Undergraduate Alumni News

If you graduated from our department, please email any news or updates to Olga Solovieva, the current Director of Undergraduate Studies, at soloveiva@uchicago.edu

Alexander Aciman, BA 2012

After graduation, I worked at a small online publication called Tablet, where I still write, and where I was able to really learn how to conduct a meaningful interview and produce a strong profile piece. In 2013, I started working as a reporter for Time Magazine, and in July 2014 decided to leave Time in order to dedicate time to my own writing. I wrote a weekly series for the Paris Review on Dante, and wrote op-eds for The Wall Street Journal and The New Republic. In 2015, I have been doing freelance writing and editorial work for a few publications, one of which is a smaller magazine called Creator. Over the next 4-8 months I hope to finish editing two different manuscripts I completed from 2013-2014.

The manner in which one completes a Comp Lit major taught me how to manage multiple deadlines, and juggle assignments over a broad range of topics. Taking classes spread across several completely different areas has made me a productive writer under pressure because it taught me to switch gears rapidly. It taught me to become comfortable in new fields very quickly. More importantly, the works I read helped me become a more elegant writer.  Because so much of Comp Lit focuses on the language itself, and because the subject of my BA was on literary style, I was able to learn what makes a good sentence on a mechanical level. Comp Lit let me look under the linguistic hood without ever meaning to. A BA in English alone  would not have given me this education. Because my Comp Lit major allowed me to study philosophy, film, two different languages, criticism, theory, and literature, I learned a great deal more than I might have in another department. Comp Lit, for those who approach it this way, creates a core curriculum in Art, Literature, and the Humanities while still allowing students to focus intensely on their area of interest. Ultimately, I think Comp Lit made my education very rich, and even on a practical level allows me to think critically in my writing.

Erin Ferguson, BA 2014

I have just finished the first year of a two year MA program in Classics at the University of Georgia.  It is a fully funded program with a teaching assistantship; this past year I led discussion sections once a week for a Greek Culture class and an Introduction to Myth class, and next year I will be teaching my own section of Elementary Latin.  This summer I was selected as the TA for UGA's summer study abroad in Rome program.

Anastasia Klimchynskaya, BA 2013

I'm currently a graduate student in a PhD program in the department of Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, with a 5-year Benjamin Franklin fellowship that permits me to focus entirely on my studies. My plans are to remain in academia: to achieve my degree in Comparative Literature and to find a tenure-track position in a literary field.

As to my other accomplishments, I have so far been published in The Baker Street Journal, a literary journal devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes, and also won an award (the Morley Montgomery Award) for the best article in the journal that year (2013), and was a panelist at the 2014 Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference. Those are the highlights of my accomplishments - I also have an academia.edu page, which lists my more minor accomplishments as well (including a number of reviews and articles written for internet magazine on topics relating to entertainment and the media).

Priscilla Layne, BA 2003

After completing my BA in Comparative Literature, where I concentrated on German and English literature, I spent three years in Germany.  As an exchange student in 2001-2, I studied at the Freie Universität and Humboldt Universität in Berlin. From 2003 until 2004, I spent one year as a Fulbright TA teaching English at the Werner-von-Siemens Gymnasium in Zehlendorf. Afterwards I received a scholarship from the Study Foundation of the Berlin Parliament which allowed me to conduct a qualitative analysis of the leftist skinhead scene in Berlin/Brandenburg. During my three years in Germany, I also gained some professional experience during two internships: one with the Ebersbach publication house in Berlin and one working as a translator with the Deutsche Welle in Bonn. In 2005, I continued my studies at the University of California at Berkeley where I received my MA in 2006 and my PhD in 2011. In fall 2011, I joined the faculty of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kate McIntyre, BA 2011

Current occupation: Graduate student (in my 2nd year) in English at Columbia University, and coeditor of the micro-press Projective Industries.

Recent achievements: I've finished the first year of the PhD program at Columbia, which means I officially have an MA. Last year I presented at the ACLA (at the seminar on Critical Divestment) and, in non-academic news, went to Tokyo.

Future plans: Finish graduate school, go on the academic job market—and then we’ll see. Though I’m now Americanist in an English department, rather than in Comparative Literature, I had good reasons for choosing Comparative Literature rather than English as an undergraduate. Studying CompLit allowed me room to combine interests that didn’t fit within the rubric of a traditional English program. At the U of C, I majored in both CompLit and Philosophy, and CompLit allowed me to bring my theoretical or philosophical interests to bear on my literary pursuits in a way that an undergraduate degree in English would not have left room for.  Where majoring in English would have provided me with an externally imposed framework, CompLit required me to do the work of drawing my own, thinking carefully about how works are connected rather than presuming connection based on historical and geographical proximity. Working in CompLit required and encouraged me to be creative, rigorous, and self-directed—all qualities that make for better thinking, and hence better scholarship. The ways of thinking that I developed while studying CompLit as an undergraduate continue to serve me in my graduate work in English—where my work still involves tracing transhistorical and transnational connections. I would also like to say that the guidance I received from the department while writing my BA thesis—above all from my preceptor Joel Calahan and my advisor Lauren Silvers, to whose editorial eyes my writing is indelibly indebted—was invaluable and personally attentive to a degree that would have been impossible in a larger department, and I am continually grateful for it.

