A list of topics covered in the course is presented in the calendar below.

Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Work Expectations

  1. In time for Lec #3, choose a candid family photograph and write a response/interpretation/reading of the photo. For detailed instructions, please see assignments.
  2. Do a "factoid" presentation, a 10 minute explication or paraphrase or account of an assigned reading or historical moment. The topics are predetermined; during the first (or possibly second) class period, we'll draw lots to determine who gets which, and when. Depending on class population, we may do more than one factoid each, or we may re-organize the schedule a bit.
  3. For Lec #9, our address to John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath and John Ford's film of same name will be organized by four presentations, one by each team, each with a different topic. For detailed instructions, please see assignments.
  4. You're the curator: We'll be talking about choices, and about style as a principle of choice - not only in individual verbal and visual texts, but also in the sequencing of packets of information (images, sentences, phrases, photos, organizing structures within formal units). Your assignment is to find an archive and edit it. For detailed instructions, please see assignments.


In-class work (discussion responsibilities as speaker, listener, teamwork, adjudicator) 20%
Curatorial project 30%
Team projects 40%
Family photo project 10%

MIT Literature Statement on Plagiarism

Plagiarism - the use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the professor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information received from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings from someone else's work must be i dentified with proper footnotes. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available on the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.



1 Introductions, syllabi

Daguerreotypes/Walt Whitman
  No class, but reading assigned  
2 The Civil War, photography, witness and motion  
3 Poems by Robert Browning, Wilifred Owen, and Ezra Pound Family photo project due
  No class, but excursion assigned  
4 Film: Manahatta  
5 William Carlos Williams poems  
6 Charlie Chaplin

Film: Modern Times
7 Films: The River, The Plough that Broke the Plains  
8 "The Migrant Mother"  
9 The Grapes of Wrath

Team Presentations
Curatorial project proposal due
10 Hilda Doolittle's Trilogy  
11 Student presentations of curatorial projects Curatorial project write-up due seven days after Lec #11