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i ndependent THE HARVARD



11. 05. 09

I ns i de:Bei ngas ophomor e,Mar at/Sade,andt hePhi l l i es .

11.05.09 vol. xli, no. 10 The Indy thinks about concentrations.

independent The Harvard

President Patricia Florescu ‘11 Susan Zhu ‘11 Cover art by PATRICIA FLORESCU

Forum 3 Harvard's Middle Child Concentration Indecision The Meowel

Special 4-5 Sophomore Issue Welcome AAAS to Engineering 6-7 Economics to History 8-9 History and Science to Slavic 10 Social Studies to WGS

Sports 11 Phillies Phan Phorever

Arts 12 Marat / Sade

For exclusive online content, visit


Editor-in-Chief Faith Zhang ‘11 News and Forum Editor Arts Editor Sports Editor Graphics Editor

Riva Riley ‘12 Pelin Kivrak ‘11 Daniel Alfino ‘11 Sonia Coman ‘11

Associate News and Forum Editor Judy Zhang ‘13 Associate Design Editor Kyuwon Lee ‘12 Staff Writers Peter Bacon ‘11 John Beatty '11 Rachael Becker '11 Ezgi Bereketli ‘12 Andrew Coffman ‘12 Truc Doan ‘10 Levi Dudte '11 Ray Duer ‘11 Sam Jack ‘11 Hao Meng ‘11 Nick Nehamas ‘11 Jim Shirey ‘11 Diana Suen ‘11 Steven Rizoli ‘11 Weike Wang ‘11 Graphics, Photography, and Design Staff Eva Liou ‘11 Caitlin Marquis ‘10 Lidiya Petrova ‘11 Kristina Yee ‘10

As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact Presidents Patricia Florescu and Susan Zhu ( Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Faith Zhang ( Yearly mail subscriptions are available for $30, and semester-long subscriptions are available for $15. To purchase a subscription, email subscriptions@ The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., P.O. Box 382204, Cambridge, MA 02238-2204. Copyright © 2008 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved.

11.05.09 • The Harvard Independent



The Middle Child Speaks

Concentration Contemplation

Exploring sophomore year.




am, along with the rest of the numerous and talented

class of 2012, a sophomore. This is a humble distinction indeed, as I am no longer a novelty on campus, nor am I seasoned enough to be considered a veteran. Nevertheless, this is an important time in my young life, because it is the time where things should be beginning to come together. For me, then, and my peers, the title of sophomore might be significant, although it is difficult to characterize how or why. In preparation for writing this article, I asked a few of my friends what they thought of this, our collective sophomore year. The responses included the following: “Sophomore year? It blows. Just make a list of all the things that suck about sophomore year, and that can fill up your page.” “Yeah, really.” “And don’t forgot to mention the existential crisis.” What existential crisis? “Well, freshmen have all their special little events and everybody’s looking after them and making sure they’re all right, juniors know what they’re doing, and seniors don’t care. Sophomores are stuck, unloved.” So apparently, sophomores feel like neglected children, and we’re unhappy about it. As some people have pointed out, there are freshman and junior parents’ weekends, seniors have Commencement — but sophomores are left without much to go with except the unsettling command to buck up and choose our concentrations, and finally start figuring out what we’re going to do with our sharp minds and the seemingly endless time left to accomplish things in. Meanwhile, a different set of people tries to give us conflicting advice, and even our peers and the best of our friends try to sway us. Two of my best friends here on campus have subtly or overtly taken offense at my original plan, the road to medical school, and I have suddenly found myself in the most bizarre peer pressure situation that has ever existed. Whenever I mention becoming a physician or going to medical school, I am often greeted with statements like this: “You’re not going to medical school, so stop it.” If a more diplomatic friend is involved in the conversation, the statement is gentler, softer and more likely to worm its way into my head. But this can only go to show the power of our peers — especially at a school like ours, where our peers are all extraordinary. And even though I have gotten my fair share of mixed messages, I have not transformed entirely, and maybe this is the most informative personal event that occurs. Like the god Janus, sophomores can both see themselves before college and predict how things might go after, and in this way I think sophomores might have a more interesting perspective on themselves than other years. We have to know where we’re going, and we also have to know where we’ve

The Harvard Independent • 11.05.09

So many choices, so little time.


Monday, I was a Sociology concentrator. On Tuesday, I was a Psychology concentrator in the Mind, Brain, Behavior track (recently renamed the Cognitive Neuroscience track, for those of you who didn’t know that). By Wednesday, I was concentrating in Folklore & Mythology, and when Thursday rolled around, I was applying for Visual & Environmental Studies. As I celebrated Friday, I gave second thought to the English department and considered Literature. At the start of Saturday, I contemplated Philosophy and by the end of Sunday, I was skimming through Women and Gender Studies. In short, I am the epitome of Undecided. Indecision circulates through every nerve of my body whenever I sit down to think about the dreaded “C” word. I juggle thoughts about creative theses, interesting classes, and math requirements (or, in my case, hopes about the lack thereof). I weigh variables like concentration size, anecdotal opinions from seniors and juniors, and where General Education fits into the puzzle. (I am switching to Gen Ed for sure, though. Not only do the categories have catchier names, but I’ve found at least one class in each category that suits my academic tastes. Plus, you can’t go wrong with double-counting.) The countdown to choosing my concentration is on, and there are a mere two weeks separating me from my official declaration. I’ve tried to poke around the Plan of Study form twice already and gotten discouraged — not because I haven’t been able to firmly decide on a concentration, but because the boxes and columns are disorienting and confusing. I can’t quite seem to figure out how to put classes onto the tool or how to read the key at the top of the page, and I haven’t been able to sit down and feel focused enough to attempt to decipher it. I’ve spent many nights scanning through concentration pages and reading course descriptions, envisioning myself graduating from Harvard College with a degree in any one of them. I’ve had dinner talks, academic advising talks, and family talks about my future. Going around in circles, I’m dizzy from all of the possibilities and probable repercussions. If I am sure of one thing, it’s that that I want to work in the field of entertainment news as a correspondent, and that if Harvard had a Communications concentration, I would be all over it. But Harvard doesn’t have a Communications concentration. They do have the available options for Joint Study programs and Special Concentrations. But I think ast

been. On a mundane level, if we don’t know what what’ve done and what we’re going to do, we won’t be able to fill out our plan of study worksheets and our Houses will descend upon us in fury. On the other hand, we at least don’t have the pressure of applying to graduate (or medical, or law, or business) schools, or taking the tedious exams that go along with those applications. We may be the neglected children of

it may be a tad late for me to consider those two. Plus, I entered campus knowing that I would want to have a major and a minor (or, in Harvard terminology, a concentration and a secondary field). The only other sure thing about my academic plans is that I am getting a citation in Spanish. Only one more semester — and it’ll be completed. Let’s recap. I know I want to do Gen Ed. Add eight classes. I know I want to work in media. Stir in something humanities-based, with storytelling and a focus on social interaction. (Reporting is all about the ability to share a good story.) I know I am getting my citation. Mix in one more semester. I know that I cannot work the Plan of Study card tool. Add coffee for a late night filled with navigating attempts. I know that I have a wide range of interests. Dash in electives. Most importantly, I know I’m not the only sophomore who feels like this. It’s okay to be all over the board, even if it does create more frenetic energy and mind-boggling indecision into one’s head. Deciding a concentration is a serious commitment. We’re scheduling ourselves into required classes and narrowing our focus onto one primary subject. And maybe that’s what scares us the most—that we’re losing our opportunity to explore what we like when we cannot be 100% certain of what we love. We’re picking our favorite car without test-driving all of them. But, I’ve realized, through the past few nights of long discussions and harrowing internal turmoil that it really comes down to the simple question of happiness. Do I like the storytelling that’s ingrained in Folk & Myth? Or would I enjoy sitting down to sociologists like Durkheim and Weber every night? Does the thought of writing a research paper for a senior thesis bring a grin or a grimace to my lips? Which classes have I raved about to my friends back home and which assignments have I been turning around in my head days before the deadline? When we’ve sifted through the different options and the required classes, we know that we’ll be happy with the academic scene regardless. We can change our minds, explore through our electives, and remember the reason why we came here — to learn from our classmates and professors, challenge our academic views, and stimulate our intellectual growth. And no matter which concentration we choose, we’re already guaranteed this experience. Sanyee Yuan ’12 (syuan@fas) can’t wait for what the future will bring. the college playground, but at least we’re not lost freshmen or panicking upperclassman quite yet. We can rest comfortably in limbo, and while more serious matters might draw closer, we at least can be soothed by our own limbo. Riva Riley ’12 (rjriley@fas) thinks peer pressure is hilarious in the proper context.


indy special the indy's



Welcome to the inaugural sophomore issue!

t’s now the time of year when sophomores are rushing

about waving plans of study, overwhelmed by the enormity of the choice before them. Harvard offers more than forty possible concentrations covering virtually every possible interest, ranging from the enormous (Economics) to the tiny (Folklore and Mythology, Earth and Planetary Sciences). We’ve prepared a selection of opinions from people who have already made the decision you’re facing now to help you decide. This isn’t just a list of concentrations and requirements; you can already find that in the Student Handbook. Instead, these are student perspectives on everything from perks (field trips abroad, all expenses

