Margaret Litvin ’95

After working for a couple of years as a journalist, Margaret entered the PhD program at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She finished in June 2006 with a dissertation examining the way Arab intellectuals since the 1950s have used Shakespeare’s plays, particularly Hamlet, to formulate and express their political ideas and aspirations. Her research interests include Arab political culture and political theatre, Soviet-Arab cultural influences, Shakespeare’s afterlives, and the ways in which people in two semi-Western contexts (the former Eastern bloc and the Arab world) discuss the problem of justice.

On her experience as a Humanities major: The Humanities major (along with Directed Studies) showed me how much there was to learn about life and literature, and how little of it I knew. For instance, take my fun but completely inadequate senior essay: the discrepancy between the enormous question and the tiny piece of the answer I was able to provide has been a continuing source of provocation. It has inspired me to read, think, and travel more, and to seek out a course of study and a line of work that will let me.

The Humanities major is an extremely advantageous course of study for an undergraduate, offering small seminars, enthusiastic teachers with varied interests and backgrounds, lots of primary reading material, and a continuous conversation with fellow-majors. It’s hard to find a major that manages to be coherent without teaching overly rigid habits of thought, and I think Humanities manages to negotiate that challenge.

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