MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


Academic year 1999—2000 saw the arrival of our first graduate students in Comparative Media Studies, a joint program sponsored by Literature, Foreign Languages and Literatures, and the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. The CMS program, which offers an S.M. degree, is strongly based in the humanities with broad participation from other departments and schools. The new degree program combines a scholarly focus on the history and analysis of new and old media (from manuscript and early print to digital) with hands-on practical experience in industry and in MIT's multimedia educational projects. Professor of Literature and Comparative Media Studies Henry Jenkins directs the program, and Literature faculty participate at all levels of this exciting new endeavor.

William Uricchio, currently at the university of Utrecht, Netherlands, will be appointed Professor of Comparative Media Studies, a joint appointment in Literature and Foreign Languages and Literatures, beginning July 1, 2000. Professor Uricchio is a media historian and theorist with research interests in early cinema, the history of the nickelodeon, German television and other areas.

This year, Professor Stephen Tapscott held an appointment at the University of Lodz, Poland, as Fulbright Distinguished Visiting Professor of American Studies. Professor Ruth Perry served as President of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies and held a Fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation Center in Bellagio, Italy.


During the past year, 943 students enrolled in Literature subjects, 17 were registered as Literature majors (including 5 students with a major departure in CMS), 17 as minors with an additional 5 students minoring in CMS, and 90 as concentrators in Literature, with 25 additional students minoring in CMS. The Comparative Media Studies graduate program enrolled five students in its first entering class.

The Literature Faculty developed a number of new subjects and revised several existing subjects to support the new graduate CMS curriculum, including Literature and Film 21L435/CMS 840 and Interactive Narrative 21L489/CMS 845. In the seminar tier, Problems in Cultural Interpretation 21L707/CMS 870 was offered as a CMS graduate subject taught by Professor Jenkins in collaboration with Professor Justine Cassell of the Media Laboratory (special topic Children's Culture) and Technologies of Humanism 21L708/CMS 910 (special topic Hypertext, Hypermedia and Hyperreality) was taught by Professor Peter Donaldson.

Other Literature subjects had new or revised topics for 1999—2000: Dickens and Victorian England (21L702), taught by Associate Professor James Buzard; Spenser and Milton (21L704), taught by Associate Professor Mary Fuller; Virginia Woolf and Shakespeare (21L701) taught by Associate Professor Diana Henderson; Shakespeare's Contemporaries: Money, Sex and Violence in Renaissance Drama (21L703) taught by Associate Professor Shankar Raman; Willa Cather (21L705) taught by Professor Cynthia Woolf; Medieval Short Fiction (21L460), taught by Assistant Professor James Cain; Slavery in American Literature (21L707) taught by Lecturer Wyn Kelley; and American Short Fiction (21L512) taught by Professor John Hildebidle.


Professor Donaldson published "‘All which it inherit’: Shakespeare, Globes and Global Media" in Shakespeare Survey, an article on using the Shakespeare Electronic Archive in the classroom in the MLA volume on Teaching Shakespeare through Performance, and is working on a book on Shakespeare in the age of global electronic communications. Professor David Thorburn became editor-in-chief of a new MIT Press book series to be called "Media in Transition," devoted to historical/cultural studies of old and new media. Professor Perry published three articles on women in eighteenth century literature in collected volumes published this year, and two of her essays, "Radical Doubt and the Liberation of Women" and "De-familiarizing the Family; Or Writing Family History from Literary Sources" were reprinted. She is completing her study of the family in the eighteenth century novel. Professor Hildebidle published Defining Absence, his fourth book of poems. Professor Tapscott’s "Sky, A Sky, Skies, Heaven, A Heaven, The Heaven, Heavens!: Reading Szymborska Whole" was published as a lead article in the American Poetry Review. He also published an article on prosody in English and American Literature, and several articles on Szymborska in collected volumes. His anthology of Latin America Poetry went into a third edition this year. Professor Jenkins published articles in the Technology Review, The College Board Review, Independent Schools, and in several collected volumes: Kids’ Media Culture, ed. Marsha Kinder; Reinventing Film Studies, eds. Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams; A Companion to Film Theory, eds. Toby Miller and Robert Stam. In addition, essays by Professor Jenkins were reprinted in Media Studies: A Reader, eds. Paul Marris and Sue Thornton, and American Cultural Studies, eds. John Hartley and Roberta Pearson. Professor Fuller completed five articles on Renaissance travel and continues work on her book Geographies and Subjectivities. Professor Buzard is completing his book on autoethnography in the nineteenth century, and he published articles in the Yale Journal of Criticism and in Dickens, Europe and the New Worlds, ed. Anny Sadrin. Professor Henderson published articles in the Encyclopedia of the Renaissance and is completing her manuscript Uneasy Collaborations, a study of how later writers, performers and filmmakers developed collaborative relationships with the past, and especially with Shakespeare. Professor Raman's book Framing India: The Colonial Imaginary in Early Modern Culture is in press at Stanford University Press. Assistant Professor Christina Klein published "The Discourse of Adoption and the Cold War Commitment to Asia" in Cold War Constructions: The Political Culture of United States Imperialism, ed. Christian Appy, and is completing revisions of her book on the image of Asia and Asians in Cold War-era culture, to be published by the University of California Press. Professor Cain is revising his dissertation on literature and performance in Angevin England.


