How do I cite a quotation I include in a title or heading?
Quoted material must be attributed wherever it occurs. In your prose, this generally means including an in-text citation or endnote in due proximity to the quoted material. In a title or heading, however, the attribution appears separately from the quotation, since MLA style does not append note numbers or in-text citations to titles. This means writers using quotations in a title or heading must take care to attribute the quoted material locally in their text.
It is most helpful to your readers to attribute quoted material from your title or heading in the first paragraph that follows it.
“Si Vivante et Si Vraiment Humaine”: The Fascination of Manon Lescaut
The character of Manon Lescaut has inspired many works of art besides the ones that bear her name. In explicating Manon’s appeal to writers and composers, Jean Starobinski highlights the realism of the original characterization by Antoine Prévost and quotes Alfred de Musset, who asked in his poem cycle Namouna, “Pourquoi Manon Lescaut, dès la première scène, / Est-elle si vivante et si vraiment humaine, / Qu’il semble qu’on l’a vue et que c’est un portrait?” ‘Why is Manon Lescaut from the first scene / So alive and so truly human that it seems / One has seen her and is now looking at a portrait?’ (qtd. and trans. in Starobinski 159).
Starobinski, Jean. Enchantment: The Seductress in Opera. Translated by C. Jon Delogu, Columbia UP, 2008.
If the attribution cannot be included in the first paragraph, include it as soon as possible thereafter.
Since your prose must refer to the title quotation, make sure the quotation is relevant to your topic. If the quotation is primarily decorative and its connection to the topic is tenuous, the effort of working the material into your prose may prompt you to replace or omit the quotation. The latter choice is often wise since shorter headings are preferred.
For guidance on styling quotations in titles and headings, see sections 2.115 and 2.118 of the MLA Handbook. Instructions on formatting titles and headings are available in our free sample chapter on MLA Handbook Plus.
MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021. MLA Handbook Plus, 2021, mlahandbookplus.org/.