THESISCRAZY 2015 (PART 2): Frazzled, Frenzied, and Delirious

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Thanks to 2013 Wesleying for letting us steal this photo. []

For part two of THESISCRAZY 2K15, we interview some seniors making their way though the final week of thesis-writing, and coping by crying cathartically and spending a lot of time on the Internet. To relive old times, Part One is here and THESISCRAZY features from previous years are here.

If you’d like to procrastinate and set up an interview, cry vaguely into the wind or email staff[at]wesleying[dot]org!

image8Jillian Roberts ’15, Psychology/Sociology (psych thesis)

Working title: “It’s called ‘Investigating Minimal Group Influence on Young Children’s Resource Allocation and Equality Preferences.'”

On her topic: “[I]t’s a developmental psychology thesis, […] specifically, it’s social cognitive development. Like, sub-field within the field within the larger topic. My research questions are all surrounding children’s sharing behavior and their preferences for different kinds of equality versus inequality and how their membership in a group can kind of influence the way that they share things, distribute things to either themselves and a peer, or to third parties that aren’t directly related to them. But I’m looking specifically at this paradigm called minimal group membership, which is basically taking away all the underlying social factors and groups  [like] race and gender and class and sexual orientation, because those can be confounded with a lot of other things. So a minimal group can be something as simple as me giving you a red t-shirt, and you a blue t-shirt, and then showing you a picture of someone in a red t-shirt and someone in a blue t-shirt, and asking you to both distribute things to each person in the photo and seeing if the color shirt you’re wearing influences how you pass out resources to them. It’s a cool paradigm because it shows you [that]  just the nature of being in a group changes the way you think about sharing and fairness. [T]here’s also a little bit about if the amount kids value different kinds of resources, like, different kinds of objects, if kids are weighing that when they’re passing things out — so, if they’re more willing to be generous with something that they don’t care as much about, or if they want to be more stingy with things they care more about.”

How she found it: “It was basically like, my prof said, ‘What do you want to do?’ I found something that she had already studied that I was interested in, then kind of attached something separate that she hadn’t really thought about yet, and we fused our ideas together.”

On her progress: “I’m really lucky to be almost done at the moment. I have been working on this group of studies in my lab, it’s two experiments that are coming together for my thesis. I’m really lucky to have been working on those studies since my sophomore year, so we just kind of completed the necessary participant pool last semester but we have a lot more to do because we’re continuing the study after I graduate. I had a lot of writing done in the form of literature review at the end of last year because I was just writing things up to be published as a scientific paper, but then over the summer my advisor and I decided to make this project my thesis, so I could kind of use the literature review that I had done for that to sort of start me off on writing my thesis. […] My general discussion at the end of my thesis is kind of like.. garbage right now, but otherwise I’m happily almost done with the rest of it.”

On her mental state: “Frazzled, to say the least. Grateful because of all the front-loaded work I’ve had before this, so now I can really focus on editing and perfecting, [rather than?] trying to generate a lot of material right now, but still frazzled because I’m also a dancer and I have five dance shows coming up in the next month and a half, so balancing that schedule and the thesis schedule has been kind of rough, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which I didn’t about a month ago, so that’s nice.”

Most traumatic thesis experience: “At one point in the beginning of this semester, I had, like, three meetings with my advisor three weeks in a row [about] progress.. One was talking about a draft, the next was talking about addressing data, and the next was about a new version of the draft that I had sent to her, and they all went really badly, and I think I cried after probably all of them, maybe just the first and the last, but when your advisor looks you in the face and says, ‘So, transitions. Do you know how those work? Is that something that you need some help with?’ So she was basically saying, like, you have no idea how to link your ideas together and you should probably figure that out, so that was pretty traumatic. There was also a moment when she told me that she wanted to add 60 more participants, and she didn’t really tell me in what time frame, so I was like, ‘You want me to write a thesis AND run 60 more people? Before I graduate?’ Luckily that dissolved later on, but that was kinda scary.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “Watching dance videos on YouTube and eating.”

