MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


The Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies is an interdisciplinary program concerned with writing as a means of communication of ideas, a means of creative expression, and a vehicle for exploring the cultural context of science and technology. Each year, approximately 900 undergraduates enroll in our subjects. Some subjects satisfy either Phase One or Phase Two of the Institute Writing Requirement.

In addition to its curriculum, the Program offers a number of cultural and literary activities to the MIT community. Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist E. Annie Proulx spoke in our Writers Series this year. Poets Alan Dugan, Sharona Ben-Tov, Lloyd Schwartz, Christopher Jane Corkery, Lavinia Greenlaw, Celia Gilbert, Steve Kelen, Charles Wright, and Carl Phillips spoke in our Poetry at MIT series.

In research and writing, Professor Kenneth Manning continues to increase and document his large data base on black physicians in his project on "Blacks in American Medicine, 1860-1980". Professor James Paradis continues his work on Samuel Butler. Professor Elzbieta Ettinger Chodakowska published her book, Hannah Arendt - Martin Heidegger, which was widely reviewed, and continues her biography of Hannah Arendt. Professor Cynthia Wolff continues work on slave narratives and primary research for a biography of Willa Cather. Assistant Professor Susanne Klingenstein has completed a draft of her new book, Enlarging America: The Cultural Work of Jewish Literary Scholars, 1930-1990. Senior Lecturer Edward Barrett continues his work on the Electronic Multimedia Online Textbook in Engineering and has begun a new series of books at the MIT Press on digital communication. Professor Alan Lightman published a collection of essays, Dance for Two.

On other activities and honors of the faculty, Professor Anita Desai's recent novel, Journey to Ithaca, received a long and favorable review in The New York Review of Books in the context of her entire body of work. Professor Wolff gave a major address at the Austrian American Studies Association meeting in Vienna. Professor Lightman won the 1996 American Institute of Physics Andrew Gemant Award for contributions to the public understanding of science and was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In Institute service, Professor Paradis completed his first year as chair of the HASS-D Committee. Professor Lightman chaired a CUP subcommittee to evaluate the Writing Requirement and has helped develop a new initiative to substantially deepen and broaden the requirement to a new Undergraduate Communication Requirement.

The Program has initiated a major expansion in the area of digital communication. To this end, Senior Lecturer Barrett has developed a new subject, Communicating in Cyberspace, which he team taught with Visiting Scholar Marie Redmond for the first time this past spring. We have also begun a national search for a new assistant professorship in this area.

We had 50 percent women on our total staff and 55 percent women in our core faculty. We have two underrepresented minorities in our teaching staff.

Alan Lightman

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96