News Release

Modern Language Initiative (MLI)

An Andrew W. Mellon-funded collaborative between Fordham University Press, University of California Press (FlashPoints series), University of Pennsylvania Press, University of Virginia Press, and University of Washington Press.

What will be published in the MLI?

The presses collaborating in the MLI will publish scholarship by first authors writing in English about linguistic cultural productions in languages other than English. This includes all types of literature, as well as other verbal productions such as rhetoric and film, in addition to performance, popular culture, and any other form employing language.

Why is this important?

Modern language departments, in which scholarship on linguistic cultural productions in languages other than English is primarily based, develop, preserve, and transmit the cultural knowledge and linguistic competence necessary for understanding other cultures. Yet there has been a dramatic reduction in publishing opportunities in foreign languages and literatures at a time when enrollments in foreign languages and interest in foreign cultures is greater than it has been in many years. We hope to change this by publishing quality scholarship in these areas.

How will the collaboration work?

Each press will apply its own policies for acquisition, review, approval, revision, and development, at which point the projects will be turned over to an outside managing editor for copyediting and production. All authors will receive a standard royalty advance of $1,000.

Marketing efforts will also be coordinated as a group. Joint marketing will provide visibility both for these fields in themselves and for the individual books. Because of our collaborative work, we will be able to actively and effectively reach new communities of scholars, take new risks, and work more energetically to stimulate demand and attention to these new, outstanding works. We will place ads as a collective group, share publicity, and ensure books are well-represented at major conferences.

What are each press's strengths and specialties?

Fordham. In its scholarly publications, Fordham University Press focuses on the intersections between philosophy, religion, and aesthetic productions. It added a list specifically in literature in 2003, with a focus on interdisciplinary work and work potentially of interest across fields or across languages. At the moment, it publishes one to three books a year in fields that would be covered by this initiative. Recent titles have focused on literatures in French, German, Rajasthani, and Italian. The Mellon grant would allow Fordham to more than double our contribution to this field. Contact Helen Tartar, Editorial Director (

California. The University of California Press has planned and launched the FlashPoints Series in Literary Studies. The series seeks to publish books that consider literature beyond strictly national and disciplinary frameworks, distinguished by both their historical grounding and their theoretical and conceptual strength. The series is interested in how literature contributes to forming new constellations of culture and history and in how such formations function critically and politically in the present. All FlashPoints books will appear both in well-designed printed copies and in open-access versions accessible through the World Wide Web. Contact Richard Terdiman, Coordinator, FlashPoints Editorial Group (

Pennsylvania. The University of Pennsylvania Press has long-established lists in interdisciplinary and comparative literary studies, from the medieval to the modern; its Material Texts series, in particular, explores cultural technologies of communication-books, manuscripts, scrolls, films, graffiti, the actor's voice-with particular attention to the ways that the specific material forms in which linguistic communications are cast affect their meaning. Yet the scholarly ambitions of the list are hampered by concerns about market, and when book sales are considered, certain fields-early modern French or German, Italian studies of any period-have heretofore been only marginally viable at best. The Mellon grant would help remove such restrictions. Contact Jerome Singerman, Senior Editor (

Virginia. As the publisher of a translation series in francophone literature from the Caribbean and Africa, Virginia occasionally takes on studies of these literatures (not translations) that demand knowledge of French. Similarly, the Press also publishes Caribbean cultural studies that often demand a knowledge of the multiple languages in that region-not only French but also Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch. These multilingual studies tend to be underserved because of their specialization, and up to now, Virginia has published only a small number of them. Again, the Mellon grant could work to remove this restriction. Contact Cathie Brettschneider, Humanities Editor (

Washington. The University of Washington Press has an established list of publications in literary studies, involving a range of world literatures studied from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Its many titles on Chinese literary studies examine a range of linguistic cultural productions, including ancient poetry manuscripts, texts of archaeological significance, legal documents, operatic genres, folk ballads, and ethnographic albums from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Washington's Literary Conjugations series investigates literary artifacts in their cultural and historical environments. Through comparative investigations and case studies across a wide array of national literatures, it highlights the interdisciplinary character of literary studies and explores how literary production extends into, influences, and refracts multiple domains of intellectual and cultural life. Recent titles have included work on German and South Asian literatures. Contact Lorri Hagman, Executive Editor (

How to submit a manuscript

The MLI member presses welcome book proposals in the areas in which they have expressed interest or are currently publishing. See above for information about the specific interests of each press.

Editors receive hundreds of prospectuses in the course of a year - at the larger presses, that number is often well over a thousand. Thus as a general rule it is better to send a proposal in hard copy, directed to the appropriate editor. It is too easy for a submission sent by e-mail to get lost in what is always a lengthy queue. Please say in your cover letter that you want the proposal to be considered for the Modern Language Initiative.

An exception may happen when the initial decision - namely, whether or not to invite a full manuscript - is made by a series editor or series board rather than by a single press editor. (The decision to accept a manuscript is never the decision of a single person, but is made formally by the press and its faculty board, on the basis of outside readers' reports.) In such cases - as with the University of California Press FlashPoints series below - special arrangements may be made to receive submissions and inquiries at a special e-mail address for that purpose.

We ask that authors not simultaneously submit to multiple members in the MLI consortium - that is, that you choose one press in the consortium to which to send your proposal. (You are free to send to another member of the consortium if your proposal doesn't fit that press's needs.) It is fine, however, to send your initial letter of inquiry simultaneously to other presses outside the consortium. Once a full manuscript has been invited, most presses request at least right of first refusal, if not that the manuscript not simultaneously be under submission elsewhere. Simultaneous submission of complete manuscripts does not guarantee faster acceptance but merely clogs the overall process for everyone.

We recommend that proposals include the following:

  • - a cover letter of two to four pages outlining the book's argument and its contribution to its field
  • - a current curriculum vitae
  • - a prospectus giving a detailed outline of the book (usually three to eight pages, often chapter-by-chapter)
  • - a sample chapter (optional).

We will attempt to give you an initial response within six weeks.

Note: We do not return materials unless you provide a prepaid return envelope. Please do not send any irreplaceable materials.

The Presses

For Fordham University Press, send to:
Helen Tartar, Editorial Director
Fordham University Press
University Box L
2546 Belmont Avenue
Bronx, NY 10458

For University of California Press:
Flashpoints submissions and correspondence should be sent
via e-mail to An initial inquiry giving
a short description of the proposed project will be appreciated.

For University of Pennsylvania Press:
Jerome E. Singerman, Senior Editor
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112

For University of Virginia Press:
Cathie Brettschneider, Humanities Editor
University of Virginia Press
Bemiss House
PO Box 400318
Charlottesville, VA 22903-0608

For University of Washington Press:
Lorri Hagman, Executive Editor
University of Washington Press
PO Box 50096
Seattle, WA 98145-5096