Welcome to the first installment of THESISCRAZY 2014, the Wesleying feature where we interview sleep-deprived, Easy Mac-consuming thesis writers during the final days leading up to that fateful moment on the Olin steps (which happens this Friday, April 11th). To see more THESISCRAZY features from previous years, check them out here.
Are you a senior thesis writer who wants to get interviewed within the next 2-3 days (cough, any NSM majors, cough)? Email staff(at)wesleying(dot)org!
Working title: “’The Early Works of Ben Lerner.’ That’s really it. My goal was to not have a semicolon, or–a colon.” [At this point, someone two carrels down interjects: “You don’t have a colon?!”] “No, I got rid of my colon!”
On his progress: “I mean, I have a full draft. I’m fine. Two of my chapters are pretty much set, my introduction needs like an hour of work, and then halfway done rewriting this chapter. Eh. I mean, I’m fine.”
On his mental state: “I mean, it’ll be a long week, but I’m, like, not worried about getting it done.”
On his most traumatic thesis experience: “I spent about two months in the middle of the year, winter break, and I come back doing a shitload of research towards a chapter that I decided not to write–or that I actually wrote about seven drafts of and realized that it was gonna be too difficult to try to execute in the year, so I wasted about two months, and read dozens of books that never ended up in my thesis that I will never cite. I’m happy I did the reading, but it was pretty traumatic. I mean, I had a number of fucking pages that got written that will never get read again, not even by me.”
Plans for April 11: “Be drunk for the majority of the day. That’s probably my only plan. Maybe read a little bit, but beside that, just be drunk. Maybe go see a movie, actually. [laughs] It’s more just exhaustion at this point. It’s one of those things where it’s all-consuming, so even when I’m trying to take a break, I’m thinking about it. I just can’t really escape it. I just need to shut off my mind for a little bit.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “I’ve like, shut down all of my modes…I watched a lot of TV and movies. I watched, like, every documentary under the sun. I’ve read everything from like, obsessively read the New York Times to read Gawker for hours on end, to like, read dark corners of the Internet. And now I’ve kind of shut it all down, ‘cause.. too much [to do] at this point.”
If his thesis were a TV show/movie/song:
AC: “I have no idea! Honestly I have, like, no idea!”
Maggie Feldman-Piltch ’14, visiting from a few carrels down: “Pick, like, Dead Poets Society.”
AC: “What’s a movie that’s like, deeply ironic, but also –”
MFP: “Good Will Hunting.”
AC: “– but also is skeptical of its own irony??”
MFP: “Good Will Hunting!”
AC: “Yeah, I’d say Good Will Hunting.”
MFP: “Or something Monty Python.”
AC: “I’ll go with Dead Poets Society, even though it’s.. totally unrelated. It has a dead poet!”
On a picture (of a baby) on his desk: I’m a CHUM fellow, so I don’t use my carrel very much ‘cause I have an office, so I gave Yona [Golding ‘14] a key to my carrel. That’s her nephew, I think.
Mari Jarris ’14, German Studies/CSS (German Studies thesis), carrel #317
Working title: “Theory, Empirics, Revolution: A Three-Dimensional Approach to Subverting Authority”
On her topic: “I’m writing about the Frankfurt School. (Have you heard of the Frankfurt School?) It’s all of these guys [waves to shelf of books], but they were like a group of Marxist philosophers. Their whole thing was they’re like an interdisciplinary school of study, so they thought that orthodox Marxism was outdated and needed to be, like, turned into a combination — not only, like, an economic interpretation of history but also a sociological, a cultural critique. So they do a lot with critique of pop culture and showing how this is related to political forms because this is the 1930s in Germany, when fascism is growing. And they were Jewish also, so they were exiled and moved to the United States, and were researching fascist tendencies in the United States population and US culture.”
On her progress: “I’ve done a couple revisions of each chapter. I still have to finish my conclusion, but I’m feeling pretty okay about it. Like, I know I could always make it better, but I would have something to hand in at this point if I needed to, so that’s good.”
