WINNERS FROM THE CLASS OF 2024

Max Abramson, “Knuckles, Bruised and Broken: Developing a Humanistic Philosophy in Doctor Who (2005-)”

Abramson’s essay embraces the central theme of his First Year Seminar “How to Be Human: Lessons from Science Fiction” by drawing on the long-running BBC show Doctor Who as primary source material to explore a fundamental question of what it means to be (or not to be) human. Bringing in both creative and academic writing that points the reader toward questions from the show about morality, meaning, and human connection, Abramson describes the Doctor in rich detail throughout their multiple iterations and various companions, showing their evolution toward a humanism “defined by aspects of kindness and compassion that one can choose to embody.”

Prerana Patil, “Pandering Celebrities, Levied Insults and Novel Veracity: An Analysis of Bo Burnham’s Make Happy”

Patil explores the complex web of relationships between audiences and what she calls the “manufactured relatability of entertainers” through the stand-up comedy of Bo Burnham. Focusing on his standout special Make Happy, Patil unpacks Burnham’s shifts in persona from “introspective and anxious, his true self” to “arrogant and unconcerned, a parody of a male comic.” Through these shifts, Patil argues, Burnham critiques both the celebrities that are invested in curating “relatable” personae for audiences as well as the audiences themselves whose expectations of celebrities perpetuate this inauthenticity.