Graduating Class: '99

Melanie Holm

There is a curious superstition that one is either cognitively equipped to study the humanities or the sciences. It is a superstition to which I was not immune. I came to MIT with every intention of majoring in theoretical mathematics — on the heels, however, of a very difficult decision that pitted Harvard against MIT, since I was distressed by the prospect of missing-out on the liberal arts. But as I explored philosophy, literature and history as a freshman, I realized how much I enjoyed the challenge of translating the logical skills I was developing in my science and math courses to problems presented in literary studies: questions of how language and imagery functions or problems of gender and representation, for instance. I found that alternating my time between analyzing poems and dissecting proofs ultimately made me stronger at doing both. I unconsciously became a de facto minor in Literature and in my junior year decided to add a literature major to my (then primary) major in Math.

The Literature department was extremely flexible in allowing me to take courses that interested me most deeply and many of the faculty were unusually (if not heroically) tolerant in allowing me to generate, research and pursue my own particular intellectual agendas. After leaving MIT, I ultimately decided to pursue a career in literary studies. Currently, I am working towards my PhD in English Literature at Rutgers University. My area of focus is the philosophical and literary struggle between textual and pictorial aesthetics in the British and European Enlightenment.