Greetings! As the new Head of Comparative Media Studies/Writing, I welcome you to this issue of In Medias Res.
Professor James Paradis stepped down this past September after many years of service that culminated in the merger of Comparative Media Studies and Writing & Humanistic Studies. After I spent most of the fall as Interim Head, Deborah Fitzgerald — Dean of our School of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences — named me as Head on December 18, 2013. Professor Paradis is a hard act to follow, but I will do my best.
This issue of In Medias Res features the role of the arts in CMS/W. Anyone spending time on the MIT campus will soon realize that in addition to being the world’s finest science and engineering school, MIT has a vibrant arts scene. By the time you finish reading this issue, you will have a good overview of the ways in which CMS/W participates and contributes to the arts.
Professor William Uricchio begins our journey with his account of Comparative Media Studies and the arts.
Whitney Trettien is now a Ph.D. candidate in English at Duke University, and is an alumna of Comparative Media Studies (SM, 2009). Here she completed a thesis titled “Computers, Cut-ups and Combinatory Volvelles: An Archaeology of Text Generating Mechanisms.” She is interviewed in “People of the Book” by Gretchen E. Henderson, who recently completed a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship here at MIT.
Next up is an exciting excerpt from Professor Joe Haldeman’s newest novel, Work Done for Hire. Though this book will be far from his last, it will be the last published as an MIT professor as Joe has decided to retire after spending the past thirty years teaching and writing in the department. Save the date! A retirement bash for Professor Haldeman will take place on September 12, 2014.
Associate Professor Fox Harrell’s work in his Imagination, Computation, and Expression Lab is a brilliant example of how work being done in CMS/W contributes to the arts, a fact recognized last year when his work was included in CTheory’s “Artforum Top 10.” This accomplishment and special events are regularly featured on the CMS/W website, so if you find the articles in this issue of In Medias Res intriguing, be sure to follow us online (CMS/W events can be followed on Twitter or Facebook, as well).
Another exciting example of an ongoing project in the arts is the MIT Open Documentary Lab’s “docubase” project, which gathers together a fascinating collection of interactive, collaborative, location-based, and community-created projects.
Later this spring, CMS/W will feature a visit from Professor Jonathan Sterne of McGill University. Professor Sterne writes about sound and music, communication technologies old and new, contemporary cultural studies, and a range of other matters. He has two books: MP3: The Meaning of a Format considers the mp3 as an historical, cultural and political phenomenon. The Sound Studies Reader collects and comments upon classic work on sound in the human sciences.
Also featured in this issue of In Medias Res is an overview of Professor Rosalind William’s fascinating new book, The Triumph of Human Empire: Verne, Morris, and Stevenson at the End of the World (University of Chicago Press). Professor Williams shows that for Verne, Morris, and Stevenson, and their readers, romance fantasy was an exceptionally powerful way of grappling with the political, technical, and environmental challenges of modernity.
Rounding out this issue is an update on the important role CMS/W is playing in the development of the digital humanities. From a class jointly taught by Professor Paradis and Principal Research Associate Kurt Fendt to the development of platforms such as Annotation Studio, a new way for students and scholars to annotate texts collaboratively, MIT is leading the way to exploring the Digital Humanities.
As you can see, CMS/W contributes in important ways to the arts at MIT and beyond. We hope you enjoy this issue of In Medias Res.