Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Rachel Brownstein

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | European History | Fiction | Nonfiction | Personality and Social Contexts | Political History


Personality, memoir, narrative, perspective, relativism, ethics


My capstone project is meant to reflect the ideas I’ve been exposed to and the ways in which they have, as a consequence, influenced my life; the ways, I suppose, I can apply them. Over the course, or courses (literally), of my time spent at The CUNY Graduate Center, I felt (mostly) enthusiastic about the ideas and philosophies I was growing to at-least-marginally understand. However, as time passed I became increasingly more unsettled about my position as an “academic.” In other words, I found that I was moved and motivated to increase my understanding of things, but never did I feel like I had any solid footing, especially when I was encouraged to pursue the specialized version of research/writing/applying knowledge. For example: in philosophy classes I felt less abstract and more creative; in research classes I felt less focused and more sprawling; in comparative classes I felt more philosophically inclined than literature-oriented. I was always lacking some foundation to draw everything back to and was always in the process of comparing different disciplines rather than specializing in them. It was--or maybe just I was a bit of a mess.

In any case, the mess isn’t something inherently negative. A Liberal Studies degree cultivates an ability to perspective switch, if you will, and I think this is invaluable. I do not, however, find that any one point of view is “better” than another and it has only become more difficult for me to formulate arguments. I contradict myself, wittingly or not, because I invariably bring to mind another specialization’s lens or framework and this means, often times, a disruption in the compatibility of whatever argument I’m attempting to convey or, as some philosophical proofs call for, “prove.” This has become a huge part of my experience as student and I my goal was to be able to create a piece of work that conveyed all these angles I find both appealing and simultaneously contradictory.

At this point, I’ve thought back to who I think most interests me and, as a consequence, has likely most influenced y work. The names I’ve come up with are writers Jorge Luis Borges and W.G. Sebald. Many of my courses intersected these writers/thinkers and it seemed they were confounded over some of the same issues. Perspective, memory and relative understanding, specifically.

What I really like about them, in addition, is that their “trade” or focus, discipline, perspective etc., is more ambiguous and less straightforward. They blend genres, alter reality and incorporate the art of narrative. This is exactly what I’ve tried to do.

I’ve attempted to compile a kind “fantastical memoir” where I draw from academic experience, random interactions and end beyond as a means to create a composite of experience.

My experience has not been anything particularly individual in nature. I feel like when I talk to many of the people I happen across within the course of a day (whether at school, at the coffee shop, the yoga studio I teach at), everyone is blindly but enthusiastically ( like me) seeking out reason and balance in this life and the result is something that appears to be totally scattered. My aim is that by writing a memoir that is in part my own, but part a composite of other’s experiences, I might be able to capture some kind of understanding or truth about what it’s like to be a human-- at least a human, in their twenties, in NYC, who has a mild idea about where they’ve come from and where they’d like to go The result is a semi-accurate portrayal of what acquiring a Liberal Studies feels like; that is, something scattered and chaotic but overall enjoyable.