Thomas Prendergast, BA 2014

Current Position: Ph.D. Student in Modern European Intellectual History at Duke University, J.B. Duke Fellow and Perilman Fellow in Judaic Studies

I was a double major in Comparative Literature and History, and wrote a single B.A. thesis to satisfy the requirements of both programs. The comparative literature department welcomed and actively encouraged my – at first only roughly sketched out – plan to work across these disciplinary boundaries, and I am very glad they did. The study of literature provides, l came to learn, a necessary complement to the study of history; while the former trains individuals to detect commonalities, to understand thoughts and actions in their general characteristics, the latter encourages a critical attentiveness to specificity and contingency. Being able to toggle between and synthesize these two perspectives – seeing things in both their particular and their more general aspects -- provides the basis not only for rigorous humanistic scholarship, but also for critical analysis in its most general sense. Without a firm understanding of the disciplinary mission of comparative literature, and a grounding in its methods, I know I would not have found the level of success in historical studies that I did, or taken the same degree of personal pleasure in it. As the distance between my current work and my undergraduate years grows, and I inch closer to writing my dissertation, I only become more convinced of the value of those habits of mind which comparative literature ingrained in me.

Sophie Riemenschneider, BA 2013

I am currently finishing my second year with Teach For America. I currently serve as a special education teacher on the South Side of Chicago, where I teach high school English and Social Studies. 

My most recent achievement is founding a Model UN team at the high school I teach at. When I started the team last year, the students had very little academic or global exposure; this year, the team is now entirely student-run, an achievement I am very proud of having facilitated. In addition to attending MUNUC the last two years, my students recently reached out to MUNUC this and organized their own one-day conference at our school. 

This fall I will be returning home to New York to begin my English Ph.D. studies at City University of New York. I will be focusing on Literature of 9/11, and intend to incorporate diverse mediums into my work, including comics, film, and memorials. 

Studying Comparative Literature has influenced me in a number of ways. The ability to work with so many different mediums and languages has been tremendously helpful as a special education teacher, where I often have to translate material into mediums that are more accessible for my students. Comparative Literature also shaped my intended graduate studies; my interest in incorporating different forms of literature into my scholarly work springs from the Comparative Literature work I did while at the University of Chicago.

Kristina Rogahn, BA 2012

Current occupation: I'm in my second year in the PhD program in South and Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley.  I received a FLAS Fellowship the summer of 2014 to study Telugu in Hyderabad.

For an undergraduate student interested in non-Western literature and literary traditions at the University of Chicago, area studies and comparative literature are both viable disciplinary options.  But the courses I took in the Comparative Literature department, and the conversations I had with its faculty members (2009-2012), were the ones that really gave me the critical and theoretical apparatus necessary to produce a BA paper I could take pride in.  Comparison seems to me the most fruitful method for young students of literature, who should be reading widely and making bold connections across new worlds of experience. 

Shiv Subramaniam, BA 2011

I'm currently working on my PhD in Sanskrit poetry at Columbia. I'm placed primarily in an area studies department, but my course of study has also been guided by a separate body here called ICLS (Institute of Comparative Literature and Society). The Institute has let me continue pursuing my comparative interests and given me the chance to work with some exceptional professors. As I'm closing in on a dissertation topic it's becoming increasingly clear to me that my project is in many ways an extension of the thoughts I was just beginning to have while writing my BA thesis. I am glad to have met professors at Chicago who were helpful and so encouraging no matter how undeveloped my ideas may have seemed to them.

Alejandra Vasquez, BA 2014

I stayed in Chicago for a few months following graduation to continue working my two student jobs; research assistant for the Political Science department (I helped Professor Tianna Paschel with research in Spanish and Portuguese for her upcoming book on race relations in Columbia and Brazil) and editorial assistant at the University of Chicago Press for their reprint program and new Spanish translation initiative (mostly fiction in translation from Spanish to English) LOLAC - Literature of Latin America and the Caribbean. 

I returned home to Los Angeles, California in August to job search. At the end of November I accepted a publishing assistant position at No Starch Press in San Francisco. Since early December I have been working at the press. 

Recent achievements: Successfully finding employment in publishing, a sector that I am dedicated to and committed to learning more about. Surviving my first month as a full time employee in a new city. Despite the fact that I felt very frustrated during the months I was job searching I truly appreciated having time to read for pleasure and reflect for the first time since leaving University of Chicago.

During the interview process I found that many employers were very curious about my Comparative Literature major and found it to be aspect of my degree program that made the most sense (oftentimes they seemed confused when I told them I was a Romance Languages major, and then asked me why I wasn't continuing in academia or if I planned to). When I explained to them my development from a Spanish major to Romance languages major (Spanish and Portuguese) to Double major Romance languages and Comp Lit., it seemed to make more sense to them. 

Future plans: Potentially continue working in publishing. Although I enjoy my current position, the majority of the books we publish are on programming, hacking, coding and robotics (subject areas that are foreign to me). Because of my love of languages and prior experience with the Spanish translation initiative I would like to be able to continue using my language skills in my work.