MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


1996-97 was a productive and exciting year for the Literature Faculty. There were several faculty retirements and a successful search for a junior position. Professor Stephen Tapscott published two books, Twentieth Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (University of Texas Press) and From the Book of Changes (poetry: Carcanet Press). Professors David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins were awarded a major grant from the John and Mary Markle Foundation for the Media in Transition project, and Class of 1956 Associate Professor James Buzard was appointed Fellow of the National Humanities Center.


During the past year, 1,048 students enrolled in Literature subjects, 18 were registered as Literature majors, 31 as minors, and 109 as concentrators in Literature for the HASS requirement. In addition, 11 students enrolled as majors in the Film and Media Studies major departure. Planning continues toward graduate studies in this area, and this year a new undergraduate HASS-D subject, 21L015 Introduction to Media Studies, was offered for the first time. This subject, co-taught by Professor Jenkins and Assistant Professor Martin Roberts (Foreign Languages and Literatures), draws on guest lecturers from Literature, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Writing, Architecture, Music and other disciplines and covers all media from manuscript and early printed books to electronic technologies of communication, emphasizing the historical and comparative dimensions of the digital revolution.


Professor Peter Donaldson continues to work on research projects involving archival and educational applications of computer technology to the study of Shakespearean texts and performance,funded by the NEH and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The pilot version of the Shakespeare Electronic Archive was tested at the Folger Shakespeare Library in March, 1997. Professor Alvin Kibel is conducting research on literature and ethics, including environmental ethics, and on fin de siecle responses to technology. Professor Thorburn is continuing research on prime time television narrative of the 70s and 80s. Professor Ruth Perry is completing her book on the family in eighteenth century English literature and published several essays on the institutional history of Women's Studies as well as reviews in Eighteenth Century Fiction, Modern Language Quarterly, and The Boston Globe. Professor John Hildebidle published seven new poems, completed a book of poems entitled Defining Absence and continues research on the Irish literary group known as Field Day. Professor Stephen Tapscott published his monumental anthology of twentieth-century Latin American poetry this year, as well as a volume of poems, From the Book of Changes. Individual poems by Professor Tapscott were published in the Atlantic Monthly and reprinted in the Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry, The Norton Book of Love Poems and elsewhere. He is also translating the poetry of the recent Nobel Laureate Wislowa Szymborska, and selections from his translations of Neruda sonnets were published in Poems by Pablo Neruda from the Film 'Il Postino' with a compact disc with the poems read by Sting and Julia Roberts. Professor Jenkins published essays on Buster Keaton, teaching media studies and children's culture in the 1950s, and continues work on a book-length study of childhood in post-War American literature, film and media. Work continues under NEH funding for his CD-ROM film textbook, The Virtual Screening Room, and on four anthologies -- on popular culture, cultural studies, children's culture and video and electronic games. Associate Professor Mary Fuller published a study of Derek Walcott's poetry in Connotations and is working on a second book on the literature of English travel and exploration in the sixteenth century. Professor Buzard published an article on Henry James in a special issue of LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory devoted to travel literature, and continues work on his second book, a study of the "autoethnographic" impulse in nineteenth century British fiction. Associate Professor Diana Henderson completed six articles accepted for publication, including work on Shakespeare on film, Renaissance lyric, theater and domestic culture, Virginia Woolf and teaching the Renaissance lyric. Assistant Professor Shankar Raman is completing Looking East: India in the Renaissance and published an article on Christopher Marlowe in Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift.


Professor Fuller gave the address at the 150th Anniversary Celebration of the Hakluyt Society, held at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, and Professor Tapscott gave the keynote address at the Eastern European Conference on British and American Studies in Romania. Professor Jenkins gave the plenary address on "The Future of Media Studies" at the annual meeting of the Society for Cinema Studies. Members of the faculty have also presented their work at meetings of the American Historical Associtation, the Shakespeare Association of America, Society for Cinema Studies, The Modern Language Association, Console-ing Passions: Feminism and Television Conference, Society for Animation Studies, The International Association for Irish Literature, the American Conference on Irish Studies, Society for the Study of Narrative Literature, the Northeast Victorian Society of America, American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Society, and the Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies. Literature faculty have also delivered public lectures and presentations at Wilfrid Laurier University (Ontario), University of Utrecht (Netherlands), University of Aberystwyth (Wales), University of Denmark at Odense, City University of New York, Harvard University, Arizona State University, Pennsylvania State University, Royal Holloway Collge (London), University of Virginia, Hastings College, Nebraska and Rhode Island College.


Professor Perry serves as Head of the MIT Women's Studies Program as well as Chair of the Radcliffe Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies, and was elected second vice-president of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. Professor Jenkins serves as Director of Film and Media Studies at MIT. Professor Thorburn is Chair of the MIT Communications Forum. This year, Professors Thorburn and Jenkins were awarded a $450,000 grant from the John and Mary Markle Foundation for a two-year series of conferences and symposia on the topic Media in Transition. Professor Tapscott was appointed artist in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Professor Buzard was elected Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study for 1997-8 (declined) and Fellow of the National Humanities Institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C. for the same period. Professor Henderson received the Jeptha H. and Emily V. Wade Award and the Old Dominion Fellowship for Fall, 1997. Professor Raman was appointed Research Fellow at the University of Konstanz for 1997-98, and also received an Old Dominion Fellowship.


Professors Irene Tayler and Travis Merritt retired this year, and Christina Klein was appointed to an initial three year position as Assistant Professor to begin July, 1997. Professor Jenkins was promoted to Professor and Associate Professor Mary Fuller was promoted to tenure, both promotions effective July 1, 1997.


This year's search resulted in the addition of Christina Klein as Assistant Professor of Literature to begin July 1, 1997. With the retirement of Professor Tayler, the number of women at faculty rank remains at four. With the promotion of Professor Fuller to tenure, the number of tenured women remains at two. The faculty now includes one Asian scholar, and it is expected that ongoing searches and vigorous recruiting efforts will result in the adppointment of an additional woman and a minority scholar over the next two years.

Peter S. Donaldson

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97