African and African-American Studies


ike most Harvard concentrations, African and African American Studies will have you taking classes with the best professors in the field. What sets AAAS apart from so many of them is that our professors know our names. AAAS is one of the smallest departments that Harvard has, rivaling even Folklore and Mythology, with just seven sophomores in last year’s tutorial. The small nature of this concentration affords each student the ability to get to know the professors. This does not mean, however, that concentrators choose from a small selection of courses or end up taking all of their classes together. By its very nature, AAAS includes a wide variety of classes. Part anthropology, part history, part literature and part social science, there is a wide range of classes and focuses to choose from. The multidisciplinary nature of AAAS ensures that each class a concentrator takes has a healthy dosage of nonconcentrators. AAAS students choose between the African Studies track, which requires the study of one of more than 20 languages (and the department will do its best to accommodate you if your desired language of study is not on the list), and the African-American Studies track. These two realms of study are largely separate, but the department encourages a certain amount of crossover. While students are asked to consider a specific area of study, either social science or the humanities, within their chosen track, each student eventually ends up determining their own course of study. No thesis is required for AAAS, and honors may be achieved without it. AAAS does encourage (with generous funding, I’m told) alternative theses — programs in which the student designs and carries out a project in an African community. This concentration makes a great home for pre-law students, a great balance for pre-meds, and a great point of entry for students who wish to go into academia. Elizabeth Kuntz. Class of 2011


paid; courses customized to the individual) to pains (deficiencies in advising; tiresome introductory classes). Unfortunately, some concentrations failed to respond, mostly small ones — East Asian Studies, Linguistics, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Philosophy, Romance Languages and Literatures, Sanskrit and Indian Studies, and Statistics. We urge you not to hold this against them; sometimes Plato or the Great Vowel Shift is just too fascinating to leave, even for a moment. By and large, juniors and seniors seem satisfied — some of them wildly enamored — with their concentrations, even if it took a little while to settle in and

Astronomy and Astrophysics


ith the extraordinarily large number of potential concentrations at Harvard, many departments have rather low undergraduate enrollment. Astronomy and Astrophysics is one of these concentrations. Many students might be put off by a low number of concentrators — perhaps, they wonder, there’s a good reason why no undergraduates are choosing that concentration. This assumption could not be more wrong in the case of Astronomy and Astrophysics. In fact, the small size of the department is one of its great strengths. Class sizes are reasonable and professors are easily accessible. The department as a whole goes out of its way to cater to undergraduates. The concentration underwent a major overhaul just this past year; many of the requirements were changed to allow more flexibility in class choices. In addition, a number of new courses were added that cover an enormous range of topics from exoplanets to cosmology to astrophysical fluid dynamics. If you are an undergraduate who wants to actually participate in your field of interest instead of simply taking classes in it, Astrophysics is a perfect concentration for you. The Harvard Astrophysics department is part of the much larger Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Here, scientists do cutting-edge research in a wide range of topics and are very willing to help an eager undergraduate get involved. True, the vastness of the CfA can be a little bit intimidating, but the Astronomy department helps with this as well. Monthly “Astronomy Pizza Seminars” are held on the 8th floor of the Science Center to help introduce students to some of the research being done by members of the department. Who wouldn’t be enticed by free pizza and a talk about exploding stars? If you are at all interested in physical sciences, it is definitely worth looking into Astronomy and Astrophysics. No matter what you decide on for your concentration, it is at least worthwhile to take a class or two in this department. Engaging

find the perfect fit. If you have trouble deciding now, don’t worry. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: you don’t have to have it all figured out right away. Plenty of people switch concentrations in their junior year without too much trouble; others find that initial struggles give way to smoother sailing. The Hitchhiker’s Guide said it best: DON’T PANIC. Everything’s going to be fine. We wish you the best of luck. Sincerely, Patricia Florescu and Susan Zhu, Presidents Faith Zhang, Editor-in-Chief

professors and fascinating material are certainly worth investigation. Meredith MacGregor, Class of 2011

Applied Math


iven ten hours of your life, would you rather spend them doing problem sets or writing papers? (Option C, none of the above, does not exist.) For those of you who chose problem sets, Applied Math is probably where you want to be — especially if you’re more or less impartial to what type of problem set you’re working on. In this concentration, you will likely end up taking classes not only in math, but also in CS, physics, statistics, econ, and more. Fulfilling the 16 halfcourses the concentration requires (or 14, if you start with the Math 21ab series) is daunting at first glance, but you quickly realize that you would take many of these classes anyways. (It also helps that the department is flexible with course choices; you simply have to make a good case for why a certain class should fulfill a requirement.) Though each semester here is filled with problem set classes, the situation’s not as bad as it sounds; there are always other people taking these classes with you. After a while, you learn your classmates’ names, start working together, and find that of the three hours that you’ve been sitting in the dining hall late at night, two of them have been devoted to working, and one has been devoted simply to getting to know your fellow problem setters better. (Those who say math/ science concentrators are antisocial have no idea what they’re talking about!) Sure, as an Applied Math concentrator, you don’t get to take classes pass/fail, you’re always doing problem sets, and you think finishing most problem sets in six hours is amazing…but if you think that the amount of satisfaction you derive from finishing a problem set is totally worth it, this is definitely a concentration to consider. Beatrice Liem, Class of 2011


Anthropology – Archaeology

or decades, Indiana Jones and his treasure-saving missions have perpetuated the idea that archaeology is an adventure. And it is — just not in the spear-throwing, Nazikilling, last crusading sense. You won’t be chasing after gold, you don’t get to sell what you find, and most artifacts probably aren’t cursed. There’s a lot of theory involved — an entire seminar’s worth — and science and research as well. But once you get to the field, whether in Copán, Peru, or Harvard Yard, all the pain is forgotten and the fun begins. And if those aren’t an option, you still get to visit the Peabody’s Annex (multiple times) where six million artifacts from around the world are housed. The best part? You are encouraged to study them for any academic work you might have. But perhaps one of the greatest advantages of the concentration is its size. The class of 2011 has a total of thirteen students. That’s about twice the size of the class of 2010. A lot of the classes are equally small, so you actually have a chance to talk to professors. You might even be a first name basis with them by the end of your college career. How many other concentrations can say that? Archaeology is a broad discipline. You can study any area and any culture of the world — you’ll probably have a favorite soon enough. But the department gives concentrators the option to explore different cultures at the same time. We have professors who focus on everything from the Harappan civilization to Amazon cultures and everything in between. Also, we have Marc Zender — Elvish-studying, coffee-addicted linguist extraordinaire. It doesn’t get any better than that. I’m not promising fun one hundred percent of the time. Archaeology is much more complex than many people expect. But in the end, sitting through a boring lecture is worth it (cliché, I know), especially when there are museums, artifacts, and field schools to liven things up. Who knows, you might even become an archaeoloco — and after that, there’s no turning back. Lorena Lama, Class of 2011 11.05.09 • The Harvard Independent



he Archaeology department is filled with the most friendly and helpful faculty, staff, grad students, and concentrators. From the moment I walked into my sophomore tutorial, I felt welcome. I have really enjoyed all of my classes — what other concentration allows you to dig up the Yard? I definitely feel like I get a lot of personal attention from the faculty, which makes my friends from other larger concentrations wish they were in archaeology too. The Peabody is far, but it is so worth the trip; I have gotten to see so many interesting artifacts from all over the world. I love archaeology and would definitely choose it again. If you like ancient people, history, the outdoors, or Indiana Jones, you should definitely consider concentrating in Archaeology. Andrea Koenker, Class of 2011



here are chem concentrators and there are Chem concentrators. The former have other interests and navigates the less rigorous Chem 17/27 with exceptional skill; the latter have precisely one interest and survive Chem 20/30 with enough sanity to wrestle infamous grad school orgo, 206. I am a Chem concentrator, a 206’er and a lab fiend, who, three months ago, was not a happy camper. Now, I can say that I like my classes — but only after two years of struggle against a demanding concentration. My story goes something like this. I took Chem 20 in the second semester of my freshman year. My advisor warned me it would be hard, but that didn’t faze me; I quickly learned that a cocky freshman will always get her comeuppance. Approximately the same thing happened to me with Chem 30 the following year. By the end of that semester, I had a collection of terrible test scores, no social life, and a growing voice in my head telling me to jump ship. But out of spirit, stubbornness, or sheer stupidity, I decided to give chemistry one more go and dipped my trembling toes into research. After ten weeks, three dud projects, and one ex-lab mentor who said I neither had the brains nor hands for chemistry, I started junior year fully cognizant of the imperfections haunting all brilliant chemists. That nugget of wisdom unloaded a mountain: thanks but no thanks, almighty Chemistry gods, I’d rather not trade in personality for brilliance. Now I’m taking 206 — a consequence of “friendly” lab pressures — and working longer hours in lab; oddly enough, I’m sober and happy. The philosophy that a life led less seriously is a life better led has taken me out of the war zone and into reasonable dialogue with a prickly concentration that is not so prickly after all. My story fast-forwards through some dark moments, but the kernel of it is meant to inspire burgeoning chemists: if I can do it, so can you. Chemistry here is unquestionably hard, but at some point, everything will fall into place, and that is a better feeling than you can imagine. Not all Chem concentrators go through The Harvard Independent • 11.05.09

what I went through. There are many ways to put together a chemistry concentration, and Dr. Tucci, concentrator advisor from Planet Awesome, will help you create your own, whether you want wiggle room for other activities or less wiggle and more punches. Perks of valued members include the optional thesis for honors, two pass/ fail concentration classes, and a beaker of Hershey kisses upon initiation, not to mention general camaraderie, solid friendships and everlasting love. So please join the family! Weike Wang, Class of 2011