Plans for April 10: “Drinking an entire bottle of champagne, maybe two, in front of Olin. But then I have rehearsal for a show that’s happening the next day, so, um.. hopefully after drinking all the champagne I’ll eat a lot, so it’ll like.. absorb all of it and I can be a real person. But after that show, I’m just going to be incoherent for days, hopefully.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “[From my own perspective,] if you’re a social science major, or science major, try to get involved in a lab as early as you can because it really provides all the tools you need to transition really smoothly into a thesis early on. I joined my lab my summer after my freshman year, so I got research methods [and] tools [and] understood how researching and writing scientific papers works pretty early on, and I also got to watch another lab mate do a thesis in a lab two years before mine, so I kind of got a nice example that made starting my thesis not as terrifying, and I definitely think that could be helpful for other science and social science majors. And get familiar with professors in classes you really enjoy, because if you develop a relationship with them that can really help smooth out the transition between prospective thesis writer and full thesis student.”

Favorite part of thesis-writing: “Eeh, am I supposed to have a favorite? Um, I guess the prospect of taking on a yearlong project, finishing it, and knowing that you can use that as an example of super hard work and dedication, like, forever. …] But also, I’ve just never written anything this long and had this much time to perfect it. I think that’s a super cool thing that just doesn’t happen a lot. [And having] a year to make sure it’s as perfect as possible is pretty cool.”

Thesis as a song/movie/TV show: “Well, it’s about kids, so it would probably be a kids show, but […] it would definitely be written by Shonda Rhimes in her style of like tackling social issues and breaking down things and it would be a show about kids so it would be like.. […] Recess, written by Shonda Rhimes, starring Kerry Washington or Paula Patton. Yes.”

Most used word/phrase: “‘Suggest’ is absolutely the most used word. Especially in psychology research, you can never prove anything and you can never absolutely generalize anything, because something could also be not true in another culture or not true for a larger group of participants or something. You can never claim that anything is absolutely true, so in my literature review, in my own review of my own results, I have to say that the results suggest x, y, z rather than “prove” or “show.” It’s kind of like.. cheating your way into making your argument, but that’s kind of how the canon of psych research works, unfortunately.”

What we didn’t ask: “I love when you guys ask, like, ‘Have you ever had sex in your thesis carrel?’ Because if you asked me that about my lab, that would be just so inappropriate and hilarious and I would have laughed for days. I haven’t, by the way. But I think I would have answered that with, ‘Well, I work in a child psychology lab, so I don’t think that would be the best idea. And, no.’”

On her poop: “I’m trying to have a smoothie for a meal once a day every day, and that’s fruits and vegetables together and that regulates your digestive system, so it’s pretty regular these days.”


Kelsey Henry ’15, American Studies/ FGSS photo 4

Working title: “A Wrinkle in Time”: Growing Old, Or, A Queer Unbecoming”

On her topic: “I’m writing about growing old as a queer time. So basically what that means is that it deviates from narratives of desirable maturation, which is basically what you think of when you hear the term growing up. Growing up typically involves certain heterosexual rights of passage, like marriage, reproduction, settling down, starting a family, all of that, and I’m kind of charting the separation between growing up and growing old and challenging kind of reductive notions of growing old as a time that is only of senescent decline, in which people un-become themselves and become frail, fragile, undesirable, incapable of growth and potential. I’m arguing that growing old is actually a time of unbecoming, but also re-becoming and also when we think about it differently we can really challenge the preconceived notions that we have about what makes a valuable human life.”

How she found it: “I had no idea I would be writing anything about growing old! Basically what really changed it for me was one book, called “Malignant: how cancer becomes us” by Sarah Lochlan Jain: she’s a medical anthropologist. That book is specifically about breast cancer, but she has a really compelling chapter about prognosis time, which is basically about how a person’s life changes when they are diagnosed with a potentially life threatening illness and they’re given like a particular life expectancy, like you have 5-10 years to live. And she asked one question about ‘Should people get senior citizen benefits based on their chronological age or based on their proximity to death?’ That got me thinking about the concept of accelerated aging and like young people who were in particular circumstances where they had a closer proximity to death that prematurely ages them. I’ve always been interested in the AIDS epidemic, so that’s a particularly good example of queer people who… when gay men started dying in the 1980s of AIDS suddenly you had 20-somethings going to funerals at the same rate that 70 year old people do. So that was what kind of catalyzed my interest, looking at the affinities between queerness and growing old and also recognizing that that connection between the elderly and the queer is not really emphasized in queer theory at all.”

