Loyola University Chicago

Midwest Modern Language Association

Call for Papers

"Going Public: What the MMLA Owes Democracy"


2-5 November 2023

Cincinnati, Ohio

Going Public: What the MMLA Owes Democracy
In The General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, the Parson questions the ethical responsibility owed by the most educated members of society to political integrity: “‘if gold ruste, what shal iren do?’” The Canterbury Tales as an aesthetic whole provides a pellucid answer: those rigorously trained in languages and literatures are vital to effective and equitable governance. The cultural moment for Geoffrey Chaucer’s composition of the Tales was one marked by economic inequity that culminated in the social turmoil and nationalist fervor of the Peasants’ Revolt with fault lines further exacerbated by a pandemic. Our own cultural moment presents an analogous situation: the COVID-19 pandemic has changed much of our daily and professional lives while laying bare structural inequities; additionally, the political violence long threatened in the darkest corners of the internet has been made manifest. In What Universities Owe Democracy, published at the end of 2021, Ronald Daniels offers a timely—if imperfect—call for institutions of higher learning to embrace the centrality of the role they must play in creating and advancing shared truths essential to the functioning of liberal democracies.
At the same time that the president of Johns Hopkins University issued this call to arms, public discourse is rife with debates about the continued value of higher education while state and federal governments further curtail investment in our post-secondary institutions. The “Crisis in the Humanities” continues to see students, parents, and even admissions counsellors univocally valorize STEM careers at the expense of the traditional liberal arts. We who study and teach modern languages and literatures are acutely aware of our declining numbers and the continued devaluation of our fields of inquiry at exactly the time our skills and expertise are most acutely needed to sustain and advance our democratic institutions. Our 2023 convention in Cincinnati is an ideal rhetorical space in which to ask a simple question whose answers, conversely, are necessarily complicated and polysemous: what does the MMLA owe democracy?
Adhering to the MMLA’s mission of disseminating and advancing the creation and exchange of knowledge, discovery, and learning in modern languages and literatures, we encourage submissions that directly engage with our profession’s responsibility to combat mistruth and disinformation while supporting diverse interpretations of the shared truths that undergird functional democratic institutions.
We encourage submissions that address the following questions: What roles should the humanities in general and the modern languages and literatures in particular play in the public sphere? How can our pedagogy and scholarship help foster balance between the collective and the individual? How can our profession help value difference, recognizing and stressing the importance of diversity across a wide spectrum, including gender, race, class, and ideology while simultaneously encouraging the consensus and principled compromise necessary for functional democracies? How do we minimize our own political and personal biases and critically interrogate our own race, class, and gender privileges to ensure true equity and diversity? How do we as a profession ensure our knowledge and practices support and encourage democratic principles?
Areas of focus include, but are not limited to the following:
  • Feminisms and transfeminisms
  • Literature and the environment
  • Pop culture and visual arts
  • Queer identities
  • Cultural and literary studies
  • Environmental and cultural sustainability
  • Indigenous cultures
  • Disability studies
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Race, gender, and subalternity
  • Religious discourses
  • Nationalisms
  • Transatlantic Studies: Latin America/Europe/Africa
  • Travel writing and networks
  • Women’s studies
  • Interdisciplinary work and the humanities
  • Language communities
  • Cultures of diaspora
  • Minority cultures
  • Ecocritical approaches to literature and cultural studies
  • Transcultural identities
  • Food studies
  • Art, music, and painting

Proposals from faculty and graduate students may be for:

1) Special Sessions related to the conference theme:

Special Sessions do not require a full slate of papers, but instead, if accepted, assume that the session organizer (who may also give a paper) will serve as panel chair. Accepted Special Session Calls for Papers are posted on the MMLA website and will require that the organizer receive proposals directly and vet them to build the full panel.
Special Session Calls for Papers should include the following information: organizer name, contact information, session title, and a Call for Papers indicating the organizer's preferred proposal length and deadline of March 1st for proposal submissions.
Special Session submissions are due April 15th via e-mail to their organizers. Submissions that are not assigned to special session panels are due by May 10th via email to mmla@luc.edu

2) Permanent Sections of the MMLA that organize panels annually:

Permanent Sections are typically tied to some version of the conference theme. Submissions to Permanent Sections are due to their organizers April 15thSubmissions that are not assigned to permanent section panels are due by May 10th via email to mmla@luc.edu.

3) Complete Panels or Individual Papers that do not tie into the conference theme.

Submissions should include the following information: presenter name, institutional affiliation, e-mail address, paper title, a 250-word abstract, and a CV.
Proposals for Complete Panels should be submitted together as a unit.
Individual Papers that are accepted will be grouped into sessions; as a result, to facilitate scheduling please identify up to three of the following categories in which your paper may be most usefully placed:
  • American Literature,
  • Comparative Studies,
  • English Literature,
  • Francophone Literatures,
  • Hispanophone Literatures,
  • Genre Studies,
  • German Literature,
  • Interdisciplinary Approaches,
  • Italian Literatures,
  • Teaching,
  • Medieval Literature,
  • Renaissance/Early Modern Literature,
  • Eighteenth-Century Literature,
  • Nineteenth-Century Literature,
  • Twentieth-Century Literature,
  • Contemporary Literature,
  • Colonial and/or Postcolonial Literatures,
  • Travel Literature, and/or
  • Literature on the Midwest.
Individual Paper and Complete Panel proposals are due May 20th via e-mail to mmla@luc.edu.

Proposals from undergraduate students will be considered for the Undergraduate Symposium by the program committee.  

Undergraduate submissions should include the following information: presenter name, institutional affiliation, e-mail address, paper title, the Faculty mentor's name, and a 250-word abstract.
Proposals for the Undergraduate Symposium are due May 31st via e-mail to mmla@luc.edu.
While the MMLA welcomes papers across languages and literatures, proposals must be in English unless submitted to a Permanent Session that stipulates proposals are welcome in languages other than English.
Each Fall issue of the Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association will be devoted to papers that build upon the conference theme from the previous year; the Fall 2023 issue will thus extend “Post-Now.” Fall issue submissions are due by April 15 after each convention.