Making the Case for Our Disciplines

Originally published in the Summer 2019 MLA Newsletter

A big part of what the MLA executive director does is argue and advocate for the value of studying what we study. When I am invited to campuses, I work with faculty members on ways to help their students understand and appreciate the full range of skills, values, and perspectives they get from majoring in our fields. Humanities majors learn about cultural competence, writing in different modes, living with ambiguity, evaluating sources, and much more. These things all make for a better life as well as good career prospects.

The value of studying the humanities also needs a national conversation, and we are working to introduce it into as many settings as possible. The MLA does that work in partnership with other scholarly associations such as the American Historical Association, the American Philosophical Association, and the National Humanities Alliance. Professional associations in the humanities know that if our disciplines are to thrive, they must be seen by undergraduates, high schoolers, parents, and legislators as valuable at an individual level—in helping students with careers—as well as valuable to the community at large—in helping society solve social and technological problems.

Boosting undergraduate enrollments in our courses is central to what we try to achieve. And making the case for the value of an undergraduate degree in language, literature, writing studies, or cultural studies is absolutely tied to making the case for studying these fields at the doctoral level.

The value of humanities degrees lies in the skills, values, and perspectives students acquire as well as in content area knowledge, and the same is true at the doctoral level. If we believe that a bachelor’s degree in French or performance studies prepares students for a range of careers, we should also believe that a doctorate does the same. And just as we want to see the values and perspectives of humanities majors in many different industries and agencies and parts of society, so we should understand the value of advanced study in the humanities to be crucial to the culture.

For years the MLA has encouraged doctoral recipients in language, literature, writing, and cultural studies to think beyond the professoriat when thinking about careers. The Connected Academics program has run proseminars and boot camps to introduce doctoral students to a variety of workplaces that seek the skills humanities PhDs have to offer, and the program has helped students understand why they might want such careers and how best to get them.

In many industries, from state humanities councils to arts organizations to research firms like Ithaka S+R, the value of advanced training in the humanities is understood. A humanities PhD produces deep research and writing skills that can be broken down into a range of component parts—the ability to use different databases and archives to find source material, to engage with and evaluate appropriate sources, and to synthesize ideas and produce original arguments that contribute substantially to an ongoing critical conversation. Dissertations are multipart projects, with deadlines and revisions, and they need project management skills; those skills may be taught by a PhD program or developed on one’s own in self-defense, but if you’ve finished a PhD, chances are that you have them.

If we believe in the value of studying the humanities, we should be prepared to advocate for them. This advocacy can take many forms. We can help students, career services offices, and admissions offices understand the postgraduation value of a humanities degree. We can talk in public settings about the importance of bringing humanities perspectives to social, political, and technological problems. We can work with our government relations officers at colleges and universities to make sure they are telling the stories of the humanities to our state legislatures. (The 2020 MLA Annual Convention in Seattle will feature a how-to session on advocacy, with government relations officers from universities, officials from the National Humanities Alliance, and the president of the University of Washington, Ana Mari Cauce.)

Advocacy can help build the undergraduate enrollments that are essential for the survival of doctoral programs. But just as essential for those graduate programs is advocacy for the value of graduate degrees. No one expects every PhD in chemistry or engineering to become a college professor, because everyone understands that advanced knowledge in those fields has value in industries beyond academia. We must do the advocacy work to make clear the value of what we study for careers beyond academia as well, and we must help our students understand that value. The MLA has resources to help departments advocate for changes that can make a difference. Hit us up.

Translating Scholarship

Emily Wilson is professor of classical studies and graduate chair of the program in comparative literature and literary theory at the University of Pennsylvania. We asked her about her approach to translating The Odyssey and about her popular @EmilyRCWilson Twitter threads. A condensed version of this interview was published in the Summer 2019 MLA Newsletter

Paula Krebs: You’ve said that creating translations is a way of communicating with an audience beyond colleagues and students. Does that desire to connect to readers outside the academy shape the choices you make in translating classical texts?

Emily Wilson: For the particular translations I’ve created—of Seneca’s tragedies, Euripides, Sophocles, and Homer—I knew that the primary readership had to be undergraduates and their teachers, including teachers who couldn’t read the original as well as those who could. But of course I hoped that there would be other kinds of readers too. Norton, the publisher of my Odyssey translation, issued it first in a lovely hardcover edition with lovely shiny gold cover art, which was priced beyond what most college students could be expected to pay for a course book; it was marketed as a book that people might buy as a holiday gift, and indeed they did; I was grateful. The marketing isn’t usually something that the author or translator can entirely control; I’d have loved to sell Seneca and Euripides as holiday gifts too—some pedophagy to discuss over the festive meal!—but sadly that didn’t happen.

I was conscious while creating each of my translations that these texts ideally should work for a number of very different demographics: those who had read the original, those who hadn’t; eighteen-year-olds, eighty-year-olds, even precocious eight-year-olds; those who had read other translations of the same text, those who hadn’t; general readers taking it on voluntarily as well as those being forced through at a quick march; and if possible, theater people, artists, poets and poetry people, as well as classicists and historians in the academy. My editor told me to visualize then-President Barack Obama as my target reader for the introduction, which was helpful; I knew I had to be able to write for a highly intelligent, perhaps well-informed reader, who was probably not any kind of specialist in Homer or archaic Greece. I wanted to connect with fellow Homerists and try to make an intervention in how the Homeric poems are presented in the scholarly literature as well as in the classroom; I felt that in the contemporary scholarly and commentary tradition, as well as beyond the world of specialists, there is still a tendency to read The Odyssey as if it were entirely told from Odysseus’s point of view, rather than paying the kind of attention I think needs to be paid to the poem’s complex ethics and complex narrative perspectives.

