Seniors 2020

A Message from the Director of Undergraduate Studies


Senior year is always extraordinary in many ways: the last two semesters of college (which itself was the telos of much of High School), the push to finish the senior thesis (which is itself the culmination of four years of increasingly autonomous and mature scholarship), the final months of solidarity and joyous sociality with the intellectual community of professors and peers both within the department and across the campus, the anticipation of weeks of late-Spring revelry and celebration to mark the completion of both classes and independent work. But above all senior year is epochal as a form of existential punctuation, the moment when an entire lifetime of literal and institutionalized paternalism suddenly comes to a close and another chapter begins—whether that is a first job, a fellowship abroad, post-graduate professional training (law school, medical school, business school, graduate school, etc.), or some other sort of adventure. In every case it is an immersion into a very different lifeworld whose demands will reveal, sometimes sooner sometimes later, just how well your four years at Princeton prepared you—in all sorts of ways—to grapple with the unanticipated challenges that you will inevitably confront.

Seen in this light, the sudden disruption of Spring term 2020, the virtualization of our community, as brutal and unfortunate and scary as it has been in all sorts of ways, is in fact simply an extreme precipitation of the peripeteia of graduation. As such, it has revealed something during these last few challenging months that one often only begins to appreciate in the years after we leave college: the importance of the personal friendships, intellectual relationships, and stimulating micro-communities (seminars, eating clubs, the departmental lounge, singing groups, debate teams, etc.) that have sustained us during these years at Princeton and will continue to do so. Your membership in the graduating class of seniors who majored in German, your German Department, is also one of those micro-communities and it is our hope that we have not only nurtured and challenged you while you were here but that we will have many opportunities to continue to do so in the future. I anticipate that the imposed virtualization of our classes, office hours, and advising will translate into an even greater appreciation for the solace of such encounters once we can gather again in more traditional fashion. And I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we all look forward to remaining in touch with you in the years to come, to seeing you again during reunions, to congratulating you in person for the great accomplishment of your thesis and your graduation, at which point we will hopefully be able to look back on this tumultuous time as one that also taught us—perhaps sooner than we wished but so be it—the true value of community. Until then, please accept this scrapbook as a placeholder souvenir of the marvelous years we spent together.

Happy Graduation Class of 2020!

Prof. Thomas Y. Levin, Director of Undergraduate Studies