THESISCRAZY THREE: The Final Hour

“I am incredibly excited to meet the person that I have become tomorrow because I assume that person will be happy, not stressed, and friendly to be around.”

Here we are: judgment day. In just a few hours, this will all be over. You will hand in nine or ten or twelve months’ worth of work, you will imbibe alcohol or whatever on the steps of Olin, you will head to the ice rink to rock out to Matisyahu (wait—what?), and you will slowly begin the process of reintegrating  yourself into society.  It’s sort of like emerging from prison. Right, Cara? Cara?

Once again, I pushed my way through the nooks and crannies Olin (as well as ST Lab), anxious to feel what it’s like to be a cracked out thesis-writer with the clock ticking in the last few days before the deadline. What I found, in a few writers, was a strong sense of being totally incapable of coherent human communication with anyone who isn’t writing a thesis. I interviewed a few homeless (read: carrel-less) writers as well this time—and discovered in ST Lab a vibrant late-night community of overcaffeinated, undernourished crazies challenging today’s deadline. Turns out there are a lot of caffeinated beverages you can accumulate when you’re working right by Pi.

Additional thanks is due A-Batte, Syed, pyrotechnics, and BZOD for this feature—not to mention every cagey senior thesis-writer who put up with our harassment. Thanks, guys. You really shouldn’t be reading this right now. Happy Thesis Day!

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Laura Lupton ’12, HIST, carrel #451

On her topic: “I’m writing about the way genius was related to aesthetic theory in the 18th century—specifically saying it wasn’t related to aesthetic theory in the 18th century but has been kind of appropriated by intellectual historians as one of the major themes.”

On how she arrived at the topic: “I was interested broadly in the way intellectual thought is informed by sensory stimuli. Through research I discovered a lot of discourse on that idea in 18th century aesthetic theory. A lot of random unknown thinkers who nobody really cares about—as well as Shaftesbury, Hume, Burke, and Kant as a kind of illustration of the argument I’m making.”

On her progress: “I finished a draft and am now regretting that because instead of frantically working to finish it I’m frantically working to make it good, which is a lot more difficult. For the first time in my life I’m staying up past 3 am to do work and forgetting to eat lunch.”

On this feature: “I’m always surprised reading THESISCRAZY interviews because they’re witty and funny and they are still capable of speaking, whereas my capacity for social interaction has completely disappeared.”

Plans for April 12: “I just haven’t thought that far.”

Nica Latto ’12, PSYCH (“but my thesis is not very psych-y—more like American Studies”), no carrel but often works in ST Lab

Working title: “Illusory Aid: How American Myths Keep the ‘Making a Difference’ Lie Alive”

On her topic: It’s about how American myths construct nonprofits, and how nonprofits reproduce these same myths that keep our society going. And basically how nonprofits are bad.”

On her progress: “”Barely contained panic.”

On including #KONY2012 in her thesis: “I have a section about nonprofit marketing techniques where I talk about the images that they use in their campaigns, and TV ads and stuff, so I talk about Kony.”

If her thesis were a song title: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions… Is that even a song?”

Plans for April 12: “I think I’m gonna get one bottle of André to spray everywhere, and one bottle of nice champagne to drink all by myself.”

Cara Tratner ’12, SOC, carrel #251

Working title: “From Domination to Liberation: Blurring the Lines Between Schools and Prisons”

On her topic: “I’m studying the intersections between schools and prisons and looking at the processes of urban impoverished public schools resembling prisons and adopting the ideology of the criminal justice system and then the reverse process of schools turning into prisons and the example of prison education.”

On her inspiration: “I took a service learning class that brought me into the prisons and facilitated workshops there and that was definitely the most powerful and transformative experience I’ve had. And all my time was going into the prisons and meeting these amazing, incarcerated scholars.”

On her mental state: “I feel like I reached a point of delirium after a ridiculous amount of time in the library. But it’s nice to have solidarity among fellow thesis writers who have also lost their minds. I work everywhere. I work in my carrel, SciLi, Olin, ST Lab. I like the solidarity. I like the group-thesis-writer vibe. When you’re in the library until 1 am on Friday and Saturday, at least there are other people suffering with you.”

On her most traumatic experience: “I had this moment in Olin on Friday when it was closing at 11 pm. My friends were trying to go me to leave because I would get locked in and I was like, ‘Holy shit, I feel like I’m in a prison but actually I’m in a school and my thesis is becoming real’ and I just started tripping out over this crazy realization and I left the library. Also, I went to meet with my advisor and he flat-out told me that my readers were not gonna read my thesis because they are too busy and they’re just gonna skim it. And I had this whole moment when I realized that probably nobody is going to read my thesis. Including me.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Thesis-writing is kind of a self-destructive process. If that’s your jam, you should totally do it. But it has to be something that’s going to sustain your interest. Otherwise, why on earth would you subject yourself to this?”

Annie deBoer ’12, ARHA/ENV, no carrel but often works in ST Lab

Working title: “Norman Foster and Water Conservation: The Evolution of Understanding Sustainable Design”

On her topic: “It aims to critically assess the way sustainable buildings are discussed through an analysis of Norman Foster’s major works. He’s a British architect.”

On her progress: “I am terrified. And for some reason I wake up in sweat every morning. I think it’s stress-caused and caffeine-induced. But otherwise it’s great.”

