MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


For the Literature Faculty, 1998—99 was an exciting year. Members of the faculty were appointed to a number of prestigious fellowships and professorships, including a Fulbright Distinguished Professorship (Professor Stephen Tapscott) and the Ann Fetter Friedlaender Chair in Humanities (Professor Henry Jenkins). It was announced that Assistant Professor Shankar Raman will hold the Class of 1957 Career Development Chair next year. Professor Raman was also promoted to Associate Professor, and Associate Professor Diana Henderson was awarded tenure. A new headquarters suite was renovated for Literature, occupying the former Faculty Reading Room and several adjacent offices. A new master's degree program in Comparative Media Studies, administratively housed in Literature, was launched in cooperation with the Foreign Languages and Literatures Section and the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies.

During the past year, 972 students enrolled in Literature subjects, 17 were registered as Literature majors, 20 as minors, and 178 as concentrators in Literature. In addition, three students enrolled in the Film and Media Studies major departure. The Comparative Media Studies graduate program, offering an S.M. degree, has accepted its first class of five students to enter in the Fall of 1999. Lecturer Wyn Kelley developed a new course, Writing about Literature (21L010), an innovative writing intensive approach to beginning literary studies. A number of imaginative revisions of existing subjects and special seminar topics were offered, including Asian American Literature (21L504) and America in the 1950s (21L430), both taught by Assistant Professor Christina Klein; The Brontes (21L705), taught by Associate Professor James Buzard; American Women Poets (21L512) taught by Professor John Hildebidle; Melodrama and Sentimentality (21L707, Fall) taught by Lecturer Kelley; and Re-membering Frankenstein (21L707, Spring), taught by Professor Tapscott, in which versions of the Mary Shelley novel including the 1931 and 1994 films and Patchwork Girl, a hypertext derivative of Frankenstein, were studied in relation to shifts in contemporary representations of the body.

Professor Peter Donaldson published the first multimedia essay in Shakespeare studies, "Digital Archives and Sibylline Sentences: The Tempest and the ‘End of Books'" in the online journal Postmodern Culture, and is working on a book on Shakespeare in the age of global electronic communications. Professor Jenkins published From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, co-edited with Justine Cassell, The Children's Culture Reader (NYU Press), as well as articles in Continuum and On a Silver Platter: Critical approaches to CD-Roms. Professor Ruth Perry published articles in The Eighteenth Century and in collected volumes on feminist approaches to Descartes, eighteenth century literary history, and representations of criminality in early modern England. She is completing her study of the family in the eighteenth century novel. Professor Alvin Kibel published an essay in ICON: The Journal of the International Committee of the History of Technology. Professor Tapscott published essays in the William Carlos Williams Encyclopedia and in British and American Studies. New editions of his translations of Pablo Neruda's One Hundred Love Sonnets and of his anthology of Latin American literature have been published this year. Professor Hildebidle published essays, poems and reviews in The Harvard Review, Poetry Ireland and elsewhere, and he completed a volume of poems, Defining Absence. Professor David Thorburn published an essay in The American Prospect and has begun work on a book on major novelists of the modern tradition. Associate Professor Mary Fuller published articles in Terrae Incognitae and in Decentering the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspectives , and she continues work on her book Geographies and Subjectivities. Professor Buzard is completing his book on autoethnography in the nineteenth century. He also published articles in Victorian Studies, edited a special number of that journal on Victorian Ethnographies, and contributed articles to Studies in Travel Writing, Dickens, Europe and New Worlds, and A Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture. Professor Henderson 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 completed his book Framing India: The Colonial Imaginary in Early Modern Culture and is now revising it for publication by Stanford University Press. Professor Klein is revising her manuscript, Cold War Orientalism, under contract to the University of California Press. Instructor James Cain defended his Columbia dissertation on the culture of state formation in Angevin England. Lecturer Kelley published four articles and a contribution to the Cambridge Companion to Melville.