At the same time, especially for The Odyssey—a text that’s often taught in American high schools as well as colleges and may be the first, for some readers the only, work of ancient literature they ever read—I wanted to change common cultural perceptions about what ancient epic is like, both in poetics and in world views and world building. It seems to me really important to notice that translations of ultracanonical texts can make a huge difference to what these texts are used to teach in the classroom, at any level—from middle school to graduate level. The Odyssey is often seen as a foundational text about a white elite man’s struggle to return to his hetero-normative marriage, his success in slaughtering or outwitting native peoples, his dominance over his wife and slaves, and the triumph of consumerism, patriarchy, militarism, and normal male white people over foreigners. Those ways of reading are simplifications of the text, and they lurk, it seems to me, behind the perceptions of classicists as well as nonspecialists. I think it’s essential to get them out into the open so they can be discussed and interrogated. The Cliff Notes on Odyssey 22, drawing on the Fagles translation, tells the student who can’t be bothered to read the text that the death of the “servant girls” has a “macabre beauty”; this strikes me as a pretty horrifying account of a scene of gendered violence, and I think we ought to be worried about what it means to present it in these (entirely debatable) terms, when we’re thinking about what we use the canon for—whether in the academy or beyond. This isn’t just about gender, of course; it’s more fundamentally about how every work of canonical literature presents an image of society. If we don’t think hard, clearly and critically about the text’s political or social world, we can end up inscribing some terrible things. So I thought as hard as I could, as a reader, a scholar, and a translator, about the ways that the poem contains multiple different points of view. I thought hard about how to echo that complexity, how to give voice to characters other than Odysseus himself, as well as the wonderfully complex, fascinating protagonist himself; how to ensure that violence, including structural violence (like slavery) was visible to the reader.

I’d taught The Odyssey in several different translations before, and had also had to choose translations to use in the Norton Anthology of World Literature, of which I’m the classics editor. I was aware, from my experiences in the classroom, that every translation I’d used seemed to alienate or silence the students’ critical faculties. For instance, I was shocked every time, with several different translations, to see that groups of intelligent kids would, time and again, fail to register that the first thing Odysseus does, after leaving Troy, is invade the island of the Kikones and slaughter all the men and enslave all the women. I realized that this episode, which is clearly described in the original poem, seemed to have become invisible to them, because the framing of the translations we were reading—either in an archaizing-foreignizing style, like the Lattimore, or the melodramatic, exclamatory heroism of Fagles, or various others—seemed to encourage the students to treat Homer’s vivid characters as stock types, and to assume that, back in the day, nobody ever minded being enslaved or killed or raped. I was, again, repeatedly surprised to realize that the narratological and ethical complexities of Odysseus’s encounter with the Cyclops were repeatedly entirely missed by students; it took a great deal more pedagogical effort to tease out the representational layers of this first-person account of a colonial encounter when I taught it in English translation, compared to when I taught the same passage in Greek. I felt I needed to work out, in my own translation, how to make the poem newly legible, newly visible, for anglophone readers, whether students or any other kind of reader.

I didn’t feel I had to do entirely different things for different audiences. For everyone, I wanted to convey something of the joy of reading Homer, and the ways that these poems are both so simple and so difficult at the same time. I wanted to echo the regular poetic rhythm of the original, the clarity of Homer’s language, and at the same time the complexity of the emotions, the social dynamics, the ethics, the characterizations, the shifting narrative points of view.

I was very lucky in having a lovely editor at Norton, Pete Simon, who doesn’t know Greek but read every book once I was almost done with it, very carefully, next to other translations, and gave me acute feedback based on his own sense of a good English sentence. Sometimes he would say, “But XYZ other translator has this instead,” and sometimes I would say, “But that’s not what the Greek has.” Often his questions clarified what I was trying to do; he made me make numberless sentences punchier and clearer and stronger. I also summoned groups of graduate students and colleagues at Penn and read each book out loud to them, to get the feedback from a different demographic. I also tried out drafts on friends, and repeatedly on my cats or an empty room at home. I didn’t always change things based on the feedback I got, but the whole elaborate process of multiple revisions and responses from multiple eyes and ears made me far more aware than I would otherwise have been of what the specific effects I was creating might be, for different readers. It was very different from the process that most of us go through with academic books or articles, where you might give a talk based on the work, and get reader’s reports, but you probably won’t go through dozens of drafts of the same sentence, and try that sentence out, with a slightly different phrasing, on dozens of different audiences. I knew that different things would and did strike different readers as odd or puzzling; the exercise of workshopping, revising, and getting feedback from different kinds of readers was extremely useful in creating for me a greater consciousness of what kind of communication I was making.

Beyond all that, even if listeners or readers said nothing—even if they were cats or my poor children, or the walls of the room—the exercise of reading out loud, many, many times, is essential to my practice, in trying to re-create texts that were originally designed for oral performance. In the academy, we often talk about literature in very theoretical terms; I do it myself, and I am not in any way understating the importance of analytical criticism. I wanted to create texts that would invite critical thinking. But beyond that, on the most visceral level, I wanted my translations to feel alive in the mouth, the body, and the feelings of the reader. It has been especially thrilling to me to see that my Odyssey translation in particular has invited some wonderful responses from many people outside the academy. I’ve had wonderful letters from dozens of people, many of whom have read it out loud to spouses, sick relatives, innocent children, or groups of friends, frenemies, and book clubs. I’ve been thrilled to see a number of artistic responses from people around the world—such as a musical score by Karem Rousrom, to be sung by Lorelei Quartet / A Far Cry, in Boston, and paintings by Edouard Baribeaud last year and this year by Chris Ofili. It’s been thrilling also to hear from other translators and poets and to feel that there’s so much potential for dialogue among people who are obsessed with language, whether or not they are in the academy. I’ve done public talks with Madeline Miller several times, and Maria Davana Headley, and Margaret Atwood and Valerie Martin and a range of other writers and intellectuals; it’s been exciting to see all the common ground between writers and storytellers from different perspectives. I’m also thrilled to hear, as I do fairly regularly, from high school teachers who tell me it’s working for their students, including high schools (and colleges) with a lot of immigrant students; this is a poem that can speak pretty directly to immigrant experiences, as well as to experiences of broken homes and violence in communities.   There was an initiative in Baltimore last year, run by Amy Bernstein, to buy copies for underserved high school students, and they created projects based on their study both of my Odyssey translation and Hamilton. I created a much-abridged staged reading that was directed at BAM by Desiree Sanchez last year, with veteran actors from Aquila Theater, and she’s doing another, more fully theatrical version next year; it was very moving to see how the veterans connected with this dramatic poem about the veteran experience in all its complexity.

Academics don’t always have to choose between communicating with each other and communicating in a broader conversation.

PK: Translators inevitably weigh a desire to capture the distinctive voice of the original text and its culture with a desire to speak to contemporary audiences, to eliminate barriers between the author and the audience. What factors influenced your choices in translating The Odyssey?

