Why don’t young adult fiction writers get the same respect as adult fiction authors? What’s the future for stand-up comedy? What are the ethics of reading “canceled” authors?
Every Friday, staff, faculty, enrolled students, and students on leave gather on Zoom to discuss these questions and many others in LitLab, a casual space focused on the myriad ways literature intersects with daily life. The group began meeting in September and is open to all members of the Harvard community.
English Professors Beth Blum and Leah Whittington created LitLab over the summer after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campus and put an end to their frequent, casual, in-person encounters with students and colleagues. They envisioned LitLab as a place to have those serendipitous run-ins and foster discussions on topics not normally covered in a typical English course.
“We envisioned it as a lab where you try to figure things out and think through questions about contemporary literature and culture,” said Whittington, who is also associate director of undergraduate studies for the English Department. “And as in a lab, it’s better to have other people thinking with you about the questions and ideas than to be doing it by yourself.”
Whittington and Blum convened an 11-member student advisory board, many of them English concentrators. The board came up with weekly topics and associated readings for the semester, including articles, short stories, films, and audio narratives.