THESISCRAZY 2016 (PART 1): Frequent Feces and Queer Theory

“Everybody’s so, ‘I’m gonna be so drunk, find me in a ditch.'”

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Hello, hello and welcome to the first installment of THESISCRAZY 2016. We’ve got some great interviews in here, so sit back, relax, and have an existential crisis over whether or not writing a thesis is a actually good idea. Oh, and you can see THESISCRAZY interviews from previous years by clicking here.

If you’re a senior writing a thesis and you want to commiserate about your thesis poops and most traumatic thesis experiences, email us at staff(at)wesleying(dot)org and include your name, major, workspace info (carrel, lab, etc.), and times you can meet before April 12th.

Thesis-ing is after the jump.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 7.17.02 PMBlaise Bayno-Krebs ’16: SOC, carrel #317

Working title: “I knew this was gonna happen so minutes before you came in here I made up one, so I really don’t know if that’s gonna be it. It’s ‘Fuck Work, Fuck the Social: Postwork Marxism and the Asocial Turn in Queer Theory (or What’s So Fun About Collective Responsibility).’

On her topic: “Basically at the end of the whole thesis after I set up everything, it’s about locating queer theory’s attachment to the social and collective responsibility, ethics, and all of these things that the Left has taken to be its main core. I’m saying how queer theory’s job, to be the most radical turn in Left theory, would be to not take those things with it but to subvert those things entirely. It’s based off this book called No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive by Lee Edelman. He advocates for not placating the concerns of the Right, which think of queer as very crazy and wild and amoral, and he’s like, no, we should do that. So I’m combing that with postwork Marxism, which essentially isn’t a Marxism that relies on the collective class struggle but relies on abolishing capital and moving towards postwork and an automation of labor. So basically I’m saying postwork Marxism is the queerest and No Future by Lee Edelman and asocial queer stuff is the most Marxist. I’m fusing them.”

On how she came up with her topic: “It’s been a long process. I’ve always known I wanted to write a thesis, and I loosely knew I wanted to write about vice and feminism back in the day. And slowly I started to ask, ‘What do I mean about that?” and then I was like, ‘Oh, it’s not really about vice but about all these things that are considered amoral. What does it mean to do those things, and what does it mean to make those subversive?’ Because doing them isn’t inherently subversive. And then I took Jonathan Cutler’s social theory class, which is the first class I ever read No Future in, and it changed my life. After reading that, I was like, ‘This is what I’m fucking talking about, hell yeah!’ And then it honestly has changed so much over the year. At first I was gonna talk about queer hedonism and subculture and how that subverts capitalism, but then it turned out to just be a discourse analysis, nothing to do with actual subcultures. I’m so lucky to have found a thesis advisor [in Jonathan Cutler] who thinks the same way. He got me into the postwork stuff and said, ‘Wait, that’d be so good if you could combine them and it’d be so creative and no one’s ever done it.'”

On her progress: “I’m working on my third chapter right now; the other ones are basically done. The intro and conclusion I’m not worried about at all. Cutler was like, ‘You could do those the night before,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I can.’ It’s basically just the third chapter and tightening up transitions and the other [chapters]. I’m not really worried right now…for some reason…”

On her current mental state: “Today, very calm and happy. Yesterday, on the verge of death [laughs]. I think I’m good. I’m just very excited, actually, to be done and to have the thing in front of me and be like, ‘I did it!'”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Nothing’s been that bad luckily because Cutler’s been really great. I think the most traumatic thing was over spring break I didn’t do that much for the first week and instead and partied with my friends. Then when I got home I was crying about it because I thought I was fucking up because I didn’t work that week. But everything just works out. People think you need to be working consistently on it the entire time, but that doesn’t really make any sense, especially given the way I work. Not that I would recommend this, but it would be physically possible to do an entire chapter in a week; you can do that if you want.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “I take so many Photobooth selfies in here. I’m really on my social media selfie game. Also going outside, smoking, the normal shit people do when they’re at the library. And then sometimes I’ll do unnecessary theoretical work that isn’t for my thesis. Like, I’ll just find myself on this anarchist website and be like, ‘This is so cool!’ and then realize it’s not thesis stuff.”

