Daniel Carranza explored King Lear, Walter Benjamin, Henry James, and the city of Berlin.
Photo by Matt D'Annunzio
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Adviser: Jan Mieszkowski [German 1997–]
Thesis: The Damaged Particular: Textures of Ethical Life in Adorno’s Minima Moralia
What it’s about: Minima Moralia is a collection of aphorisms written during Theodor Adorno’s exile from Nazi Germany, in which he discusses everything from the nature of concepts to his émigré experience, from poetic meter and modern art to the sociology of mass entertainment.
What it’s really about: How a collection claiming to be a work of ethics situates itself between autobiography and philosophy.
When I got to Reed I was: A dogmatic atheist obsessed with a molecule known as autoinducer-2.
Influential book: King Lear
Favorite spot: Walter Benjamin says an aura is the appearance of a distance no matter how near it might seem. Even when it’s empty, the library radiates a spirit of student community. It has an aura.
Random thoughts: It may sound paradoxical, but ultimately literature is useful in a broader sense because it’s useless in a narrow sense. If you read a novel by Henry James, you’re not able to go build something or open a new enterprise. But if you read enough novels by Henry James, you learn a certain way of interrogating yourself and your experience and can become a different kind of person. When one reads, one is in the company of others, and it becomes a question of what company one keeps. It’s not just a question of friends and family, but also a question of authors.
Cool stuff I did: On the J-Board I learned that the Honor Principle implies that the collective cultivation of virtue, not some body of inalienable rights, should define every aspect of social life. I also tutored writing at the DoJo. Reading papers about Herodotus year after year never stopped being fun.
Scholarships, awards, financial aid: Without the financial aid granted by Reed it would not have been possible for me to attend. I also received the Beinecke Scholarship and the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. In a way, the most private and wealthy institutions in the U.S. also happen to be the most egalitarian.
What’s next: I’ll teach English in Germany for a year and contemplate a few important German poems.