On her most traumatizing experience:“Last week I met with a professor who told me that he hoped I would not sleep at all this week so I could fix the draft that I handed him. Fortunately, I am sleeping. But just sweatily sleeping. But I’ve showered everyday, which I’m really proud of! I had all my meals in ST lab the other day. I’m wearing the same pants I wore yesterday and you can see all of my meals on them.” [points at stains on pants]

On why she doesn’t have a carrel: “I have an office in COE but I don’t use it ever because it’s far away and creepy at night. So I thought it would be mean to also ask for a carrel. I went through a SciLi phase, then an Olin phase, and now it’s hardcore ST Lab.”

Advice for future thesis writers: Don’t do it. Or do it over the summer.”

Plans for April 12: “I have class at 7. But afterwards, it’s going to be great.”

Emily Brown ’12, ENGL (creative thesis), carrel #448

Working title: “This Architecture is Far from Reassuring”

On her topic: “It’s a collection of poems about dreams, machines, cyborgs, and gay porn stars.”

On arriving at her topic: “I knew I was interested in writing about sexuality and human bodies and different kinds of logic and temporal representation, which comes in with machines and dreams and the way time works in them. Then my advisor recommended a bunch of books for me to read and I got into more theoretical stuff.”

On the gay porn aspect of it: “I already knew about this gay porn star named Brent Corrigan, and I started researching him. He was involved in a bunch of big scandals. For example, he was 17 when his first films came out, so they’re considered child porn. That got me interested in human bodies and how to see this ‘child’ porn is to become one of the ‘other.’ There was a murder that was sort of about him.”

A murder?: “Yeah. There was a guy who owned his contract, and he was murdered by another group of people who wanted the right to distribute his image.”

What about the cyborgs? “I’m interested in different representations of people, like how videos become their own entities and gain their own character. There’s an interesting disconnect between lived reality and the different ‘cyborg’ versions of you that live out there in the form of film and images. For example, Brent Corrigan is only 23 and will tweet about being in horse riding competitions, but there are also videos of a 17-year-old version of him having sex. It’s really interesting.”

On procrastinating: “I want to give a shout-out to my homeboy Ira Glass because This American Life helped me as a procrastination tool that also teaches me things.”

If her thesis were a song title: “Funkytown”

Plans for April 12: “People purchased peach passion andré for my birthday on Friday. I will be imbibing.”

Nick Petrie ’12, ANTHR, carrel $9

Working title: “Oh god, I don’t have one. If you have ideas, I’m open to them. Ask the Wesleying commenters.”

On his topic: “It’s an auto-ethnography of the New York City slam poetry community. I did slam poetry in New York this past summer—‘field work’ being academic code for hanging out with poets, drinking whiskey, and having academic conversation about stuff they think is cool. And then after the fact realized I have to write a thesis, which is just a terrible idea. It’s primarily based around the question of how slam poetry functions as a social justice project and how white supremacy and patriarchy can be subverted but then also reaffirmed.”

On his progress: “I need a title. I need to put in the rest of my citations. I need to make my conclusion pretty. And I need to read it once more. And that’s the plan. I look at you right now, and I’m aware in the abstract that you’re a human. But all I see is, like, poems yelling at theory.”

On how he’s holding up: “I recently had a relatively long discussion with a friend of mine about our desire to throw random large objects off buildings, out of windows, that sort of thing. I am incredibly exhausted. And there’s an epic emotional strain at this point. I’ve effectively been unable to hold a conversation with non-thesis-writers because I’m completely incomprehensible to people who aren’t going insane. Also, my box [gestures to thesis carrel] has no windows. Sometimes I call it my coffin.”

Plans for April 12: “I’m going to be on the steps at 4:00, thank you, Jesus. I’m going to dance furiously in the second line that’s going to happen out of that party, I’m going to go to the barbecue on Home Avenue afterwards in which people are burning their theses, I’m going to hug lots of people that I like and know and lots of people that I don’t know, and if I were single I would kiss random people but I’m not, so that just seems inappropriate.

Mental state will be deteriorated. And I am incredibly excited to meet the person that I have become tomorrow because I assume that person will be happy, not stressed, and friendly to be around.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “First, write, like, constantly, because I’ve found that random pieces of memory or random thoughts or some arbitrary connection between this poet and this theorist or whatever actually becomes super useful. There were quite a few moments where my ass was saved when I looked at passages I had written and I’m like, ‘Way to go, past Nick—you saved the day!

Second, partially enroll. It’s cheaper, and it makes me not resent my thesis as much as I would. And it makes it actually possible.

Third, it’s gotta be something that is, like, kicking to get out of your chest. The reason I’m writing about this is because I lived in a community and am living in a community that is so rife with contradictions that I needed some way to think about it and my thesis came along and was like, ‘Ask questions for a year,’ and I’m like ‘Great.’ It needs to be something that’s visceral.”

If his thesis were a song: “‘Moanin’ by Charles Mingus because it starts out super funky, becomes widely dissonant and confusing, and then returns to the funky.”

2 thoughts on “THESISCRAZY THREE: The Final Hour

  1. Batte_A

    NICK HERE ARE SOME SAMPLE TITLES IF YOU’RE STILL UNDECIDED
    ===================================================

    “field work”: Hanging Out with Poets, Drinking Whiskey, and Academic Conversation about the Cool

    Moanin’

    Sometimes I Call it my Coffiin: An Auto-Ethnography of the New York City Slam Poetry Community

    Poems Yelling at Theory: An Auto-Ethnography of the New York City Slam Poetry Community

    Subverted but then Reaffirmed: How Slam Poetry Functions as a Social Justice Project

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