“It’s like looking at a hole where other people saw blackness but realizing it goes into outer space.”

If a foaming, caffeine-starved, thesis-writing senior snapped at you recently, don’t take it personally. It’s crunch week in Olin/SciLi/everywhere—senior theses are due next Tuesday, April 12, and writers are buckling down hardcore before some celebration on the steps.

Continuing a recent Wesleying tradition, Syed, A-Batte, and I crept through the storied halls of Olin thesis carrels to document some of these specimen in their natural habitat. Scroll down for the gallery, and click on to meet the individual writers.
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Charlie Alderman ’11, ENGL, Fourth Floor Olin

Working title: Empty Millennial Frenzy”

On his topic: “My thesis explores how four major American authors (Franzen, DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, and Bret Ellis) responded to economic prosperity of the 1990s.”

On his thesis: “I haven’t been as perennially freaked out as a lot of my friends have. Just maintain good work habits. It’s not gonna kill you. My thesis is fine.  It’s not going to change the world, but it’s okay, and it’s been okay basically the whole time. I just fear that whenever I talk about my thesis I sound like a pretentious asshole. I also think it’s fascinating how virtually everyone’s thesis has a connection to their socioeconomic/sociopolitical lives.”

On writers he’s studying: “I used to eat, sleep, and dream Jonathan Franzen. But I’ve spent the last two wee ks thinking a lot more about David Foster Wallace than anyone should. I can say that David Wallace can really throw me over the edge.”

Advice for future writers: “You should go into your thesis knowing that it’s important to you, and that it probably won’t revolutionize anything. It’s just you sticking your toe into the big ocean of academic writing. You’ve gotta remind yourself of that. You can be obsessed, you can be into it, but you’ve gotta keep it in perspective.”

Plans for Tuesday: “Edward Andréhands on the steps of Olin and then other work. I’ll probably read my thesis a few times over and be disappointed.”

If his thesis-writing process were a band name: “Hewey Louis and the Social News.”

Rebecca Friendly ’11, GOVT, Fourth Floor Olin

Working title: “The Relevance of Gender Quotas in Latin America”

On her topic: “My life is data. . . . I’ve basically been calling up a bunch of Latin American countries.”

Plans for Tuesday: “Definitely gonna drink champagne with my friends. And leave it completely open. It’s the first time I’m not going to have a plan of action.”

On her mood: “I’m really high energy right now. I was passing out this morning. I’m gonna pump out a bunch of pages.”

Advice for future writers: “Have a plan, but let your thesis evolve, because it’ll take you in different directions.

Will Krieger ’11, ARHA/GRST, Fourth Floor Olin

Working title: “Framing the Dilettante: The Art of Martin Kippenberger”

On the writing process: “The writing is absolutely euphoric for me. I just let language take control of me at this point. I’ve given myself completely to my writing. I think some critic said that the writer has no personality outside of his or her writing, and I’ve taken that to heart.”

Best part of writing a thesis: “It’s more of a euphoria, and terror, of providing an insight so deep into an artwork that it becomes an abyss. . . . It’s like looking at a hole where other people just saw blackness but realizing that it goes through the earth, into outer space.”

On his social life: “I think my social life right now is pretty much mediated by my thesis. So I’m using the same vocabulary and sentence structure as my writing, I think.”

Plans for Tuesday: “I’m gonna have tea and crumpets and go to bed at 7:00.”

Advice for future writers: “It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you say it. So you can anything.”

If his thesis-writing process were a band name: “It’s in German: Freiwillige Sulbstkontrolle. It translates as Voluntary Self Control.”

Sam Backer ’11, HIST, Third Floor Olin

Working title: “I don’t really have one yet.”

On his topic: “It’s about the aesthetics of historical production, historiographical theory, and some theory of my own.”

On the process: “It feels like it’s all I’ve done ever. There’s no one who’s writing a thesis doing anything but writing a thesis now.”

Plans for Tuesday: “I’ll party on the steps. And then I’m going to spend a month just chilling on Foss.”

Advice for future writers: “Make sure it’s not just something that you think is interesting.  You really have to care.”

Allison Klion ’11, ARHA, Second Floor Olin

On her topic: “It’s about a contemporary artist, Dario Robleto. I’m writing about his process and philosophy of sampling, which I’m comparing to rap and electronic music as a technical and philosophical strategy.”

On the process: “I’m one of the people who are furthest; immense research has amounted to a lot of material, and I’m just trying to synthesize it all. I’m kind of going in circles right now.”

Best part of writing a thesis: “Exploring such a wide range of information, and learning about so many topics all at once. That, and learning how to make hair flowers.”

Plans for Tuesday: “I’m probably going to cry—out of joy and relief. And I’ll sleep. After staying up four days in a row that’s all I’ll be able to do.”

Liz Holden ’11, CSS, Third Floor Olin

Working title: “Rethinking Urban Landscapes”

On her topic: “It’s about the High Line Park in New York City, which was constructed from an old railway track. It’s about architectural history and public policy, exploring how cities are adopting to the recession and how the current conditions are shaping our urban spaces. I’m working with Joseph Siry in the Art History department.”

On the process: “CSS prepares you really well. It’s a lot of fun. I’m just tweaking it. It’s really exciting, since the High Line hasn’t been finished yet.”

Advice for future writers: “Start early. Find an advisor you work well with. If you pace it, it’s pretty easy.”

Plans for Tuesday: “I haven’t thought that far. I’m just trying to go day by day.”

Katherine Nilson ’11, FGSS/PSYCH, Third Floor Olin

On her thesis: “My thesis is very gay.”

On her topic: “I’m exploring different representations of butch fem and how they’re undergirded by a linear understanding of time. I used to hate all theory. Now I’m writing a really theoretical thesis.”

On the process: “My thesis advisor described my thesis as a really beautiful child dressed in ugly clothing and locked in a closet. I need to dress it in better clothing.”

How to cope: “My friends and I refer to this carrel as ‘The Thesis Box.’ It’s important to get out. We go to the Athenian Diner a lot. Last time I was there I saw a documentary about ferrets and it changed my life.”

Plans for Tuesday: “I’ll probably drink a 40 by myself. Or maybe two 40s.”

If her thesis-writing process were a band name: “Maybe Flaming Homos?”

Note: This post is the first of several installments of THESISCRAZY 2011. If you’re writing a thesis and want to be profiled in your cracked-out pre-deadline madness (who wouldn’t?), shoot us an email at staff(at)wesleying(dot)org with THESISCRAZY in the subject line. Include your name, working title (or subject, if you haven’t named it yet), where your carrel is, and when we should come find you. Happy writing!

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