On her favorite part of the thesis experience: “My favorite part of the process has been working with Cutler, because along the way, we became really good friends. I want to be a professor, so he’s been totally my mentor in that regard. It’s given me a lot of confidence in my abilities to produce academic work, which I’ll need to do forever [laughs]. My favorite part of the [actual] thesis is this third chapter because the first two are set-ups and the third is my real creative ideas, while the rest is analyzing other people’s ideas.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Don’t worry that much if you didn’t do jack shit first semester because I really barely did. I did some, but compared to other people I know, I really didn’t because I was still formulating my ideas and I was dealing with other weird shit in my life. And then I was so nervous because I hadn’t completed my first chapter, but it was totally fine. But also, like everyone says, pick something you’re super into, and if you have the choice to pick an advisor, make sure you find someone you not only academically vibe with but personally vibe with because you’re going to be spending a lot of time together.

Plans for April 12th: “I’m going to the steps of Olin obviously. I’m probably not going to my classes. I’m gonna bring a 40 instead of champagne because it seems better for my thesis and who I am. I’ll probably keep partying that whole night, honestly, until I fall asleep. I’m gonna try to get my advisor to come to the steps.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 7.17.45 PMAri Lewenstein ’16: NS&B/SISP (SISP thesis), carrel #421

Working title: “So last semester, there was one week where I didn’t do any work on my thesis and I had to turn something in to my advisor, so I came up with a title and an outline I did, so I’m still running with that. So that one was something like, ‘Brain Based: Depression, Recovery, and Evidence in a Neuro-Chemical Era,’ which is waaaayy too much [laughs]. So I’m gonna stick with ‘Brain Based’ as the pre-colon part, but the post-colon part—wow, that sounds like poop [laughs]—is still to be determined.

On his topic: “So I’m comparing two different treatments for depression, one that’s super neuroscience-based and one that’s more talk therapy. I’m looking at what types of evidence they provide to prove that they’re effective. So the neuroscience one is based on a theory of depression that basically says that when one part of your brain is abnormally active, that’s what causes depression, whereas the talk therapy is based on the idea [that] your life and social relationships and stuff like that can be part of what causes depression. Even though they have two very different bases for the causes of depression, they present the same kind of evidence, which is basically just subjective assessment scales, like [asking], ‘How are you feeling today?’ Given that similarity, I jump off from there and look at what’s the history of the measures they’re using to assess the severity of depression. So when Obama announced the BRAIN Initiative in 2013, he said that neuroscience is ‘transformative’ and all this rhetoric about it as a breaking point from prior modes of inquiry, so I’m looking at, if [that notion] isn’t coming from the evidence, where is this idea of neuroscience as transformative coming from?”

On his progress: “My progress is, like, pretty good. I have a full draft. I have all my citations in and endnoted, which is nice. It’s mostly just a process of making sure the complete junk I wrote either gets taken out or polished up by two weeks from yesterday [March 28th].” I, like, measure my life in days at this point [laughs].

On his current mental state: “Frazzled, sleepy, more frazzled, more sleepy, repeat [laughs]. This certainly isn’t the most stressed I’ve been during this process, but certainly more stressed than I’ll be on April 13th.

On his most traumatic thesis experience: “I think just deciding to do [a thesis]. I worked with my advisor, Professor [Jill] Morawski, over the summer. We had one idea we were going to do when I got back to campus, then I told her I wasn’t really into it anymore. We had two weeks to try and think of an idea, and I had a lot of stress over if it was something I wanted to do, what the opportunity-cost would be, and stuff like that. Once I decided to do it, it’s been smoothish sailing, but nothing super traumatic during it.”

On his favorite form of procrastination: “Pooping. Podcasting. I’m also binge-watching just so many episodes of TV.”

On his poops: “Frequent.”

On his favorite podcasts: “Oh man, I’ve been listening to a lot of The Weeds, the Vox policy podcast. I listened to all of Limetown, which is this cool fictional horror one. Political Gabfest is really good.”

On his favorite guilty pleasure TV show to binge-watch: “Multiple seasons of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America [laughs]. I’ve even been watching it when I’m trying to fall asleep. It’s bad. It’s turned into an addiction.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “I feel like most of this advice is figured out by self-berating during stressful times like, ‘Damnit, why didn’t you do this or that?’ I don’t know, I’ve actually really enjoyed the process of writing a thesis. I’ve read a bunch of these [THESISCRAZY interviews] and everyone says the exact same thing, but there is a real repeated truth to it, which is that you should be excited about talking about your thesis and you should want to talk about it. You shouldn’t dread having to sit down and write about it. I think doing it because you want to write a thesis and not to be a ‘thesis writer’ is another big one. Being really passionate about academics is a really cool thing, but it’s also not the only thing on campus you can be passionate about, and there’s a ton of other really interesting stuff out there. We’re lucky enough to be on a cool campus, so do [a thesis] for the stupid, self-evident reason of because you want to write a thesis. [laughs]”

On the food he’s been buying most from Weshop: “I have a secret stash of Pringles in my thesis carrel. I never bothered to ask whether or not you can have food in your carrel, so I have a stack of books and I have the Pringles hidden between my wall and a stack of books. If you tell the library and it’s not allowed, I’m going to starve during the last two weeks of my thesis.”

