PRESENT (FALL 2014)
Questions of Theory
The seminar is built around a sequence of fundamental questions regarding the literary disciplines, their history and epistemology. Discussions are instigated by readings in philology, stylistics, the history of ideas, semiotics, structuralism, psychoanalysis, post-structuralism, film theory, genetic criticism, literary sociology, cultural studies, and digital humanities.
The Cosmos of the ComedyAesthetic and Interpretive Understanding (Gen. Ed.) 51 :: Wed 1-3 pm
“The Cosmos of the Comedy” provides an in-depth introduction to Dante Alighieri’s 14th century masterpiece, the Comedy, as a point of entry to the history of Western poetics, philosophy, natural science and cosmology. The course combines attention to Dante’s dialogue with classical antiquity in these and other fields with exercises in critical writing and in multimedia translation and adaptation aimed at prompting critical reflection on the ways in which present cultural practices are built upon the practices of the past. The core of the course consists in intensive study of Dante’s encyclopedic poem in relation to the culture and history of Medieval Europe. Major topics to be covered include: concepts of modernity and antiquity in the Middle Ages; shifting notions of Latin and vernacular authorship during the 13th and 14th centuries; vernacular poetics and the medieval genre system; high medieval manuscript culture and/in the Comedy; gender and genre in Dante and the 12th-14th century lyric; medieval and ancient theories of history; allusion; Dante, Aristotle and the natural sciences; classical and medieval language theory; Virgil and Ovid in the Middle Ages; Dante’s concepts of universal monarchy and the illustrious vernacular; myth and theology in Dante’s Christian poetics; the reception history of Dante’s work, 14th century to present.
PAST (SPRING 2013)
HOMELESS PAINTINGS OF THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE — A curatorial experiment
with the metaLAB team
Humanities Studio 2
Amidst the archives that Bernard Berenson bequeathed to Harvard is a collection of 16,000 photographs of Renaissance paintings classified as “homeless”: works documented by photographs whose location is unknown. The studio will explore the curatorial possibilities of this corpus and develop an “animated archive” using the web-based Curarium platform. It will identify, describe, and interpret objects in the collection; reconstruct the stories of lost or destroyed works; and investigate the historical and cultural dimensions of lost art, including the role of dealers, market forces, and desire; the ephemeral nature of art; and the photographic documentation of treasured objects.
COLD STORAGE — An interactive documentary project
with the metaLAB team
Humanities Studio 1 :: cross-listed as GSD 09134
Libraries are not mere repositories, but sites breeding strange hybrids of knowledge, people, and material things. Building on the strength of two years of work in the Library Test Kitchen, this studio will research and produce an experimental documentary exploring library hybrids, with special focus on the Harvard Depository, where nine million of the documents that make up the university’s collections are stored. Students will explore the cultural and technical dimensions of libraries, depositories, and storage facilities; produce ethnography, oral history, and other writing; practice video production and editing; and engage in website design and development. Students with interest in the history of libraries or with media production or technical skills are particularly welcome.
Library Test Kitchen III — Library Machines
with Jeff Goldenson, Ann Whiteside, Jessica Yurkofsky
Graduate School of Design (advanced seminar) 9125
The Library represents one of the most exciting institutional design opportunities out there. Library Test Kitchen is a semester long immersion in this storied institution. New directions ahead will be explored through class discussion, exposure to the larger library landscape, and rapid prototyping. Students with relevant thesis topics or outside interests are encouraged to use the seminar as a workshop to further develop and iterate on their current thinking. Our goal is to show the library world— not tell it— new futures with the projects we build. Library Test Kitchen (LTK) is about making real things the world sees. In the Fall of 2012, LTK created LABRARY, a Pop-Up Library in the center of Harvard Square. It was an exciting public project, a truly collaborative endeavor which earned our seminar the ear and curious eye of the national library community. (For more past projects and press see www.librarytestkitchen.org.) Library Test Kitchen III will refocus our attention on developing individual projects that we’ll call Library Machines.