EW: One of my primary motives in taking on the translation of this already much-translated poem was that most modern versions are in prose or stacked prose; they don’t do anything to echo the musicality and regular rhythms of the original. I didn’t see that choice, to use very regular iambic pentameter, as necessarily alienating, but of course it wasn’t necessarily the opposite either. I also chose to make my translation the same length as the original; that was motivated by a sense that most English versions feel too long, too slow, compared to the original; but I’m not sure that I’d see it as necessarily about speaking to contemporary audiences as such. Presumably archaic and classical audiences, too, enjoyed a good cracking pace to the story; that’s why Homer is so absorbing in the original.  In talking about translation, theorists often use the binary of “domesticizing” versus “foreignizing”; but as translation theorists also know well, that binary is a radical oversimplification, as is the other common set of binaries, to do with “loose” versus “literal,” or “faithful” versus “poetic.” There’s really no possible way to create a text that captures every element of a text from a completely different sociolinguistic culture. You can use an archaic or unidiomatic or stiff kind of English; but that doesn’t exactly “capture” anything, if the original isn’t archaic in quite that way, and if the original isn’t stiff or unidiomatic, or didn’t feel that way to audiences at any point of antiquity, at least to our knowledge. The syntax of Homer is mostly very, very easy; I wanted to echo that. I made entirely different choices in translating Seneca, whose style is entirely different; the bombast that I wanted to inject into my Senecan English would have felt entirely out of place for Homer. In working, now, on the Iliad, I very much don’t want it to sound exactly the same as The Odyssey. There’s much more at stake than the binary of one audience versus another.  There is the specific feel of each individual text, each individual passage or character or line or phrase, and how to make that come alive both in a moment, and in the context of a whole large tapestry of language.

How do you make a text that feels alien and familiar at the same time? I think a lot about the scene in The Odyssey when Odysseus wakes up on his own home island of Ithaca and doesn’t recognize it, because it’s covered in fog sent by Athena. It’s a moment of geographical and temporal confusion: he doesn’t know where he is in space, and also where he is in time, because Ithaca exists both in the present and in the twenty-years-ago past. I see my own task as a translator as analogous to that scene: I want to convey the reader, like Odysseus in the swift magical self-steering Phaeacian boat, across a vast distance, with smooth, ostensibly effortless energy, so she’ll sometimes feel unaware of where she is in time or in text, or of my own labors; but I also want to create moments of bewilderment, when the reader doesn’t quite know if it’s three thousand years ago or now. The Homeric poems are very recognizable, very human, very relatable and gripping, and also very alien; I wanted to create an experience of both. I’ve sometimes encountered people telling me that I am surely trying to make Homer more simple, or more plain, or more contemporary, or more relatable. I don’t really recognize those goals as mine. I don’t see using a regular meter as necessarily a move toward relatability, even though I also think of meter as a way of inviting the reader to feel the text with her whole body. As I suggested earlier, I wanted to bring out the emotional and ethical and narratological complexities of the text, while also echoing the simplicity and directness of Homer’s syntax. I hoped that my translation would feel immersive enough that the reader would be able to have those moments of surprised alienation. If the whole thing is unidiomatic and stiff, you may not feel particularly startled by any of it, or have a visceral awareness of gaps in time and culture; whereas if a text invites you in and seduces you a little bit, with some clarity, humor, and a twinkle in the eye, you may be genuinely struck by cultural difference—at least that’s my hope. I want the reader to have a sense, for example, of how much Telemachus is like any normal moody bullied angry aggressive dopey man-child adolescent—but that at the same time, he’s growing up to be an elite warrior, and his culture’s expectations of him are quite different than those that surround most elite young men in American society. It’s all plain sailing, a nice boat trip, and all of a sudden, you get to the beach, and they’re slaughtering a hundred bulls to Poseidon. Cultural alienation, and engagement with cultural difference, can be created and enabled by linguistic clarity and by the reader’s sense that the translator isn’t speaking in a show-off voice or a fake foreign accent; she’s speaking to you, whoever you may be, about a world you can understand though you may not know it yet.

I believe translators should, ideally, think hard about the particular strategies they want to adopt, based on the place of the translated text in the receiving culture and based on their readers’ specific preconceptions. Those are different for translators of modern novels versus translators of classical texts. In the case of Homer, there are all kinds of debatable prejudices that a contemporary American or British reader is likely to have, such as that this poetry will be pompous, “epic” in the style of Pope or Milton rather than Homer; or that this text will be boring, or inaccessible—even though in antiquity that wasn’t at all how people felt about Homer; they listened to these poems for fun. I wanted to convey something of the joy that people in antiquity might have felt in Homer and that I myself feel in reading the Greek poems.

PK: Your @EmilyRCWilson threads examine the challenges of translation and analyze specific choices that translators of  Odyssey have made. What inspired you to use Twitter to talk about translation practice?

EW: I joined Twitter for the first time when my translation of The Odyssey had been out for a little while, as a way to get involved in a more public conversation about translation. It seemed clear to me from conversations, classes, and reviews—of my translation(s) and others—that the level of public understanding of translation, both conceptually and practically, is very low in the United States and United Kingdom, for obvious reasons. Many people in these countries are more or less monolingual; many people haven’t spent much or any time thinking about how languages are different from each other. Within the anglophone classical studies world in particular, there is perhaps an even deeper set of blind spots, because the pedagogy in dead languages so often involves a fetishization of clunky syntactical translations as a tool for language learning. This means that many people who have taken a couple of years of Latin have a notion that there is a right answer to a text in an ancient language, as if Homer and Virgil were crossword puzzles, waiting to be solved by an intermediate student. Latin and ancient Greek students talk about “translating,” rather than reading or acquiring fluency. It’s this set of prejudices that encourages the idea that translations of ancient texts ought to sound barely comprehensible in English, like the renderings of students who don’t really understand the language. The fact that translations are always interpretative is not in the least bit new within the world of translation studies; but a great many people, in the academy as well as beyond, including those who teach languages (like classicists), seem to have little detailed understanding of what it means to say that. I definitely wanted to address academics as well as nonacademics, and everyone in between, in inviting some broader understanding of what literary translation is. So I figured I’d do the exercise of writing little comparisons of a line or two from The Odyssey, just to show how very different they are, and how the translator’s interpretative framework, whether consciously or unconsciously, always affects the result.

PK: What have you learned about tweeting since you first started? Has the way you’ve tweeted evolved?

