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A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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MLA Citation

I expect formal papers in my classes to quote sources using the system of documentation called MLA style. MLA style is one of the formats commonly used by writers studying literature in English and other modern languages. ("MLA" stands for "Modern Languages Association.") Other disciplines, and sometimes other journals within those disciplines, will require other methods. The skill one needs to develop in virtually any field is that of conforming to the system required by a given editor. For my classes, in my role as "editor," I choose MLA style.

What follows is a small selection of the main points of MLA documentation. If you follow these points carefully and use the examples as models, you can gather everything you need for some kinds of short papers. More information is available from the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, which is widely available in bookstores and at the library, which has two copies on permanent reserve (call number LB2369 .G53 1999b ). If you are writing for one of my classes, you can also ask me questions about MLA style as you write.

Points of Emphasis

  1. Either name your source as you introduce a quotation or put the author's name with the page number in parenthesis.

    As Erik Simpson notes in Journal of Stuff I Say in Class, "Oedipus is certainly a wacky guy" (63).
    This is clear evidence supporting the conception of Oedipus as "wacky guy" (Simpson 63).

  2. When the quoted passage is contained within the main body of the text, put the punctuation of your sentence after the closed parenthesis. If a question mark or exclamation point is part of the quotation, leave it with the quoted text and put the punctuation of your text, if any, after the closed parenthesis.

    Why does Oedipus say, "Ah, Kithairon!" (Sophocles 71)?
    I get very excited when the choragos says, "I do not know how I can answer you" (71)! (Note that you need not include periods at the end of quoted passages.)

    See also the examples for point 1.

  3. When the quoted passage is set out from the main text, two things change: first, you need no quotation marks, because the fact of quotation is self-evident; second, all punctuation is put before the parenthesis. You should set off quotations of four or more lines in this way (indented ten spaces, or twice the indentation of a new paragraph).


         Martin Dysart opens Equus by 
    introducing himself as a man who is 
    questioning his faith, that of the Freudian 
    psychology of the Normal.  He has met the 
    "breaker" that Zarathustra describes, but 
    no creative process has taken place; 
    instead, he has merely been made aware 
    of the limitations of his thought, that 
    he is 
              wearing that horse's head myself.  
              That's the feeling.  All reined up 
              in old language and old assumptions, 
              struggling to jump clean-hoofed 
              on to a whole new track of being I 
              only suspect is there. (Shaffer 18)
    He recognizes that this questioning is 
    "subversive" (18) and that it robs him . . . 

  4. All quoted works should be listed under the centered heading of "Work(s) Cited." Your "Work(s) Cited" list should look roughly like the one below, except that it should begin on a new page, with all of the cited works in alphabetical order by author's last name. Following these examples can help you through many of the common tasks involved in constructing your list. Again, step-by-step directions for addressing almost any situation are available in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.

                        Works Cited
    Byron, George Gordon, Lord.  Selected 
         Letters and Journals.  Ed. Leslie 
         Marchand.  Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982.

    ---. Byron: A Self-Portrait. Ed. Peter Quenell. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990. Print.

    Curran, Stuart. Poetic Form and British Romanticism. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986. Print.

    McGann, Jerome J. Fiery Dust: Byron's Poetic Development. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1968. Print.

    Rutherford, Andrew. Byron: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1970. Print.

    Simpkins, Scott. "The Remix Aesthetic." European Romantic Review 3.2 (1992): 193-214. Print.

  5. For the new MLA guidelines on electonic sources, see this page
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