Chemistry and Physics


ant a concentration that, when you casually name-drop it in conversation, induces mouths agape with admiration at your supposed brilliance? Try Chemistry and Physics! Usually referred to as Chem/Phys by concentrators, it offers the panache and impressiveness of two concentrations but cuts down on the requirements of each separately, a virtual win-win situation. The key benefit of Chem/Phys is flexibility: concentrators are required to take only four classes in each discipline and can choose either the chemistry or physics equivalent of classes like statistical mechanics and quantum. And for those who want to avoid the dreaded thesis like the plague, Chem/Phys offers honors without requiring a thesis. The concentration is headed by Howard Georgi and David Morin, who also advise Physics. Concentrators are usually fairly integrated into the physics department and get to know these stalwart scientists early on, when they take their first mechanics course. Many concentrators go on to grad school in the sciences, but others opt for careers in medicine (me! Unless I do abysmally on my MCATs), law, and business, among others. Chem/Phys offers a little bit of everything for the vacillating student. Arhana Chattopadhyay, Class of 2011



lassics is — pardon the pun — the classic Harvard concentration, from the days when every young Harvard gentleman was expected to know his Greek and Latin and coeds were a less than a distant dream. These days, the department sees fewer than twenty concentrators per class; fortunately, in this charming department, quantity is no indication of quality. In Classics, the graduate students are sweetly awkward and the professors wear tweed; classes tend to be small — I had several with no more than ten people. Every undergraduate is the recipient of personal attention, and professors are extremely accessible. It’s not a concentration for the unsure — long slogs through pages of Greek will see to that — but for those who are genuinely interested, it is genuinely rewarding. Unfortunately, because apparently it’s not obvious from the name, the uninitiated often seem to think that Classics is about the “classics” of literature rather than

Greek and Roman culture, language, and literature. If you love the ancient world enough to not mind explaining this over and over, Classics might be for you. Faith Zhang, Class of 2011

Computer Science


thought I’d concentrate in theoretical math. Two Sanskrit classes later, I declared Sanskrit and Indian Studies, because of my interest in South Asian epics; but sophomore fall, a CS course showed me the light. Here was a subject that I could not only enjoy, but also contribute to. The culture of CS here at Harvard is great. While schools like MIT have a more rigorous, defined CS curriculum, the complete flexibility and try-and-see entrepreneurial attitude that classes here have fuels a different type of learning — learning that is confident enough to step away from textbooks and into real-world problems. When the head tutor was flexible enough to count my theoretical math courses toward a CS concentration, I knew I’d found my home. It has its downsides, though. For example, I wasn’t joking about the stepping away from textbooks thing — if you excel in a rigorously defined curriculum, CS may not fit well. And there’s also the expectation, whether from yourself or from others, that you’re going to be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. But these are small concerns compared to how much fun it is to stay up late coding a dynamic memory allocator with a friend, caffeine running through your veins. If you’re interested in CS, make appointments with the professors in the department to chat about your interests. They’re generally approachable, and you get effective answers, fast. The flexibility and the entrepreneurial spirit are what drew me to the concentration — if that appeals to you as well, you’ll love CS. Saketh Bhamidipati, Class of 2011 Did you grow up dreaming of working for Google, Microsoft, or Facebook? If so, Computer Science may be the concentration for you, but the path to Silicon Valley is paved with blood, sweat, and tears from the regular all-nighters you have to look forward to. First comes the infamous CS 50. Here, your head will explode on a weekly basis as you build a spell-checker, create a website, and wake up at 4am, finding yourself drooling on the Science Center keyboard. But don’t let the weekly 20+ hour problem sets freak you out — CS50 has an incredible support system built in to make sure you get the help you need, with virtual office hours, a bulletin board, late days, lecture videos, and problem set walkthroughs. Unfortunately, while the soul-crushing problem sets will follow you long after CS 50, the army of TFs won’t. CS is generally light on specific requirements, requiring only CS50, its companion intro course CS51, math through the 21 level, and two theory classes before allowing you to explore electives in the field. The theory classes will teach you such essential concepts as Generalized


Nondeterministic Finite Automata, the “Pumping Lemma,” and more matrix multiplication than the world could ever possibly need. What fun! Concentrators have to take 121, Introduction to the Theory of Computation, and one other theory class, the most popular being CS124, Data Structures and Algorithms. Both are crucial for understanding higherlevel CS in any area, but be prepared for extremely confusing concepts and weekly all-nighters. After you’ve got requirements out of the way, you’re free to explore electives. Harvard doesn’t have the most extensive course offerings (should have gone to MIT!), but does have a fairly wide range of classes in subfields from Operating Systems to Artificial Intelligence to Hardware. The concentration doesn’t impose requirements on your electives other than a basic requirement that some be in varying subfields, so you’re generally free to explore several areas or focus in one as you please. Whether you’ve been planning to work for Microsoft since middle school, want to research cutting edge topics in computer vision or programming languages, or have already got the idea for the next Facebook, Computer Science can give you a solid grounding to pursue it. Just be ready to put in the work. Eric Hysen, Class of 2011 and John Noronha, Class of 2011

Chemical and Physical Biology


hemical and Physical Biology is quite a mouthful when you try to explain it to someone not at Harvard. After all, there are five different biology concentrations — so what makes this one special? What is great about CPB is that you are free to take any upper-level physics, chemistry or biology class to count among your advanced courses. This also extends to courses such as CS 50 and Stat 110, which are really crucial for a quantitative background in biology. The flexibility of the concentration in counting classes is what drew me initially to it. Overlap between CPB requirements and those for Chemistry and MCB are also sufficient such that, should you decide you want to switch concentrations later, you wouldn’t be in too much of a pinch to finish your requirements. Departmental emails about seminars around Harvard as well as graduate school visits are also some of the “inside scoop” in CPB, in addition to concentration socials. Tzu-Ying Chuang, Class of 2010

Engineering Sciences


concentration in Engineering Sciences at Harvard, like almost any other concentration, is what you make of it. The courses are interesting, and the faculty’s cutting edge research provides strong motivation to continue in the engineering field. However, as a liberal arts college, Harvard cannot compete with technical schools in terms of purely technical training, which has a number of implications for future job prospects.


indy special The faculty features some of the strongest lecturers at Harvard, although there are a few who are clearly more comfortable in their lab than at the front of a classroom. Engineering coursework is highly engaging, in large part due to its interdisciplinary nature and connection to real world applications. Most professors try to link the course material to examples of products that students can understand and relate to. In addition, the lab work required in most courses provides a hands-on experience with the material. You will have to work hard; engineering concentrators have one of the heavier workloads among the Harvard concentrations. Nevertheless, there is a strong sense of community among ES concentrators, who frequently work and study in groups, which makes the workload much more manageable. This sense of community is one of the greatest things about concentrating in Engineering Sciences. This is a result of the relatively small number of concentrators, along with the frequent collaboration on problem sets and lab work. In addition, engineers don’t only work together, but they find the time to party together too. The tightly-knit community is something that really sets this concentration apart. In terms of preparation for life after college, Harvard’s engineering program is very different from what you would get at a technical school. While there are many benefits to a liberal arts background for an engineer, if you are looking for a career in engineering, you will probably need to look for experiences outside the classroom to supplement your coursework. Fortunately, there are multiple opportunities on campus to do this, both with the Engineering Society’s Robocup team (what could be cooler than soccer-playing robots?) and by working with one of the many professors looking for students to work with them on their research. Alternatively, if you are planning on a future outside engineering, such as in law, business, or medicine, your coursework with provide you with a valuable range of interdisciplinary problem-solving skills that are applicable in any field. Overall, the concentration in Engineering Sciences combines exciting coursework, an inspiring faculty, and a great community of passionate students. The concentration is truly rewarding, and you will develop real skills that will be applicable throughout your life. And finally, your hard work will earn you the respect, admiration, and even awe of your peers from lesser concentrations. Jeff Lane, Class of 2009



conomics. The very word conjures up the image of Wall Street and job fairs swarming with investment banks and consulting firms. However, Economics is an extremely flexible field and provides good training for a wide variety of careers. I chose to concentrate in Economics because I was interested in both health policy and public finance, and found the required theory courses and my chosen electives to provide a good basis for analyzing policy issues. One of


the strengths of the department is that it really has a world-class faculty, renowned in the world of academia for stimulating and groundbreaking research. Having the chance to take classes with some of the most talented researchers in the country is quite special. In addition, Economics has relatively few requirements, ten for non-thesis and twelve for thesis, allowing you to combine your economics training with another field that might interest you, whether it is music, chemistry, or history, to fulfill a secondary with relatively little pain. Economics also offers a secondary, which is a nice option that allows you to get credit for taking the economics courses you might find helpful later down the road. 
 On the flip side, Economics, because it is such a huge department, can be quite intimidating and impersonal. Don’t expect any handholding from the department in choosing your electives or trying to figure out your career path. It’s up to you to figure out what you want from a degree in economics, whether to write a thesis, what to write your thesis on, and developing connections with faculty members. I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of good advising — especially if you feel that you’ll need some support in figuring out your career path and how to make the most of the opportunities here at Harvard as you prepare for the future. Especially now that Economics no longer has the junior seminars, it will be hard to get constructive feedback on scholastic work, especially if you’re planning on writing a senior thesis. Grace Kim, Class of 2011



he English Department recently restructured their requirements; in the past there were a couple large lecture courses that all concentrators were required to take: English 10a, 10b, American Lit, and Shakespeare. These have been replaced by four required fields: Arrivals, Poets, Diffusions, and Shakespeares. The courses associated with the names aren’t as loosey-goosey as might be implied, and they are now capped at 30 students. Most other courses in the English department are seminar sized; I’ve been in a seminar with three other students. There are ample opportunities to interact with Harvard professors who are at the top of their field, including Helen Vendler, Stephen Greenblatt, Jorie Graham, and many others. In general, the advising is great, and the amount of personal attention given to each concentrator is impressive. The analytical skills concentrators gain while studying English literature are useful in a wide variety of areas, and graduates enter many different professions. Sam Jack, Class of 201


love being an English major. Whenever my friends are doing problem sets late at night, I get to think about how I never have to suffer like them. Instead, I read great books and talk about them in class. It’s like being in a couple of book clubs every semester, but without the snacks (unless your TF is very nice and

brings some each week, in which case it pretty much is a book club). Moreover, the English department is home to a myriad of renowned professors, including Gordon Teskey and Stephen Greenblatt to name just a couple. If you have ever taken their classes, you know what it’s like to stand in awe of such power and beauty and grace. Alternatively, you may have experienced what it’s like to listen to James Wood’s impersonating an Indian man from the Caribbean (honestly, take his class just so you can hear his accents; they are that worth it). Or perhaps you have laughed bawdily at Professor Kaiser’s wholly inappropriate yet completely necessary anecdotes. In any case, there is such a wide variety of professors and classes that you can easily find some class that will interest you and satisfy you, especially since it truly is a pleasure to have the opportunity to learn from such brilliant people. On that note, the TFs for English are also great. I still have not had a bad or mediocre or average TF. They all have been intelligent, engaging, and best of all, sexy (just kidding on the last one. But no, really). They all have pushed me to read smarter, write better, and think more deeply, and I know that my growth as a student and thinker is at least partly due to their influence. I never thought to major in anything other than English, but I know there are those that are thinking about it but aren’t sure. I say, just try one class (I heartily recommend any one of the professors I named earlier) and you’ll see that it will help you develop a deep and wide variety of skills. And if nothing else, you’ll have fun while doing it. Alfredo Montelongo, Class of 2011