On her progress: “Well it’s difficult! I am always referring to my thesis with reproductive metaphors, like I’m always talking about my chapters as if they’re my children. My second chapter is like my problem child and my other two are like super obedient and well behaved, but it’s always kind of a balance between hating my children and really loving them and wanting them to get better. It’s been a time of highs and lows and lots of self-doubt, but also moments of really coming into a new sense of intellectual and personal self-worth. It’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times.”

Most traumatic thesis experiences: “There have been so many of those! But, I guess the most recent… Well okay, early on in my process I wrote like 15 pages about a book called “The Grief” well that’s not really important but I thought that I was going in one direction for my thesis, and then I ended up scrapping the 15 pages very early on which felt like a huge setback. Recently, I was rereading my second chapter and I thought I had it all together and then I was like ‘Uh I don’t even like this argument. What is this? Who wrote this? Where am I?’ That was traumatic, but I’m slowly but surely coming out of that hole.”

Mental state in one word: “Delirious.”

On her favorite forms of procrastination: “[Laughs] Um. Gosh there’s so many! Watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. Buying clothes for after I turn in my thesis, because I’m really trying to recreate my persona as someone who’s actually fun to be around. What other forms of procrastination? Those are the major ones. Oh! And I listen to a lot of Cher songs. I don’t even like Cher, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Cher.”

On her plans for April 10: “I’m going to go to Savers and buy a new outfit! To get drunk in!”

Thesis as song/movie/tv show: “‘Golden Girls.’ Actually, a cross between ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Only do this if you really want to. Only do this if you’re extremely passionate about the topic. I don’t think anyone should write a thesis out of a sense of compulsion or obligation. And don’t be afraid of scrapping your writing, of just deleting full paragraphs and pages. Don’t be so precious with your words.”

Favorite part of this experience: “Definitely my friends who are also writing theses. We’ve all been congregating in this room. I’d like to give a shout out to Hibiki “Self Love” Mizuno ‘15 and Talia “Good Vibes” DeRogatis ’15 because without them I wouldn’t be here for sure. I would not be standing.”

Most used word/phrase: “Wrinkled/wrinkle.”


Emilie Pass ‘15, COL Major photo 3

Working title: “Oh boy. It’s going to be called “To A Lady Who Is Either A Shadow Or A Substance, A Fiction Or A Fact.”’

On her topic: “My thesis is about archival research in biographies, sort of from the standpoint of… I read these two books my sophomore year “Possession” by A.S. Byatt and “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard, and they’re both about researchers and academics of the 20th century who make these discoveries through archival research. Like they find letters and old books and stuff that enabled all these amazing journeys of recovery and cultural justice. So, I read these books and I was kind of like is that sense of adventure and cultural justice an aspect of all archival experiences? So I did my own research about this woman, Mary Cram who’s a poet in 19th century US and I read her poems and short stories. My thesis is kind of combining analysis and close reading of her work with a look at these two other texts that inspired me in the first place.”

On her progress: “It’s like all written. I need to write more of my conclusion and I’m editing and adding substantial parts to the second and third chapters, but it’s all written. It just needs a lot of other work.”

On her mental state: “Frenzied. Like there’s so much activity everywhere and I’m just trying to figure it all out.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Hmmm. Nothing really traumatic has happened to me. There have been some real moments of self-doubt. I think over winter break, trying to write my second chapter and just getting nowhere was a really rough experience, and just really sort of doubting myself in the project. Oh and sort of traumatic was like the other day I spilled my tea on the track pad of my computer and the mouse stopped working and I flipped out even though I have it on a flash drive.”

On where she works:  “I work everywhere. I have a scili carrel but its just terrible to be in because like the lighting is so terrible. I go there sometimes. I tried to make it nice, I put a poster in it, but it’s just too sad. I work a lot in main floor Olin, periodicals room, or Exley lobby, or here (her house), really everywhere…COL Library. I like to switch it up. I need to change environments for my brain to work.”

On her favorite form of procrastinating: “I’m so boring. I don’t like… Oh, well, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was amazing for me. Also… I really I don’t know, I just read the New York Times and do my other homework.”

April 10th plans: “Oh boy. That’s something I need to figure out. I need to add that to my schedule: buy champagne. I just want to have a great time on the steps of Olin. I’ve been thinking about that day a lot. But I really don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ll probably just get really drunk and fall asleep.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “My advice would be to really pick a topic that you just know you’re not going to get sick off. That you just feel really strongly about. Like I still really enjoy the texts I’m working with and I like them, which I wasn’t sure I would at the beginning. I think that’s really important because I would not like doing it if that wasn’t the case. Also I really think its important to not let your thesis take over your life. Do other stuff; make the most of your time at Wesleyan. Do a thesis but also have your life.”

Thesis as song/movie/tv show: “If it is was a movie it would just be a movie of the book “Possession” which is one of the books. If it was a song… I don’t know it would be like a mash up style song because it’s like now versus 19th century. A mash up of like symphony with dubstep… Oh God, that’s not really my… Let’s just stick with the movie.”

Most used word/phrase: “‘Recovery’ and just like ‘archive.’ ‘Archival recovery.’ Those are big words for me. Or ‘suggest’! Everything is suggesting something in my thesis, which maybe says a lot. I’m not making any firm claims, I’m just suggesting.”


IMG_2625Billy Donnelly ’15, English

Working title“I’m writing and drawing a graphic novel. The working title right now is Recoil, but I discovered there’s a web comic called that. So I might change it.”

How he feels about that discovery: “Oh I’m really angry. Because it took me a really long time to settle on a title, and I was throwing around these really random ones like “The Disappearing Girl” and “Hologram Girl,” but then I realized that people are going to think it’s sci-fi and magical if it sounds like that. So I have to come up with another title, and I was just like crying to Sharon Van Etten one night, like at 4am while I was drawing my thesis. And there was like this one line of one song where she says “recoil,” and I’m like that’s the title. That’s the title of my thesis.”

On his topic: “So basically, it’s about this girl who is a lesbian and a freshman in college, and it’s just about her moving on from high school, which includes getting over her ex-girlfriend, dealing with just general high school bullshit, and trying to just be at college and move on in this environment where sexual assault is rampant and anti-sexual assault activism is really prevalent. So it’s very influenced by the activism that happened on campus last semester and second semester last year.”

On his progress: “I’m more or less done at this point. Well, let me explain. The first stage is the script, which is really similar to a screenplay, and I did three drafts of that last semester. Well, I did one draft over the summer also. And then I did the pencil stage of artwork, which is just the rough line art. And I recently finished coloring everything, even though it’s not fully colored—it’s just pink and blue. I just finished lettering, which is the dialogue and narration, on Friday. And I still have some minor edits to make and some things my advisor pointed out. There’s this one character whose hairstyle needs to be changed, which is annoying because I have to go back and change her hair in every panel.”

On the character’s new hairstyle: “She’s going to have an undercut now. She was the main character’s quasi-interest in the present, and everyone who read my thesis was getting confused between her and the main character’s ex-girlfriend. Because the ex-girlfriend has her hair in pigtails and the current love interest has her hair in a ponytail. Really, the hair does not look similar to me, but everyone was getting confused so I decided to just do as drastically different hair as I can.

“Oh, and the only reason I’m kind of done now is because I haven’t slept since November. I didn’t have a winter break. I literally woke up at 1pm, worked on my thesis, went to bed at 7am, woke up the next day, and started again. I only took off on Christmas, Christmas Eve, and one other day where I was having a mental breakdown and just hung out with my friend in New York City. I haven’t done work for any of my classes, really. Like I’ve done the work… I just bullshit all of it.”

On full enrollment: “I’m only taking two other classes, but the amount of work… Because this whole time I’ve been really concerned that I wasn’t going to finish on time, so I only took too classes. But drawing everything, and inking and coloring everything, has been so much work that it feels like I’m taking five classes right now.”

Current mental state: “I’m really good right now. If you’d talked to me during Spring break, it would have been completely different. But you know, I’m really good. I finished lettering and I took a whole day off. I just played Tomb Raider for a whole day. It was really good, you know? I feel really at peace right now. And I have two weeks to do all the minor edits that I need to do, and my advisor’s probably going to be like Oh so now you have time to add those pages that you didn’t want to add. And I’m just going to be like I’m not doing that, Clif. I’m not doing that. We’re done.”

