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Research

booksThe range of individual faculty research interests is rich and wide. Special strengths include: colonialism, postcolonialism, and the literature of travel; early modern literature and culture; and science, technology, and modernity. In addition, the close collaboration between the Literature and Comparative Media Studies programs at MIT underpins ongoing research on such topics as television history, the history of the book, and popular literary, visual and musical culture. The particular work of individual Literature faculty may be found on their personal websites (accessible through the People page).

Beyond the work of individuals, Literature at MIT supports a number of collective research initiatives that involve faculty and students from Literature as well as other associated departments at MIT. Described below are several major ongoing collective initiatives that combine research and pedagogy: The Dickens Project, Global Shakespeares at MIT, Metamedia, MIT Communications Forum, MIXIMIZE: Editing for Readers and The Kainan University (Taiwan)-MIT Exchange.

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The Dickens Project

A multi-university consortium with numerous member institutions in the US and several foreign countries.  It promotes the study and appreciation not only of the work of Charles Dickens but, more broadly, of the literature and culture of nineteenth-century Britain and other industrializing nations.  It also seeks to bring together a unique collection of communities - professors, graduate students, undergraduates, high school teachers and students, and lay readers.  Every year, this diverse community of 250-300 people comes together at the "Dickens Universe" in Santa Cruz, California, for an intense week of lectures, seminars, and conversation about all matters Dickensian, Victorian, and modern.  Professor of Literature James Buzard has represented MIT at the Dickens Universe for over a decade.  He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Dickens Project and co-director of the Dickens Universe.  For more information on the Dickens Project go to:  http://dickens.ucsc.edu/about/index.html

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Global Shakespeares at MIT

For the past two decades, the MIT Shakespeare Project has been at the forefront of efforts to use modern technologies as tools for understanding the continuing relevance of Shakespeare in the modern world. Today, the project has reached new levels of sophistication in creating what is arguably the world's most ambitious, interactive, and culturally diverse digital archive of Shakespearean materials in all media: the Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive. Through the archive and focused educational initiatives the project is playing a major leadership role internationally in moving Shakespearean scholarship and teaching toward new models that draw from the full range of global theatrical production. Working with a global network of editors and collaborators, MIT's Shakespeare Project is expanding its collections and developing authoring tools for education that can be easily used at all levels -- from advanced scholars to university and high school students and the general public.

The Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive includes a uniquely extensive collection of theatrical videos from the Arab World, Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Spain and the United Kingdom that offer fascinating glimpses of local performance traditions as well as insights into the cultural exchanges and new genres through which Shakespeare is becoming the major "global" author in the digital age. The project has brought together major scholars, artists and rights holders to create the largest and most diverse international collection of theatrical videos for Shakespeare study on the web. The MIT team and its international collaborators now form a unique and widely influential community producing resources for research and teaching that are bringing Shakespeare studies into the 21st century.

For more information, please visit the MIT Shakespeare Project website at http://shakespeareproject.mit.edu.

Please support Global Shakespeares at MIT.

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Metamedia

The Metamedia project provides students and faculty with a flexible online environment to create, annotate and share media-rich documents for the teaching and learning of core humanistic subjects. Using the open standards-based Metamedia framework, faculty members further pedagogical innovation by building subject-specific mini-archives that extend the use of multimedia materials in the classroom and enable the formation of learner communities across disciplines and distances. Drawing on Metamedia applications as they research, develop, and collaborate on multimedia essays or in-class presentations, students improve their media literacy skills and gain a better understanding of how media influences their lives and shapes their interpretations. The result is increased skill at communicating effectively in today's increasingly global world of education and business.

For more information, please visit the Metamedia website at http://metamedia.mit.edu.

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MIT Communications Forum

For more than twenty-five years the Communications Forum has played a unique role at MIT and beyond as a site for cutting-edge discussion of the cultural, political, economic and technological impact of communications, with special emphasis on emerging technologies.

Leading scholars, journalists, media producers, political figures and corporate executives have appeared at conferences and panels sponsored by the Forum.

Translating specialized or technical perspectives into a discourse accessible to non-specialists is a defining ambition of the Forum. When engineers, scientists, other academics or media practitioners address the Forum, they accept a responsibility to speak in a common language that must be understood and used by literate citizens and professionals in many fields.

The Forum's founding director was the late Ithiel de Sola Pool of the MIT Political Science Department, a pioneer in the study of communications.

The Forum is funded by contributions from members of the MIT Industrial Liaison Program, other corporations and foundation grants.

For more information, please visit the Communications Forum website at http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/.

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MIXIMIZE: Editing for Readers

In a partnership between Literature and the HyperStudio at MIT, Wyn Kelley and Kurt Fendt are developing a new pedagogical tool called MIXIMIZE: Editing for Readers. Kelley and Fendt have found that students can more actively engage in critical reading, writing, and thinking when they see themselves as editors directly responsible for making a text readable: not just producing a correct text, as copy-editors must, but providing a full apparatus of introductions, annotations, and other explanatory material that open a text up to a wide variety of users. MIXIMIZE: Editing for Readers would provide students a digital workspace in which 1) to select and annotate elements of a text (like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or Melville's Moby-Dick), with particular attention to its multimedia sources and adaptations, and 2) to use their findings for research and writing projects in humanities classrooms. Such an approach can create lively social communities, help students appreciate literary works more fully, and heighten their sophistication in using the digital-literacy skills they already possess.

By allowing students to sort and recombine the elements mixed into a literary text, MIXIMIZE: Editing for Readers can suggest new forms of understanding and meaning, for not only literary works but other cultural formations as well--photographs, laws, social networks. This project can therefore model a vision of what scholarly editing might look like in the new world of ubiquitous digital media, as readers articulate--taking apart and putting back together again--the texts of the future.

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Kainan University (Taiwan) - MIT Exchange

Inaugurated in January 2006, the MIT-Kainan Exchange program will bring as many as four special students and two visiting scholars from Kainan University, Taiwan, to MIT each year. Supervised by Prof. David Thorburn, the partnership aims to fortify and extend the multi-cultural interests of the MIT Communications Forum, and of the programs in Literature and CMS.

Thorburn, who is director of the Forum, conceived the Exchange during a visit to Taiwan in March, 2005, when he gave lectures on new media and met Michael Tang, president of Kainan University. He returned to Taiwan in August to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between MIT and the Taiwan institution.

Literature and CMS offerings will form the core of the students' curriculum, though they will also be eligible to enroll in other MIT subjects appropriate to their interests.

The collaboration will also support a bi-annual conference in Taiwan at which communications scholars from MIT and other American universities will be featured. The Communications Forum will organize these conferences.

The agreement provides for the program to continue for five years, and to be extended for another five-year term by mutual consent of both institutions.