Literature, Language and Culture
The Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA) is a non-profit organization of teachers and scholars of literature, language, and culture. A regional affiliate of the Modern Language Association, the MMLA provides a forum for disseminating scholarship and improving teaching in the fields of literary and cultural criticism. Loyola University Chicago supports the mission of the MMLA by serving as its institutional host.
Announcement Regarding the 2020 MMLA Convention
Dear Members of the MMLA Community,
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Executive Committee of the MMLA has decided not to hold its annual convention in 2020. Informing this decision is our awareness that large gatherings such as academic conferences, which draw people from a wide geographic area into very close contact and then disperse them once again to their points of origin, have demonstrated their potent ability to accelerate the spread of the coronavirus, and the risk of harm to the membership of the MMLA and to the general public of such an effect remains too great, in the eyes of the Executive Committee, to warrant holding a convention this year. Potential participants in the convention are also, we recognize, under increased financial pressure this year because of cuts in university research funding and under increased time pressure because of higher teaching loads and unexpected child care responsibilities, so for many potential participants, involvement in this year’s conference is ruled out by factors in addition to the danger of spreading disease. We are disappointed not to be holding a convention this year, as it is a high point in the academic calendar for us and for our membership, but we also recognize the need to act responsibly and practically in the face of urgent circumstances.
While there will be no MMLA convention in 2020, it may be more accurate to say that the convention has been postponed than to say that it has been canceled. This is because the event originally scheduled for November of 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has now been rescheduled for November of 2021, likewise in Milwaukee. The theme for the 2021 Milwaukee convention will be the same one as was originally planned for Milwaukee in 2020, “Cultures of Collectivity,” and the hotel venue for the 2021 Milwaukee convention will be the same one as was originally reserved for Milwaukee in 2020, the Milwaukee Hilton. To enable Milwaukee to be our 2021 convention location, the MMLA has canceled its earlier plan to hold a 2021 convention in Cleveland, Ohio. We are grateful to our hotel partners in Milwaukee and Cleveland for their flexibility in enabling this change in plans. Existing commitments to subsequent MMLA convention locations—2022 in Minneapolis and 2023 in Cincinnati—remain unchanged.
The Executive Committee is grateful for the patience of the MMLA membership during our deliberations over this important decision, and we are sorry to have to disappoint those members who had planned to attend this year’s convention. Those who have already registered for this year’s convention may opt for a refund, or they may roll over their registration to the 2021 convention.
Our sincere hope is that the scholarly energy and excitement that are always manifest at the MMLA convention can be channeled this year into the urgent effort to sustain and protect our communities at this time of serious crisis. We genuinely hope that our membership will all weather the storm safely and return to join us, healthy and strong, in 2021.
The MMLA Executive Committee
MMLA Message on Racial Justice
In light of recent police violence against African Americans and widespread protests against that violence, the MMLA Executive Committee seeks to voice its support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has six local chapters in the Midwest (including Chicago, Detroit, Lansing, Memphis, Nashville, and South Bend), and which invites the formation of additional local chapters as well. The Executive Committee also seeks to affirm all of the ways in which MMLA members voice their resistance to racial injustice. The MMLA is committed to continuing to provide a venue for activist scholarship that not only exposes the nature and extent of racial prejudice but also celebrates opposition to that prejudice and envisions a future of racial equity. We are in favor of deepening the study of the systemic racism that characterizes our social system, and we encourage the continued elaboration and clarification of what systemic racism truly means. We are heartened, furthermore, by the fact that antiracist protests are being carried out by young people, both white and of color, and we would thus welcome the study of youth-centered movements like these. In addition to being scholars of such topics, MMLA members are also educators in the humanities who therefore possess necessary tools and vital opportunities to challenge and dismantle racism and all systems of oppression. As an organization, the MMLA can not only encourage but also help facilitate discussions about antiracist pedagogy as an important form of activism that has a far greater impact than scholarship alone.
Accordingly, upcoming MMLA conferences and upcoming issues of the Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association will seek to feature scholarship that addresses the intersections of racism and literary culture, the meaning of systematic racism to individuals and their social institutions, the basis for youth-centered activism’s vital engagement with this issue, and the methods of antiracist pedagogy, so please consider the MMLA conference and journal as venues for sharing your work on these topics. The conference in particular will seek to provide more flexible new formats—such as workshops that extend beyond the timeframe of the conference itself—to create an enduring space that facilitates discussion and, importantly, listening on matters of implementing anti-racist pedagogy, racial inclusivity, and practices of solidarity among academics at all levels, including solidarity with African American scholars and teachers regardless of their research interests and regardless of whether their research is explicitly antiracist. We hope that by encouraging research, pedagogy, and solidarity that expose and oppose racial inequality, we will provide even more vital outlets for the felt need among MMLA members to address and remedy ongoing racial injustices.
We also recognize, however, that the MMLA’s encouragement of scholarly and pedagogical engagement with these issues is not a sufficient response to the urgency of the moment. The MMLA needs to scrutinize its own practices as well in order to identify ways in which its organizational structures might participate in and perpetuate racial exclusion. To this end, members of the Executive Committee will seek ways to increase the racial diversity of its membership by reaching out more effectively to scholars of color who wish to play a leadership role in the organization. The Executive Committee will also explore ways of revising its statement on member conduct in order to clarify the expectation that all members treat each other with dignity and respect, regardless of race. We will also seek more ways to give members the opportunity to assess how we are performing in this area, which will involve expanding our use of survey tools for this purpose. This list of action items is not exhaustive but, we recognize, just a starting point for work that is ongoing and collaborative, requiring the assistance of our membership as a whole. We look forward to engaging with you further as we promote reform of the MMLA itself toward the end of achieving a level of commitment to racial equality and justice that makes all MMLA members proud to call this organization their own.
The MMLA Executive Committee
Announcing the Keynote Speaker for the Fall 2021 Convention: Anna Kornbluh!
“Cultures of Collectivity"
Anna Kornbluh, Associate Professor and Associate Head of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of The Order of Forms: Realism, Formalism, and Social Space (University of Chicago 2019), Marxist Film Theory and Fight Club (Bloomsbury "Film Theory in Practice” series, 2019), and Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form (Fordham UP 2014). Essays on literature, psychoanalysis, feminism, presentism, and tv have appeared or are forthcoming in Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Diacritics, Criticism, Theory&Event, LA Review of Books, and elsewhere, She is the founding facilitator of two scholarly cooperatives: V21 Collective and InterCcECT.
Register for the Fall 2021 Convention!
All attendees must be members of the association to attend the convention. The deadline for convention presenters to pre-register is July 1, 2021. Please register via Mail or online through 123SignUp: