While the five departments in the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages serve common interests in literary and cultural traditions and their languages, the DLCL's focal groups bring together faculty members and graduate students who share topics and approaches that range across languages and national literatures. These groups are designed to respond directly to the research interests of the faculty as a community, and reflect long-term commitments by the participants. They are conceived as portals that open from the Division outward to the wider community of literary and humanities scholars at Stanford. The membership may include any member of the Stanford faculty or any Ph.D. student with an interest in the topic. Most Focal Groups include participants from several humanities departments outside the DLCL.
Thus the DLCL is characterized by two axes of intellectual inquiry:
- the departmental axis, which is organized by language, nation, and culture
- the focal axis, which may be organized by genre, period, methodology, or other criteria.
The convergence of the two axes, departments and focal groups, locates faculty members and graduate students in at least two intersecting communities. The DLCL believes that this convergence gives institutional form to the intellectual conditions under which many scholars of literature and culture presently work.
Each focal group maintains a standing research workshop at which both faculty and graduate student members discuss their work. Some focal groups offer formal courses; and all groups are responsible for overseeing research-oriented activities and extracurricular events in the relevant area, including sponsoring conferences, publications, podcasts, and other activities that disseminate the outcomes of their research.