THESISCRAZY 2017 (PART 7): The Real Thesis-Writers of Fauver 211

“I really feel like I’m melting and that my brain is really coming out and like making a mess all over the place.”

Things are getting down to the wire here at THESISCRAZY central (and we’re sure its similarly frenzied in your carrels too)! But you can’t focus on your work 24/7, so take a little break with us and read about your fellow students’ theses in this 7th installment in our series. We’ve got a whole Fauver full of thesis writers to keep you sufficiently distracted from more important work. Will McGhee ’17, Sofi Goode ’17, and Allison Cronan ’17 live Fauver 211 along with Kiley Rossetter ’17 (not interviewed). In case you’re looking for more distraction, you can check out past THESISCRAZY 2017 posts here, here, hereherehere, and here and you can find the entire archive here.

Will McGhee ’17 FILM major, thesis in FILM, carrel #415

Working Title: “Mythos”

On his topic: “I’m doing a TV pilot, which entails writing a full pilot script and an outline of what the season would be. The long answer is that it’s an anthology series, where each season would be a period of history a few centuries apart, drawing on a lot of different mythology that would be relevant to wherever the season takes place. A few characters pop in every season, and there’s a greater narrative overall, and things build on each other. So season 1 and the pilot that i’m writing takes place at the year 1004, when Leif Erikson is trying to colonize North America. I’m drawing on a lot of mermaid myth, inuit myth, and norse myth. It’s basically about this group of Viking servants who band together and escape, and go on a quest. The short answer is it’s a romance between a Viking and a mermaid. One of my friends described it as Game of Thrones on FX, so it’s a bit more playful, and more playful with format.”

On how he came up with his topic: I’ve done creative writing for a while, and I always wanted to be a film major from when I first got to Wes. I did have an existential crisis for a while, because I always thought I would do a production thesis. But I became more enticed with the idea of writing something longer form, because I think writing is a bigger passion for me. So I went to Scott Higgins and he was like you should do a writing one, it seems to be what you’re leaning towards. I debated between a screenplay and a teleplay for a while, and realized I like longer narratives, and it seemed like it would be more fun to do one. There’s four of us this year, the first semester was just bouncing ideas off of one another, and showing drafts to the advisor before we split off for the spring. I came into the fall semester with four ideas, all four very different from each other, I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to do. I ended up pitching three of them to the group, and after getting notes back on all of them, I spent a few weeks soul-searching on which one I wanted to do. I liked this one because it was the only full hour drama, it seemed the most out of my comfort zone and seemed the most challenging, and if I was going to commit to something for nine months this would be a world I would want to dwell in and build on with academic support for that long. And I like the idea of an anthology series, like I love Fargo, and I love the idea of it being a shared universe that builds on itself.”

On his progress: “Progress is good, we’ve had more or less a full draft of the script since November. I’ve been in a place where I could turn something in for a while. I still wouldn’t feel great about it. The last few days have been a little more stressful, because our last big one on one [was] on Friday, so this is my last chance to see if there’s anything I want to tweak. This is my last chance to absolutely commit, so that’s been kinda stressful. But it’s all there, so that’s ok.”

On his current mental state: “Emotional state? I’ll give an anecdote. There’s a scene at the end of the classic Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which Cate Blanchett ends her lifelong quest of finding this collection of cosmic crystal skulls, and she keeps repeating over and over, ‘I want to know, I want to know,’ and the skulls beam her into a being of light and vaporize her on the spot, and I feel kind of like her in that moment.”

On his most traumatic thesis experience: “There was a point over winter break where I was doubling down on what the overall world was gonna be and where the season was going. One of my characters in Inuit, and I’ve had that in place for a while. A lot of his character comes from his culture, and I realized historically that that couldn’t be possible because there weren’t Inuit people in Greenland in the year that I’m setting it in, and I kind of had this crisis of how much creative license can I actually take, because the tribe that lived in Greenland went extinct, so we know nothing about them. So I was left wondering like how do I feel giving him a culture, like making one up on my own, and how much license can I take historically in a myth show, and just about being respectful in general. So that was kind of my biggest thing for a few weeks.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “For the first couple months it was twitter, and that got too sad, so now it’s just Reddit.”

