MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


1997-98 was an exciting year for the Literature Faculty. A new graduate program in Comparative Media Studies was approved by the MIT Faculty, the Media in Transition project, sponsored by the Markle Foundation, was launched, a successful search for a Medievalist was conducted. Associate Professor James Buzard was promoted to tenure and Professor Henry Jenkins was appointed Ann Fetter Friedlaender Professor of Humanities. In the summer of 1998, renovations on the fourth floor of Building 14 began which will provide an integrated suite of headquarters offices for the Head of Literature, the Administrative Officer, the Administrative Assistant and secretarial staff. Literature will now have a much needed reception space for students and faculty, and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve MIT students and faculty more effectively in the new headquarters.


During the past year, 959 students enrolled in Literature subjects, 13 were registered as Literature majors, 24 as minors, and 378 as concentrators in Literature for the HASS requirement. In addition, 8 students enrolled as majors in the Film and Media Studies major departure. Plans for a graduate program in this area, long in the making, were approved by the MIT Faculty at its May meeting. The Comparative Media Studies graduate program, offering an S.M. degree, will accept students in the Fall of 1999. Literature faculty, led by Professor Jenkins, have been instrumental in developing this new interdisciplinary program, along with faculty in FL&L, Writing and Humanistic Studies and the School of Architecture. The CMS program will extend Literature's longstanding commitment to the narrative and expressive media of the twentieth century, and will include subjects taught by Professors Jenkins, Peter Donaldson, David Thorburn, Associate Professor Diana Henderson, Assistant Professor Christina Klein and others. Literature has offered subjects in film and television as part of its own curriculum for many years, and more recently has offered subjects such as 21L708 Technologies of Humanism, in which new media are studied in conjunction with manuscript, print and theatrical forms. We welcome this extension of our work, and especially its humanistic and comparative focus. A number of Literature subjects will be offered for joint undergraduate/graduate credit as part of this initiative. A new subject, 21L010 Introduction to Textual Analysis, initially to be taught by Lecturer Wyn Kelley and jointly listed with Writing and Humanistic Studies, was approved this year. This subject will introduce students to focused textual study through in-class discussion and analysis, frequent writing and revision.


Professor Donaldson continues to work on the Shakespeare Electronic Archive which has now been installed at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The next phase will include a comprehensive collection of early Shakespeare quartos from the Huntington Library, an extensive digital film collection and a publically available web version of the Archive. The H.H. Furness Library of the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, and the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford, England, have joined MIT in plans to expand this digital resource. Professor Donaldson has also published articles in Shakespeare the Movie, ed. Lynda Boose and Richard Burt, Electronic Text, ed. Kathryn Sutherland, and the first peer reviewed online multimedia essay in Shakespeare studies, "Digital Archives and Sibylline Sentences: `The Tempest' and the End of Books" in Postmodern Culture and a hypermedia essay "Let's Be Going: A Parent Reads GeekCereal" on the Media in Transition site. 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 and has begun to publish on new media ("Web of Paradox" in American Prospect) . Professor Ruth Perry is completing her book on the family in eighteenth century English literature and has published several essays in The Women's Review of Books, Crossings and in several collections, including L'education des femmes en Europe at en Amerique du nord de la renaissance a 1848, ed. Guyon Leduc and Women in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Vivien Jones. Professor John Hildebidle published reviews in Literature and the Arts and continues to work on Irish literature and to write poems, stories and essays. Professor Stephen Tapscott's poetry has been reprinted in Love Letters: An Anthology of Desire and in The Independent, and an essay on Whitman appeared in British and American Studies. He is also translating the poetry of the recent Nobel Laureate Wislowa Szymborska and editing and translating the prose works of Gabriela Mistral. Professor Jenkins continues work on a book-length study of childhood in post-War American literature, film and media. He completed work on three anthologies: The Children's Culture Reader (NYU Press), Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (coedited with T. McPherson and J. Shattuc, Duke University Press) and From Barbie to Mortal Kombat (coedited with Justine Cassell, MIT Press) and has published more than a dozen on-line essays on science fiction on the Media in Transition website. Associate Professor Mary Fuller completed work on her second book on the literature of English travel and exploration in the sixteenth century, Geography and Subjectivity: Travels and Identities in the English Renaissance. Professor Buzard published articles in Victorian Studies, Raritan and Modernism/Modernity and continues work on his second book, a study of the "autoethnographic" impulse in nineteenth century British fiction. Professor Henderson published articles in Renaissance Quarterly, Shakespeare the Movie, ed. Lynda Boose and Richard Burt, and in The New History of Early English Drama, ed. David Kastan and John Cox. Assistant Professor Shankar Raman completed Looking East: India in the Renaissance and published an article in Renaissance Drama and "Performing Allegory" in Allegorie: Zwischen Materialitat und Bedeutung. Professor Klein has completed her book on Cold War Orientalism, and portions have been published in Japanese translation in Doshisha Amerika Kenkyu.


Professor Donaldson gave the keynote address at the second international Teaching Shakespeare Conference of the National Council of Teachers of English in Chicago and delivered a series of lecture demonstrations at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Professor Perry gave the plenary address at a conference on eighteenth century literature at the University of Oregon. Members of the faculty have also presented their work at meetings of the American Studies Association, the Harvard Center for Literary and Cultural Studies, the MLA, the Shakespeare Association of America, the Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies, the Society for the History of Discoveries, the Camden Conference on Telecommunications, Rhode Island College, Radcliffe Women's Studies Consortium, Society for Cinema Studies, International Conference of the Marlowe Society, International Congress of the History of Science, The International Association for Irish Literature, the American Conference on Irish Studies. Literature faculty have also delivered public lectures and presentations at Wesleyan University, Doshisha University (Kyoto), University of Illinois, Indiana University, Vanderbilt University, University of California, Santa Cruz, University of Tennessee, Magee College (Derry, Northern Ireland), Duke University, CUNY Graduate School, University of Michigan, Cambridge University, Stonehill College, University of Liege, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University of Massachusetts, University of Lisbon, University of Southampton (UK), University of Konstanz (Germany), and Columbia University.


Professor Perry served as Head of the MIT Women's Studies Program and Chair of the Radcliffe Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies, and is president-elect of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. Professor Jenkins serves as Director of Film and Media Studies at MIT and coordinator of the Comparative Media graduate initiative. Professor Thorburn is Chair of the MIT Communications Forum, and Director of the Media in Transition Project funded by the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation. Professor Buzard spent the year as resident Fellow of the National Humanities Institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Professor Raman holds a Research Fellowship at the University of Konstanz for 1997-98, as well as an Old Dominion Fellowship.


Janet Sahlstrom, Section Administrative Officer, resigned in 1997-98 to accept a position as Administrative Officer in Political Science, and Janice Ellertsen was appointed as her successor. Janice Ellertsen comes to us from Brain and Cognitive Sciences where she was Graduate Administrator, and she is warmly welcomed by faculty and staff. Professor Buzard was promoted to tenure beginning in July 1998. Professor Klein joined the faculty in 1997 as Assistant Professor for an initial three year term. Her interests include postcolonial literature, film, and the cultural history of the Cold War period and she is completing a book on images of Asia in American culture in the 1950s. James Cain, who completed his doctorate at Columbia, was appointed Assistant Professor of Literature for a three year appointment to begin in July, 1998. Dr. Cain is a Medievalist with strong credentials in classical languages and literatures. His dissertation deals with questions of performance and gender in the literary productions associated with Angevin kinship and court life in twelfth century England, and the role of literary and performance art in the creation of the courtly class.

Peter S. Donaldson

MIT Reports to the President 1997-98