Modern Language Association Report, 2019

WESS Newsletter

Spring 2019, Vol. 42, No. 2


Though I have attended the Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention before, this year was the first year I attended as the ACRL LES/ESS liaison to MLA. This year’s theme was “Textual Transactions.” You can find the transcript for the presidential address here.

If you have the time, I would also recommend watching the video from the “Humanities in Five” program. The panel was designed to provide models for presenting scholarly research to the general public—in five minutes (a challenging feat for faculty). The presentations are lively and worth watching.

This year I was able to attend the DHSI@MLA preconference workshop on January 3rd. The theme was “DH Curious? Digital Humanities Tools and Technologies for Students, Emerging Scholars, Faculty, Librarians and Administrators!” There were opportunities to move around to different presenters seated around the room. I attended the geospatial humanities and the open access/open social scholarship sessions. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more hands-on exercises, but I think there were limitations in terms of time, attendance, and the room we were in. My favorite part of the open access/open social scholarship presentation was actually seeing how Alyssa Arbuckle presented the issue of scholarly communication and open access to humanities faculty. I gained some great pointers for how to get my faculty engaged with rising journal costs and the opportunities involved with institutional repositories.

The MLA Convention is filled with presentations and programs on every topic you can imagine related to literature and languages. I find it a great way to learn more about what people are studying in literature, and I love being able to sit in on presentations being given by some of the faculty and graduate students that I work with. In addition to being able to hear everything from talks on the literature of the global south to talks on fandom, there are many presentations that are of very specific interest to librarians. I have found that you can almost always find talks on digital humanities, scholarly editions, archival research, etc. Since it is such a large convention, it is of course impossible to describe everything that was happening. From my perspective, some of the more interesting themes that emerged this year were an increase in disability studies presentations, citation as social justice (particularly #citeblackwomen), ethical issues around digital humanities (especially in terms of labor), and a focus on international digital humanities projects.

I was also really pleased to see at least two panels explicitly related to information literacy: “When Digital Meets Information Literacy: What We Can Learn from Following the Research Processes of Individual Students (#316)” and “Teaching Writing in the Fake News Era (#671).” While the first presentation included researchers from the Citation Project and Project Information Literacy, the second presentation had a mix of librarians, writing instructors, and faculty presenters. At least one presenter at that second session specifically discussed the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. I appreciated how speakers talked about using rhetorical theory, reading strategies, and visual literacy to help students learn how to better engage with the news and media they are consuming.

I also attended the “Collaboration in the Digital Research Landscape (#374)” panel hosted by the Libraries and Research Forum. Speakers talked about how scholars and librarians can work together better, especially in terms of helping students connect with primary sources. I liked that the session had a lot of time built in for discussion with the audience. If you are looking for a way to get more involved with MLA, this is a good group to follow on the Humanities Commons!

Since this is my first year serving as your liaison to MLA, I would love to hear from you if you have suggestions on topics related to MLA that you would like me to address in the future!

Arianne Hartsell-Gundy
Librarian for Literature and Theater Studies
Duke University