Most traumatic thesis experience: “A lot of things. There was one week—I was in my carrel—and I was just taking a break. I was watching Korra, Book 4, and it was the episode where Korra metal bends the last bits of metal out of her body. And I just broke down crying in my carrel. Bawling. I was just so broken down at this point. I was just like I’m sooo happy for Korra.

“I also cried—I mean, everybody’s cried in from of their advisor—but I cried in front of my advisor when he started giving me feedback after winter break because I had penciled a bunch of pages last semester and he hadn’t had any problems with them. Then I finished pencilling the whole thing over break and I sent him the whole thing, and suddenly he had all these problems with pages he’d had no problems with. And I just broke down crying in front of him and it was the most embarrassing thing ever.

“I mean, the whole thing was pretty traumatic.”

Fave form of procrastination: “Hmm. I don’t have any interesting responses. It’s just Netflix. I mean, during spring break I watched all of 30 Rock and all of Kimmy Schmidt and all of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. First semester, Korra was definitely my preferred form of procrastination, but Korra’s done now. And I’m recently playing Tomb Raider—the 2013 reboot, not the original Tomb Raider. The feminist 2013 reboot, where all of the men die.”

On April 10th“I’m going to cry. Like tears of joy for once. I have a cry schedule. I have intervals of 20 minutes set up for a whole day after theses are due. Because you can only cry for 20 minutes straight, you know? Your tear ducts need to replenish. I’m making this up.

“And I’m going to shop my thesis around to publishers. I’m probably going to get rejected from most of them, which is fine, because who am I even? I’m going to do work for my classes. I’m going to do the readings; it’s going to be great. And I’m going to actually look for jobs. I don’t even know what field I want to get in. I haven’t had time to think about that. It’s really stressful.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Don’t do a graphic novel. I mean, because this is what I want to do for a living. My whole Wesleyan career has sort of been building towards this. It’s been really stressful for me, but it’s also been super rewarding and super great like when I’m not dying. I love working on my thesis, but I also hate working on my thesis. So I guess my real advice is: only do a thesis if you’re really passionate about it because then it’s not worth it if you’re not. I know so many kids, like for COL where a thesis is required, they’re just really struggling to get through it because they don’t actually want to be doing it right now.”

On the existence of past Wesleyan theses that were graphic novels: “There’s only one that I know of. It was two years ago, and it was just about a straight white man being a straight white man. Maybe it’s just because it’s not what I like to read, but I just wasn’t a huge fan of it. And because he did that graphic novel for his thesis, I finally realized that I was allowed to do a graphic novel for my thesis. I’m sure there have been theses about graphic novels or that have cited graphic novels, but that’s the only one I know of before me that’s been a graphic novel. And one of my friends who’s abroad right now actually mentioned to me that she might also do a graphic novel when it’s her turn to do a thesis.”

Favorite part of thesis: “Seeing a finished page is always really great. And just being like ‘Oh, I’m not a terrible artist!’ Sometimes I just surprise myself, which is nice. Also the little epiphanies that you have. Like while I was writing it, I would have an epiphany about the plot and be like ‘Oh, this should happen here!'”

Thesis as a song/movie/TV show: “If it was a move, it would be an indie movie that five people saw. If it was a TV show, it would get cancelled after three weeks and they’d burn off all the episodes at like 2 am on a Friday several years after the rest of the episodes had aired. And if it was a song, it would be ‘Stars’ by Angel Olsen.”

On how he thought of his topic: “I don’t know, it just sort of happened. The main character of my thesis is a character that I’ve worked with a number of times. She was the subject of the first short story that I wrote in 10th grade. And there’s always been this general thing. Like in high school, it was about her getting the courage to talk to this girl that she really liked, but she didn’t know if she was queer. And it was really tragic because that was the stuff I was dealing with in high school. Sort of recently, as of around sophomore year, it started being about her letting go of her ex-girlfriend. I started thinking about this stuff freshman year, when there was the War on Women and Congress and everything. I just started thinking about everything women and women’s reproductive rights and sexual assault, and I guess I started becoming involved with Students for Consent and Communication here at Wesleyan. I just started thinking about sexual assault and consent and women’s sexual rights. Everything just sort of got tangled up together and I guess that’s how this came about.