Plans for April 12th: “This is an interesting case of online persona versus truth. I think the truth is that I’m going to be preparing my body for the worst hangover of its life [laughs]. Aside from that, hanging out with people on the steps and drinking champagne. No totally crazy and wild things yet, but I’m sure as the stress increases and I get more and more excited to be done with it, maybe I’ll decide to do something, like eat two containers of pizza Pringles! Who knows. Just gonna double-fist those at Olin.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 7.18.33 PMIsabella Kursh ’16: ENGL major/ECON minor (ENGL Creative Writing thesis), carrel #313

Working Title: “‘Girls Who Cry in Public.’ But I actually handed in a draft to my advisor that had no title on it because it’s not solid. [laughs]”

On her topic: “It’s four linked short stories about two families that overlap and the ways that they overlap and outliers in their families. Then in the final story, one of the families goes on vacation.”

On how she came up with her topic: “I thought I wanted to do something else about the five stages of grieving and make it more deeply rooted, but I started writing in June and I didn’t really know how to start, so my advisor [Salvatore Scibona] was like, ‘Just start writing.’ So I started producing material, and I slowly realized that my original topic wasn’t going to work, so I started just pulling things I liked and formed a link between them all.”

On writing a creative thesis: “I came to Wesleyan knowing I wanted to do creative writing, and by sophomore year, I realized you needed to write a thesis to graduate with honors, which sucks. But I also realized around that time (it was around the time I decided to pick up econ) that realistically, you can’t be a writer. It’s not a real thing because it’s hard to make it, and this is my last opportunity to really have a chance to write. So I decided to do that. I did do the requirements to write an analytical [thesis], but I just had no interest in doing that.”

On her progress: “I just handed in the last draft for my advisor to review. I felt like I was really ahead of the game; I came to school with 60 pages. And then [the English department] changed the [page] requirement [for creative writing theses]. It used to be 120 pages, I think. But this year they decided they wanted more good content, so now it’s changed to 60 to 80. Currently there’s nothing from the original draft, obviously. So I thought I was so ahead of the game in the fall and then winter break I didn’t spend as much time on it as I should’ve and then I spent a lot of time of the third quarter and spring break on it. I thought I was gonna have this perfect draft and be completely done at this time, then job things and other stuff got in the way.”

On her current mental state: “I’m fine. I have a period of five days where I’m not meeting with my advisor until Tuesday, so next week is going to be horrible. Right now I have a midterm tomorrow that I’m studying for that my professor let me postpone, but I’m definitely fine, which is rare.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “My advisor sent me a lot of strange emails over the summer. I guess he put my calendar in his calendar and put my deadlines two days before and he’d write me. Like, once he sent me, ‘I hope your fingers are bleeding’ [laughs] or one time I was late on a deadline over the summer and he was like, ‘Who do you love more, your literature or your boyfriend?’ He definitely has an interesting spin on things, I would say…My computer also keeps doing this thing where it crashes and turns off, which is pretty new. I have the stuff saved, but that’d be horrible to lose everything at this point. Also, the library closes at, like, 10 or 11pm on the weekends, and that’s crap.”

On making eye contact with the woman who works in the office across from her thesis carrel (which has a window): “She works hard hours [laughs], like Friday till 6.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “I have this lame video game called Fallout Shelter that’s really horrible, but I play it and waste so much time. You have a shelter with little dwellers during a nuclear crisis. At least I don’t pay money for it.”

On her food stash: “So Weshop doesn’t sell Goldfish, so I love the Goldfish, though they’re a little stale. The popcorn’s from New York; I brought it. The garlic powder is definitely my favorite. People think it’s weird, but whatever, this is my second bottle. I eat a lot of salty foods, and it definitely brings it up a level.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Really make sure that you want to do [a thesis] and you know that there are days where your friends are going to be doing really fun things and you’re in here. You do lose a lot of time in your senior year, so you really have to be committed to it. At the end of first semester, my advisor turned to me and asked, ‘Do you want to keep doing this?’ You can just quit and get credit for it. And I really did have to think about it. I’m taking a lighter course load this semester, but there have been times this semester where I’ve thought to myself, ‘If I took three phys ed classes second quarter, I could drop my thesis.” [laughs] But really make sure you want to do it. I know a lot of people say that, but really mean it and understand that your other work will probably suffer [because of it]. I really wanted to apply to law school in September or October but there was just no way I could take the LSAT, and now I’m gonna wait two years. Know that you’re generally giving up those types of opportunities, and if you’re not, you’re a pscyho.”