Earth and Planetary Sciences


ou might not know anyone concentrating in EPS (there are only around forty undergrads in the concentration), but everyone who does know an EPS-er is insanely jealous. EPS concentrators go on an all-expensespaid field trip every year the week before school starts – past destinations have included Hawaii and the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and there’s a rumor we’re going to Costa Rica next year. EPS also offers courses taught entirely in the field, in locations around the world, as well as many courses that include shorter field trips. So you’d think there has to be a catch — surely a department that sounds that awesome has to have something wrong with it too? Well, we’ve yet to find anything. The introductory courses are fun, interesting, and don’t swamp you with huge amounts of work, and upper division classes are often very small, allowing students to get to know their professors and sometimes even have a say in what material is covered. The biggest complaints are usually focused on the required year of physics (11 or 15), Math 21a & b, and a semester of chemistry above PS1, but the material in these courses is fundamental to many EPS classes, and definitely worth knowing. Outside of coursework, EPS has a very laid-back seminar-based tutorial, and is great if you’re interested in working in a

lab and/or writing a thesis. EPS professors are always looking for undergrads to help in their labs, and are willing to mentor students without prior lab experience. Plus, working in an EPS lab a twominute walk away from the science center definitely beats commuting to the med school. EPS, which stands for Earth and Planetary Sciences, is great for anyone who loves science and can’t decide which discipline they like the best, because it spans everything from biology and chemistry to physics and engineering. EPS has courses on topics as diverse as geology, environmental science, solid earth geophysics, geochemistry, geobiology, atmospheric and ocean science, and planetary science. And EPS is definitely an important, growing science in the modern world, as we struggle to understand the effects of human actions on the planet, how to mitigate them, and how to control and predict the natural disasters that threaten our cities. In sum, if you love science and you want to apply it to the real world, go on awesome field trips, and meet really chill people while you’re doing it, then you should check out EPS. Renata Cummins, Class of 2011 and Peter Hedman, Class of 2010

Environmental Sciences and Public Policy


nvironmental Sciences and Public Policy (ESPP), which I fondly describe as the indecisive science student’s ideal concentration, is the field that is forging the next generation of Renaissance scientists. That sounds pompous and elitist, but let me make myself clearer on two points. Firstly, ESPP is not a science concentration for everyone, but neither is it a concentration for the “select few.” If anything, ESPP is one of the most all-inclusive and widesweeping concentrations this college offers. Its strength, some would argue, lies in the fact that it presents concentrators with a broad foundation across all fields associated with environmental science and policy, touching upon everything from organic chemistry and engineering to law and religion. Some ESPP concentrators find the lack of depth frustrating, while others appreciate the chance not to have to pin down their precise field of study so early in their college careers. Secondly, I would like to point out that not everyone in ESPP is a REP or EAC representative or die-hard environmental activist. I, for example, am not. Of course, I tell my roommates to turn off the lights as they leave the room when they forget, remind them to not waste their food, and take out the recycling when it begins to overflow into the trash can, but I do not really participate in rallies or put the word out there as much as I maybe should. But no one in ESPP is pressuring me to do those things either, if I don’t want to. Each person’s perspective on the unifying issue of climate change is refreshing and eye-opening. We can talk to each other and discover new things everyday about this world we live in and that we are causing to change. 11.05.09 • The Harvard Independent

special And that’s another thing. Because the ESPP concentration is (currently) smaller in size, we get to know each other a little better than some other concentration groups. We have delicious pizza parties, an amazingly well-stocked HUCE office at our disposal (or recycling), and opportunities to actually talk to our advisers and even choose them. What I love most about this concentration is the respect that we hold for each other in bringing together such disparate perspectives to confront the issues that have fallen into our hands, and like all Harvard concentrations, the sense that we may one day become the preeminent leaders of the world in this field. Samantha Go, Class of 2011

Folklore and Mythology


ast week, I wrote a midterm paper on Batman. Next semester, I will read first-hand accounts about what really happened at Roswell. This summer, I will go to Scotland to collect fairy tales and legends and transcribe them for my senior thesis. Why do I have the most awesome Harvard experience ever? Because I am one of the few, the proud, the happy — the Folklore and Mythology concentrators. Being in Folk and Myth is amazing not only because the classes and research are extraordinarily interesting and fun, but also because I know every professor in the concentration on a first-name basis and feel comfortable asking any one of them for a recommendation for my law school applications. That’s right — law school. That’s the one final amazing aspect of Folk and Myth of which most people aren’t aware: F/M majors are easily accepted into law schools, med schools, grad schools, and amazing careers right out of college because they have an automatic edge. They’re different, they’re unique, and they have interesting things to talk about in normally boring interviews. Folklore and Mythology is a completely legitimate and amazing concentration, and if you’ve ever wanted to explore the interesting aspects of life — like comic books and conspiracy theories — this concentration is the one for you. Leila Bryant, Class of 2011



can’t stand political theory. Maybe it’s a little odd that I’m a Government concentrator, but Gov is like that — it’s a truly diverse concentration. Whether you’re interested in American politics, international relations, comparative politics, or political theory, Gov has something for you. It stands at the intersection of many disciplines; we dabble in economics, immerse ourselves in history, study philosophy, and look at modern relationships between culture, society, and government. Most of all, Gov will change how you view the world. I’m personally more interested in policy rather than the practice and application side of things (as in, everything that’s not theory) — I like comparative politics, American politics, constitutional law, and international relations. How did I find this The Harvard Independent • 11.05.09

out? Freshman year, I took Gov 1368: The Politics of American Education, and it got me more interested in education policy than I ever thought possible. Sophomore year, Gov 1540: The American Presidency made me view the presidency in a whole new light, and Gov 1510: American Constitutional Law with Professor Fallon changed me from pre-med to pre-law. That spring, I took Gov 1790: American Foreign Policy with Prof. Paarlberg from Wellesley, and it changed the way I think about the US on the world stage. I was also in the sophomore tutorial, Gov 97, that spring, and that’s where I realized how much I dislike theory. They’re still working on Gov 97 — it used to be two semesters, and now it’s just one semester on democracy. You might love it. You might hate it. Your TF will probably make or break the class. The material was interesting, for the most part. It was at times too quantitative, at times too theoretical. The professors who lecture are big names at Harvard, and it’s nice to get a chance to hear something from them before you graduate. I’m currently in Gov 1280: The Government and Politics of China, a fabulous and interesting class that has introduced me to China — and no, I didn’t know anything about the Chinese government before this class, despite being Chinese and Gov 98jm: Comparative Constitutional Law and Religion, which has given me new perspective on constitutions and the idea of rights. Regardless of what you like, being a Gov concentrator will definitely change your views and perspectives of the world. It transforms the way you think about things, teaches you how to analyze in-depth, and broadens your considerations. Even if you’re not planning on concentrating in Gov, I strongly recommend taking a few classes with the department — you’ll learn a lot, and it will definitely change you. Susan Zhu, Class of 2011

Germanic Languages and Literature


ermanic Languages and Literatures is a fantastic concentration for any student interested in German culture and language. It offers two tracks, Literature and Culture, providing a great deal of flexibility to its concentrators in crafting their own curriculum from courses in a variety of fields. And as it is such a small department, its students benefit from close relationships with the faculty as well as the rare pleasure of answering the question “That’s a concentration?” with an enthusiastic recitation of Goethe’s Prometheus. Jordan Cotton, Class of 2011

Human Evolutionary Biology


uman Evolutionary Biology (HEB) is an often misunderstood and endlessly intriguing life sciences concentration. Other academic institutions may offer Biological Anthropology, Endocrinology, Evolutionary Psychology, Primatology, or Reproductive Ecology, but we are fortunate to have opportunities to explore all of these disciplines and more.

