A weekly forum for lively, informal discussions of cutting-edge topics in literature and culture

Essays | Podcasts | Video | Poems | Fiction

Fridays 12:301:30 EST, FALL 2020


Each week, we’ll dive into a current topic via one or two pieces designed to get our brain juices flowing. These may be online essays, podcasts, video clips, poems, or snippets of fiction—carefully selected to be both provocative and short, ideally no more than 20 minutes worth of attention before the session begins. The convenor or host for that week will get things going with a few observations, and then we’ll be off and running, following the thread of ideas wherever it leads. At the sessions, you’ll meet students and faculty in English and related fields and find a shared casual space to talk about the texts and issues you care about.

Anyone with a Harvard Key—whether you are currently enrolled or on leave—can join LitLab. All you need to do is logon to the LitLab Canvas page with your Harvard Key, and join the Zoom room. You are welcome to share this invitation with anyone in the Harvard community that you think might be interested. We’ll send periodic updates about the discussions and what’s on the horizon, and any spin-off groups that crop up as we go along.

BYO tea, coffee, snacks, or other nourishment and join us for some enjoyable conversation and pandemic distraction. We can’t wait to see you soon.

Upcoming Sessions

Session 8
Week of October 26

What’s Funny Now? 

Humor has often been associated with the assertion of aggression or superiority, at least since Sigmund Freud offered his theory of comedy as a manifestation of unconscious hostility in his work “Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious,” published in 1905.  But contemporary comedians  are questioning this idea of a necessary relation between violence and comedy, tension and plot, with provocative implications for our understanding of aesthetic canons and their casualties. What is the future for stand-up comedy? How does the situation of comedy today relate to the shifts taking place in other art forms such as literature?

Session 9
Week of November 2

Crossing Borders: Literature and Immigration

The remarkable ethnic diversity of the United States is the result of the many generations of immigrants who have settled here. Many people now living in America have parents or grandparents who came from other places; many have recently arrived themselves. This week, we will think about the immigrant experience by reading literature written by those who have lived it. We’ll look at immigration from two angles: the experiences of immigrants from outside North America and the particular challenges of the US/Mexico border.