In June 1989, members of the major societies devoted to American authors met at the Cal State Symposium on American Literature in San Diego, to discuss ways to provide specialists in American authors with new opportunities for scholarly interaction. The result was the American Literature Association: a coalition of societies devoted to the study of American authors.
The major activity of the American Literature Association is its annual conference. The first conference was held at the Bahia Resort Hotel in San Diego on May 31- June 2, 1990, and firmly established the success of the new organization. The ALA met at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC, May 24-26, 1991 for its second conference and returned to the Bahia in San Diego for its annual meetings in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998. On May 28-30, 1993, the American Literature Association met at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore and returned there for its meetings in 1995, 1997, 1999. The hope was that the ALA could alternate between these two locations, but a changing economy made these hotels reluctant to provide sufficient hotel space at an affordable price and the ALA had to find other homes. In 2000, the ALA met at the Hyatt Long Beach and returned there in 2002. In 2001, the ALA met at the Hyatt in Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the river from Boston and plans to return there in 2003. In 2004 and 2006 the ALA will meet in the Hyatt at the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
The American Literature Association meets on Thursday through Sunday either on Memorial Day weekend or the weekend after it. This time is chosen because it does not conflict with other major conferences and good hotel rates are often available. On even numbered years, the conference is on the west coast. On odd numbered years, the ALA meets on the east coast . Registration at each of the annual conferences now averages about 850. The conference has attracted and continues to attract the participation of many of the most distinguished scholars in American literature.
The American Literature Association is committed to exploring the richness and diversity of American writing and welcomes all forms of scholarship. It is not limited to any specific critical methodology or dogma.
Most of the sessions are organized by the author societies that make up the American Literature Association, but an open call for papers is issued to permit an opportunity for consideration of authors and topics that are not represented by the member societies. No speakers are ever paid and there are no plenary sessions at the annual conference; instead between seven and eight panels are usually scheduled at each time slot. A welcoming reception is held at the end of the first conference day and a final celebration occurs at the end of the last session on Saturday. The ALA also sponsors a book exhibit as an important part of its annual meeting. The American Literature Association also sponsors smaller conferences, usually called symposia. These meetings involve between 30 and 150 scholars and usually focus on a genre, theme or topic. The ALA has sponsored symposia in Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The ALA has also sponsored or co-sponsored symposia in San Antonio, Lake Tahoe, Santa Fe, and in Florida. ALA events are announced on the website under the title FUTURE EVENTS.
Statement of Principles
At its organizing meeting, the members of the American Literature Association agreed to the following statement of purpose: The primary purpose of the American Literature Association is the advancement of humanistic learning by encouraging the study of American authors and their works. The American Literature Association shall actively encourage fellowship and scholarly interaction among persons interested in American authors, their art, their ideas, and their times. Specifically, the American Literature Association shall provide means for the various societies devoted to the study of American authors to cooperate in arranging conferences and other scholarly activities. The American Literature Association recognizes the importance of encouraging a wide variety of approaches, both established and innovational, to the study of American authors, including biographical and historical studies of an author’s life and times, bibliographical examinations and close readings of literary texts, as well as all other critical approaches. To achieve its goals, the American Literature Association shall sponsor an annual American literature conference. The American Literature Association may also arrange other conferences and symposia, publish or support the publication of journals and books devoted to the study of American literature, offer both competitive and honorary awards to individuals, encourage the formation and development of literary societies with similar goals, and engage in other appropriate activities. The American Literature Association exists for educational and charitable purposes. It is opposed to discrimination based on sex, race, nationality, or religion, but the Association does not take positions on political or social issues.
The American Literature Association is governed by an Executive Board, which has the primary responsibility for achieving the goals of the organization, and a Council of American Authors Societies, which is composed of representatives of the member societies and which ensures that the executive board fulfills the wishes of the members. Alfred Bendixen has served as the Executive Director of the ALA since its founding in 1989. James Nagel and Gloria Cronin have served as Executive Coordinators.
- Alfred Bendixen, Calif. State Univ., LA
- Olivia Carr Edenfield, Georgia Southern University
- Gloria Cronin, Brigham Young University
- Alan Gribben, Auburn Univ. At Montgomery
- Richard Kopley, Pennsylvania State University
- Jerome Loving, Texas A & M University
- Joel Myerson, University of South Carolina
- James Nagel, University of Georgia
- Linda Wagner Martin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Jeanne Reesman, University of Texas at San Antonio
- Wilfred Samuels, University of Utah
The members of the executive board welcome comments and suggestions.