Megan Galbreth, a senior in Lowell House, has been named a 2008 Marshall Scholar. The award entitles Galbreth to two years of study at Oxford University, where she will pursue an M.Phil. in English Language and Literature.
Marshall Scholarships are awarded annually to a select group of U.S. citizens who have received a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.7 grade point average. The scholarships, worth about $60,000 each, were established in 1953 by the British government to thank the United States for political and financial support following World War II.
Galbreth, of Signal Mountain, Tenn., is a joint concentrator in French and linguistics. She will use her time at Oxford to focus on medieval English literature, in particular Chaucer’s appropriation of Neoplatonic thought. The medieval era has fascinated Galbreth since freshman year, when she took a literature and arts core course on the medieval court.
“I liked that the Middle Ages felt foreign,” Galbreth said. “Reading the texts can be a bit like traveling because you step into a different world, a different time and place.”
Galbreth has done a lot of “traveling” through the medieval era this semester, as she is currently at work on a senior honors thesis about irony in the French text “The Romance of the Rose.” Studying letters exchanged by Parisian intellectuals in 1400, Galbreth has discovered that the way the text is discussed has parallels with modern linguistic theories on irony.
At Oxford, Galbreth will transfer her interest in medieval French texts to those of the English tradition.
“After the Norman conquest,” she explained, “English literature was very influenced by French writers. I think it will be more interesting to study the receiving end of the influence rather than the giving end.”
For Galbreth, the scholarship will also provide the opportunity to explore a career in academia.
“I expect to go on to a Ph.D. and continue in academia,” Galbreth said, “so Oxford will allow me to try that field in a more intense way and see if it suits me.”
Galbreth has been involved with a variety of activities at Harvard, serving as a tutor in the Writing Center and a member of the Reform Christian Fellowship. She plays cello with the Bach Society Orchestra and served as the orchestra’s manager in her sophomore and junior years. Galbreth plans to continue playing cello at Oxford.
“The colleges have music societies, which I would love to join,” she said, “but first I need to get a new case for my cello so it fits on the plane!”
Although this year’s scholarships were officially announced Monday (Dec. 3), Galbreth received an e-mail announcing the results on Sunday, but it contained no message – only an unrevealing subject line and an attachment, which failed to open.
“My computer froze right when I tried to open the attachment,” Galbreth said. “I had to run to my roommate’s computer to read the message. The whole process took about 10 minutes, so it was tense but also pretty funny.”
When it finally opened, Galbreth was more than pleased to read the message.
“I was overjoyed,” Galbreth said. “I am so excited to live in England; to experience a new culture and a different atmosphere.”