MLA Commons has a fresh new theme that is focused on the principles of simplicity, clarity, and ease of use. In addition to changes in layout, typography, and color scheme, some functions have been consolidated, and group forum discussions now appear on each group’s landing page. We’ve also updated the WordPress plug-ins on the Commons to add features, fix bugs, and make other improvements. All the software, available through the MLA GitHub repository, is free and open-source. Read more about the new theme on the Updates Blog, and see it for yourself by visiting the Commons home page.
The next phase of development for the new forum structure approved by the Executive Council is under way. The Program Committee is evaluating those prospective forums that obtained at least thirty-five signatures and five leadership volunteers by 15 June. Though that deadline has passed, members are encouraged to continue to join groups of interest and voice support by signing the petition and volunteering. Support for prospective forums will be evaluated periodically.
In an article in Inside Higher Ed, Russell Berman, former MLA president and lead author of the report of the Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature, weighs in on the continuing discussion about the report’s recommendations. Berman writes, “Doctoral study in the humanities fields contributes to the quality of society, it answers individual students’ desire for intellectual depth, and it is a vital piece in the intellectual diversity of universities. If we want to preserve it, we need to reform it.”
The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is seeking suggestions from MLA members for titles to add to ACLS Humanities E-book, an online collection of approximately 4,000 titles from many disciplines. Of particular interest are titles in LGBTQ studies, communications, film and media studies, non-Western languages and literatures, gender studies, race and ethnic studies, animal studies, and age and aging studies. Books should be of continuing importance for teaching and research and of enduring value to the field of study. If you have suggestions for significant works (primarily monographs and collections of essays) in language and literature, please send them to email@example.com. To learn more about purchasing an individual subscription to ACLS Humanities E-book, you may visit the “About Membership” page of the MLA Web site.
The MLA has joined other higher education and library organizations to release a set of neutrality principles that they recommend form the basis of an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to protect the openness of the Internet. “The Modern Language Association is committed to the principles of net neutrality that have long protected the fundamental character of the Internet as a space for open, nondiscriminatory, and creative communication,” said Executive Director Rosemary G. Feal about the release. Members may also wish to read the Executive Council’s related letter to the FCC and statement to members.
The House Appropriations Committee is proposing reducing funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, lowering its budget by $8 million compared to 2014. To voice your opposition to this cut, please use the form on the National Humanities Alliance Web site to send a message to your elected officials.
The deadline for submitting projects for the second NVS Digital Challenge has been extended to 1 September 2014. The challenge, sponsored by the MLA Committee on the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare (NVS), seeks to find the most innovative and compelling uses of the data contained in one of the NVS editions. This year the MLA is making available the XML files and schema for two volumes, The Winter’s Tale and The Comedy of Errors, under a Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0 license. The committee seeks entries featuring new means of displaying, representing, and exploring this data in the most exciting API, interface, visualization, or data-mining project. It is especially interested in entries that combine the NVS data with another Shakespearian project, such as Folger Digital Texts, Internet Shakespeare Editions, or Open Source Shakespeare. The winner will receive $500 and will be recognized at the 2015 MLA convention in Vancouver. URLs for all entries must be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the New Variorum Shakespeare Digital Challenge page to learn more and download the files.
While some postdoctoral fellowships in the humanities emphasize research and provide benefits, writes Sydni Dunn of Vitae, others require high teaching loads and leave little time for scholarship. “I’ve seen a lot of postdocs that are sometimes no different than the kind of work an adjunct is asked to do off the tenure track,” commented the MLA’s executive director, Rosemary G. Feal. “A fellowship is supposed to be an award of sorts, not an exploited labor opportunity.” Read more about the evolution of humanities postdocs in “A Brief History of the Humanities Postdoc.”
The deadline to join the association for the 2014 membership year has been extended from 30 June to 31 July. If you join or renew by 31 July, you will be able to vote in the 2014 elections this fall. You will also be able to register early—at discounted rates—for the 2015 convention in Vancouver. Learn about the many other member benefits and what your dues support.
An audio recording, accompanied by images, of Marianne Hirsch’s 2014 Presidential Address is now available on the MLA Web site. Delivered at the Chicago convention, “Connective Histories in Vulnerable Times” explores Hirsch’s personal and scholarly interest in how traumatic stories are transmitted. An acknowledgment of vulnerability, Hirsch proposes, can create opportunities for interconnection and resistance.