On his advice for future thesis writers: “Yeah, so you’re committing to a project for a little over nine months, it’s like the length of a pregnancy. So, like obviously you’re opinions of it are going to change as you write it and research it, but if you’re not fully committed from the get-go and you’re just doing it for the sake of doing it, don’t. And I would also say that as much work or just thinking about it that you do in the summer or the spring before your senior year, do that, because the more you can have in your pocket, no matter what kind of thesis you’re doing, the much better off you’re going to be.”

On his favorite part of his thesis: “This came very early in the research process and it was one of the reasons that I committed to this. So a lot of my story comes from Viking sagas and a couple of my characters come from those sagas. So one of my favorite characters is this woman named Freydís, who’s Erik the Red’s daughter and Leif Erikson’s half sister. There’s this quick little snippet in a saga where she’s in North America, nine months pregnant, and she’s at a camp, somewhere in Newfoundland, Canada probably, and her group is under attack by aboriginals. So according to the saga, she screams that she can fight better than anybody as she’s nine months pregnant, walks into the battle, gets lost, is completely surrounded by enemies. She picks up a sword, and her first instinct isn’t to surrender or do anything reasonable. Instead, she just like removes half of her clothing, beats the sword against her naked breast, and starts screaming until the enemies run away, and that is how they win the battle. So I looked into that, and I was like well, if I can make a world where that can make sense in my show tonally, and like make sense for the characters, that could be a lot of fun. That snippet is halfway through my pilot now and I don’t know if it works, but I really like it, and I’m definitely keeping it.”

On if his thesis was a song/movie/TV show: “Ah, then I would have a job.”

Most used word/phrase: “‘Horror’ and ‘terror’ come up a lot.”

On his plans for April 19th: “Well, I’m very ready to join the tradition of drinking champagne on the steps of Olin at 4 pm. But also, all Film thesis majors are called to a meeting at 5 pm, and I am very interested to see how that will go down.”

Additional Comments: “I’ve read a lot of books that I’m surprised that I did, just bunch of Viking Sagas, but I also have this weird book about Atlantis that is just a study of a bunch of different people that claim that Atlantis exists. It probably wasn’t worth reading all of, but I did, and it was actually a great form of procrastination. Knowing there’s a field of study called Atlantiantology or whatever. I’ve learned some weird things over this course of thesising.”

Sofi Goode ’17 FGSS/ECON majors, thesis in FGSS, carrel #317

Working Title:  “In the Name of Protection Towards a Queer Abolitionist Critique of Reform”

On her topic: “It’s about the ways that prison policies that are supposedly designed to protect people actually create more violence and mask the violence of the prison. So I talk about 3 different policies that are pitched as providing protection to incarcerated queer people, how they actually work, and really talk about the stories of people who were incarcerated under these police and what the policies looked like for them. It comes down to this is the sort of institutional violence that is masked under the narrative of over protecting these people.”

On her process of choosing topic: “I wrote a paper in the fall of my junior year about what it’s like to be a mother in prison, and to give birth, and keeping custody of your children. And it was supposed to be an 8 paged paper, and I had to cut it down from 20 pages because there was just so much to say. I thought, this could be something I could do my thesis about. So I spent the summer doing research on a bunch of different things, and like changed my focus like 80 different times. I came into the school year and basically just cried in front of the FGSS senior seminar and was like I have no idea what I want to write my thesis about. And it just kind of worked out, i kept coming back to the same ideas and found some of these policies and was just like intrigued and horrified by what they actually did. Even though I had the layout of my thesis by then, the focus changed in like January. I didn’t have to like rewrite any of the material, it was just kind of like shifting the framework. Even now, it could still change. There’s never really a point where you’re like, ‘This is what my thesis is about,’ until you like turn it in, because you can make such small changes and have it change what you’re saying.

