In 1998, Congress passed a law that extended copyright protection on works published between 1923 and 1977 from seventy-five to ninety-five years, keeping many books of the 1920s monopolized by the original publishers long after the authors themselves had passed away. As the New York Times reported in December 2018, 2019 would mark “the first time in two decades that a large body of copyrighted works [would] lose their protected status,” a shift with profound consequences for readers and for scholarly editing. The impact will be especially dramatic because the 1920s was such a dynamic period for literary publishing. New opportunities have opened up for editing and reinterpreting iconic texts and classroom standards by the likes of Jean Toomer, Robert Frost, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Agatha Christie, and many more. Free digital copies can circulate online and rival publishing companies can bring out new editions. Less well-known, out-of-print books whose publishers retained copyright protection will be available for rediscovery and distribution. This MLA 2020 session sponsored by the Committee on Scholarly Editions will explore the perils of proliferating editions and the opportunities for textual scholarship while drawing attention to the importance of the field at this historical moment.
300-word abstracts and bios due by March 15 to George Hutchinson, firstname.lastname@example.org.