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PURE Award winners 2016: Troy Klassen

Philosophy Honours student compares a Friedrich Nietzsche character to works by other 20th Century writers

Philosophy Honours student Troy Klassen delves deep into the works of Friedrich Nietzsche for his PURE research project. Photo by Nikki Reimer, University of Calgary

By Jennifer Robitaille
August 22, 2016

The University of Calgary’s Eyes High strategic statement reads “students will thrive in programs made rich by research and hands-on experiences”. The integration of teaching and research is a priority in this vision and the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience — also known as PURE — is an important initiative that reflects this commitment.

Each year undergraduates can apply for the prestigious PURE Awards, which provide financial research support to some of the university’s most promising students over the spring and summer months.

The program is designed to give undergraduate students the opportunity to learn how to develop research projects, undertake independent research and contribute to knowledge in their respective fields.

In this Q&A series, we hear from the 2016 PURE Award winners from the Faculty of Arts.

Name: Troy Klassen

Degree sought: BA Honours, Philosophy

What is your research topic?

My research project is centred around the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, specifically his middle writings, including Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In order to elucidate his thought, without subjecting it to a systematic approach, I’m comparing his character of Zarathustra to other examples found within the works of 20th Century writers, specifically: Franz Kafka, John Williams, and Samuel Beckett.

What attracted you to this particular research project?

Nietzsche’s works have held me captive for a long time. It’s as though he reaches out of the page and demands that the reader give a visceral response to his thoughts. He doesn’t begin with some abstract concept of truth, justice, or goodness. Instead, he starts with the human being, revealing its depths with uncomfortable clarity. It is no surprise that, additionally, throughout my personal reading of novelists and writers from the 20th Century, I’ve felt the ripples of his thoughts and ideas.

Why is this research important?

The philosophy I’m interested in, and thus especially my project, deals with understanding the human subject. This means understanding the way we ascribe values to things and the reasons why we do it the way we do- that was a roundabout way of saying that my project is important because it gives an insight into how we determine what is important in the first place.

What do you hope to achieve with this research?

I hope to better understand what Nietzsche was trying to say. I also hope to better understand the works of some of the 20th Century’s most profound novelists. Finally, I hope that, through my work, I can manage to create something new, something that will actually contribute to Nietzsche scholarship.

What do you like most about your field of study?

I like the freedom that philosophy affords me. I’m able to explore writers and their books and especially able to be open to where that exploration leads. I have no final hypothesis I want to prove. I get to follow these great thinkers to thoughts and questions that I wasn’t even aware of before. In short, philosophy is an adventure in the purest sense-there’s no preplanned path from A to B, who knows where I’ll end up?

What advice would you give to other students considering applying for PURE awards next year?

Be passionate about the project you are creating. Realize, with a bit of nervousness and a lot of excitement, that this is an opportunity to research whatever you find most interesting, most important.