On her progress: “I got really lucky that I’m structuring my thesis around 3 policies, and so that kind of gave me a natural progression for chapters. The structure kind of made itself, which was super nice. I’ve been pretty methodical, I gave myself a month for each chapter and stuck to that, and it was a really like researching, outlining, discussion, and then write. And it just worked really well for my kind of thesis. My progress has been really good, I have a full draft and am mostly just doing line edits now.”

On her current mental state: “This sounds a little weird to say after I just said that I feel like I’m nearly done, but sometimes I really feel like I’m melting and that my brain is really coming out and like making a mess all over the place. The constant feeling that you’re never done is really difficult to work with, because it’s hard to take breaks.”

On her most upsetting thesis experience: “My thesis is very sad, it’s about tremendous violence and oppression, and I cry a lot. I’m a crier. So I cry in public a lot. I cried in the libraries so many times this year, more times than I can count. I like to work at that table right by the circulation desk in Olin because I like it when people are around me. But no ones really there a lot except the people that work at the desk, and I’m sure all of them have seen me cry. At one point, one of my friends who works at the desk looked at me and was like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ and I just had tears streaming down my place. So definitely crying in public.”

Fave form of procrastination: “First semester I was really into like productive procrastination, like I don’t think I’ve ever done my econ reading as thoroughly as I did my first semester. But this semester, instead of doing the other things I’m supposed to do like applying to jobs, I have developed this really terrible habit of playing 2048 Cupcakes, which is just not even an activity I enjoy. It’s not satisfying, and it doesn’t destress me, it’s just become a way that I spend my time.”

On her advice for future thesis writers: “Start in May of junior year. I was researching my thesis over the summer, and if I had started that process in September, who knows when I would have decided when I was finally gonna write my thesis about. You don’t have to start researching actively, but just start thinking about it. I didn’t come to school with a defined topic, but I had done enough background work that within 2-3 weeks I knew what I was writing about. It makes such a big difference to start writing in November than in like February.”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “Usually when I introduce my thesis, I say like, ‘It’s about incarcerated people and violence.’ And usually, after I say that, most people don’t want to talk about it more because it’s sad. But when I say that and someone really lights up and is like, ‘Tell me more!’ I feel like my thesis might actually be able to teach people something, and that we might actually learn from this, and might see that we really need to make these changes to the system. We need to have a mindset that says, ‘Let’s not just look for better, let’s see if we can find ways to eliminate these forms of violence.’ And when people get jazzed about that and I feel like my thesis matters, that’s my favorite part.”

On if her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: “There’s this song that one of the groups that I’m writing about kind of uses as their theme song. It’s ‘Sister’ by Chris Williamson. And it’s basically just a song of solidarity. I think if my thesis were a song, it would be that one.

On her plans for April 19th: “I’m pretty much planning on taking a nap on April 19th, but on the 20th, I really want to sit on Foss and revel in the feeling of not having anything to do. For the last 11 months there has been no ‘done’ and I just want to sit there and be done and literally do nothing else.”

Allison Cronan ‘17 FILM/ECON majors, thesis in FILM. carrel #254

Working Title: “I’ve Got a Theory, it Could Be Whedon: Understanding the Televisual Auteur”

On her topic: “Broadly, it’s about authorship in television. In film it’s really easy now to talk about authorship, it wasn’t always, but we now have this established way of thinking about the director as the auteur and we basically say that he or she is the person in charge of everything. We blame them, we give them credit and what not. In television, it’s a little less established. A lot of people wanna just call the show runner the author, while others say that there’s no such thing as an author in television. I start by looking at that a little and basically conclude that we can in fact have an author in television. However, it’s more complicated that it just being the showrunner. Joss Whedon is who I use as my case study, and he didn’t show run all of his own shows. I outline what his authorship looks like, like different genres and the different story arcs that he uses. At the same time, I do a meta analysis, and talk about how it relates back to television, and what it tells us about tv shows.”