EW: I learned about it as I did it. I learned about the basics of using Twitter—like how to create a linked thread, which I totally messed up on my first one. I also learned a lot about the specifics of different translations. I didn’t look at other translations while I was creating mine, so I had no idea when and how my version would be different from those of others. It was very interesting to learn about differences, both between other versions and between dominant translation trends and mine.

I was aware that a certain number of readers of reviews of my translation—usually people who had not got very far into the actual text—seemed to think I had a political agenda or axe to grind. I found that very puzzling, and I wanted to be able to talk about it, ideally without being defensive or aggressive. I suspect that this worry was not really the result of anything about me or my work, but the marketing of the translation as the first published in English by a woman, which triggered some readers into terror that I might be a feminist. I found my Twitter threads useful as a way of pointing out that having a gender identity, having attitudes to gender, and making particular decisions about the social dynamics of the poem are factors common to every single translator of the poem, whether we’re male, female, nonbinary/ genderqueer/ trans, or something else. I’m in no way unique in those respects.

In many ways, my Twitter is not at all revolutionary; it’s just bringing some old-fashioned close reading and comparative analysis to a platform that is often dominated by hot takes and sound bites. In creating comparisons, I wanted to clarify the nature of particular translators’ choices, for the Greekless reader. But I very much didn’t want to have readers think that my own interpretations and translations are the only possible valid ones. I read the piece Dan Chiasson wrote about my Twitter account,, for which I was grateful, though I thought hard about his line: “Twitter . . . is not often a seminar: it’s a knife fight.” The more I dipped into Twitter more broadly, the more I felt depressed by the knife-fight aspect of #PoliticsTwitter, and even #ClassicsTwitter; I didn’t want to play a part in turning the parts of the platform I usually like most—#PoetryTwitter, #WritingTwitter, #HistorianTwitter, and #TranslationTwitter—into scenes reminiscent of the Iliad. In later posts, I tried to think about my threads as miniature essays whose main focus would be an observation about either the difficulty of translating Homer, for anyone (not just me!), or the poem itself, with some comparative translation analysis interwoven. I also tried, in revisions or additions to earlier threads, to add comparisons with other female translators of The Odyssey, such as Anne Dacier into French and Rosa Onesti into Italian, to try to chip away at the problematic assumptions about gender that seem to encourage people in the United States and United Kingdom to see me as representing “the” female perspective on Homer—as if I were the only female Homerist who has ever lived. Women scholars and women writers often seem to be defined as Exceptional Women; I very much don’t want to enable the erasure of the many, many brilliant female scholars, writers and poets whose work I’ve learnt from.

Twitter is an engaging, enraging, potentially all-consuming platform. Right now, I’m honestly not engaging with it much. I’m working hard on my translation of the Iliad, and I don’t want either to be constantly going back to old work or to be tweeting about work in progress—or doing empty self-promotion, which makes for the most boring Twitter accounts ever. I’ll probably return to more engagement with the twitterverse at a future time, when the Muse prompts me to do so and when I feel ready to find ways to keep it fresh. I’m not interested in making the same points over and over. I’ll have to find new stories to tell that are tellable on that platform.

I don’t know if this is or isn’t a good lesson for others, but I have also learnt that it’s possible to vary one’s level of engagement with social media, and public engagement more generally. I love communicating with people and having interesting conversations about Homer, literature, ideas, and the ancient world. But I also love barricading myself in my room or the library and spending slow hours meditating on texts. You can’t always do it all, all at once, and it’s legitimate to take a break sometimes.

PK: What advice would you have for MLA members who want to start a broader conversation about their scholarly work?

EW: One of my central realizations about Twitter, a platform from which I’d always felt alienated and puzzled by, was simply that I could bring to it the skills that I already had. Those included the skill of packing a lot of meaning into a tiny number of words—a skill I’d honed in creating line-for-line translations—as well as pedagogy in close reading. Twitter—and other social media platforms too—can be a virtual classroom, and all MLA members already know a great deal about pedagogy. Of course, as in any classroom, you have to avoid patronizing your students, and you also have to avoid losing or alienating them by assuming they know things that they probably don’t.  Clarity without dumbing down seems to me the goal of any communication or conversation about scholarly work, either inside the academy or beyond. I also think a key fact to bear in mind is that academics are not smarter than nonacademics. When we talk only to specialists in our field, we can cut a lot of corners; we don’t have to explain all the terms we’ve learned from the pile of scholarly literature we’ve read on the subject at hand. We may also not bother as much as we should about whether our sentences are really good sentences, because we assume that people within the small world of our specialty will be speed reading our work for the gist. We can’t cut those corners when we talk to nonspecialists. But that doesn’t mean simplifying; it just means that different elements need to be explained and clarified, and clarity is at a higher premium. I personally feel that my work as a translator is in fact scholarship; it’s a deep, detailed critical practice, based on intense study of a text and other scholarship on that text.  But I also feel that my practice of several different kinds of writing, for different audiences—including poetic translation as well as nonacademic prose writing, on Twitter and in the public press—has improved my ability to communicate in scholarly writing, and in the classroom, too. I’d say we need to start moving away from drawing so many boundaries between what counts as academic writing and counts for the tenure file. I wish academics in the humanities could do much more to think and talk about what those boundaries mean, and why we seem to be so attached to them. It concerns me that young people in the humanities are often afraid to spend too much time on projects that are counted as “nonscholarly,” even if they involve highly creative, innovative, intellectual, scholarly work (like translations or blogs or anything else that isn’t the standard peer-reviewed monograph or article). I wish we could change the terms of appointment and promotion in more institutions, to enable more broad and deep conversations. That’s the bigger institutional picture. To individuals, I’d say, let go of those preconceptions, and do your work: tell a complicated, important, interesting truth, in clear, engaging language, with precise attention to conveying exactly what you hope to convey. Think hard about who you want to talk to, and think about why nonacademics should care about what you yourself care about. If more of us did that, more and better, there would be a far deeper understanding among nonacademics of what the humanities are and why we need to protect them.

You Had to Be There

Originally published in the Spring 2019 MLA Newsletter

You have a lot of calls on your time and on your travel funding (if, indeed, you have any travel funding).

That’s why we’re packing the MLA Annual Convention with things you can’t get anywhere else—to make it worth your while to come, learn, and connect. We’re increasing the professional development opportunities for people at every stage of their careers, and we’re encouraging connections between fields that might never connect in other venues.

Here’s a quick sketch of three sessions I attended this year, sessions that couldn’t have happened anywhere else.

