MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


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. The distinguished critic Richard Eder was a Writer-in-Residence in the fall, taught a class in writing about the arts and spoke in our Writers Series in October. Also in our Writers Series, nature writer Edward Hoagland spoke in February and Writer-in-Residence Stephen Alter read from his recently published memoir, All the Way to Heaven: an American Boyhood in the Himalayas, in April. Poets Robert Creeley, Lisa Jarnot, Jennifer Moxley, Connie Deanovich, Charles North, Ann Lauterbach, and Joel Sloman spoke in our Poetry@ MIT series.

In research and writing, Professor Kenneth Manning continues to increase and document his large database on black physicians in his project on "Blacks in American Medicine, 1860-1980". Professor Anita Desai is completing a new work of fiction. Professor James Paradis co-authored an electronic handbook on writing (The Mayfield Guide) and continues his work on a biography of Samuel Butler. Professor Harriet Ritvo's new book, The Platypus and the Mermaid and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination, was published by Harvard University Press in October 1997. Professor Cynthia Wolff continues work, under both a Guggenheim and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, on a biography of Willa Cather. Professor Alan Lightman is completing a new novel. Associate Professor Susanne Klingenstein has completed her new book, Enlarging America: The Cultural Work of Jewish Literary Scholars, 1930-1990, which will be published by Syracuse University Press. Assistant Professor Helen Elaine Lee's new novel, Water Marked, will be published by Scribner in June 1999. Senior Lecturer Edward Barrett continues his work on the Electronic Multimedia Online Textbook in Engineering Communication. Writer-in-Residence Christopher Sawyer-LauÁanno is completing his research for a book on contemporary Yucatan. Writer-in-Residence William Corbett's memoir, Furthering My Education, was published in the summer of 1997 and New York Literary Lights was published in the spring of 1998.

In Institute service, Professor Paradis played a significant role in developing a new Undergraduate Communication Requirement, which the Institute faculty voted to explore in its May meeting. Professor Paradis serves on the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement, the Committee on the Writing Requirement, and the Committee on the Freshman Year Program.

In curricular matters, the Program will co-sponsor, with the Foreign Language and Literatures Section and the Literature faculty, a new Master's program in Comparative Media Studies. In another major project, the Program has received a Class of '51 development grant to restructure the Writing and Communication Center and to build a web site to promote Institute-wide tutoring in writing. The Program anticipates that this expanded center will help support increased communication instruction called for in a new Communication Requirement.

Professor Klingenstein has been promoted to associate professor without tenure. Professor Youngme Moon has left the Program for a position on the faculty of the Harvard Business School. The Program continues its national search for a distinguished science journalist. A new search for an assistant professor of technical communication will begin in the fall. The headship was transferred from Professor Lightman to Professor Paradis.

We had 50 percent women on our total staff and 58 percent women in our core faculty. We have three African-Americans in our teaching staff, a lecturer, an assistant professor, and a full professor.

More information about this Program can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

James Paradis

MIT Reports to the President 1997-98