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

Essays | Podcasts | Video | Poems | Fiction

Spring 2021


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

face mask

Session 1
Week of March 12

The Personal (Pandemic) Essay

Convenor(s): Cindy Zhang & Michelle Kurilla

The past year has seen the rise of a new sub-genre: the personal pandemic essay.  What are the possibilities and limitations of this "quick response" art, to borrow a phrase from The Atlantic? We will check out a selection of some of the best online pandemic meditations (read as many or as few as you wish) and think together about how they can help us collate and process the myriad, global dimensions of this crisis.

The Vox, "Twelve Moving Essays about Life During the Pandemic" (Links to an external site.)
The Nib, In/Vulnerable: Inequity in the Time of the Pandemic

Ottessa Moshfegh

Session 02
Week of April 2nd

Revenge Feminism

Convenor: Madi Fabber

The post-MeToo landscape has given rise to shows and stories created by women that explore the aftermath of sexual assault.  At times borrowing from the conventions of the detective story or thriller, these works depict women protagonists who take the quest for justice and vengeance into their own hands. We will consider the social significance of this new "revenge feminism" and consider how it updates pre-existing narratives of trauma, punishment, healing, and recovery. 

Warning: these shows concern sexual assault and its aftermath
Watch Emerald Fennell’s A Promising Young Woman 
Ottessa Moshfegh, excerpt from Eileen

Optional Additional Viewing/Reading:
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Killing Eve
Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You
Sophie Gilbert, (review) "Promising Young Woman Sets a Ravishing Trap." The Atlantic.