Shawn Christian at MLA convention session

Readers (and Fans) Write Back to Books
Photo by Edward Savaria, Jr.

First, I moderated a session that was open to the public and focused on fan culture and reader communities. It brought together a venerable scholar in the field who shared her work on ’90s girls’ zines, a mid-career scholar who works on the Harlem Renaissance, and an early-career scholar whose work on podcasts is pushing the field to reexamine peer-review practices. Chatter afterward was all about the rich overlaps among the three presentations, even though none of the presenters had previously met.

Next, I went to the Humanities in Five sessions. Anne Ruggles Gere, the 2018 president of the MLA, encouraged us as humanists to make clear the substance and value of our work to folks outside higher education. She put together two sessions that asked scholars to present their research to a public audience in a strictly timed, five-minute format. One session even had judges, from the Chicago media scene. The press was excited about the presentations, and so was the audience—excited about taking our work outside our own walls to show why the humanities matter.

The final session I attended was in my field. The session featured lightning talks on the state of Victorian studies in relation to critical race theory. Not all the presenters were purely Victorianists, so they might not have attended a Victorian studies conference; the MLA was an opportunity to bring them together. The panelists gave original yet overlapping presentations that pumped up the audience and each other. I left the room thrilled about the future of Victorian studies.

Another significant thing that happened at the convention: the Delegate Assembly, the roughly three-hundred-person body that represents you in the governance structure of the association, tackled the issue of graduate student advising and mentoring. It reached out to members before the convention to collect lists of concerns and presented those at the assembly. Then the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee broke the huge assembly into small groups (small groups!) and had them tackle a list of questions designed to lead to recommendations for action by the association to improve the conditions of graduate study in our disciplines.

And it worked. Delegates shared good stories and bad and made recommendations for policy and guidelines. People left the Delegate Assembly having had discussions and made connections they’d never had or made before at the convention. As a result, the association is creating new guidelines for graduate advising.

The MLA Annual Convention brings together researchers and teachers in your field with those from all other fields in languages and literature, writing studies, and cultural studies. Its attendees help determine the direction of the entire profession. Come to Seattle next year. And to as many MLA conventions as you can. We promise to make it worthwhile for you.

We Are All Public Humanists

Originally published in the Winter 2017 MLA Newsletter

In the earliest days of the Modern Language Association, the focus of the convention and the association’s publications was members’ scholarly research. That remains, of course, at the heart of what we do. Advanced study in language, literature, writing, and cultural studies links our members across disciplinary specialization, genre, and historical period. But we have never been exclusively a scholarly association; the MLA has always also been a professional association.

The pedagogical insights in the Approaches to Teaching volumes have for many years complemented the extraordinary scholarship in PMLA, because most of us teach as well as research and write. Profession speaks to our members in their various roles as teachers, administrators, and higher education professionals. The MLA Action Network addresses us as scholars who want to make change: to provide our administrations with resources to create better conditions for contingent faculty members, to help graduate students from Puerto Rico who want to keep up with their studies, or to lobby for state funding for higher education.

When you think of your professional self, what does that include? Teacher, scholar, writer, administrator? How does your professional self overlap with your self in your community? Do you bring your reader self to your news consumption, your writer self to activism or cultural work or the PTA? Your humanities training does not shut off when you leave the classroom or the archive. It informs your sense of the world beyond the text, or perhaps it makes the world a text.

We believe that humanities education makes it easier to see nuance, to smell when things are rotten, to hear the differences between lies and truth. And this is why we think it’s worth promoting the value of studying the humanities, at all levels. We want our students to understand language and literature as a way to understand the world; we want them to value writing and performance and film and to understand how the skills and knowledge we get through the study of the humanities make us better readers, better consumers, better citizens, and, yes, better workers. It’s not our business to prepare undergraduates for particular jobs. Instead, what we teach them prepares them for careers, for lives after graduation in which they can put to use the subject area knowledge, the skills, and the values they learn in humanities classes. Humanities education prepares students to contribute to their communities, families, and workplaces, and as professional humanists we can approach that work from at least two sides. We can help our students become articulate about what their education has given them, and we can help those outside the university understand better the value of both undergraduate humanities education and advanced work in the humanities. We can, in short, become ambassadors for the humanities.

This year’s convention invites you to do just that. It will include an OpEd Project workshop, training dozens of attendees to expand their scholarly writing and research skills to write for popular audiences. In addition, we are hosting twenty doctoral students from the United States and Canada who will learn through the Connected Academics project how their degrees are valuable in careers outside academe. Possible Futures, a career fair for new and mid-career professionals, allows convention attendees to talk with employers who respect and appreciate humanities doctorates.

We are offering more convention sessions on pedagogy and on professional development, and we are offering more professional development resources online and in print, for full-time and contingent faculty members and for nonacademic humanists. We are developing programming that helps departments make clear to their majors as well as to their communities and employers the value of humanities degrees.

The more we can talk to the world at large about what we do and why we do it, the clearer the value of our work will become. The more clearly we can demonstrate the value of humanities education, the more it will be valued by the public and our policy makers—and the harder it will be to dismiss it, to close language departments, to badmouth area studies degrees, to shed tenured positions in favor of per-course labor.

Come to the convention. Learn to advocate for what you do, what you teach, what you study. Write, attend meetings, talk. Today, especially, we all need to be public humanists.

Get Engaged at MLA 2018

Originally published in the Fall 2017 MLA Newsletter

We’re excited to welcome the convention back to the MLA’s home city, New York, in 2018. And I’m especially pleased that my first convention as executive director will bring thousands of members to my new home, a city with a vibrant history of literature, art, theater, and cultural and political engagement of all sorts.

Engagement—activism, advocacy, and participation in the arts—is an overriding theme in this year’s convention. The presidential theme, #States of Insecurity, calls attention to the role of the arts and humanities in national and international politics, and the convention will offer participants many opportunities to think about and take action to support the arts and humanities.

Tables will be scattered throughout the convention hotels, marked by MLA Action Network banners and staffed by volunteers who will help you send your senators and representatives handwritten postcards (which are more effective than e-mail). We’ll have postcards, stamps, and even sample messages for you so that you can convey your support for federal funding for language study, maintaining and strengthening the National Endowment for the Humanities, affirmative action in university admissions, or whatever topics are most important to you.

