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About MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography contains more than 2 million records for books and articles published on modern languages, literatures, folklore, and linguistics. The classified listing and subject index are compiled by the staff of the Modern Language Association Department of Bibliographic Information Services with the cooperation of more than 100 contributing bibliographers in the United States and abroad. The Bibliography first appeared in 1926, as a section within the journal PMLA, and became a separate publication in 1969. The electronic version first appeared in the late 1970s, and for a long time only covered volumes from 1963 onwards; as of April 2006, the entire print run is included, from 1926 to the present.

In addition to the contents of the annual volumes (which record scholarship from around 1920 onwards), the electronic version of the bibliography also includes subject-indexed records for the entire runs of journals from JSTOR's Language and Literature collection. This comprises over 100,000 records, and includes material from journals such as Modern Language Notes and PMLA from as far back as the 1880s.

Further information on the bibliography can be found on the MLA website.

Scope of the Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography covers scholarship dealing with the following fields:

  • Literature: from all over the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America
  • Folklore: folk literature, music, art, rituals, and belief systems
  • Language and linguistics: the study of languages from any historical period, including history and theory of linguistics, comparative linguistics, semantics, stylistics, syntax and translation
  • Literary theory and criticism
  • Dramatic arts: film, radio, television and theatre
  • History of printing and publishing
  • Teaching of language, literature, rhetoric and composition at college level (from 1998 onwards)

The bibliography indexes published items in a broad range of media: while the most common materials listed are books, book articles and journal articles, the bibliography also lists electronic materials. Coverage includes:

  • Critical monographs and book collections
  • Materials from over 4,400 journals, including selected electronic journals
  • Materials in any language, from any country in the world – over 60 languages are represented in the index
  • Dictionaries, catalogues, handbooks, bibliographies, indexes, and other reference works
  • Published working papers, conference papers, and conference proceedings
  • Citations of dissertations from Dissertations Abstracts International
  • Handbooks, anthologies for teaching, syllabi, textbooks, and curriculum guides
  • Scholarly websites, online bibliographies and electronic monographs
  • Any work that is of interest to scholars in these fields, whether it is written for a scholarly or more general audience

The following categories are not included in the bibliography:

  • Reprints of previously published materials, unless they are of significant literary or scholarly works that were unavailable to the scholarly community
  • Unpublished dissertations; instead, the bibliography includes citations of dissertations from Dissertations Abstracts International
  • Summaries of conference papers
  • Individual articles from dictionaries and encyclopaedias
  • Literary works and translations, unless they are accompanied by a new critical or bibliographical apparatus or they are based on a newly established authoritative text
  • Reviews of literary and scholarly works
  • Letters to editors, obituary notices, and the like, unless they make a significant contribution to scholarship
  • Courseware, lesson plans, and how-to guides
  • Work of inappropriate level, such as Masters’ theses, guides that are essentially plot summaries, and other apprentice or simplified works

MLA Thesaurus

MLA citations feature subject terms taken from the MLA Thesaurus, a controlled vocabulary of over 49,000 topical terms and 327,000 names. New subjects and names are regularly added to reflect the state of current scholarship in literature, language, folklore, and linguistics.

Users should note that subject indexing in the bibliography is considerably richer for records from 1981 onwards. Before 1981, MLA bibliographers used a more simplified approach to classification, generally only noting the main concept of each article; for example, 'American Literature -- 1800–1899 -- Hawthorne, Nathaniel', or 'language -- bilingualism' or 'ethnomusicology -- musical instruments'. In 1981, a contextual indexing and faceted taxonomic access system (CIFT) was adopted, whereby which each item is assigned an order sequence of subject descriptors.

Subject descriptors are usually specific terms; appropriate cross-references are provided to similar or related terms in the index. Descriptors define the explicit content: for example, authors are not identified as belonging to groups unless their group identification is treated within the indexed document, and methodological approaches are specified only when they are discussed or clearly applied. Finally, descriptors are assigned for an item if, and only if, users seeking information on the topic indicated by a descriptor would be likely to want to retrieve the item.

MLA Directory of Periodicals

The MLA Directory of Periodicals contains all information available on the journals and series on the bibliography's Master List of Periodicals. This information has been gathered by the MLA staff with the cooperation of MLA bibliographers and the editors represented in these listings. Over 7,100 titles are included; of these, over 4,400 are currently indexed. The entries list editorial addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, e-mail addresses, frequency of publication, descriptions of the periodicals' scopes, circulation figures, subscription prices and addresses, advertising information, and submission guidelines. The directory also provides statistics on how many articles and book reviews the periodicals publish each year, as well as how many are submitted.

Any regularly published journal available to libraries or universities that publishes articles on language, literature, or folklore with some frequency is eligible for inclusion on the Master List. Any series that includes books on language, literature, or folklore, regardless of the frequency of the series, is also eligible.