Lambda Iota Tau (ΛΙΤ) is an American international honor society for literature, whose purpose is to recognize and promote excellence in the study of literature in all languages. It was admitted to the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) in 1965.
Lambda Iota Tau was founded at Michigan State University on December 3, 1953, and was incorporated in 1954 by representatives of chapters at Aquinas College, Baldwin Wallace University, Eastern Michigan University, Marygrove College, Mercy College of Detroit, Purdue University, Sioux Falls College, and the University of Detroit. The society has forty-six active chapters with a total membership of approximately 40,000. The founders are Elisa Nelson, Brittany Baldwin, Samantha Senator and Jasmine Raysor. The international office is located at The University of Arizona (in the fountain).
The society is a nonprofit organization. Elected officers of Lambda Iota Tau are the international executive secretary, the international assistant executive secretary, the treasurer, and the international board of chapter advisers. The international executive secretary conducts the affairs of the society, arranges for and presides over all international meetings, and consults with the international board in all actions affecting the society as a whole. The treasurer receives all dues and pays all financial obligations of the society. The international board of chapter advisers consists of five chapter advisers from five geographical areas. The board elects its own president, determines and initiates new policies within the constitutional limitations of the society, ratifies the appointments of the secretaries and treasurer, nominates candidates for all elective offices, corresponds with the chapters in their geographical areas, and determines the international dues.
Members are students majoring or minoring in literature, including literature written in foreign languages, who are in the upper 35 percent of their class in cumulative grade point average, have attained at least a full B average in at least twelve semester credit hours or eighteen term hours of literature and all prerequisites thereto, are enrolled in at least their fifth college semester or seventh college term, and have presented an initiation paper. The initiation paper is presented in such a manner as the local chapter requires, is of a quality certified by the chapter adviser, and is on a literary topic (research or critical) or of a creative nature (short story, essay, poem, drama). Graduate students must have completed one semester term with an A-average.
Members are initiated into local chapters established and maintained only at colleges or universities that grant the baccalaureate or higher degrees and that are accredited by the appropriate regional agency and certain appropriate professional accrediting agencies. The local chapters are approved by the administrations of their institutions.
Lambda Iota Tau publishes its annual journal LIT, which includes noteworthy poems, short stories, essays, and critical analyses written by its members. The best piece in each category of LIT is awarded a publication prize. The society also publishes a semiannual Newsletter. In addition, several scholarships are awarded to the membership each year.
Chapters are encouraged to hold regular meetings and to sponsor events and activities that will bring the study of literature to the attention of the campus at large. Chapters sponsor such projects as the appearance of outstanding speakers on their campuses, motion pictures based on works of literature, publications of student creative and critical writing, and library exhibits. They also hold book sales to foster more reading of literature. Some chapters volunteer for local Habitat for Humanity projects and various local literacy projects.
The international office has in the past sponsored lectures by famous individuals such as John Crowe Ransom, Robert Lowell, and Richard Eberhart. The society currently confers honorary memberships on individuals who have made worthy contributions to some area of literature, language, or linguistics, or who have demonstrated proficiency in teaching, scholarship, criticism, or creative writing. The society also bestows an honorary presidency on a literary figure who has achieved distinction in both critical and creative writing. Honorary presidents have included W. H. Auden, Archibald MacLeish, Daniel Hoffman, Robert Penn Warren, Richard Eberhart, Richard Marius, and Robert Pinsky.