Professor 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 Shakespeare Electronic Archive has been installed at MIT, the Folger Library and the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, and a website version of the Archive, Hamlet on the Ramparts, has been launched. Professor Jenkins' NEH-funded Virtual Screening Room project is nearing completion. The Shakespeare Electronic Archive and The Virtual Screening Room are joint projects of the Literature Faculty and the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives. Professor Buzard is a contributing editor for Monuments and Dust, an electronic archive on Victorian London based at the University of Virginia and the University of London. Professor Thorburn is Editor-in-Chief of the Media in Transition website, and Professor Henderson created the performance introduction to Henry V in the Complete Arden Shakepseare on CD-ROM.

Professor Jenkins was the featured speaker at a conference honoring the 100th anniversary of the University of Wisconsin, and he addressed the Senate Commerce Committee on "Marketing Violence to America's Youth." He also spoke at the Society for Cinema Studies in Palm Beach, at Santa Clara University, at the San Jose Museum of Technology, at the University of Southern California, and at international conferences on narrative and on television in Sydney, Australia. Professor Donaldson addressed the International Shakespeare Association's biennial meeting in Stratford-upon-Avon. Professor Perry delivered papers and addresses at the University of London, the University of Naples, York University (UK), the University of Warwick, and at meetings of the Modern Language Association and the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. Professor Kibel spoke at the University of Ripon (UK) and the University of Teikyo in Berlin. Professor Hildebidle spoke at the International Association for the Study of Irish Literature in Limerick, Ireland, and at Suffolk University. Professor Fuller gave a plenary address at the Shakespeare Association of America in San Francisco. Professor Henderson spoke at the Modern Language Association, at the annual meeting of the Group for Early Modern Culture Studies, and at the International Conference of the Marlowe Society in Cambridge, England, which she co-chaired and organized. Professor Buzard spoke at Magee College, Derry, Northern Ireland, at the Dickens Project in Santa Cruz, and was keynote speaker for a conference on Walter Scott at the University of Oregon. Professor Raman presented papers at MLA, Harvard University and at the Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies meeting. Instructor Cain presented a paper at the Queer Middle Ages Conference, which he helped to organize at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Professor Jenkins was appointed Ann Fetter Friedlaender Professor of Humanities at MIT for a five-year term, succeeding Professor Donaldson, the first holder of the Friedlaender Chair. Professor Tapscott was appointed Fulbright Distinguished Professor in American Studies at the University of Lodz, Poland. Professor Perry was appointed Fellow at the Bellagio Research Center. Professor Raman was appointed for Academic Year 2000 to the Class of 1957 Career Development Professorship at MIT, and he was reappointed Research Scholar in the Fachgruppe Literaturwissenschaft at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Professor Klein was awarded an Old Dominion Fellowship and a Fellowship at the Charles Warren Center for American Studies at Harvard University. The Association for Theatre in Higher Education Prize for 1998 was awarded to A New History of Early English Drama, which includes "Theatre and Domestic Culture" by Professor Henderson.

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, funded by the John and Mary Markle Foundation. The Media in Transition project has sponsored thirty-five events in its two-year history, including four major conferences, and it has underwritten talks by more than one hundred professors, journalists, corporate figures, policy makers and writers. Professor Donaldson is Chair of the Executive Committee of the Shakespeare Division of MLA, and 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. Professor Kibel serves as Seminar Director at the Aspen Institute in Aspen Colorado.

James Cain joined the faculty this year as Instructor of Literature and was promoted to Assistant Professor beginning in July, 1999. Shankar Raman was promoted to Associate Professor, and Diana Henderson was promoted to tenure, both appointments effective July, 1999. J. Christopher Pomiecko was appointed Program Administrator for the Comparative Media Studies Program and Julie Saunders joined the Literature Faculty as Senior Staff Assistant.

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

Peter S. Donaldson

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99