HEB is not just about studying Darwin’s The Origin of Species (though this is the first reading for the sophomore tutorial). Evolutionary theory is, in fact, a pillar of modern science and provides a powerful framework for investigating questions about why we are the way we are. As a concentrator, you will seek to understand how evolutionary forces have shaped human design, biology, and patterns of behavior. For instance, although most mammals can sprint faster than humans, humans can actually outrun almost any animal. Why would evolution favor endurance running, and what physiological changes accompanied this trait? Moreover, when monkeys and apes give birth, the mother pulls the baby out herself, and the baby may even use its hands to help push itself out. Why do human births fail to take advantage of gravity, involve strangers, and lead to helpless infants? Another example examines personal ads in newspapers and dating websites, in which men tend to emphasize their material attributes while females do their physical attributes. What are the evolutionary theories behind mating strategies? The HEB department posits that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Evolutionary insights also influence other areas such as economics, environmental science, linguistics, medical history, political science, and psychology. Students specifically interested in addressing questions about cognition have the option of pursuing the HEB Mind/Brain/ Behavior track. Many HEB classes are reading or research seminars of under twenty students, which allows you to delve into subjects with fellow concentrators and the professor. It is common for HEB concentrators to be on first name basis with their professors, who are incredibly accessible and attentive, even though they are experts in their fields. HEB faculty lead projects spanning a spectrum of interests and methods, and students can become involved with lab and/or field-based research. If you do not know whether the aforementioned questions appeal to you, HEB’s concentration advisors are literally two of the coolest and most helpful people around. They have office hours everyday, so shoot them an email or just drop by the Peabody Museum! And if you really do not even know what party to attend on Friday — never mind what concentration to choose — HEB has extremely flexible requirements that will allow you to explore both within and outside of your concentration. It is well adapted. Sisi Pan, Class of 2011

History of Art and Architecture


ook at my sculptures until you see them,” said Constantin Brancusi, a key figure in the development of 20 th century modern art. The concentration in History of Art and Architecture will teach you how to see works of art across time and across cultures. Students can specialize in one of thirteen tracks, among which Modern and Contemporary Art is the most popular.


HAA students have the incredible chance to working directly with amazing works of art from Harvard’s collection (from outstanding Buddhist sculpture to famous paintings by Monet, Picasso, and Pollock). The concentration requires a couple of introductory classes — most notably HAA 1 and/or HAA 10 — which are large Core courses, but which provide the set of skills needed for art historical analysis. Most departmental classes are small and offer the opportunity of a close collaboration between professor and students. A highlight of the HAA curriculum is the sophomore excursion course, a seminar for sophomore concentrators only, which is offered in the spring and which this year will culminate with a trip to Japan. Sonia Coman, Class of 2011

History and Literature


f I could do it all over again, I would definitely choose History and Literature again. For me, it has been a pretty great fit. With History and Literature, you choose a focus, such as Latin America, Postcolonial, or Early Modern Europe. Although I believe that the interdisciplinary study of a region’s history and literature is at the core of all the fields of study, depending on which one you choose, the courses you take and the specific requirements you have can really differ. My field is America, and it has some of the more specific and sometimes stringent requirements. As everyone who tried to dissuade me from becoming a History and Literature told me, yes, it can feel a bit confining having to pick one of three classes that the department has deemed acceptable for fulfilling the colonial literature requirement. However, while there are some very specific requirements that have few course options, the concentration really gives a lot of freedom to explore what you want and to take classes in a wide variety of departments (also, there are even some great classes to fill that colonial lit requirement). It can be a great mix of having the freedom of designing your own concentration, but with all the support of having a wonderful, built-in tutorial system. In fact, my tutorials in History and Literature are the main reason why I would urge anyone who’s interested to be a Hist and Lit concentrator. The close attention you get in an eightperson tutorial sophomore year and a three-person one junior year, and the freedom you get in designing the curriculum your junior year are unique to the concentration. Tutorial leaders can show you how anything and everything conveys a message about society and is worthy of class discussion. Last week, I read works by Cheever and Dr. Seuss. It’s pretty hard to beat that. Emily Shire, Class of 2011



ne of my earliest memories of Harvard was that I was virtually the only person at prefrosh weekend to say “History” as their intended concentration. Everyone else seemed to be intent on Government or Economics. I


indy special seemed doomed to being the only history concentrator in the class of 2011. However, I and much of my class have been pleasantly surprised by history. The History Department is by far one of the strongest departments at Harvard: the dozens of faculty focus on all forms of history, from cultural to economic to even the ever-popular food history. Departmental mainstays range from the professorial rock stars (Niall Ferguson, Emma Rothschild, and Michael McCormick) to rising stars of the profession (Maya Jasanoff, Alison Frank, and Erez Manela). The professors are all easily approachable, reflected in fact that the vast majority of History senior theses are being advised by these professors. Classes throughout the History Department tend towards the intimate. Instead of massive lecture halls, most History courses will be taught in Sever or CGIS: most lectures will be about twenty to thirty students, with usually a max of forty. Seminars are capped at twelve, but rarely reach this level: both reading and research seminars (one of each is required for concentrators) are well-taught classes where students work closely with the professor. Perhaps the only “bad” class, by reputation, is the History seminar: I had only heard horror stories of the class, one of the most difficult tutorials at Harvard, and dreaded my first meeting. In fact, the seminar turned out to be one of the best classes I took at Harvard: while difficult, the class is engaging and enlightening as one learns about different historical topics (such as the Fall of Constantinople or the Azaria Chamberlain Dingo Case in Australia) or writing in the history profession. The professors, again, were excellent, and the support provided by the History grad students was exceptional in this class and as TFs in other lecture classes. Overall, I have no regrets and am glad that I stuck with my original choice. Peter Bacon, Class of 2011

History and Science


ur generation has been influenced by science in so many ways that we have come to be dependent upon it. When we become sick, we turn to medicine. When we need to be halfway across the world in a day, we step onto a plane. Yet many of us have become so accustomed to science as a pervasive force in our lives that we don’t take the time to understand its roots. Most students think that the concentration is called the “History of Science,” but they are actually mistaken. If you become a student in this department, then your concentration is actually “History and Science.” This is an important distinction, because it means that students with broad interests will find themselves at home in the department. In this small concentration, you’ll get to know your professors and fellow concentrators personally, in ways that wouldn’t be possible in much larger departments. If you want a concentration that crosses disciplines, that requires you to take classes in the sciences, in history, and in the history of science so that you


can understand science at both a micro and a meta level, then History and Science is for you. Just what kinds of courses will you get to take if you become a Hist and Sci concentrator? That depends completely on your own unique interests. Perhaps the best thing about this department is that students are able to tailor their courses, so long as they take a certain number of history, science, and history of science courses overall. Interested in technology? Take Speech, Print, Television, Blog: The History of Communications Technologies with Elizabeth Yale. Want to learn about the environment, and how policies to protect the environment have both succeeded and failed over the course of history? Take Environmental History with Sarah Jansen. Want to be a doctor, but feel like your MCB courses teach you about life on a microscopic scale, but not about how medicine can affect society on a human scale? Take the Social History of Medicine with Janet Browne or the History of Global Health with Jeremy Greene. Want to be a college graduate who has the valuable combination of developed analytical skills and strong writing skills? Become a History and Science concentrator. Katherine O’Leary, Class of 2011



othing pleases me more than being a literature student at Harvard. If you are particularly interested in all branches of humanities, Literature is the right place for you. It is wonderful in how flexible it is, although some might find the foreign literature requirement and literary theory classes somewhat limiting and challenging. Literature and comparative literature classes allow you to transgress the conventional boundaries of different genres, media, and theories, and come up with your own fresh perspectives on whatever text you might want to work on. Literature provides you with a solid base from which you can explore different areas and gives you opportunities to work with wonderful professors from any humanities-related department. One of the many good things about the concentration is its size. The Current junior class has about twenty-five people focusing on different second languages and literatures. However, in Literature, there is little room for creativity either in classes or in the process of junior and senior theses. If you want to produce literature rather than analyze it, you might want to seek your future in the English department. Literature department is full of intellectual and cool people, and it has the coziest department house — Dana Palmer, next to the Faculty Club. If I could declare all over again, I’d still choose Literature, and I’d still be extremely happy with my choice. Pelin Kivrak, Class of 2011



am a Harvard Math concentrator. It’s not always easy for me to say that I absolutely love the Math

concentration, especially if you ask me on a day when I’ve just pulled an all-nighter writing twenty pages of proofs. But if you ask me again after I’ve taken a nap, you will probably find me (vacuously) talking about things like the beauty and elegance of math, or about how abstraction and rigor really turns me on. Inevitably, as I come around to thinking about how much work I have put in and how much I have learned, I will swell with pride and declare, “Yes! Yes! I do love the Math concentration!” As much as I will encourage anyone to try Math, I should warn you that if abstraction and rigor don’t really turn you on, then pure math may not be for you, and that you should check out Applied Math instead, where you’ll focus more on how math can be used in the real world. On the other hand, don’t fear that you’ll be too disconnected from the real world if you do decide to be a math major, because applied math courses do count for the concentration. And in any case, the world feels pretty real to me when I’m working late into the night with three other classmates trying to find the missing step in a proof. Romeo Alexander, Class of 2011


he problem with the Math concentration is that the Math classes are very much catered to the best math students with strong backgrounds (those taking Math 25/55). Some of the advanced topics like topology can be quite useless for anything else, but there are still plenty of abstract classes that have applications (abstract algebra, real and complex analysis). Lester Kim, Class of 2011

