Ambitions as a writer: Or, diamond is unbreakable

Plan Author

  • Tristan Rolfe, 2019

Fields of Concentration

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Gabriel Naughton, independent scholar


This Plan has four components, starting with an essay titled “Divinity: Original Sin,” which discusses Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Championsin the context of Ancient Greek tragedies such as Sophocles Oedipus cycle, Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and Euripides Medea. The second component is an essay expounding on the educational value of Greek theatrical rhetoric, and the third is a personal narrative about Tristan’s experience and methods working in the Writer’s Block, where Marlboro students tutor other Marlboro students on writing. The final component is a memoir about Tristan’s first teaching experience, running an afterschool improv class at Marlboro Elementary.


Breakfast of Champions, ​like a Greek tragedy,​ ​provides the reader foreknowledge of its conclusion, and for the same reason. Showing readers the results of events before they occur highlights the importance of sometimes seemingly small choices that lead to those events. These choices are not always consciously made in Breakfast of Champions, ​and a character’s opportunity to make a choice with any effect on the world presents them with the challenge of creating meaning.

Fifth-century Greek dramatists may claim to have provided a holistic style of education bolstered by the religious context and suffrage unique to its medium. Voting subverted the power dynamic between student and teacher. The necessity of appealing to audiences was a restriction they ultimately benefited from, as it forced them to prioritize the audience’s reception of the work. Should a modern teacher employ these tactics, they will notice significant advantages.

It is crucial to keep the writer’s intentions in mind while reading the paper. This style of tutoring’s goal is to advise the writer toward a revision of the paper, which I determine as a step from the current state of the paper not toward some idealized version of the paper, but toward the writer’s imagined product. Therefore, my first step is to ask the writer to summarize what the paper is about. I find it useful to write this summary down at the top of the title page. It is also important to ask about the paper’s audience and genre. I build my understanding of the writer’s desired product around this conversation.


Most memorable was the moment when I named one of my papers after a video game on a whim, only to notice that the paper was about the way Vonnegut uses the titles of other things for his own purposes.

The latter half of my Plan is most interesting, an exploration of how I want to be as a teacher. I was inspired by kids like Tess and Jacob, from my memoir, and teachers like Jack Glynn and John Sheehy. I had a fascinating year-long tutorial with Gabe Naughton where we read a lot about the Greek ideas of education and the value of performing arts.