I thought it might be dangerous for a soon-to-be-senior to interview the thesis writers. Could their red, sleepless eyes and stacks of crumpled paper deter me from (hopefully) putting myself in the same predicament next April? Luckily, the thesis writers I interviewed were calm, content, and eager to talk about their work. I did not find any stacks of crumpled paper, but I did find a biography of Nancy Reagan, a photograph of a baby, and two thesis carrels with new inhabitants.
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!
Kelly Toy ’14, HIST, carrel 436
Working title: “From ‘America’s Queen’ to ‘Lady MacBeth’: The First Lady, Feminism, and the Construction of Public Womanhood.”
On her topic: “It uses an analysis of the first ladyships of Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, and Hillary Clinton to look at the different feminisms that emerged from the women’s movement of the 1970s and see how they’ve impacted the historical and political development of the office of the first lady. These women occupy a bizarre space in American culture and politics and each embraced different strain of feminist thought in order to serve and thrive in this really public, highly gendered position. It also looks at types of feminism that differ from how we generally conceive of it … Like the space within feminism for Republican or conservative women.”
On how she arrived at the topic: “We had to do paper proposals in a class I took sophomore year, and another girl was doing one on the different social projects of first ladies. I thought that the idea of looking at the First Lady as a historical figure was really interesting because of how she represents American women while being scrutinized by the media.”
On her mental state: “I’m tired, but okay.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Up until Thanksgiving I was going to write about Jackie Kennedy instead of Nancy Reagan but realized that it wasn’t going to work. That was a big crisis when I decided to scrap that, insert Nancy Reagan, and do a lot more research.”
Her plans for April 11: “Sleep, and fun, and Netflix. Oh! and I want to go to brunch at WesWings. I want the breakfast pail. That’s important.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “Candy Crush.”
Her lolmythesis summary: “Powerful women make people angry.”
Anya Morgan ’14, ENGL, photographed at home
On her topic: “It’s about the evolution of the zombie figure from Haitian literature to its subsequent appropriation by Hollywood. First I talk about a play by Orson Welles from the 1930s and then I move into cinema. The main body of the thesis is on Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and The Walking Dead.”
On how she arrived at the topic: “I always used to watch zombie movies with my dad and we would talk about the tropes that you see in every movie, like the shopping spree scene, or the killing of an infected loved one. And then, more recently, I found out that the figure of the zombie in Haitian culture is seen as part of the family, rather than being a monster. It’s a source of resistance in the post-colonial state of Haiti against American soldiers. So that gave me the idea to explore the zombie figure further.”
On her progress: “I’m mostly done with all of the chapters, so I’m doing the final edits. I’m finishing up the end of the last chapter and the conclusion.”On her mental state: “Surprisingly calm, I think. I feel like I have it under control.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I thought for about three days that I wasn’t going to complete the English major so my thesis wasn’t going to count. I was told that a credit that I had gotten wasn’t going to count towards my major. It was resolved, but there were three solid days when I was in panic mode.”
Her plans for April 11: “I’m going to try to see if my thesis advisor, Professor Ellis Neyra, will come out with us to the steps of Olin. And the next day I’m going to sleep all day.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “Recently, it’s been watching ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Her lolmythesis summary: “The US American zombie is racist … surprise!”
Reid Meador ’14, RELI, carrel #335
Working title: “I’m considering calling it ‘My Thesis.’ Or, I might call it something like “Molding Tibetan Buddhism: The Construction of Tradition in Three American Convert Practicing Communities.”
On her topic: “It’s on three Tibetan Buddhist teachers who teach to convert American audiences, and I’m looking at their discourse to those audiences. I’m thematically approaching how they use various resources to construct a religious tradition that appears continuous and also gives them a role as teacher-authority.”
On how she arrived at the topic: “I spent lots of awful times in Olin just staring at computer screens. I didn’t have an outline until partway through winter break.”
On her progress: “I have 140 pages and I need a conclusion and a lot of editing.”
On her mental state: “Mostly it’s been really angry. Yesterday I crawled under my thesis desk for half an hour because I was tired and also because I was really angry and I didn’t know what else to do.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “My wrists are dead from thesis. I couldn’t type for a week before spring break. I’m going to physical therapy for an overuse injury. For a week before spring break I just gave up on typing.”
Her plans for April 11: “I mean, the whole reason I wrote a thesis was to stand on the steps of Olin. I plan on partying for as long as I can. And I really want to go outside.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “Cooking is often procrastination, and visiting other people’s carrels. You feel like you’re in solidarity.”
On other people’s carrels: “I’d love a little shout-out to Benny Docter for giving me his carrel for the last few weeks. Otherwise I’d have no place to nap in Olin, and that’d be sad.”
Her lolmythesis summary: “I make shit up in my head and sometimes it sounds great.”
Keelin Ryan ’14, FILM, carrel #336
On her topic: “It’s a screenplay. It’s like if Mean Girls was about birdwatchers in the wilderness. But it’s not all girls.”
Working title: “I haven’t decided on a title yet, so the joke title that I tell people is ‘The Birds.'”