Molecular and Cellular Biology


id you know MCB 52/54 used to be called BS 52/54? Yep, imagine going around and telling people that you concentrate in BS. Of course ,explaining the new acronym isn’t much better. The truth is, no one outside of Harvard will ever care to figure out the ABC soup of biology concentrations. I used to think that my favorite thing about MCB was Rob Lue’s animations. Then I found myself zoning out in lecture — microtubules can only be so fun. Then I fell in love with DNA after Prof Losick’s stories of the good old Watson and Crick days, only to discover that twists and writhes are the most headache inducing things in this world. And now I have found it, the closest thing to concentration bliss, in immunology. Sure, the CD numbers are annoying as hell, but being able to visualize how our cells attack and defend our bodies against the big bad antigens makes me glad that I stuck with MCB. Seriously. The moral of the story? Most people aren’t going to enjoy LS1a/1b or even MCB 52/54. But that shouldn’t deter you from pursuing MCB if you have the slightest interest in learning about cells on a molecular level. Tom Torello, the MCB advisor, is great and accessible (he has the most uncluttered desk I have ever seen). And when you declare MCB as your

concentration, you are assigned a tutor who helps you navigate the choppy waters of membranes, signal transducers and regulatory feedback. Life is good. I admit the MCB is not as sexy as SCRB, but we are classy. Marion Liu, Class of 2011



love the Music department. It has been my home away from home and my sub-community within Harvard since I arrived. It’s a place where I always feel comfortable, where there is almost always a friend to talk with, be it a teacher, a fellow student or one of the friendly staff members. All the classes take place in one building, Paine Hall, and the music students come to love — or at least tolerate with affection — its quirky structure and echoing halls. A lot of fun goes on in the department: the staff dresses up for Halloween, and at the Christmas party the crowd has been known to sing Silent Night with an interpolated “Tristan” chord on the word “peace” and Joy to the World in Locrian mode. (Music geeks, you know what I’m talking about.) During the sophomore music history class, we took a special trip to the Houghton library, where we looked at — and sang from — an illuminated manuscript, a rough draft of a Schubert choral piece, and a canon in Bach’s handwriting. Being a Music concentrator means taking a lot of required courses, but fortunately they are almost all excellent — the kinds of courses that challenge you and expand your knowledge of the subject even if you have already studied it in high school. The department is so small that seminars are rarely too big, and many of them are fascinating, including such titles as Staging Baroque Opera and Performance Practice in the 19th and 20th Centuries. There is a strong sense that the faculty really like teaching and like the students. The professors are not at all unapproachable, and any enthusiasm you express at them is reflected back and encouraged. Be prepared to work hard, though — along with the enthusiasm and inspiration come high expectations. Music is a small concentration, which combined with the large number of required courses means that the students within each year get to know each other quite well during several courses. The friendships I have formed in the Music department are among the strongest and most interesting of my college experience. The one caution I would have for sophomores thinking about the Music concentration is that if you haven’t already started fulfilling your requirements, it might be a bit hard to catch up now. Even though technically you don’t have to declare until half-way through sophomore year, in reality it is best if you start as soon as possible, ideally in your freshman fall. However, as with most things at Harvard, if you’re determined and dedicated enough and the music department is right for you, you’ll probably find a way to make it work. Robin Reinert, Class of 2010 11.05.09 • The Harvard Independent

special Neurobiology


discovered my concentration in a backwards manner. With so many concentrations to choose from and not knowing where to begin, I started by picking out courses that looked interesting to me. These were the courses that I definitely would want to take as electives if they did not fall within the realm of required courses for my chosen concentration. To my surprise, the majority of courses that I had picked out as “electives” ended up counting for the Neurobiology Mind, Brain, and Behavior (MBB) concentration. I would have been stupid to choose anything other than Neuro. Unlike many of the other science concentrations here at Harvard, like Chemistry, MCB, and Physics to name a few, Neurobiology does not have its own department. However, that’s one of the reasons I absolutely love Neuro. It allows you to take courses from many different disciplines. Whether it is learning about bonding behavior in prairie voles in OEB 57, neural repair and regeneration in SCRB 180, or studying how language affects and shape our thoughts in Psychology 13 and Linguistics 88, all count towards the Neurobiology concentration. It definitely allows you to get a much greater sample of a lot of different sciences rather than focusing in-depth on one specific field (which I really like). The only “downside” to Neuro MBB is that a thesis is required (though with many great, interesting labs, so this really isn’t a downside at all!), so if the cognition stuff doesn’t interest you as much, plain Neuro would be just fine. Choosing Neurobiology as my concentration is one of the things in college that I have been completely satisfied with, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Jenn Chang, Class of 2011

Organismic and Evolutionary Biology


ancy getting class credit for camping in Malaysian rain forests? Do you think you could enjoy writing a thesis on research you conducted in the African savannas? Do you have an interest in biology beyond getting to medical school? Then Organismic and Evolutionary Biology is for you! OEB concentrators are offered the unique freedom to choose their classes from offerings in any of the biological and physical sciences. It is possible to create a unique curriculum that either broadly surveys everything from biophysics through genetics to mathematical evolution, or focus on one area of special interest. The faculty in the department is not only incredibly diverse in researching pretty much any aspect of biology, but also includes a couple of polar explorers, a deep-sea diver and one of the world’leading wind-surfers. Yet even if you don’t care about being taught by really cool people, you will enjoy cool opportunities in class and through research. With one of the world’s leading museums, its own forest and arboretum, a variety of grants for research here and away, as well as state of the art molecular labs, OEB at The Harvard Independent • 11.05.09

Harvard offers unparalleled prospects for scientific development. A student-faculty ratio below 4:1 makes OEB stand apart even more among life sciences. And don’t worry. You will fulfill your premed requirements while studying OEB. Chris Kozak, Class of 2010



hysics is a fantastic concentration for those who like problem solving and want to learn a set of skills that can take them in many different directions after undergrad. You’ll make many friends over problem sets and explore all the wacky and wonderful ways in which our world works. One of the great things about physics is that it’s so flexible as a subject — those analytical problem solving skills you learn are applicable to lots of things besides just physics, and physics graduates go on to work in a wide range of fields. For example, this summer I first interned at the Smithsonian and then in a marketing department, neither of which had much to do with the physics I’d been doing at Harvard. But at the Smithsonian, I was able to break down problems into sub-problems and help them organize several weeklong academies, and in the marketing department, my data-crunching skills from the lab allowed me to do some great analysis for them on purchasing trends. It’s also fairly easy to do a secondary or joint in Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, or Math, due to a large number of overlapping classes, and many students take advantage of this. Physics is also one of the only concentrations that does not require a thesis to graduate with honors, meaning that with that extra time you could work in one of Harvard’s many research labs, for example. Harvard’s labs are top-notch, well-funded, and offer you the chance to get your name on a published paper, a rare opportunity for undergrads. Undergraduate advising is great; Professor Georgi and Professor Morin, who are particularly involved, are enthusiastic and friendly. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, Physics undergrads have their very own gorgeous lounge in Lyman with printing and coffee! Perfect for making friends over problem sets, which you will inevitably do regardless, trust me. The Physics department is small enough that you will know most of the undergrads in your year. Amelia Lin, Class of 2011 The Physics concentration is awesome because of the variety of topics you get to study: classical mechanics, relativity, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics. However, it is not easy so make sure you enjoy learning physics; otherwise, it could be a nightmare. Lester Kim, Class of 2011



’m one of those people who is interested in just about anything, so of course deciding on a concentration was

quite the challenge. I started college concentrating in biochemical sciences and quickly realized I loved biology, but chemistry, not so much. Then, second semester of freshman year, I took an introductory psychology class, where my interest in social psychology and desire to understand why people behave the way they do strengthened. When it came time to declare a concentration, I decided the life sciences track of Psychology was the perfect way to marry my love for science (well, the biology part of science anyway) with my interest in the humanities. And here I am as senior confidently saying I know I made the perfect choice in concentration. I absolutely love being a Psychology concentrator! I mean, where else can I find an amazing Harvard statistics professor who is not only intelligent, but was Miss California back in the day? And in what other department can I help run studies that have participants role-play a dating scene in which one of them indirectly or directly propositions the other for sex at the end of the date? When the calorie cards were removed from Harvard dining halls, I was also able to design a study looking at how stress and time affect healthy eating habits, an issue many students at the time were concerned with. These are only a few examples of the great, fun opportunities I have had as aPpsychology concentrator, and I highly encourage anyone who is even remotely interested in psychology to explore the field. Jade Le, Class of 2010

Comparative Study of Religion


he Comparative Study of Religion is a small and often overlooked jewel of a concentration. I’ve always had diverse interests and a personal fascination with how religion related to those interests, but I was initially reluctant to study religion. Glad that I finally settled on this concentration, I am here to address a few common concerns: Q: “I come from a religious background, but I don’t want to go into ministry, so why would I study religion?” This concentration isn’t meant to prepare you for ministry (check out the Divinity School for that). It’s an academic study of religion. Q: “But what would I do with a degree in religion?” Here’s the secret about a liberal arts undergraduate education at Harvard: you can go from just about any concentration to just about any field post-grad. Religion in particular is tied to many other subjects, and religion concentrators pursue medicine, law, politics, journalism… anything. Liberal arts is about gaining a foundation of knowledge and learning how to think, and the study of religion gives you a way of thinking about the world that can serve you in any field. Q: “Don’t you have to be religious to study religion?” or “Don’t you have to be an atheist to study religion?” Nope! Q: “Ok, but if you are religious, doesn’t studying religion ‘academically’ strip you of your beliefs?”


