Is a compound subject a noun phrase for the purposes of abbreviating a title, or should I just use the first noun?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
As section 3.2.1 of the MLA Handbook explains, when you need to shorten a title for a parenthetical citation, “give the first noun and any preceding adjectives, while excluding any initial article: a, an, the” (117). Thus, if a title consists of a compound subject, use only the first noun and any adjectives that precede it as the abbreviated title. For example, if the title of an essay is “Memory and Experience,” abbreviate the title as “Memory.” If the title is “Faulty Memory and Bad Experience,” shorten the title to “Faulty Memory.”
MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.