On how she arrived at the topic: “I initially told my advisor a completely different idea, but then I came up with this. I like more absurd comedy, and I feel that birdwatching has a lot of crazy possibilities, and it’s exciting to me. I feel that writing about high schoolers is good because I’ve been through high school. I don’t want to write about eighty year olds because I don’t know what that’s like.”
On her progress: “I have a second full-length draft [110 pages]. I just had a meeting with my advisor so I have to rewrite 50 pages for next week.”
On her mental state: “I’m not panicking, but that’s only because I don’t have time to.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I mean, the whole first semester was pretty traumatic in that every time I had a meeting I wouldn’t have a story anymore. Every time I would go in I would have something, and every time I would come out I would have to start completely over again.”
Her plans for April 11: “I’m in Terp, so I think we have a show that night. I’m going to be really drunk for it. And the next day, literally just doing absolutely nothing.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “That’s a toughie because there’s so many. Doing work for literally any other class, no matter how horrible. And talking a walk around campus. Also, bar night.”
Her lolmythesis summary: “No one is cool, but no one else is cool either.”
Yona Roberts Golding ’14, ANTH, carrel #337
Working title: “I haven’t figured one out yet, so I’ll make up one on the spot. Let’s say, ‘Cooperative Living ‘n Shit.’ That’s not actually the title though.”
On the picture of the baby: “It’s my nephew, Tomer. He’s two now. I had this idea before carrels were assigned that I would make mine a really great place. Then I didn’t get assigned a carrel, so I’m actually using Aron Chilewich ’14’s carrel. So this is what I brought in.”
On her topic: “It’s about a student cooperative in Berkeley. I did my ethnographic research there last summer. It’s about conceptions of space and personhood and obligation.”
On how she arrived at the topic: “The fieldwork helped me figure out the theory. Ethnography is like participant observation and immersion. Because I was doing it in a community that was similar to my demographic, I did a lot of interviews and taking field notes. I also ate a lot of food and partied with hippie college kids.”
On her progress: “I’m working on my works cited page, and editing everything.”
On her mental state: “Um, kind of manic. I wouldn’t say manic in like an anxious way, more of like in a delirious way.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I almost missed my flight back to Massachusetts from Berkeley. Someone else in the co-op had to wake me up so that I could get home. It’s a long story.”
Her plans for April 11: “I want to sit on Benny Docter ’14’s shoulders and drink champagne. I don’t know if he knows that, but I guess he’ll find out if he reads Wesleying.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “Trolling WebMD. Anytime I find something out of the ordinary, like this one time when my knees were hurting from sitting for so long, I have to look it up on WebMD. Then I realized that there was nothing wrong with me.”
Her lolmythesis summary: “Having friends probably makes you happy, and neo-liberalism is bad.”
Claire Whitehouse ’14, THEA thesis, carrel #360
Working title: “What is a piano that does not sound? : The Women Playwrights of the Teatro Abierto.”
On her topic: “The play was about the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, which is a human rights organization founded by the mothers of people who were disappeared during the last Argentine dictatorship. The paper looks at the theater of that same time. In 1981 in Argentina [during the military regime] there was a short play festival put together by artists who were censored under the dictatorship. At this point, many people had gone into exile and violence had kind of died down in the beginning of 1980s, and still under the dictatorship many artists came back. They put together this festival of 21 plays … and of those works only three were written by women. There were no female directors. I’m looking at those three plays and using the frame of performance theorist Diana Taylor to compare how the female playwrights write about the themes of family, power, and spectatorship, compared to how the male playwrights portrayed it.”
On how she arrived at the topic: “The way creative theses work for theater is that you do the creative component first, and then you write a senior essay length paper. I did the production in February, which I also wrote the script for, and the paper is 30-45 pages. I studied abroad in Argentina my second semester of junior year, which is when I first learned the stories of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. I was affected by them and felt a need to figure out through theater how those stories, that are so distant from my own life, could be told in the context of a college campus in the US.”
On her progress: “I have a draft of everything, and the research is done. Right now I am editing the third chapter, and I’ve already edited the first two, so I’m fine.”
On her mental state: “Um, I’m okay. It’s longer than any other paper I’ve written for both of my majors, but it’s not that long. Compared to the experience of writing the play and putting it up in five weeks, I feel much better and way more relaxed and less burnt out.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Well, I spent all of last semester having an existential crisis about cultural appropriation. I didn’t get much done then. Trying to write the play was the hardest thing because I’m not a playwright.”
Her plans for April 11: “Drinking champagne. Seeing friends. Falling asleep.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “I played a lot of 2048 during spring break.”
Her lolmythesis summary: “Bad things happened in Argentina. There are women in Argentina. Therefore bad things happened to women in Argentina.”
Typical. No science theses.
Are there males writing theses?
no. go away.
in our interviewing adventures, hermes and I have noticed that most of the people who decline interviews are dudes. males, tell us about your theses!
Way to include the science theses, Wesleying…
chill, man. they’re just going around knocking on carrel doors. if anyone writing a NSM thesis wants to be interviews, send ’em an email!!
There will be some! It’s a bit harder to find science kids because they’re usually in HA or Shanklin or something.