As our convention in Austin approaches, I’ve been reflecting on our profession as I have observed it from the vantage of president of the world’s largest scholarly organization. My three previous columns noted several of the important initiatives that the MLA has recently begun and will continue. . . .
Are you ready to go public? When we convene in Austin on 7 January, we will experience all the familiar elements that make an MLA convention an intellectually rich, sometimes overwhelming event: more panels speaking to our interests than anyone could ever attend, meetings of allied organizations, and the informal encounters that can change minds or careers. But I hope you will also join us in conversations about the presidential theme, Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future. In selecting the theme, I meant to provoke reflection on one of the most salient problems in our common discipline.
What should the MLA be ﬁve and ten years from now? In a time of acute change in higher education, how should the association adapt to serve its members and our profession? These are questions the ofﬁcers, the Executive Council, and the staff are considering as we make plans for the near future. I would like to outline three challenges the MLA will confront over the next several years and mention brieﬂy how we are already addressing them. There is much to be done, however, and in the coming months we will want to hear from you.
Welcome to the Modern Language Association. As the MLA’s president for 2015–16, I would like to remark briefly on where we are today and where we are going in the near future. My membership has meant a great deal in my professional life, and sharing my understanding of this association with you is an important part of my work this year.
The theme of the 2016 convention in Austin will be Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future. I'd like to anticipate that event with a year of renewed attention to the publics we face as scholars of literature, language, and writing and to the MLA's particular public, its members. In this first column of my presidency, I reflect on how the MLA braids two identities, as a scholarly association and an advocacy organization, in support of our members' professional lives.