I’ve tried telling this story in a lot of different contexts, and actually between freshman and sophomore year, I was trying to do a web comic about her. It was about high school and education reform and it just didn’t work, and I was like why am I doing this. And then it was just like oh, it should be about college. Because I was making grand plans for her and when she finally got to college, that was the story I was most excited about, and that’s why I settled on this.

I also tried this story as a prose short story my junior year, and it was really well-received. So when I pitched it to my advisor, I showed it to him and said ‘I want to do this but in 104 pages and a graphic novel.’ And he was like ‘Okay.'”

Most used image/scene“There are so many scenes of her walking alone at night. Or just walking alone. Or shots of her walking from behind. Oh, she walks a lot. For the first few weeks, I was just jokingly referring to my thesis in my head as “Walking Alone at Night.” The first image that I drew actually was an image of her walking alone at night. So there’s a lot of walking. A lot of shots of people walking from afar. A lot of shots of people walking from behind. Always alone. Almost always at night.”

Questions he wished we asked: “I kind of wish you’d asked me if I’ve had sex in my carrel.”

On if he’s had sex in his carrel: “No, but I wanted you to ask because I think one time I interrupted people making out in someone’s carrel. My friend Paulina has the carrel next to me upstairs, and she and my friend Michelle share that carrel. And it was the first night I was alone in my carrel. I didn’t know which carrel next to me that Paulina and Michelle shared, but I just knew that it was like the next one. And I heard these two voices and thought that they sounded kind of like Paulina and Michelle. So I go to the carrel next to me and knock on the door. They open it. It’s not Paulina and Michelle’s carrel. And there were two people in there. I mean, usually if two people are alone in a carrel, what else are they doing?”

On his poop“My poop? I had some diarrhea the other day. And it burned.”

On theses as feces: “Yeah, my thesis definitely feels like that sometimes. Especially over winter break, the last few weeks, my thesis was diarrhea. It was explosive, violent diarrhea. Sometimes my thesis gives me diarrhea, if you want to know that too.”

image9Jess Tollman ’15, FGSS

Working title: “The Electromagnetic Lady: Janelle Monae, Sonic Fiction, and Black Feminist World Making.”

On her topic: “I’m writing on the musician Janelle Monae, a cybersoul musician, and I’m looking at her multimedia art project as a form of theory. I’m not decoding the Electric lady—all the theory is already there—I’m putting her in relation to other theorists and looking at various other aspects of her project.

“Let me break down the terms— Sonic fiction is the form of her world-making, the form of her art. It’s basically science fiction through music—the sonic being sound. She’s created this sonic fiction world of metropolis in the year 2719, in which androids (the cyborgian robotic futurist race of beings) are subjugated. Their labor is exploited; they’re commodified, sold as entertainment for various purposes. And I’m looking at the ways in which she recapitulates and reimagines and interrogates the alienation of various marginalized groups, thinking about Afro-disaphoric populations, Black Americans, queers of color, lesbians, women of color, Black women, poor folks. Those intersect and overlap but are not conflated—they’re not all the same obviously. So I’m looking at various mechanisms with which she does that through allegory, through embodying the android as a woman of color (as a Black woman) and through digital music technology—through genre fusion and various voice modulators and different effects.”

On her progress“It is… happening. You know, it’s a process. If there ever was a process, it is a process. I’m trying to finish up my third chapter. It’s definitely a challenge because obviously I’m spending a lot of time with Janelle—I’m a huge fan. I’m writing as both a theorist and a fan, which are certainly not mutually exclusive, and I get really into the tracks, you know, putting her in conversation. Sometimes I need to move on, but I always kind of want to stay. My challenge is to just keep moving with it, but I’m working on wrapping up the third chapter. I have outlines for my intro and conclusion, and I need to edit everything. A million times. Yeah.”

On her current mental state: “Vacillating. Sometimes good. No, that’s a lie. Sometimes okay. No, sometimes good, sometimes okay, sometimes… meh, sometimes oh fuck this, fuck, and probably oh shit coming soon. But let’s go with vacillating.”

