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Following a Love of French All the Way to a Doctorate


Keenan Burton ’16 discovered his love for French in high school; in College he glimpsed how much further he could go. Now he’s a student in a French doctoral program at Washington University in Saint Louis, focusing his research on the intersection of music and literature. In particular, Burton is looking at 19th- and 20th-century French opera and how jazz came to France in the early 20th century. He offered this perspective about Hamilton and where he’s gone since.  

When I started at Hamilton as a freshman in the fall of 2012, I had many ideas of what my eventual major would be: psychology, history, English, comparative literature, music, and French. By taking classes in each of these departments I was able to discover for myself what area of study truly interested me the most and was able to guide my diverse interests towards the French Department.

I knew that I wanted to major in French from my early days at Hamilton, but it wasn't until my time spent abroad in Paris with the Hamilton in France program that I knew that I wanted to pursue a doctoral degree in French language and literature.

Being able to write persuasively and communicate effectively in a foreign language are both skills essential to success in my graduate program, skills that I forged during my time at Hamilton. Hamilton prepared me for the academic rigors of doctoral program and taught me many of the skills necessary to succeed. I'm sure that this is said in nearly every interview done for Hamilton, but the open curriculum truly paved the way for me to find my passion for French literature.

The next four years will be focused on finishing graduate classes and qualifying exams before moving onto to my dissertation and completing my graduate studies. Afterward, I hope to continue my academic career by applying to professor positions at colleges and universities around the country.

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