Undergraduate Alumni Stories

Jonathan Mullins '04

In August 2008, Jonathan Mullins, '04, wrote -"While I work in an area studies department which concentrates on a single nation and its cultural production, my undergraduate training in comparative literature continues to inform my approach."

I guess I've taken the traditional course of a comparative literature major: going to graduate school. I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Italian Studies at NYU.  My primary interests are fascist culture and post-1968 Italian culture and philosophy.

Michael Jennings '72

Michael Jennings, '72, (wrote in August of 2008) has taught at Princeton since 1981; his teaching and research focus on European culture in the twentieth century. In addition to literature, he teaches on topics in cultural theory and the visual arts, with special emphasis on photography.

Ted Baehr '69

"Education comes of course from the Latin “to lead out of darkness” into the light of the truth, which is exactly what the original Comparative Literature Department did."
In the 1960’s, inspired by Professor Scott Craig and Professor John Rassias, I signed on for a relatively new honors major entitled Comparative Literature, with the purpose of concentrating on contemporary French, German and American poetry. Besides the opportunity of studying at Cambridge University, University of Munich and the University of Bordeaux and Toulouse in Pau, I had a wonderful opportunity at Dartmouth to study the notion of genre and to devise a three-dimensional system of genre classification that was commended by the Educational Testing Service.

Timothy Cole '73

"For me it was a life choice, not a career choice. I chose Comp Lit because it allowed me to delve into all the Big Questions; because it was explicitly multi-lingual and multi-cultural; because I could include anthropology, political philosophy, psychology, and religion courses in my program; because it was the edgiest of the humanities at the time. All those interests remain as intensely alive as they were then, though more have come along — art history, architecture, urban planning, economics."

Now there's a question. 35 years down the road, as certain as ever Comp Lit was the right major for me; yet I'm clueless how to respond in a way helpful to a 19-year-old picking a major. I feel about Comp Lit the way I feel about Dartmouth — not for everybody, but if the fit is right it is a wonderful path to choose. I sometimes regret things I did not study at Dartmouth — mostly in the sciences and social sciences — but never doubt that I'd pick Comp Lit again if I were doing it all over again.

Tish O'Connor '76

"For me, comparative literature was a direct springboard to a career that I have found intellectually stimulating."

I was torn between majoring in literature and art history, but found the faculty in English, Drama, French, and Comp Lit very engaging.  The preponderance of art books on Braziller's list allowed me to develop editorial skills and combine my two academic interests for the first time in my professional life.  In 1984, I launched my own book production business, in partnership with my now-husband, graphic designer Dana Levy. For the past quarter-century we have edited, designed and produced illustrated books. 

Tom Grey '79

"I've often had occasion to think back fondly on my variegated comp. lit. major at Dartmouth (German, music, some French and Italian, assorted poetry and drama) — which distinctly paved the route to later career developments."

I went on to a PhD program in music history at University of California Berkeley (1980-87) and have been teaching in music depts. (UCLA, Stanford) since 1988. Here at Stanford — I have been involved with various interdisciplinary humanities programs, serving on English, German, History thesis and exam committees in addition to music; and aside form the music history and theory courses I do in the dept. I have often been teaching seminars on (e.g.) music and mythology, music in German lit. and philosophy, Shakespeare and music, etc. all of which continue the music and literature thread I had started to spin back in Dartmouth days.

Carmine Iannoccone '83

"I guess all these twists and turns have made for a pretty heterogeneous career, moving across several different fields and operating from several different positions. Although that has come at the expense of a certain kind of professional advancement, the spirit of comparative study — of playing one thing off another, of learning through the search for similarities within diversity -has been the driving energy, and it found its first expression in the Comp Lit department at Dartmouth."

I took the drama part of my senior thesis very seriously, and went on to study performance at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. This led to a minor acting career in which I hopscotched from London to New York and eventually to Los Angeles where I currently reside — although I no longer act.  In retrospect, I would say that acting was a way of transitioning from the kind of critical study of art that I did as an undergrad, to the active production of art that I wanted to do as a career. Once I had made that leap, I felt emboldened to proceed to the kind of art I was really drawn to producing, which was not literary, but object-oriented.

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