The humanities and arts in this country need public champions, and the MLA is eager to lead, supporting the study of literature, language, writing, and culture and making clear the value of research in our fields. The convention represents all our disciplines and our work, from activist sessions on adjunct labor (e.g., Organizing from the Inside: Effecting Change for Adjuncts in Insecure Times) to pedagogical sessions on the writing classroom (e.g., Ways of Writing in High School and College) to research presentations on the newest approaches to literature and language (e.g., James Baldwin’s Speculative Imaginary; Why Teach Literature?; New Currents in Medieval Iberian Studies). In keeping with the convention theme, several sessions will focus on advocacy and activism, such as The Humanities and Public Policy and Sanctuary, Contingency, and the Campus as a Site of Struggle.

We’ve shifted the focus of the convention over the years and introduced a wide variety of new session formats, including workshops, roundtables, and sessions dedicated to professional development and advocacy. And, of course, job interviews take place at the convention. While the MLA continues to advocate for secure, well-paid teaching positions, we also recognize that tenure-track jobs are not the main employment destination for those of us in MLA fields, and, in fact, they were never the sole destination. Those who study and work on language and literature have always pursued a variety of vocations, such as university and community college teaching, public humanities work, secondary school teaching, public service, and even corporate work. Since 2015, the MLA’s Connected Academics project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has offered a yearlong career-exploration proseminar for twenty doctoral students from universities in the New York area. We’re looking for ways to make the proseminar available to more doctoral students, and so this year’s convention will feature a Connected Academics boot camp for twenty doctoral students from around the country. During their four days in New York, the boot camp fellows will participate in a series of linked sessions as well as in special group workshops and a behind-the-scenes visit to the New York Public Library. We hope that participants will be enthusiastic ambassadors for humanities careers, taking their experiences and learning back to their home departments to benefit their colleagues.

Last year’s convention featured our first Benefit for the Humanities. The proceeds from that event enabled us to expand our advocacy for the humanities and our support for contingent faculty members and graduate students. We have been able to fund workshops with the OpEd Project, which trains subject experts to write op-ed pieces for newspapers; to provide travel grants for graduate students and contingent faculty members and internships for graduate and undergraduate students; and to develop the Connected Academics boot camp, among other projects. If this is the kind of work you believe in, I hope you’ll join us at this year’s benefit on the opening night of the convention. Stay tuned for more information in the MLA news digest.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at the 2018 MLA convention in New York City.

Teaching in the Wake of Charlottesville

The letter below was sent to MLA members on 17 August 2017.

Dear MLA members,

At times like these we need community. My colleagues at the MLA and I share your revulsion at the horrific events that took place in Virginia last weekend. We share your dismay over much in the public exchange about them. And we share your grief for the students, faculty, and staff at the University of Virginia, the people of Charlottesville, and all victims of the violence and hatred incited by racism and white supremacism.

As you address in your classrooms the issues that arise from these events, you have many resources at your disposal, including JSTOR’s “Charlottesville Syllabus: Readings on the History of Hate in America,” a VICE documentary about Charlottesville, and the many materials circulating under the hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum and elsewhere. You may also want to take a look at the essays and resources in Teaching the Literatures of the American Civil War, which we’ve made available as a free download in the MLA bookstore.

The events in Charlottesville did not come from nowhere: MLA members and other scholars have long documented the role of racial injustice, white supremacy, and violence in American life, and we urge you to use social media and Humanities Commons to share historical, critical, and other resources as you find them. (If you’re posting syllabi or lesson plans to CORE, you can add the tag CharlottesvilleCurriculum to help your colleagues find them.)

Please let me know if there are other ways we can support you as you support your students.


Paula Krebs

Executive Director

“¡Miel, éste es el Trópico!”: Survival American

Originally published in the Summer 2017 MLA Newsletter

As I stood near the Hotel Inglaterra on the Parque Central in Havana in early March, I was consciously occupying Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s vantage point as represented by the cover image of La Habana para un infante difunto. It shows a photographer reclining against a lamppost with his old-fashioned camera, ready to snap pictures of tourists and locals, a custom I saw repeated on my visit nearly four decades after Cabrera Infante’s work was published (“Photo, lady?”). My knowledge of Cuba had come through literature, history, art, and scholarly writing, and I was eager to put my feet on Cuban soil now that travel to the country had been eased.

Little in my theoretical training prepared me for the lived realities of contemporary Cuba. I expected Havana to be a mix of beautifully restored buildings and crumbling colonial-style ruins, and I was not disappointed. I had not imagined Centro Habana’s stray dogs and cats scavenging for food in the roads, where pedestrians walked because the rubble-filled sidewalks were often impassable. I knew that daily life presented major challenges for Cubans, who have lived with the United States embargo for over half a century and have endured the Special Period following the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago. Seeing the store shelves empty of basic goods brought home to me what scarcity means on a daily basis. Watching Cubans compete for my peso convertible—the currency that can purchase household goods, a restaurant meal, or an airline ticket, if authorization to leave the country can be granted—made me feel constantly solicited.

Everyone knew that I was a foreigner, even though I speak Spanish fluently and do not look the blond gringa type. People asked, “Where you from, lady?” as I passed by. In situations where I had to give an answer, I didn’t always say “the United States,” mostly because of the legacy of my country’s actions toward Cuba since the nineteenth century. My spoken Spanish links me to the madre patria of Spain, but I quickly inflected the mother tongue with a Caribbean accent and, Canadian dollars in hand (to avoid the 10% penalty levied on US dollars), passed as some hybrid (North) American. Vaya gringada.

It’s a particularly potent time to reflect on what it means to be an American (read: citizen of the United States). The Cubans with whom I spoke were eager to talk about “Troomp” and seemed well aware of many aspects of American culture, knowledge gained through the weekly download of the underground el paquete, delivered by hand on a flash drive to anyone with the convertible pesos to pay for it. The guard in the museum of Cuban art asked me if we had paintings like the ones by Wifredo Lam in the United States, and she quickly moved to the question of how much my airline ticket cost, noting many Cubans would like to leave the country. I didn’t anticipate such openness to the United States. Yet the positive attitude makes sense, given the age of these Cubans (the revolution is all they’ve known) and the cultural influence of American media, consumer goods, and even food.

