I was introduced to the Essais of Michel de Montaigne, the sixteenth-century French pioneer of the personal essay, during the Comparative and European Literatures MPhil course at Cambridge. As an undergraduate at Brown University, I had double concentrated in Comparative Literature and Art History, and found productive intersections between the two fields of study. I therefore was drawn to the simultaneously interdisciplinary and coherent nature of Montaigne’s oeuvre. He explores a diverse range of topics, including but not limited to bodily functions, education, sexuality, religion, the classics and friendship. Nevertheless, the Essais are unified by their author’s tendency to reserve judgment and question assumptions, and by his preoccupation with the vehicle he employs to convey his ideas: words, and the palpable yet contingent force they exercise over the physical and social world. In my PhD, I plan to explore this theme in Montaigne, and its implications for diplomacy and justice. I have spent the last two years teaching high school history, and hope that underscoring the stakes of communication through instruction in the humanities will foster more civil discourse on a local and global scale. I am thrilled to join the 2018 Gates cohort.
University of Cambridge