Not necessarily. Studying religion may challenge your existing viewpoints. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to study religion: so I could struggle with something that was important to me on a personal level. Some people grow less religious, some grow more religious, and others do not significantly change. It’s personal. Q: “You’ve quelled my fears! Now, why should I study religion?” It’s powerful. As the Committee on the Study of Religion website puts it, “Religion is a dynamic and powerful force in shaping cultures and complex civilizations, so understanding religion is critical for many areas of study from art, literature, and music to history, politics, and public health.” It’s also personal: The requirements are flexible and the courses interdisciplinary. You focus on one or two major traditions, but there is plenty of room to tailor your study plan to your interests. I’m currently taking four classes in four different departments that will all count for my concentration, although they are not all cross-listed. Divinity School classes count as well. You get to know your department. There are approximately 15 concentrators in my year, and we all had our sophomore tutorial together. Because the department is small, it’s easy to get to know the faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students. The advising and tutorial systemss are superb. After the solid foundation of the sophomore tutorial, the junior tutorial allows you to choose your own topic, and a graduate student designs a course just for you. A thesis is optional, but if you choose to do one, the advising will prepare and guide you. Dawn Mackey, Class of 2009

Slavic Languages and Literatures


he concentration in Slavic Literatures and Cultures offers students an opportunity to study the cultural traditions, past and present, of Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, and other Slavic countries. All Slavic tutorials are taught exclusively by full-time faculty: students work closely with faculty as they explore the rich literary traditions of Russia and the other Slavic countries, reading authors such as Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Kundera, Milosz, and others. The sophomore tutorial is taught in English ó although many of our concentrators begin studying Russian or another Slavic language in their first year, some begin in the fall of sophomore year ó while the junior tutorial will guide students through an intensive reading experience of great works in the original language. Many of our courses are interdisciplinary, focusing on the historical and political contexts of literary works, and considering film, art, photography, dance, and opera alongside literature; we also seek to introduce our students to a wide range of literary, political, and social theories that will help them understand literary works and approach other cultures. We


indy special offer courses in topics such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, the literature of the Russian Revolution, the Russian and East European avant-gardes, the cultures of St. Petersburg and Prague, Romanticism and Polish literature, Russian and East European film, and many other topics. Students are free to focus on Russian culture or to explore a range of courses from Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, and South Slavic traditions. We strongly encourage study abroad, whether a summer or a semester, and it is easily accommodated within the concentration. The Department currently sponsors summer programs in Prague and St. Petersburg, and works with a number of study-abroad programs in Russia for study during the fall and spring semesters. We welcome all students with an interest in Slavic languages and cultures. Although the undergraduate concentration will prepare students for graduate study in Slavic, Comparative Literature, History, and other programs, the majority of our students follow careers in other areas, including medicine, law, business, and government; they find that the experience of getting to know a foreign culture, and learning a language well, greatly expands their opportunities for travel and living abroad, and our students have gone on to work or study in cities such as St. Petersburg, Moscow, Prague, and Warsaw. Above all, the concentration seeks to provide intellectual stimulation, knowledge of some of the great works of the Western literary tradition, and a range of linguistic and analytic skills that will serve students well in their future careers. The Department

Social Studies


here Government and Economics are established and predictable, Social Studies is young, different and bold. As such, all potential Social Studies concentrators begin with the question, “What will my parents say when I tell them that I want to do this?”. But don’t linger over this too long: as a Social Studies concentrator, you score extra points with peers, graduate schools and employers. If they’ve heard about Social Studies, they will know that you’re curious, complex, and probably hard-working. And if they haven’t, good for you ó you’ll have an extra chance to tell them just how special you are. Regardless, the program is no experiment: it’s been around for almost fifty years and is similar to established programs at Cambridge, Oxford and the like. You’re probably attracted to Social Studies because you think it will allow you to take courses around your many interests, and this is true, but there’s a catch. They insist that there is some coherence around the social science courses that you take, so don’t expect to get away by fulfilling your requirements by taking just about anything and expecting it to count. The Quad Office is constantly on your back, and they will require you to file a plan of study every


year, read memos, attend workshops, maintain regular contact with your advisor and of course, write a thesis. But on the other hand, this also tells you that of all the large concentrations at Harvard, Social Studies is probably the most able to give you individual attention. They are a program and not a department, so their staff works only with undergrads, and they recruit tutors specifically to teach and advise. If you join, you can expect small class sizes, good teaching, and outstanding advising. The students in Social Studies will be all over the place in terms of their interests, but there is something of an identity among the concentrators in each class, if only because everyone took the sophomore tutorial together. The average concentrator also tends to have a reasonable commitment to academics, but this often goes hand in hand with a desire to play some role in saving the world. In the past, this had earned the program a reputation for being ‘lefty,’ but today it probably means just that there are fewer ibankers emerging from the program. Rares Pamfil, Class of 2011 Yes, chances as that people will wrinkle their noses when you tell them you studied Social Studies, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. It’s a demanding concentration, and chances are, if you’re thinking about concentrating in Social Studies, you’re currently taking the first half of the sophomore tutorial now (if you haven’t, you can still switch into Social Studies your junior year ó it’s just more of a hassle) and finding yourself reading authors like Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Michel Foucault ó you know, those really big names people toss around but have never actually read. It can be somewhat challenging studying in a concentration where the guidelines are so loose — you can take classes from any social science department, and they’ll usually count classes from WGS, EAS, and the like, too — but that’s also the beauty of Social Studies. You’ll develop a really great theoretical foundation and be given the freedom to use that foundation toward any subject you’re interested in. The sky’s really the limit. Don’t get me wrong, Social Studies isn’t for everyone, but those who choose to pursue it really love it. Diana Suen, Class of 2011



ociology lies at the nexus of the social sciences: anthropology, economics, psychology, government, public health, race relations, gender studies, and more all come into play, and it’s the concentrator’s option as to which of these to explore. It’s a field that studies how the world actually works and the power of social structures, and it offers — if you so wish — the tools to change it. At the same time, it grapples with the big questions of agency and influence. I’m a newcomer to the concentration, having switched into it just this semester after a period of some struggle; nevertheless, the transition was easy, the

department welcoming, and something just clicked for me. I was one of the freshmen who came in with a wide range of interests and no idea what to concentrate in — if I recall correctly, fields under consideration included both OEB and English — but I feel that I’ve finally found the place for me: a concentration that combines an interest in every aspect of human interaction and relations with a keen sense of responsibility for the power of that knowledge. Faith Zhang, Class of 2011

Special Concentrations


he Special Concentration department is the most unique and diverse one at Harvard. There, one can meet people with totally opposing interests that could not be explored in any of the other Harvard departments. Therefore, the students find their own faculty advisors with whom they design their own programs of study, which incorporate courses across all departments. My personal interest is in architecture, and since Harvard does not have an undergraduate architecture department, I decided to follow the special concentration track by taking courses at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, MIT, and the FAS departments of Mathematics, Physics, and History of Art and Architecture. It is absolutely fabulous, but the process of having your application approved by the Committee on Special Concentrations is really difficult. You should try, though, if you have a unique career interest. Alex Karadjian, Class of 2011

Visual and Environmental Studies


he Visual and Environmental Studies (VES) department provides some of the most unique, fascinating, and challenging programs at Harvard — yet so little is known about it, even by Harvard students. In Studio and Film classes, students have the freedom to explore painting, sculpture, photography, print making, film, video and even more recent media such a performance art and installation art with knowledgeable professors who are professional artists in their fields. In Environmental Studies and Film Studies courses, art theory, film theory, and classes that focus on the visual analysis of space provide lenses from the avantgarde to pop cultural to the historical such that students have the tools to grapple with their specific interests in modern and contemporary culture. Classes are often limited enrollment and Studio classes, while capped at fourteen, provide budgets for projects — an amazing aspect of the department that rivals opportunities at even the most elite art colleges. As a concentrator, you rarely have to deal with waitlists and you are exposed to an experience guaranteed to be different from the normal Harvard routine. In Studio classes, you get to practically live in the Carpenter Center, the only

building in North America by the famous International architect Le Corbusier, and play with oil paints, plexiglass, and emulsion all night long. Long studio sessions and crits allow you to get to know your classmates, fellow concentrators, and often professors well. You often find out the most personal and unexpected details of your fellow artists and the level of trust can be unparalleled to other semi-public forums. Since students have so much freedom within the department to choose the classes that make up their requirements, as a concentrator, you have a unique self-driven experience that fills VES with people who love what they do everyday. Amy Yoshitsu, Class of 2010

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality


ithout a doubt, one of the best choices I made in my life at Harvard was to go into the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Concentration. It is a highly misunderstood concentration by those who don’t know much about it, or have been biased by the stereotypical stigma around the word “feminist.” WGS is a way of examining the world from a different perspective: often through the lens of the minority, as specifically distinct from the often universally accepted, invisible majority. As such, WGS is highly interdisciplinary: one can learn feminist critiques of science, government, art, and literature, to name a few. WGS forces you to take everything you thought you knew, dismantles it, and hands it back to you with a challenge to argue further on the matter. I would advocate WGS for any person, really: however, it is perfect for the student who wishes to grapple with topics on gender, sexuality, race, and class, in relation to the very chassis of the societies of the world. The studies themselves are not the only reason I fully endorse WGS. The department itself is rather small (and cozy!), which allows for smaller classes and much more personal attention (because seriously, after taking a class like Justice, how nice is it to be on a first-name basis with your professor?). The WGS office is in the basement of Boylston Hall, and there’s always an assortment of goodies left out in the candy bowl for those who need a pickme-up in between classes. Classes are generally held Socratic seminar style, with guided, open discussion revolving around a standard topic. The professors are amazing people. Seriously. Not only have they accomplished amazing things within and out of their fields, they are still warm and welcoming to talk to, and they always make time to assist their students. ...Did I mention WGS is a safe space? Even if my endorsement doesn’t have you convinced, I strongly urge you to take a class in the WGS concentration. I’ll let the department speak for itself. Candice Smith, Class of 2011 11.05.09 • The Harvard Independent


Keeping the



A Philadelphian reflects on what the ride’s been like.