Professor Donaldson’s Shakespeare Electronic Archive was selected as one of three launch projects under the MIT-Microsoft iCampus Alliance. Under the iCampus grant, Microsoft engineers are working with Shakespeare Project staff to develop a text-video annotation system that will enable students and teachers to work collaboratively from remote locations, conducting real time discussions of Shakespeare plays and films or working asynchronously to produce multimedia essays. In addition, the Shakespeare Project has begun an alliance with the Folger Shakespeare Library Education Department and a number of high school teachers throughout the U.S. to make the Archive more useful in supporting active learning in K—12 classrooms. Professor Jenkins’ NEH-funded Virtual Screening Room project, a prototype of a multimedia film textbook with 400 video examples, was completed this year. Professor Buzard serves as one of the editors of the international Monuments and Dust Electronic Archive devoted to Victorian history and culture. Professor Thorburn is editor-in-chief of the Media in Transition website.


Professor Donaldson delivered the Catherine Caroll Tagliaferro Shakespeare Lecture at the University of Akron, addressed the National Council of Teachers of English Biennial International Conference on Teaching Shakespeare and contributed a paper to the Shakespeare Association of America's annual meeting in Montreal. Professor Alvin Kibel spoke at conferences on literature and technology and ethics at Belfort, France, and in Berlin. Professor Thorburn delivered the keynote address at a conference on "Knowledge Transfer and the Knowledge Society" in Ladenburg, Germany, sponsored by the Daimler-Benz Foundation. Professor Perry gave the Presidential Address at the annual meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies and spoke at Northwestern University and Gettysburg College. Professor Tapscott gave the plenary address at the "Text Agonistes" conference at the University of Athens, directed the Literary Seminar at the University of Rome, gave the convocation address at the Cracow/Silesia conference on Gender Studies and Queer Theory, and spoke at the Universities of Lodz, Warsaw, Torun, Bialisock, Prague, Salzburg and Vienna. Professor Jenkins was the Chair and Keynote Speaker, Video and Computer Games Come of Age Conference, MIT, Cambridge, MA , gave the keynote address at the Camden Technology Conference in Camden, Maine, and spoke at the University of Birmingham, England, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Wayne State University, the University of Odense, Denmark, at the Console-ing Passion Conference in Chicago, at the Society for Cinema Studies in Chicago, at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, at the Kids’ Screen Conference in New York, Readercon in Waltham, MA, at the Game Developers’ Conference in San Jose, CA, and to various groups in San Francisco and Seattle. Professor Fuller gave a paper at the Association for Mediterranean Studies meeting in Rio de Janeiro, and spoke at the University of Kansas. Professor Buzard delivered the plenary address at an international conference on Walter Scott at the University of Oregon, and spoke at Harvard, the University of California, Santa Cruz, Salem State College and the University of London. Professor Henderson spoke at the Centenary Conference on Shakespeare on Film at the University of Malaga, Spain, chaired a panel at the annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in Florence, Italy, and contributed a paper at the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Montreal. Professor Cain spoke at Harvard and Boston Universities. Professor Klein spoke at the meeting of the French Association of American Studies at Aix-en-Provence, at Harvard and the University of Connecticut, and at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association.


Professor Tapscott was appointed Fulbright Distinguished Professor in American Studies at the University of Lodz, Poland. Professor Klein was awarded an Old Dominion Fellowship and a Fellowship at the Charles Warren Center for American Studies at Harvard University. Professor Perry held an appointment as Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Center in Bellagio, Italy. Professor Buzard was awarded the James Levitan Prize in the Humanities for his work on autoethnography in British literature.

Professor Jenkins serves as Director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and as Housemaster for Senior House. Professor Thorburn serves as Director of the MIT Communications Forum and of the Media in Transition Project. Professor Donaldson is a member of the Executive Committee of the Shakespeare Division of MLA and serves on MIT's Council for Educational Technologies. Professor Perry served as President of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies and on the Dean's Committee on Gender Equity and the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement at MIT. Professor Henderson serves as Shakespeare Division delegate to the MLA General Assembly. She also co-chairs the Shakespeare Seminar at the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Harvard University and served on the HASS Overview Committee, the Search Committee for the Dean of Undergraduate Education and the Dean's Committee on gender Equity at MIT. Professor Kibel serves as Seminar Director at the Aspen Institute in Aspen Colorado.


James Cain was promoted to Assistant Professor beginning in July, 1999. Shankar Raman was promoted to Associate Professor and was also appointed to the Class of 1957 Career Development Chair. Diana Henderson was promoted to tenure. William Uricchio was appointed Professor of Comparative Media Studies, beginning in July, 2000. Alex Chisholm was appointed as development officer for the Comparative Media Studies Program.

More information about the Literature section can be found on the World Wide Web at

Peter S. Donaldson

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000