On her current mental state: “Umm, I wish I felt more urgency. [laughs] Like, I’m okay. I’m kind of in the middle of, like, I wish I were either a little further ahead or a little further behind, ‘cause I’m in a place where I could get away with this but I want it to be better so I don’t have as much motivation of, like, ‘Oh, I really need to finish this, I really need to work so hard.’ But I’m also not like, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever done, I’m excited to hand it in!’ So that’s why I’m going to work really hard for next week!”
Plans for April 11: “Well, I’m going skiing in Utah right after. And I was going to fly out April 12 and I was like, ‘Wait, I wanna stay here and party for a couple days.’ So I’m meeting my family, and I’m going on April 14. My friend from RISD is coming to visit [on April 12], so I’m gonna not do any work, and I’m gonna not come in here! [laughs] I wanna watch the second season of House of Cards, which I’ve been putting off, and so I might end up doing that for like 48 hours right after.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “For some reason I started this project, like, sophomore year. I had to apply to this grant to study abroad in Germany, and so I was basically working on it, and I was doing research over this past summer in Germany, and I like put a ton of work in and came back and…I just put like hours and hours of work into researching stuff and came back and my advisor’s like, ‘Okay, I really think you should switch your topic.” And I was like, “Uhhhh… you’re kind of right…’ And so I ended up completely switching my topic. It was still in the fall, towards winter, but it was so discouraging ‘cause I’d done a lot of research and work, and I was like, ‘Seriously, I’m not going to use any of that now?’ It was still about the Frankfurt School, just a different part. It turned around, because now I’m gonna get to do that next year. [I’ll be] in Berlin, at the same place I was researching over the summer. And hopefully if I can stand to think about this topic anymore, then that’s what I’m doing.”
On procrastination: “My biggest problem recently has been that some of my friends and I have been trying to do a lot around sexual assault activism, and fraternities and stuff, and so I’ve kind of been neglecting my thesis recently and doing that. What I meant is that I don’t feel the same urgency, ‘cause there’s also this other huge project that in the past, like since spring break, since the Psi U lawsuit, has been really public, so…I don’t know. In a weird way, my passion is with that right now. I’m still really into this, but that has the urgency.” (edit kitab: Read about Mari’s activism project here!)
Song/movie/TV show: “I’m trying to think of a kind of a weird documentary that’s really boring to most people, but for people who are interested in it, it’s like, “Aahhh, this is so cool!!” But I can’t think of a specific one. I hope…maybe I’ll make it into a documentary someday? But probably not, ‘cause there would be no one to interview.”
On her carrel: “It is [pretty spacious], yeah. The light’s nice. And my money tree! [I think it’s called that] ‘cause the leaves fall off all the time.”
On “The Cage”: “[laughs] I think just because, like.. I would lock myself in here, and that’s why we called it ‘The Cage..’ and because I came back one day and my friend had put that label up there and I didn’t change it, so basically that’s the reason.”
On a letter hanging on her bulletin board: “Can I show you the best thing that happened? Two days ago I came back to this on my carrel door. But, do you know what the best part is? It’s that it was an April Fools joke. Isn’t it well done? [Nobody else got it,] this was my boyfriend. And he knew that, like, [my thesis] is the most important part of my life. Yeah, so that was pretty…upsetting. And cruel.”
Maggie Feldman-Piltch ’14, University Major (Theories of Ethics in Capitalism), carrel #333
MFP: The best part of my carrel is actually the back of this door.
Someone else: There’s literally a week left!
M: Stop saying that, you’re making it worse!
M: And my light doesn’t work.
Working title: “It doesn’t have one! Yeah, no. It doesn’t have one right now. It will soon. But I’m writing about the human rights obligations of firms and states.”
On her progress: “So, number of pages I’ve written? Probably over, like, 700. Number of pages my advisor has liked? Way less than a hundred! Let’s see. I need to finish my third chapter, and write my intro and my conclusion, and rewrite my second chapter. So, you know. It’s gonna be a long week.”
