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Harvard Authors Profile: Chase D. Melton ’25 on the Importance of Humans and the Generosity of Art

Photo of Chase D. Melton ’25
Photo of Chase D. Melton ’25 By Courtesy of Chase D. Melton
By Daniel T. Liu, Contributing Writer

Chase D. Melton ’25 spent his summer in Berlin writing about everything but Berlin.

“I’m not really able to write about a place or feel comfortable writing about a place until I left it, which is interesting — until it’s in memory,” said Melton.

During his Artist Development Fellowship — organized by the Office for the Arts, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, and the Office of Career Services — Melton took his fiction writing abroad to Germany. Between dance floors, creative writing workshops, and grocery stores, he felt the historical city flood his fiction through what he previously described as “non- (or pre- or post- or epi-) linguistic environments and interactions” in a blog post on the Office for the Arts website. Through his experiences, Melton sought to find interhuman connection in places obscured by a foreign language, or just language itself.

A continent and an ocean over from Berlin, Melton grew up in Southwest Florida. He often finds recurring motifs of fish, whales, and bodies of water emerging in his work. His language has been shaped by the natural environment, specifically in how the fundamental questions of the world, including nature, escape him.

“There are these massive thunderstorms that happen sort of like 4 p.m. on the dot every day,” he said. “That time in childhood really gave me this reverence for nature. And the idea that there’s something really holy about it, but also super indifferent that I will never impact or affect. It’s a good humbling thing for a writer.”

He began his investigation into the art of writing by passionately reading works by Roberto Bolano, Maggie Nelson, and James Baldwin — authors who evoked the urgency of writing in him. For Melton, writing felt crucial: a necessary, immediate act to observe and comment on the world. He was inspired by his own mom, an author as well.

“They made the task of writing seem much more serious than I had initially thought,” he said. “I think part of it was just reading things that I had no business reading, at the age I was reading.”

His work as a writer began in full a few years before coming to Harvard. He founded a literary magazine in high school, before joining the editorial board of The Wave at Harvard and having his fiction recognized as a finalist for the Louis Begley Prize for Short Fiction and an honorable mention for the Ecker Short Story Prize. His short story, “Streaming,” was also published in the Harvard Advocate. Melton interrogates persistent questions about the world and draws on his curiosity to make sense of the wonder and uncertainty it has to offer.

“I think I’m often writing about the things I’m most confused about,” he said, identifying that, “nature is one of them.”

Melton’s incessant questioning of the world around him through fiction is not a lone effort. He cites his time at Harvard and the people around him as transformative to his creative practice.

“The experience of coming to Harvard has been a lot of listening to writers, listening to my peers,” he said. “There’s an immense amount of talent around here and also a super variant pool of ideas that’s super vast and wacky,” Melton said. “I think my writing has gotten more empathetic and compassionate as I’ve kind of met different kinds of people and realize that there’s so many different kinds of humans in the world.

Witnessing and participating in the community around him alongside multiple different art forms has brought to light for Melton new ways of developing his own language and practice.

“My best friend is a painter and draws and sculpts and does all these awesome things and being around that energy, even though I don't know the first thing about it, I think is super helpful for my writing,” he said. “I think with writing in particular, writers are a bit isolated or a bit solitary and sometimes a bit pretentious and don’t want to reach out and make community,”

Melton described how seeing other forms of art inspired him to think about his work as a more “generative, massive thing” that can take a variety of forms.

The heartfelt connection to the people around him is not just a plus to Melton; it is fundamental to understanding the practice of fiction itself.

“There’s a self-defeating attitude of ‘I need to be alone to work on this,’ or ‘I need to be alone with my thoughts,’” he said. “You can’t really understand human interpersonal stuff and you can’t really write about people.”

Melton believes not only in art’s role to bring people together, but also in its humanistic power. He perceives art as an important lens to view humanity and grasp its intricacies. Fiction, he contends, is just as real as the real thing.

“I feel convinced of characters’ humanity. I really feel like they’re not people but important sort of beings, too,” Melton said. “We need to take them seriously and think about characters as bundles of ideas and engage with them in a serious way,” he said.

Currently, Melton is working on his thesis proposal, which he hopes will be a collection of short stories.

Through language, Melton has built a home of his own, one that calls on the world around him and depends on the beauty of humans to guide him along. On the nature of writing about human relationships, Melton said: “I think maybe writers need friends.”

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