Cubans talked to me with dismay (which I share) about the wall between Mexico and the United States that Trump has threatened to build and the ban against citizens from majority-Muslim nations. The Modern Language Association has communicated a collective sense of outrage against immigration policies that violate human dignity and opposed the drastic cuts in the 2018 federal budget that would eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts, and other cultural and educational programs. Cuba is a country in which prominent writers like Nicolás Guillén and Miguel Barnet have participated actively in the intellectual and political life of the nation. It is true that they must align themselves politically with the regime to play such a role, something that writers like Cabrera Infante ultimately refused to do. Yet, it should be noted, intellectual freedom in Cuba was a fraught issue long before the 1959 revolution; for example, the United States–backed dictator Gerardo Machado had the writer Alejo Carpentier arrested in 1927 for subversion and shut down the university in 1930 in the face of student protests.

And what of the writers, historians, literary scholars, artists, poets, and other practitioners in the United States, with its vast material riches and tradition of infrequent government interference in cultural production, especially in the modern era? The United States government offers relatively little economic support to the humanities community. Less than 1/21,000th of the federal budget goes to fund the NEH annually, an amount that is barely more per capita than the cost of a postage stamp. The NEH might be seen as the forgotten research and education outreach institution in Washington: it represents less than one percent of the federal budget for scientific research and less than one tenth of one percent of the federal research-and-development budget. In the current political climate, in which public defunding and privatization are rapidly becoming the norm, the NEH, even costing the minuscule amount that it does, is endangered. The federal budget functions as a mechanism for setting policy, and by eliminating funding for the NEH, we as a nation would be saying that the humanities don’t rank at all among our priorities. This sorry state of affairs is certainly not as dire as government censorship and persecution of writers in Cuba like Reinaldo Arenas, but make no mistake: it constitutes neglect and ostracism of our intellectual heritage. It calls for “survival American,” a continual public discourse of resistance and opposition to the threats to our humanistic work that emanate from our government.

In Cabrera Infante’s first novel, Tres tristes tigres, the interplay between Spanish and English constitutes a major component of the pleasure that the work offers to readers who know both Spanish and a fair amount of conversational English and American popular culture. In the section “Los visitantes,” the story of a cane is purportedly told and retold by Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, then corrected by Rine Leal. The mistranslations from English to Spanish and vice versa give the text its nonsensical quality, but the reader’s ability to read between languages rescues it from unintelligibility. Mrs. Campbell, on arriving in Havana for a weekend, supposedly observed to her husband, “¡Miel, éste es el Trópico!” (186). In Spanish, miel (“honey”) does not connote endearment, and the oral stress on the definite article, unlike in English, fails to transmit emphasis (the stress would fall on the noun) and thus sounds rather silly. I realized I was at moments seeing Havana through the language of Cabrera Infante. I observed myself as the American who, despite proficiency in the common Spanish language that allows me to travel to so many countries and be understood and despite having studied so much about Cuba for decades, knew so little on the ground that I might as well have uttered “¡Miel, éste es el Trópico!” myself. And that is because humanities learning always starts anew. Survival of the humanities requires continual personal, societal, and governmental commitment and investment. The America that makes me proud upholds and supports its writers, thinkers, artists, and creators, and it’s an America well worth fighting for.

Work Cited

Cabrera Infante, Guillermo. Tres tristes tigres. Seix Barral, 1970.

Read earlier columns in my “survival” series: “Survival Spanish” (Summer 2007), “‘Tan cerca de Dios’: Survival Poqomchi” (Spring 2008), “Return of the Pensative Daughter: Survival English” (Spring 2011), and “Tamales for Dollars: Survival Guatemalan” (Spring 2013).

Advocacy in 2017: What We Can Do Together

Originally published in the Spring 2017 MLA Newsletter

I write these words ten days after the forty-fifth president of the United States was inaugurated. The landscape for MLA advocacy has already registered the seismic shifts that the new administration set off when it issued executive orders to construct a physical wall between the United States and Mexico and to close United States borders to citizens of seven nations with majority Muslim populations, as well as when it threatened to eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Many of you wonder what role your scholarly association should play in these times. We all realize that issuing MLA statements on what promises to be a flood of worthy causes could dilute the power of our collective voice and expend energies best directed toward other actions. At the same time, we recognize that silence can be interpreted as complacency, so as an association we commit to speaking out on those issues that intersect most directly with our professional interests. The MLA also joins with other scholarly associations in making statements that endorse or oppose particular causes (a recent case in point: the joint statement on threats to academic freedom and higher education in Turkey).

The MLA has formed strategic alliances to promote the interests of our members and to engage in advocacy efforts, especially at the federal level. Here are some of our key partnerships:

  • The National Humanities Alliance (NHA). As a founding member of the NHA, the MLA has a central role in shaping the advocacy priorities of this Washington-based group. A coalition of more than 170 organizations and institutions, the NHA advocates for humanities education, research, preservation, and public programs. In addition to lobbying for humanities funding, the NHA works to advance policies that support the humanities, develops policy initiatives, and promotes public awareness of the humanities. MLA members can participate in the NHA’s National Humanities Advocacy Day and learn how to lobby effectively on Capitol Hill and in their districts.
  • The Coalition for International Education (CIE). A coalition of over thirty higher education organizations, the CIE works to support programs, like Title VI and ­Fulbright-Hays, that promote greater awareness and understanding of the world’s languages and cultures. Through symposia, reports, videos, and other campaigns, the CIE educates policy makers, officials, and the media about the importance of United States global competence.
  • The Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), a nonprofit education-policy organization with more than one hundred organizational members, works to “ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to learn and use English and at least one other language.” JNCL-NCLIS promotes awareness of language issues through its lobbying and publications and through events like the annual Language Advocacy Day and Delegate Assembly. The event draws language advocates who want to make the case for language education to Congress while learning more about programs and policy issues.
  • The Conference of Executive Officers (CEO) of the American Council of Learned Societies brings together leaders from the council’s member societies to discuss issues that affect humanities research, teaching, and scholarly communication. The CEO collaborates on policy documents and public advocacy statements, such as the recent statements about the January 2017 executive order on immigration.

In addition to participating in these organizations, the MLA frequently joins with other groups to speak out on specific issues. Recent MLA efforts include a briefing for congressional staffers on adjunct working conditions, led by the New Faculty Majority, and a panel at the Albert Shanker Institute on the emergence of the precariat.

The MLA is often called on to participate in policy discussions at the highest level. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences asked me to serve on the Commission on Language Learning, which has just completed its work. One of the commission’s reports, The State of Languages in the U.S.: A Statistical Portrait, draws heavily on MLA research and analysis. I will be in Washington, DC, in late February, when members of the commission will present the report at a congressional briefing.