Phillies fan, one of the diehard Phaithful. Despite last night’s loss, I still love them. And, as a true Philadelphian, I’ve learned quite well by now the Philadelphian mantra, as much as it pains me to say it: there’s always next year. Growing up in a immigrant household, I wasn’t ever properly introduced to this most American of pastimes, as neither of my parents really understood what guys were doing standing around waiting to catch a ball that may or may not be hit by a guy holding a bat. But there are few things other than the SATs for a suburban kid to do at home over the summer, so I started watching Phillies games. It was easy enough to figure out, especially with Harry Kalas’ (RIP, “The Voice”) fluid commentary. It helped that the Phillies have an adorably strange mascot in the Phanatic: a giant, green, fuzzy creature in who likes to make unsuspecting fans dance on the dugout roof, drive donuts on the field, and belly dance, using his gigantic hips like a hula hoop. One bored day in 2003, I was watching the Phillies game against the Rockies when they brought on someone from the minor leagues to fill in for the injured Placido Polanco: Chase Utley. I love the name Chase, so of course I liked him right away (and he’s cute to boot). But damn, did he make an impression. In that game, he got his first major league hit, crushing a homerun to the bleachers. But it wasn’t just a homer; it was a grand freakin’ slam. am a real

By SUSAN ZHU Last year, after the victory parade down Broad Street got to Citizens Bank Park, Chase Utley, a humble now four-time All-Star who doesn’t talk much, made a statement. “World champions,” he said, to the roar of the crowd. “World fucking champions!” A few parents were horrified, but for the most part, it electrified the town. We hadn’t heard those words (“world” and “champion,” not the f-word) used in the same sentence without negation in much too long. Before the Phillies won the World Series last year, a major championship seemed out of reach. We would see it from a distance, and it would wink back flirtatiously. We’d smile with newfound confidence, only to be strung along long enough to watch with tears in our eyes as the trophy went home with someone else. A major championship, you see, is quite the tease. The last time we won a major championship, I wasn’t even born yet. In 1983, the 76ers brought home the NBA trophy. I know that a city’s 25-year drought isn’t as bad as some teams’ 100-year curses (sorry, Cubbies), but each time any of our teams (Sixers, Flyers, Eagles, Phillies) made the playoffs, you could feel all of Philadelphia holding its breath. Cheesesteaks went uneaten, Wawa ice teas went undrunk, and Rita’s water ice went unslurped (though crime persisted on South Street) as we became fixated on a dream. We never let ourselves hope too much, to make disappointment easier. Even the quill pens

in Independence Hall seemed to quiver with anxiety every time Donovan McNabb threw a pass or Allen Iverson took a shot. It was completely reasonable, because we always choked. In the 2000-2001 NBA finals, the Sixers won the first game against the Lakers. And then we lost. And lost. And lost some more. After an extraordinary 4th and 26 comeback victory against the Packers in the NFC title game, the Eagles lost to the Patriots in Superbowl XXXVIII. I can’t claim to know what Philly fans were like before the 1980s, but twenty-five years of bitterness make you pretty mean, no matter how much brotherly love you’ve got. Philly fans are notoriously angry, notoriously vulgar, and unfortunately, notoriously fat. We even booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game once, upset at how horrendously the Eagles were playing (no trophy in the bag for us that year, either. Guess it served us right). But then last year, something magical happened. Last year, the Mets choked worse than we did (thanks, boys!) and the Phillies got to the playoffs. Philly held its breath, as usual. We beat the Brewers, but we only got more nervous as expectations mounted. We defeated the Dodgers, and we were teetering on the edge of insanity, going between ecstasy and panic attacks. But last year, we went all the way. The Phillies beat the Rays in the World Series, destroying poor Floridians’ hopes of a Cinderella story. That night, scrambling to

Courtesy of SUSAN ZHU/Independent

The Philadelphia Inquirer celebrates the Phillies' 2008 World Series win, the city's first major championship since 1983. The Phillies were unable to repeat this year, losing to the Yankees four games to two. The Harvard Independent • 11.05.09

The Phillie Phanatic cheers on the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Phanatic, a green, furry creature, was created in 1977 to draw more families to Phillies games.

find a TV to watch the post-rain-delay Game 5, my heart was pounding. We were up three games to one, but it seemed too good to be true. I had to be realistic: Tampa could always win the next three. Chase Utley made a beautiful defensive play, Pedro Feliz hit the game-running RBI, and then Brad Lidge, then perfect, struck out Eric Hinske for the last out. As Lidge sank to his knees and the dugout emptied, I didn’t know what to do with myself ó I had never been a fan of a team that had ever won something. I thought about screaming, but I’ve never been much of a screamer. I wanted to hug someone, but I didn’t know any other Phillies fans at Harvard, much less in Dunster. I thought about popping open a bottle of champagne, but I can’t even buy alcohol. I settled for jumping around with glee, hung my Phillies jersey up in my (tiny, walk-through) room, polished my Chase Utley bobblehead, updated my Facebook status to include several exclamation marks, and like the proper Harvard student, went about writing a Gov paper. To be honest, if I weren’t a Phillies fan, I’d have wanted the Rays to win. I like underdogs, and this is why I don’t like the Yankees (hate is a strong word, reserved for the LA Lakers). Even though the Phillies were the defending champs this year, we were still the underdogs. You can’t play the Yankees and not be the underdogs, I don’t care what your record is. The Yankees payroll, at over $208 million, is almost twice the Phillies’ payroll. They can pretty much get whomever they want. They have history on their side, even though they were too rich to play in the House that Ruth Built anymore (ungrateful wenches!). Am I disappointed the Phillies lost? Of course. Am I bitter? Like any good Philadelphian, hell yes. Will I punch a Yankees fan in the face tomorrow? If that’s what it takes to make him shut up, maybe. But I’m happy that Chase Utley tied the all-time homerun record for a single World Series, which none of the milliondollar Yankees managed to do, and very, very happy with new addition Cliff Lee (can we clone him?). I was already incredulous last year when a Philadelphia team actually won something, and I can’t imagine what mental state of shock (and euphoria) I would have been in had we ó dare I say the word, lest I jinx us forever? ó repeated. The Phillies will always be my boys. They’ll keep working hard, playing scrappy ball, and being paid much, much less than the Yankees. The Phanatic will still hula his belly, and Philly fans will probably still boo Santa Claus. As for me, I’m keeping the phaith. There is, after all, always next year. Susan Zhu ’11 (szhu@fas) has a bag of dark chocolate to help herself cope, but really just wants a cheesesteak from Geno’s.


indy arts

Persecution and Assassination Bringing the Revolution to the LoebEx stage.


ne of the most complex postwar

German plays, Marat / Sade is a challenge to read and a tour de force to stage. The team of director James Leaf ’10 and producers Jan Luksic ’11, Steven De Marco, and Devon Dunn ’12 embarked on an ambitious project with The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, which can be watched on the LoebEx stage until November 7th. Making good use of the LoebEx space, the play’s minimal sets are mobile and easily transformed. Although there are only a few objects on stage, the central space is always boldly occupied by the actors. A plethora of paintings, drawings and inscriptions relating to the French Revolution sprawl across the walls like graffiti and mirror the agitation on stage. All visible spots within the theater are exploited. The guard opens the massive back door to suggest an exterior world separated from the realm of the play; the Marquis de Sade orchestrates the “ceremony” from above everyone else, sitting at the top of a flock of stairs. The

drawn and quartered

audience feels engulfed in this unchained environment, which constantly reminds the spectator of his compliance in being a spectator. The interpretation of the play is consistent with Antonin Artaud’s theory of cruelty as a tool of breaking with traditional dramatic illusionism. The playwright Peter Weiss was considerably influenced by Artaud; the script itself suggests an Artaudian staging model, which makes the LoebEx performance grow naturally from the text. The way in which the circumstances of the French Revolution can still speak to a contemporary audience resides at the core of the imagined dialogue between the sardonic Marquis de Sade and Marat, the physically weak journalist who becomes the voice of the revolution. Weiss uses rich layers of artistic expression to articulate his discourse on the tension between personal and collective change. The dense text is diluted with interwoven recurrent musical pieces paired with emphatic movement and pantomime in the actors’ performance. The LoebEx show operates at several levels to unfold the strata of signification in Weiss’s play. The burlesque effects and


the interplay of word and music make the performance enjoyable for first-time audiences, but the show is most rewarding for the experienced theater spectator. The focus on interaction with the audience successfully addresses potential differences in the reception of the play. The bourgeois director of the asylum, Coulmier (Gabriel Drapos ‘13) sits with his wife (Alexandra Rose ’12) in the first row next to members of the audience. Toward the end of the show, the Marquis reveals the spontaneous reactions of the spectators by randomly lighting up their faces with spotlights. These devices of interaction blur the line between the actors and the audience; they are daring enough to get the spectator involved, but limited enough to keep everyone comfortable and to leave the option of passive observation available at all times. The performance sometimes relies too heavily on the text. Eloquently performed by Olivia Jampol ’10, the Marquis de Sade has several philosophical incursions which require prolonged attention from the audience. The body language of the actors and the element of sheer spectacle hold the interest of the spectator when the textual

information withdraws to limited levels of engagement. These instances almost make the spoken text manifest, delivering it in unfamiliar patterns. A Brechtian device of estrangement, the narrative voice of the Herald interrupts predictable developments, including the peak moment of the assassination of Marat. Playing the Herald, Brandon Ortiz ‘12 successfully captures the ironic and selfreferential dimension of his character’s role. An alternation of surprise and predictability is kept alive through most of the play. The final scenes reunite laughter and misery. Everyone is caught between rationality and madness and governed by pain and desire. The performance concludes with a burlesque explosion brought about by the heavy accumulation of unresolved tensions. The show succeeds in challenging and altering the spectators’ perception of reality, drawing them into the fictional realm of the play; fragments of the agonizing dialogue between the Marquis de Sade and Marat still haunt me. Sonia Coman ’11 (scoman@fas) lives with the ghosts of revolution.

SONIA COMAN/Independent

KATE SWEENEY/Independent


11.05.09 • The Harvard Independent

The Sophomore Issue  

The Indy thinks about concentrations