Kevin Cheng

Like many students I came to Princeton thinking I was going to major in something STEM-related. But after taking Maria DiBattista's course on European Modernism and Eduardo Cadava's seminar on Photography and Literature, I knew I could find a home in the English Department. 

My intellectual passions lean towards literature, history, and philosophy, and the dynamic relation between them. As a German-track student in the English department, I've been able to incorporate into my course of study classes on major European thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Walter Benjamin. The department's flexible and highly interdisciplinary program has also encouraged me to take classes outside my area of specialization. Richard Wright's Black Boy and Herman Melville's Benito Cereno have become personal favorites, reaffirming in an American context how history and philosophy, as well as politics and economics, crucially shape and inform some of the world’s great literature.

Outside of the classroom, I work as a freelance journalist with the University Press Club. When the Black Justice League held a protest in Nassau Hall, I called on English professors Kinohi Nishikawa and Anne Cheng during the process of writing an article for the Atlantic Magazine on the Asian American response on campus. Eventually I came to work with Professor Cheng on my spring JP, where I wrote on performance and identity in Asian American theater. That very summer, I went on to intern at the Asian American Writers' Workshop, a literary nonprofit dedicated to giving a platform to Asian American writers. 

All this work culminated in my senior thesis where I decided to go even more global by paradoxically staying closer to home. My thesis explores questions of Asian American labor, identity, and memory in the works of H. T. Tsiang, a Chinese refugee arriving in the U.S. in 1926, Tao Lin, an American writer born to Taiwanese parents in 1983, and Chien-Wen Lin, a New York based photographer who was born in Taipei in 1987. Looking closely at the writings and photographs of H. T. Tsiang, Tao Lin, and Chien-Wen Lin, I examined life under capitalist modernity and explored how technology affects our relationship with the world around us. 

After Princeton, I plan on working as a freelance journalist in New York City and Taipei as I think about going to graduate school in critical theory or law. Along the way, I’ll be catching up on everything I didn’t get to read at Princeton.