On her mental state: “Um, it’ll be fine. So I’m kind of sick right now, which is really shitty, and I had a really bad concussion last semester — yeah, that’s the story of my thesis that everyone knows, which is why I have so much to do, ‘cause I, like, couldn’t actually do anything until January. I’m probably not gonna be…sleeping…for a while, but I’m okay with it. I mean, my birthday is a week from Sunday.”
Plans for April 12: “Yeah, so my life will start on Friday. And that’ll be fine. I had my champagne in here, but my housemate was like, ‘You really need to take that home.’ ‘Cause I don’t want the librarians to take it. So it’s waiting at home for me to bring back. First of all, I’m napping. That’s immediately what’s happening. Then I’m going to ask President Roth to let me take his dog for a walk, because that’s really what I wanna do with my time. And then I’m going to Iguanas Ranas and having, like, six margaritas. And that’s my plan.”
On the pair of heels in her carrel: “Oh they’re my doorstopper! I had a job interview one day, and I was wearing them, ‘cause it was on campus. I didn’t want to continue wearing them around, ‘cause it was really cold and they were annoying, so I just left them in here because my light center doesn’t really work? So I have to keep my door open if I want actual light to happen.”
On the groups of people that walk loudly by the carrels: “Sometimes tours come up here. It’s really awkward. [Another louder group walks by later in the interview.] This is the most annoying thing in the world, actually. If you can, like, I don’t know, put this on Wesleying? Like, we don’t have ceilings, and it’s really fucking annoying. Shut up.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “Oh my god The West Wing. Absolutely The West Wing. I’ve watched the entire thing probably like, four times since the school year has started which is so embarrassing! But absolutely The West Wing.”
Last words: “Oh, I’m totally dedicating my thesis to my hedgehog. Her name is Matza Ball. Wesleying interviewed me on my general life last year as…maybe a birthday present? I don’t know why. So there’s a very long interview of my life and most of it is about my hedgehog. Her name is Matza Ball but we call her Snooks, so my advisor’s gonna have to be like, ‘Who is Snooks, and why is she, um, in your thesis?’ That, and I based my thesis off of my tattoo, which is like, the best thing ever. It’s one of the last lines of The Lorax, so it’s, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better, it’s not.’ I had the book in here, as my motivation, but I gave it to my advisor, ‘cause he seemed like he needed it more than I did. I had been waiting for my thesis interview since freshman year and I really thought that I was going to put so much thought and energy into it. Mostly [I’ve been putting my energy] into The West Wing. I’ve watched a lot of West Wing this week, which is so bad.”
Julia Conrad ‘14, English/Italian and Social, Critical, and Cultural Theory certificate, carrel #319
Working title: “Sex and the Symphony”
On her topic: “It’s a nonfiction creative writing thesis about classical music.”
On her progress: “I’m still writing, which…don’t, like, tell anybody that. I’m still writing, but I’m editing and I don’t hate it yet, which is good.”
On her mental state: “Fuzzy. […] I might not be stressed out enough for your purposes. But you should interview [the people who don’t want to be interviewed]. Those are the ones you want. Like, these are supposed to freak people out from doing theses.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I did an hour and a half interview, and as I was concluding the interview I deleted the recording of it that I had just made. There was nothing that I could do. That was it. Fucking sucked.”
Plans for April 11: “I haven’t even thought to that yet. Uh, I plan not to remember April 12. I’m gonna return all of my library books and then set fire to all my drafts and burn them in effigy.”
On procrastination: “I took a ‘Which Fairy Tale Character Are You?’ quiz, and also “Which Dictator Are You?” [I’m] Rumplestiltskin! It was really fucked up. I was like, ‘No I’m not!’ Yeah. I like to entertain visitors in my thesis carrel.”
If her thesis were a song/movie/TV show: “It would be Gossip Girl meets Wishbone meets…a Ken Burns documentary.”
kitab, on Mozart In The Jungle: “It’s a TV show about really dramatic sex scandals in the New York Symphony.”
JC: “I mean, that’s honestly what my thesis really is.”
Final words: “Live, love, laugh, and learn.”