

This year’s Program features 800 sessions and events and nearly 3,500 participants; almost 400 sessions address the presidential theme, Boundary Conditions. Our updated information page includes a new section on professional-development sessions—be sure to make time for those that are of interest.

Photo by PHLCVB

Photo by PHLCVB

Join the 2017 MLA Convention group and create a group or blog for your session. Deposit your presentation on CORE, add the #mla17 tag, and link to the file from an annotation in the Program. Take advantage of the opportunity to begin a conversation online.

Since the MLA last visited Philadelphia in 2009, the city has many new attractions. Sign up for a cultural excursion and check out the museums, the fabulous restaurants, and more. Philadelphia natives and fans: we’re counting on you to post your favorites, edible or otherwise, on MLA Commons.

The MLA convention is created by members. Members organize sessions, from those proposed by individuals, to forum and committee sessions, to sessions sponsored by allied organizations. This is your convention—register today and come take part in it!

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Cultural Excursions at the 2017 MLA Convention

Join one of the MLA’s cultural excursions and discover some of the many gems of Philadelphian history. You can take a break from the convention’s hectic pace and join a small group of like-minded colleagues to explore aspects of the recent and distant past that have marked this city through the years. Then return to the convention refreshed and renewed for more fascinating sessions and networking opportunities. Sign up when you register for the convention, or you can write to Michael Reilly if you have already registered.

History through Murals

A Love Letter for You (c) 2009 Steve Powers. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Are you arriving early? Explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods and cultural history from the warmth and comfort of a trolley ride with a tour of masterpieces from the iconic Philadelphia Mural Arts program, the largest public arts program in the United States. Tour director Ellen Soloff will explain the history behind each mural, provide information about the artists, and describe how they relate to their locations. Wrap up the tour at the Mural Arts workshop, talk with one of the muralists, and learn more about the process and program.

Fine Art Firsts

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts circa 1900Philadelphia is home to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the first fine-arts school and first art museum in the country. Trace our nation’s history through pieces by Thomas Eakins, Charles Willson Peale, and Benjamin West and explore Philadelphia’s past through works that detail the founding of the first museum, the creation of the first public waterworks and public fountain, the launch of the first steamboat (on the Schuylkill River), and the establishment of the first medical school and university. Monica Zimmerman, Director of Museum Education, will lead a tour through the museum and art school, including private access to the Historic Cast Hall, which is not normally open to the public. Your excursion ticket includes a complimentary return visit over the weekend.

Revolutionary Arts

Explore the art, literature, and other forces that shaped Mexican culture in the first half of the twentieth century. Join curators from the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a special tour through the landmark Mexican modernism exhibition, Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950, the most comprehensive exhibition of Mexican modernism to be shown in the United States in more than seventy years. Following that, enjoy a special visit to the museum’s collection of works by Thomas Eakins, Philadelphia’s own bad boy whose revolutionary approaches to painting and teaching are still evident today.

Literary History

Rosenbach_DelanceyStLocated in historic Rittenhouse Square, the Rosenbach Museum and Library houses the personal collection of books and artifacts by renowned book dealer and art collector A. S. W. Rosenbach and his brother and business partner Philip Rosenbach. Enjoy a guided tour of this landmarked townhouse (formerly the brothers’ home) along with a rare and in-depth look at journals, letters, and other writings by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. The second Rosenbach excursion focusing on banned books is already sold out, but there is still space on the wait list.

Lists of Sessions on Various Topics, 2016

Lists of recommended sessions and resources relating to particular topics at the 2016 MLA Annual Convention in Austin appear below. They have been provided by MLA members and committees, as well as by MLA staff members. We welcome additional submissions for inclusion. Please note that the MLA is not responsible for content from outside sources. If you have a list of sessions you’d like to submit for consideration, please e-mail the MLA Commons team.

Sessions Relating to the Presidential Theme, Literature and Its Publics

Sessions Sponsored by the Association of Departments of English (ADE)

Sessions Sponsored by the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL)

Sessions of Interest to Community College Faculty Members (Committee on Community Colleges)

Events of Interest to Graduate Student Members (Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Profession)

Sessions on Careers (Connected Academics)

Sessions of Potential Interest to Contingent Faculty Members (Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession)

19th-Century Panels at MLA 16 (The Hoarding)

Children’s Literature and Comics/Graphic Novels at MLA 2016 (Philip Nel)

Unofficial MLA 2016 List of “Digital Humanities” Sessions (Crowdsourced by Mark Sample)

Book History / Bibliography / Pedagogy / &C Sessions at #MLA16 (Of Pilcrows)

Disability Studies Sessions at #MLA16 (Adam P. Newman)

Special Events at the Harry Ransom Center

Have you scheduled time to visit the Harry Ransom Center during the MLA convention? Two events at the Harry Ransom Center are open to MLA convention attendees. Space is limited for both events; see below for details and contact information.

Evening Reception at the Harry Ransom Center
Thursday, 7 January, 7:00–9:00 p.m., Harry Ransom Center, 21st and Guadalupe Streets, on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin.

Please join the Harry Ransom Center and the Department of English at the University of Texas, Austin, for a reception, sponsored by the center and SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing). Visit the exhibition Shakespeare in Print and Performance and speak with Ransom Center staff members and English department faculty members. Wine and light hors d’oeuvres will be served.

Please RSVP by 18 December to; attendance is limited to the first five hundred attendees. Guests who RSVP will receive transportation information by e-mail the week of the reception.