Most traumatic thesis experience: “Probably, actually last semester more so than this, because I’m on the soccer team—goalkeeper—and we had a lot of away games. And I’m trying to formulate my thesis, write my first chapter. It was a rough season, and I pulled a leg ligament in my knee and was still playing. So just the physical stress on top of the emotional stress of the season, on top of the fucking thesis, which is… as you can tell, there’s a lot going on in it. Like, it’s very interdisciplinary. That’s what FGSS is. That’s what sound studies is.

“So that was like, if you asked me about my mental state then, I couldn’t even give you an answer. I’m actually doing okay, comparatively.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “Listening to music. And watching music videos of other musician/artists/theorists.”

On April 10th: [smiles] “To be outside. A lot more than I am now. To spend a lot of time on Foss. To drink a lot more than I am now. To chill the fuck out. To chill the fuck out. R&R. Yeah. See my friends, who I haven’t seen in a long time. Other than these people in the Art Library over here. My thesis friends.”

On if she even has a carrel: “I do—it’s just a solitary confinement situation in there. It’s a storage space right now. I did use it sometimes like last semester, and also during midterms and finals if shit’s crazy or if bitches are talking like crazy in the Art Library or something. I mean, I’m probably one of those bitches a lot of the time. But yeah, I have. It’s just pretty isolating in there and the lighting’s pretty shit.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Yeah, be super into what you’re doing. I’m definitely, clearly very into what I’m doing, and despite that it’s an incredibly strenuous and arduous process. Just producing something cohesive of this length and intricacy is a challenge, so you’re going to be intimate. Like you’re dating your thesis. Like your thesis is bae. So you better pick her right. Pick the one, you know what I’m saying? Be into it. When I started, I didn’t even know I was going to even be about Janelle Monae. It’s not like you have to know exactly what you’re doing going into it, but I knew I liked music. I knew I wanted to theorize through music, so don’t just do it to do it. Want to produce something for you. Because it is for you—not millions of people are going to read this shit. So your readers are a couple of people, your friends, your family maybe. Unless you’re trying to get published, not that many people are going to read it; it’s for you. So be into it.”

Favorite part of thesis“I think certain songs that mean a lot to me and mean a lot to other folks, other Janelle fans. Being able to really dig in and produce something that I feel like speaks to a theory that’s in the music—that’s incredibly rewarding. And also one of my advisors, Professor Ellis Neyra, she works also in sound studies and the intersection of Latina and Black studies, sound studies. She’s a fantastic resource in getting to listen with her, and be like “I’m picking up on this. What do you feel about this harmony? How’s the guitar solo? I feel like the backing vocals are coming in in a way that’s non-traditional,” and have her be able to get that with me so I can write about it and theorize about it in a way that is accessible. That’s been a really exciting and fantastic resource. To kind of connect intellectually has been cool.”

On her thesis as a song/movie/TV show: “I mean, that’s a ridiculous question for me thesis. I mean, which Janelle song? I don’t know, her discography? Currently, for my thesis and for me it would be her song “Locked Inside,” because that’s where I am with her. It would be “Tightrope,” cause it’s like tipping on a tightrope. A lot of her project is about ambiguity and connection—very generative connections between things that might not seem like they should work together, like reality and fiction, like dystopia and utopia, like queer/black/brown/poor/lesbian/whatever. Like tipping on the tightrope of not being reductive about connections, but noting how electric they are. With charged potential, like radical potential. Yeah, it’s been tippin’ on the tightrope.”

On how she picked her topic: “The topic picked me. Her work is incredible. Janelle’s theory is incredible. I just really wanted to think with her.”

Most used word/phrase: “‘Alienation’ and ‘potential.’ Those are the two words I use the most.”

On her poop: “It’s all over the show. It’s irregular. It’s not bad, but it’s irregular.”

On thesis as feces (if they are comparable to bowel movements): “Yeah, I think so. Like, you know, there’s something kind of like gross, and why am i doing this, you know what I mean? Like, why am I producing this shit? And sometimes it’s so exhausting. I’m like constipated and I’m like, I can’t get out of this section. It’s horrible. But then you do, and it’s soooo satisfying. Like a cleanse.

“But it’s also like, we need to shit to function. And producing theory that I feel is about life and death and vitalism of precarious subjects, of people who aren’t necessarily meant to survive or be seen—that’s generative. And like, yeah I’ll take that shit. I’m going to take it. I’m going to take a big dump.”

Interviews by Caro, Dasha, and Jackson.

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