On her process of choosing topic: “In film, there’s something like 7 different thesis options that you can do. I knew I didn’t want to make film or write a creative thesis, but I’m always really interested in analytical writing, so I settled on this type of thesis. I spoke to my advisor Scott Higgins, and he gave me some things to think about. I knew I wanted to write it on television, it’s where my main focus lies and my past experiences in terms of classes I’ve taken and internships I’ve done. Higgins was basically like, ‘Well, authorship in television is still a really hot button issue.’ I really liked that idea, and then I needed to decided on a writer to focus on. I’ve always liked Joss Whedon, and I figured if I’m at Wesleyan then I might as well put that Wesleyan education to use. It’s kind of amazing, because I can talk to Jeanine, who taught him. I’m taking classes that are or are like the ones that he took. To be able to know that I’m coming at him with a general idea of film that is similar to the one that he left the program with is an opportunity that I didn’t think I could pass up.”

On her progress: “So right now, I’m doing revisions. I have most of my conclusion, but I feel like there’s a part of it that you can’t write until everything else is done because otherwise you just keep rewriting it. I’m mostly just going through and doing final revisions and edits. There’s a stage in thesis writing that I think everyone comes to which is like, ‘Oh my god, there’s so many major changes I can make,’ but I just know that I don’t have time to make those. So I’m just getting it polished right now.”

On her current mental state: “Very harried, I’d say. I just had a midterm for my math class which was really stressful, because I really need to be editing and doing revisions. My paper is really long right now, I’m over 200 pages, so editing it just takes a really long time because I have to physically go through it. I’m a little stressed out about that, but I know I could at least turn something in so that helps a little bit I guess. But I’ve definitely been better.”

Most upsetting thesis experience: “Watching The Body [S5:16 of Buffy] twice and then having to write about it. Just kidding, it’s a great episode of television that’s just very sad. Probably, when I wrote a chapter over winter break, just sort of free writing basically, and at the end of Winter Break I had 40 pages, but none of it fit together. It was like a segment of an idea, 3 examples of like something else; when I brought it back, I spoke to my advisor and we decided that what I had wasn’t a chapter, it was things that I could pull into what ended up being two chapters. So I really didn’t have a chapter. It probably still wasn’t as traumatizing as watching The Body twice though.”

Favorite form of procrastination: :Studying for my math test? That makes me sound like a nerd. Probably distracting my other roommates [Will McGhee ‘17 and Sofi Goode ‘17, also featured in this article!] from their theses, because then we all go and do stuff together.”

On her advice for future thesis writers: “Definitely ditto everything everyone else has said about starting early, picking an advisor that you can work well with, picking a topic that you’ll still love a week before you turn in the thesis. More specifically if you’re a film student, consider doing a history-theory thesis, it’s actually really fun, and I’ve had an amazing experience writing it.”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “Going back to doing the history-theory thesis, I feel like it really is a culmination of everything I’ve learned here. I went back through my notes from one of the early intro film classes I took freshman or sophomore year to like find a movie and a scene that we’d analyzed that was just like something I saw in a Joss Whedon show. I’ve learned more about horror and westerns. The act of just like feeling like what I’m doing has built off of what I’ve been learning, and it’s forced me to learn new things too. Like, I didn’t take the westerns class but I’ve had to read through westerns books and talk to people who did take the class in order to figure out what’s going on in Firefly, which uses the western genre. I just really feel like I’ve learned and applied my education. It’s also just fun to watch a lot of tv and then talk really seriously about it. The process of writing my history-theory thesis was like taking my film education and putting a bow on it.”

On if her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: “I’ve actually thought about this. It’s Bones. Because it goes on for way too long, and at some point, you’re like, wow, there’s a lot of David Boreanaz in this!”

Most used word/phrase: “Probably ‘televisual authorship’ or ‘Whedon.’”

On her plans for April 19th: “Definitely the traditional popping of the champagne on the steps of Olin. And, other film students have said this, we do have a meeting at 5, which will be interesting. And I’ll be doing more math homework. But also, watching all the TV shows that I’ve wanted to watch and couldn’t watch because I could only watch things that were by Joss Whedon.”

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Interviews by tidsoptimist.