Plans for April 12th: “When I got a job last week, I bought a bottle of champagne and drank it, and I felt so horrible on Friday that I just don’t even know if I’m going to drink on April 12th. I also have class [that day] from 2:40 to 4 and then ballet at 4:30, which I don’t really intend to go to. Everybody’s so, ‘I’m gonna be so drunk, find me in a ditch,’ but I just don’t think I’m gonna do that. I also don’t get why they moved [the thesis deadline] to a Tuesday, that really screws up everybody’s life.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 7.19.17 PMAlly Ruchman ’16: PSYCH/ENVS (ENVS thesis), carrel #336

Working title: “I just thought of it two days ago, but it’s ‘Women Who Lead: Environmental Activism and Gender Performance.'”

On her topic: “It’s looking at three female environmental leaders—Rachel Carson, Lois Gibbs, and Erin Brockovich—and the way in which they manipulated their gender performance in order to be successful in their activism and campaign efforts.”

On how she came up with her topic: “It started off with me trying to look at the psychological mechanisms that enabled them to be successful first semester, and that kind of just…didn’t work out [laughs]. So then I worked with my advisor [Lori Gruen] to come up with this [topic]. It’s also something I’ve been interested in for a while, because sophomore year I wrote a paper about women going into all-male schools (my mom was the second class of women at Bowdoin) and the ways in which they [worked themselves into] all-male fields.”

On her progress: “It’s pretty good right now. I have a complete draft. I’m just editing a lot, so…it’s happening [laughs].”

On her current mental state: “I’m exhausted. I haven’t gone to sleep before 2am for the past week. I’m just ready to take a very, very long nap after this is done. I usually go to bed [around 10pm], and at times I’ve even been in bed at 10pm and then just, like, been up.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “[It was] when I changed my topic at the end of last semester. I spent all of last semester writing it with this psych focus and when it just wasn’t working and I changed it, I was like, ‘Wow…there goes a lot of work…’ I took winter break to regroup and then it ended up being fine because I was able to use a lot of it. But at first it was really scary because I was changing my topic.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “I have a bunch…one is going into SciLi and pretending I’m going to do work but using it as my social hour or hours. [laughs] I’m also a big fan of wandering the aisles of Weshop, just going in there maybe three to four times a day thinking I’m gonna get something and then just end up buying seltzer.”

On her favorite Weshop snack: “Definitely the chocolate from the Weshop candy bins because you don’t have to choose one; you can just get a grab bag of everything.”

On her favorite part of the thesis experience: “I’ve never taken an FGSS class before, so this was a really amazing opportunity to learn all of the basic components of feminist theory in a place where I’m not gonna be tested on specific person’s theory or something.

On how often she’s slept in her carrel: “It’s been about five times [laughs]! Just extended naps, not an overnight sleep. Probably an hour at a time. I have a blanket that I keep in there, so I wrap that around me, put my feet on the desk, and just lie back on my chair.”

On having a carrel in a busy part of Olin: “I have heard a lot of gossip. I don’t know who they are because I don’t want to walk out, but yeah, I’ve heard breakups, I’ve heard someone on the phone talking to their mom saying, ‘I have to transfer. I need to get out of here.’ People have very personal conversations outside of the [third-floor carrels]. I’ve sometimes wanted to be like, ‘I’m sorry that this is happening!’ Also my parents don’t understand that the thesis carrels are open [with no ceilings]. Every time my parents call me while I’m in my carrel, they’re like, ‘Oh, you can talk because it’s closed!’ And I’m like, ‘No I can’t, you don’t understand!'”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Partially enroll if you can. I’m partially enrolled and it’s made the biggest difference in the amount of work I’ve been able to do and the amount of focus and attention I can give my thesis. At first I was a little worried that it’d be so much thesis that I’d go crazy, but with the right amount of procrastination, it’s great. There are days that go by where I’m just like, ‘I’m not sure what I did all day?’ It’ll be 8 o’clock [at night] and I’ll be just getting to Olin, and I’ll be like, ‘I think I went to Usdan? I think I sat in my house for three or four hours watching some YouTube videos?’ and then it’s 8 and I should work on my thesis. But I don’t have other schoolwork that I should be freaking out over.”

Plans for April 12th: “Definitely champagne. Going to Tuesday night trivia at La Boca because I’ve yet to go since I’ve been working on my thesis. That and sleeping for a very long time.

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