The Media Literacy subdivision in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is dedicated to the study of evolving cultures of literacy—from manuscripts and the material history of the book to performance, film, and emerging digital cultures—that each call for singular modes of readerly or spectatorial engagement.
The subdivision connects our faculty’s research and teaching in literary and cultural studies to the fields of film and media to encompass such areas as film history and esthetics, media theory, and performance theory. The emergence of new forms of literacy attendant to the material objects and platforms through which culture is transmitted requires both a historical perspective and appropriate analytic or critical paradigms.
Many faculty and students throughout the department ask in their research how different media bring about distinct forms of reading, and how interpretive practices can be at one and the same time the stimulus for cultural change and the expression of that change.
William Egginton’s contribution to the field of media literacy has been focused on the importance for cultural and intellectual history of the rise of the great theatrical institutions in early modern Europe. His widely cited theory of theatricality posits the stage as a fundamental medium for the transmission of ideas, which contributed to structuring a way of conceiving of and inhabiting space peculiar to modernity. The theatricality theory paved the way for his more recent work on media practices from printed fiction to cinema to reality TV, spanning historical periods from the early modern period to the present time.
Eduardo González focuses on the literature and cultural politics in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States; the cinema of Spain and Latin America, film history and television culture in relation to literature. He is particularly interested in placing the work of film directors in their respective socio-historical, national, and global spheres. These include Pedro Almodóvar and Icíar Bollaín (Spain); Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu ,and Alfonso Cuarón (Mexico-USA); Lucrecia Martel (Argentina); and Fernando Pérez (Cuba). He is also interested in the music of Carlos Varela (Cuba) and its labyrinth symbiosis with the macrocosm of La Habana.
Earle Havens holds a dual PhD in history and Renaissance from Yale University, where he focused on the history of the book and the material culture of texts and allied media, from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance. His current book projects focus on 16th-century illicit printing, book smuggling, and scribal publication in the post-Tridentine Catholic underground; the history of literary forgery (with Walter Stephens); and the Renaissance album amicorum tradition. He is also the principal investigator of an international digital humanities grant project in collaboration with Lisa Jardine (University College London) and Anthony Grafton (Princeton). The four-year Mellon-funded project “Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe” will digitize, fully transcribe, and tag in machine-readable form the dense marginal manuscript annotations left in printed books by learned readers. Transcriptions and digital images will be adapted to a web-based viewer to facilitate user interface with these complex, composite textual sources, allowing for the examination of strategies and traditions of reading in the century following the Printing Revolution. For more information, see: www.bookwheel.org.
Jacques Neefs, James M. Beall Professor of literature, is a specialist in digital literacy working on several digital data and research sites, mostly on French writer such as Stendhal, Flaubert, Proust, Perec, Queneau. He has also worked with the Bibliothèque nationale de France on the impact of a new digital literacy. He is currently preparing a book on “Prose as a Modern Art, from Flaubert to Proust,” including a close study of drafts and different versions of the texts. He is editing La Tentation de saint Antoine and Bouvard et Pécuchet, for a new edition of Flaubert’s Œuvres complètes, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, with a study of Flaubert’s writing practices and manuscripts. He is also editing a collection of articles on genetic criticism and new interpretative practices of the process of literary creation.
Derek Schilling works in the fields of French literary and film studies. At Hopkins he has taught seminars on theories of cinema (“Film Theory and Critical Methods”), screen temporalities (“Time and Narrative in French Fiction Films”), and transcultural film history (“Franco-Algerian Screens”). In Eric Rohmer (Manchester UP, 2007) he explored how the acclaimed director translates André Bazin’s ontological realist legacy into a highly controlled yet luminous vision of mise en scène that privileges the human voice while respecting the integrity of the lived world. Among other projects in film and media are a trilogy of articles on French films from the early 1970s (René Vautier, Yves Boisset, and Laurent Heynemann) that were among the first to address head-on the legacy of the Algerian War of Independence, and the multi-author volume, co-edited with Philippe Met, Screening the Paris Suburbs Before the banlieue Film. This project draws on theories of spatiality, the history of urbanization and on both auteurist and genre-based approaches to film history to uncover the long history of the French suburbs on screen.
Walter Stephens, Charles S. Singleton Professor of Italian Studies, holds doctorates in Comparative Literature (Cornell University) and Philosophy (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa). He specializes in the relations among literature, philosophy, and theology in medieval and early modern literature, with a continual emphasis on the intersections of learned and popular cultures. The history of reading and interpreting the Bible, from preaching to various forms of written interpretation, is crucial to his work on witchcraft and demonology, the monstrous and wondrous, literary counterfeit and patriotic pseudo-history, and the history of the history of writing. Previous work includes Giants in Those Days (1989) and Demon Lovers (2002). His current projects include the edition of a philosopher-humanist’s dialogue advocating the persecution of witches (Gianfrancesco Pico, The Witch, 1523) and It Is Written: The Love and Lore of Writing, from Babylon to the Electronic Age.
Bernadette Wegenstein is an Austrian-born linguist and independent documentary filmmaker specializing in European media and Italian cinema. After studying general linguistics in Vienna, semiotics in Bologna with Umberto Eco, medical anthropology in Paris, and comparative literature at Stanford University, she specialized in the field of media theory and the history of the body. She is currently a research professor at Johns Hopkins, where she also founded the Center for Advanced Media Studies.
She has produced and directed the documentaries Made Over in America (55 min Icarusfilms, 2008) and See You Soon Again (co-directed with Lukas Stepanik, 65 min The Cinema Guild, 2012), which was theatrically released in Austria and aired on PBS and on Austrian and German national television in 2013. The Good Breast, a film about breast cancer and how it affects women’s bodies, will be released in 2015. She is currently working on Devoti tutti, a documentary entirely in the Sicilian and Italian languages, filmed in the spirit of the Italian New Realists, about the breast cult of Sicilian Saint Agatha of Catania (to be released in 2016).