ARCHIVE (some past courses 2010-2013)
Fragments of a Material History of Literature
with Matthew Battles (metaLAB [at] Harvard)
RLL/Comp Lit 220
The seminar provides a series of occasions for critical reflection on and expressive response to the complex interplay between cultural constructs and the media within which they are formalized. It is intended as a stimulus to research into the material foundations of institutions of literary study and to sustained reflection on the blind side of contemporary theorizations concerning textuality, writing, and media. It engages such topics as:
The seminar’s core hands-on exercises are integrated into metaLAB’s Teaching with Things project.
Digital Power, Digital Interpretation, Digital Making
with Peter Galison (History of Science), Martha Minow (Harvard Law School) and Jonathan Zittrain (SEAS, Harvard Law School)
History of Science 297
Harvard is beginning a new initiative to explore intersections between digital power, digital making and digital interpretation. This is a working seminar designed to examine questions within those domains through a cluster of projects designed to merge theoretical and critical inquiry with making. For example: What is the health of the Internet and how could we construct ways to measure it? To what degree ought our online and offline lives to converge or to diverge? What is the nature of public space in the age of ubiquitous communications networks and the world wide web? How are notions of political participation, privacy, and social norms being reshaped by the digital revolution? How should we reimagine institutions such as libraries, archives, schools and universities for the digital age? How can digital filmmaking connect with new forms of interactive design and exhibition? How are cultural, cognitive and communicative models being altered by digital media?
Library Test Kitchen
with Jeff Goldenson (Library Innovation Lab) and Ann Whiteside (Loeb Design Library)
Graduate School of Design 9125 (advanced seminar)
Bridging the analog and the digital worlds, the offline and the online, libraries and learning spaces represent one of the most exciting opportunities for design and redesign on the contemporary scene. Library Test Kitchen is a fast prototyping lab for the modeling smart spaces: spaces of learning, thinking, serious play, contemplation of and interaction with knowledge. It provides students the unique opportunity to develop and fully realize their design ideas on a 1:1 scale within the setting of one of the world’s greatest research library systems –the Harvard Libraries– and Harvard University as a whole. The Harvard Library system is in the midst of unprecedented transformation. As part of the process, the system’s own Innovation Lab has financed the Library Test Kitchen for a second year. Not just as an engine of local change, but also as a driver of innovation on a national and international stage. The course assumes the form of a studio devoted to critical and speculative thinking, hands-on problem solving, fabrication and making. In addition to the Harvard libraries, the course’s network of clients and collaborators includes major public library systems nationwide.
BIBLIOTHECA: The Library Past/Present/Future
with John Palfrey (Harvard Law School)
Graduate School of Design 3498
This seminar combines exploration of the history of the library as an institution of knowledge storage, retrieval and production with a design studio concerned with a series real-world problem sets involving library spaces on the Harvard campus as well as the future shape and functions of library spaces. Topics include: libraries in the cultural imagination, library infrastructures from registers to card catalogues to digital catalogues, the history of shelving systems and lecterns, library architectures from the Library of Alexandria to the Digital Public Library of America.
xpCrit/Digital Humanities 2.0: a metaLAB (at) Harvard seminar
RLL/Comp Lit 219
A seminar and workshop for the development of semester-long projects, the course provides an introduction to new scholarly models in the arts and humanities via readings, case studies and conversations with expert practitioners.
Boccaccio and/on Authority (Latin to Vernacular, Vernacular to Latin)
RLL Italian/Comp Lit 155
This course provides an in-depth survey of Giovanni Boccaccio’s experiments in a range of genres from epic to elegy, narrative to allegory, geography to mythography. It emphasizes the question of the relation between vernacular and Latin models of authorship and Boccaccio’s engagement with both ancient and contemporary sources.
BIBLIOTHECA II: The Library Test Kitchen
with Jeff Goldenson (Library Innovation Lab)
What form should the Harvard Library of the 21st century assume? Should it simply vanish into virtual desktops and merge into a timeless and placeless universal database? Should it alter its identity and become a workshop, a laboratory, an innovation incubator where emerging and future forms interact and dialogue with the relics of the past? Or should it simply merge with the university itself as a place of knowledge production and reproduction?