To help members keep track of the association’s advocacy efforts and participate more fully, we will soon introduce an advocacy hub to our Web site. You expect the MLA to work hard to advocate on behalf of our common interests, and we commit to doing so with increased vigor in the months and years ahead. In a paper originally delivered at the MLA Annual Convention in 1977, the year I joined the association, Audre Lorde told us, “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you” (41). I carried a sign with that famous second sentence at the PEN America Writers Resist event at the New York Public Library this past January, and I thought about the connection between language and action. “For to survive in the mouth of this dragon we call america,” Lorde said, we must speak out and be seen. “And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength” (42). May we recommit to speaking, writing, and acting out, and may you find in the MLA a source of strength.

Works Cited

Lorde, Audre. “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Crossing Press, 2007, pp. 40–44.

The State of Languages in the U.S.: A Statistical Portrait. American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2016.

Your MLA, 2020 and Beyond

Originally published in the Winter 2016 MLA Newsletter

The Executive Council has put a great deal of thought into the future of the association as we approach a transition to a new executive director. As many of you know, the executive director search committee expects to conclude its work by the end of the academic year. Because humanities professions are rapidly changing to adapt to shifts in higher education, the council has also been developing and refining an ambitious strategic plan to take the organization through 2020 and beyond (

I hope you will look at the brief summary of the strategic plan we released at the start of the fall semester. We are working to build a flexible, responsive scholarly association for the future. This endeavor means broadening the range of members that we serve, creating new opportunities for members’ professional development, facilitating new connections between members and among their communities, and finding new ways to get members’ work out to the world.

Yet all of that work requires investment, particularly in new technologies. Technological transformation is rarely straightforward and without complications, but we believe that investing in new technologies will enable the association to respond to developing member needs. The strategic plan will be a success if we sustain and support the vibrant intellectual communities within the MLA and create new ones beyond our current membership.

We might say, borrowing from Teresa de Lauretis’s pioneering notion of the technologies of gender, that MLA intellectual communities are both the product and the process of technologies such as the material forms in which we disseminate and interpret scholarship and the institutional discourses that establish and subvert hierarchies. The council has studied the association’s practices and technologies with an eye toward aligning them with our changing mission.

MLA members will undoubtedly be interested in what the strategic plan means as it applies to their research and teaching. By employing new technologies, the MLA will soon be able to do things like release individual chapters of Approaches to Teaching volumes for instructors preparing to teach only one short story of an author’s work.

The strategic plan will also serve members’ professional lives and bolster the humanities. Technology will help the MLA create regional advocacy networks; provide departments with resources for helping PhDs discover a wide range of careers; and, yes, raise funds to support teachers, students, and programs.

To make all this possible, we are launching a campaign, Paving the Way: For the Future of the Humanities, which you’ll hear more about at the convention in Philadelphia. In the meantime, I invite you to read the plan and offer feedback at

Work Cited

de Lauretis, Teresa. Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction. Indiana UP, 1987.

Your Professional Development: To Be Continued (at the Convention)

Originally published in the Fall 2016 MLA Newsletter

As most of you already know, more and more departments are shifting their in-person first-round interviews for academic positions to videoconferencing platforms such as Skype.1 Yet candidates may still envision the MLA convention primarily as a job market, during which they interview, if they are fortunate, and attend ADE- and ADFL-sponsored demonstration interviews or sessions on graduate school life or the academic workforce. The faculty members who conduct interviews generally describe their convention experience as time spent in a hotel room with the same colleagues for long mornings and afternoons, leaving them few occasions to attend sessions, go to the exhibit hall, or participate in one of the MLA-sponsored cultural excursions. Not ideal for anyone, especially in a brutal humanities job market.

When we surveyed members recently, we learned how they want the convention to change. Many said they would like to see even more opportunities for career development than already exist. As part of the MLA’s current strategic plan, that’s exactly the direction the convention has begun to take. We have started to expand the scope of offerings at the convention to reflect members’ burgeoning interest in new forms of career development. Of special interest in this regard are the sessions linked to Connected Academics, the MLA project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to prepare humanists for a wide variety of careers. Workshops focus on transferable skills, writing for broader audiences, networking, and job-search strategies. For the second year, we are showcasing the diverse and rewarding careers of humanities PhD recipients. Attendees have an opportunity to discover the wide range of employment possibilities available within and beyond the academy. Presenters, available for one-on-one discussions about their jobs and the career paths that led to them, include PhDs who work in universities, secondary education, nonprofit fund-raising, finance, management consulting, public humanities, journalism, and public policy. For a complete list of convention sessions related to Connected Academics, see

Members frequently tell me they have few chances to learn what it’s like to teach at institutions that don’t resemble their own. The Philadelphia convention offers several sessions to guide members in this regard. Session 329, Teaching at Teaching-Intensive Institutions, elucidates the rewards and challenges of careers at schools with 4-4 and 5-5 teaching loads. Attendees are invited to bring their CVs and cover letters for practical assistance. Session 414 features faculty members in English and foreign languages who discuss career opportunities in community colleges, focusing on job seekers who are starting their careers. Panelists in session 495, Career Training for Humanists: Best-Case Scenarios, consider innovative public humanities programs, multi-institutional initiatives, faculty best practices, and career center workshops. In the words of the session organizers, “[t]hese talks recalibrate career training as essential to our discipline: a way of acting on our values, challenging academic and public boundaries, and articulating our purpose.”

As we plan future conventions, we are thinking about the kinds of support that our members want across the arc of their careers. Graduate students may wish for information about building an online research profile or making connections with scholars in their fields. Early-career faculty members might seek guidance as they take on new responsibilities in student advising, personnel matters, or curricular development. Senior scholars seeking new career challenges might want to explore possibilities for moving into administration. Some members will want to focus on grant writing, journal editing, national humanities advocacy, or collective bargaining as developmental areas in which to engage. The convention will, of course, remain a site for scholarly exchange and informal networking, which have always been its heart and soul. Yet in expanding the range of professional opportunities at our annual meeting, we think more members will find attending the convention an even richer experience, one that might produce anything from discovering effective ways to restore shared governance to forging a new career path. If you have ideas for the kinds of professional-development workshops you’d like to see, please let us know by writing to I hope to welcome you to the 2017 convention in Philadelphia!


  1. ADE and ADFL guidelines for remote interviewing may be found at