D. H. Lawrence Manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Center
Friday, 8 January, 3:30–4:30 p.m., Harry Ransom Center, 21st and Guadalupe Streets, on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin.

The D. H. Lawrence Society of North America invites interested scholars to attend a presentation surveying the manuscripts by D. H. Lawrence at the Harry Ransom Center. Capacity is limited; to reserve a space, contact Nancy Paxton at

How to Become a Library Reader in Austin

Harry Ransom Center photo

Etchings that depict holdings from the
Ransom Center’s collections.
© Thomas McConnell Photography 2004

Austin is home to the Harry Ransom Center and the LBJ Presidential Library, two renowned research institutions housed on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin. If you wish to take advantage of their resources for some in-depth research, we encourage you to plan ahead to make the most of your experience.

Harry Ransom Center

The Harry Ransom Center’s Reading and Viewing Room will be open Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. The center expects increased usage during the MLA convention. Patrons may experience limited access to the Reading and Viewing Room and the collections, including longer than usual paging times.

Be prepared:
• Write to before 22 December with your intended visitation date and research interest.
• Create your research account in advance. This account is required for requesting materials.
• Bring a photo ID.
• When scheduling your visit, allow time for the orientation video and for consultation with the center’s staff to help you locate materials among the collections.
• For the performing arts, film, photography, or art collections, the center recommends contacting the appropriate curator in advance.
• To place limited materials on hold, write to no later than 23 December.
• Review the Reading and Viewing Room regulations and general visitor information before your visit.

LBJ Presidential Library

The LBJ Library Reading Room (10th floor) will be open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. There may be increased usage during the MLA convention, so it is recommended that you schedule your appointment in advance.

Items of note:
• Call the archivist on duty at 512 721-0212 to schedule an appointment.
• When scheduling your visit, allow time for the researcher orientation interview.
• Following the interview, you will receive an identification card that you should keep for all subsequent visits to the Reading Room.
• Pencils (no pens) are allowed in the Reading Room as are laptops, tablets, digital cameras, and materials provided by the LBJ Library. Other personal belongings (including notebooks, purses, and computer cases) must be stored in the lockers.
• All items entering and leaving the Reading Room must be inspected by a library employee.
• Review the Reading Room’s rules and regulations before your visit.
• For additional information, see the LBJ Presidential Library’s list of useful Web addresses.

Austin and the Arts

Join one of the MLA’s cultural excursions and go behind the scenes of some of Austin’s cultural gems, then return to the convention refreshed and renewed for more fascinating sessions and networking opportunities. Sign up when you register for the convention, or you can write to Michael Reilly if you have already registered.

Austin Music Scene

Go behind the scenes at one of Austin’s renowned music venues, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, home of Austin City Limits, the longest- running music performance show in television history. Explore the backstage hallways, hiding spots, green rooms, sound booths, and stage, while guides recount stories and anecdotes about the theater and the legends who left their marks. Then join Scott Newton, ACL’s staff photographer for over forty years, as he fleshes out the stories behind the photographs that line the walls.

Presidential Collections

Photographs, film footage, political cartoons, posters, letters, paintings, sculptures, furniture, books and journals, and many other artifacts from Lyndon Baines Johnson’s life and presidency are on display at the LBJ Presidential Library. Join the library’s archivists for a private viewing of a selection of telephone conversations, documents, photographs, and other materials and learn about the history of the library and the resources and reference materials available. Curator Michael McDonald will provide an introduction to the museum and an overview of what to expect as you tour the exhibits. You’ll be free to explore the galleries at your own pace, and docents will be available throughout to provide assistance and additional information.

Art through the Ages

Gothic bible illustrations, paintings and drawings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and twentieth-century multimedia artworks from North, South, and Central America are represented at the Blanton Museum of Art. Join one of the museum’s educators for a private tour created just for MLA members and based on the 2016 presidential theme, Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future. The tour will include a visit to the Print Room, where specialist Kristin Holder will have a special display of pieces from the museum’s collection of works on paper that are not currently on view to the public.

Arts on Paper

Although both MLA excursions to the Harry Ransom Center are currently sold out, there is still availability on the waiting lists. The Harry Ransom Center is an internationally renowned humanities research library and museum at the University of Texas, Austin. This two-part excursion pairs a special look at highlights from the literary collections, including works from Jorge Luis Borges, J. M. Coetzee, Radclyffe Hall, Doris Lessing, and David Foster Wallace, with a curator-led tour of the exhibition Shakespeare in Print and Performance.



Welcome to the 2016 Convention!

Photo credit: Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Photo credit: Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Everything’s bigger in Texas—the 2016 convention in Austin certainly is. The Program Committee received more special-session proposals this spring than it has in over a dozen years. We have more than 840 sessions and events on the Program (with over 3,600 participants), and more than 300 address the presidential theme, Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future.

The scheduled convention activities will keep you busy, but be sure to take time to experience all the city of Austin has to offer. Great restaurants and food trucks abound—and barbecue’s just the beginning. Music can be found on almost every street, with over 250 live music venues offering everything from rock to country, indie to Tejano. Austin natives and fans, we’re counting on you to post your favorites, edible and musical, on MLA Commons.

Join the 2016 MLA Convention group and create a group or blog for your session. Take advantage of the opportunity to begin a conversation online.

Convention sessions are put together by members, from special sessions proposed by individuals to forum and committee sessions developed by groups of members to sessions sponsored by allied organizations that are arranged by members as well. You and your colleagues have created a great convention—register today and come take part in it!

Photo credit: Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Photo credit: Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.


Karin Bagnall
Head of MLA Convention Programs