The Modern Language Association of America, often referred to as the Modern Language Association (MLA), is the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature. The MLA aims to "strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature." The organization includes over 25,000 members in 100 countries, primarily academic scholars, professors, and graduate students who study or teach language and literature, including English, other modern languages, and comparative literature. Although founded in the United States, with offices in New York City, the MLA's membership, concerns, reputation, and influence are international in scope.
The MLA was founded in 1883, as a discussion and advocacy group for the study of literature and modern languages (that is, all but classical languages, such as ancient Latin and Greek). According to its profile featured by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), "The Modern Language Association is formed for educational, scientific, literary, and social objects and purposes, and more specifically for the promotion of the academic and scientific study of English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and other so-called modern languages and literatures."
The officers of the MLA are elected by its members. The 2017 president is Diana Taylor, and the first vice president is Anne Ruggles Gere, who will advance to president in 2018. The 2017 second vice president is Simon Gikandi.
The MLA is governed by an Executive Council, elected periodically by its members, according to the MLA Constitution. The Executive Director is Paula Krebs.
The MLA publishes several academic journals, including Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (abbreviated as PMLA), one of the most prestigious journals in literary studies, and Profession, which is now published online on MLA Commons and discusses professional issues faced by teachers of language and literature. The association also publishes the MLA Handbook, a guide that is geared toward high school and undergraduate students and has sold more than 6,500,000 copies. An eighth edition was published in spring 2016. The MLA Style Manual was geared toward graduate students, scholars, and professional writers, and the third edition was declared out of print in September 2016. The MLA produces the online database, MLA International Bibliography, the standard bibliography in language and literature.
Since 1884 the MLA has held a national, four-day convention. Beginning in 2011, the convention dates moved to the first Thursday following 2 January. Approximately eight to twelve thousand members attend, depending on the location, which alternates among major cities in various regions of the United States. The MLA Annual Convention is the largest and most important of the year for scholars of languages and literature. Language departments of many universities and colleges interview candidates for teaching positions at the convention, although hiring occurs all year long. The organization's Job Information List (JIL) is available online.
In addition to its job-placement activities, the convention features about 800 sessions, including presentations of papers and panel discussions on diverse topics (special sessions, forums, poetry readings, film presentations, interdisciplinary studies involving art and music, governance meetings) and social events hosted by English and language departments and allied or affiliated organizations. There are also extensive book exhibits in one of the main hotel or convention center exhibition areas.
In November 2016, the association launched Humanities Commons, an open-access, crossdisciplinary hub for anyone interested in humanities research and scholarship. Other not-for-profit organizations involved in this project include College Art Association; Association for Jewish Studies; and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.
The MLA's Web site features the MLA Language Map, which presents overviews and detailed data from the United States 2000 Census about the locations and numbers of speakers of thirty languages and seven groups of less commonly spoken languages in the United States and Canada.
The association has highlighted issues such as race, gender and class in its professional deliberations. In The New Criterion, Roger Kimball and Hilton Kramer have argued that this was part of a "rampant politicization of literary study that the MLA has aggressively supported" in American colleges and universities, including elevating popular culture to a position of parity with great works of literature as subjects for classroom study, and other "radical" postures.
The association was criticized for entertaining the idea of an academic boycott of Israel, in December 2016.  The proposed Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) resolution was met with backlash from scholars, lawyers, and organizations that denounced its anti-Semitic sentiments and potential illegality.  The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law issued a letter to President and Executive Director Kwame Anthony Appiah, warning the association that the resolution was ultra vires.  The MLA rejected the boycott in a 113 to 79 vote during its annual meeting in January 2017. 
As part of the controversy, the Modern Language Association has been accused of filing politically motivated copyright complaints against a conservative YouTube channel.
There are several regional associations that are independent of the primary MLA, and which host smaller conventions at other times of the year: