THESISCRAZY 2019 (Part 3): we stan humanities majors

Seniors: this may be how you feel inside right now. If so, do not forget to indulge in self-care!!!!

It’s starting to be crunch time!!!! Regardless of how much of your thesis is done, GOOD LUCK!! YOU’VE GOT IT!!!!! Buy yourself some ice cream, take a 10-minute walk, look at the stars, watch an episode of a trash Netflix show. You will get your work in, so trust and take care of yourself as much as you can!!!

If reading about other people’s theses helps at all, you can read part one and part two of this year’s series, and past years’ posts here. Click below to look at some more dope theses!  :

Connor Aberle ‘19,  SOC major, thesis in SOC

Working Title: “Okay… I’m not actually sure yet, but my working title is: ‘This Thesis is Shit (on purpose)’, and I guess that’s where the colon comes in.”

On their Topic: “I’m looking at the Queer DIY scene. It’s a musical scene. There are many over the country, but it’s basically punk musical scenes, where amateur musicians will make their own albums and songs and put them up on bandcamp, that’s kind of like a DIY scene: very much like basement shows, small shows, stuff like that.”

On how they came up with their topic: “I accidently stumbled upon it through friends; I’m loosely a part of this scene now, but I was in a room where everyone was transgender and everyone was a musician at the same time, and both of those things were bizarre to me. And then I started to realize: Oh wait, there’s actually something going on here. There’s actually like a little culture of musicians who are queer.

On their current mental state: It was in a really low place but I met with my advisor yesterday and it put me at zen, I like to think? It’s a big battle each day of calming the anxiety so you can, like, do it.

On their most upsetting thesis experience: Very recently a lot of people that I know gathered to talk about their theses and how it was going, and I thought that would be a great experience late in the game because I figured that would make me feel a lot better — “Oh, everyone’s in the same position; this is totally fine” — but what ended up happening was everyone ended up venting their anxieties together and that made me more anxious. Whereas before I was kind of okay.

On their plans for April 16: Honestly, I really really hope to just sleep for quite a long time. I might play some video games as well. I just want an absolutely low stakes day where I’m not pounding caffeine to get through my writing or anything like that.

On their favorite part of the thesis: For me the best part of this process of writing was doing field work. Unlike a lot of theses, part of mine is ethnographic, so I can use that as an excuse to go to local shows and concerts, like “sorry this is for class, I have to go and see these bands I really want to see. Whoops. Darn.” That part’s pretty fun.

On their advice for future thesis writers: The stakes are not as high as people want you to think or as you can convince yourself they are. It’s just an undergrad thesis, it’s not a dissertation. And it’s totally fine. You can totally do it.

On if their thesis was a song/movie/TV show: Gosh, I didn’t know any of these questions beforehand. Uh… I don’t want to say an answer that makes me seem pretentious-y. I’ll come back to it.

Their most used word/phrase: It’s probably “camp” — that’s a really big one — I also use masculinity way too much. And then there are little “Connorisms” throughout it  — like phrases and ways I phrase things that are really silly. A lot of my thesis is really informal, it’s a lot of my own voice, so there’s a lot of moments where I’m addressing the audience directly.

[Why “camp?”] Camp — sort of aesthetically, as opposed to camping — though there is a point where I make a pun out of that. Camp aesthetics being to be really reductive to the reader; just being a mode of aesthetics that appreciates something for how awful it can be — like, people call The Room “campy.” A lot of artists that I look at value intentionally poor production quality and vocals that are not technically proficient in terms of using your voices and instrument, so in a lot of moments I talk about camp because that’s actually a desirable thing — to sound like that — and also there’s actually someone who wrote all the lyrics to their album while camping (and also high on mushrooms, but, y’know).

Anything else? Emo music, is like, really queer. Really really queer. And it’s made entirely by cis straight men and so that’s probably the most unexpected finding that I offer in the whole thing.

On their theses feces: It varies day to day… some days I drink four or five coffees because they replenish my labor power — to use Marxist terminology — and it also sends me to the bathroom quite often, at which point my poops are not how I’d prefer them to be, which you can interpret how you’d like to.

On if their thesis was a song/movie/TV Show (Take 2): Though it’s easy to go with a song, I’ll go with a movie: My thesis is starship troopers, a bit — it’s a horrible movie, but when you watch it, a little part of you says “wait, maybe this is fantastic.” And then you’re like, “no, wait, no, this is pretty bad.”

 

Lizzie Whitney ‘19, COL and GRST majors, thesis in both, carrel #350

Working Title: Oh… I haven’t thought of one yet. I presented it in the fall under the name ‘Voices in Flight,’ but I don’t really like that anymore, so stay tuned.

On her topic: I am looking at 6 novels that were published since 2012 in Germany, and they all somehow have to do with the refugee crisis. I’m looking at these as examples of what I’m calling right now ‘post-national literature’ to look at the ways identity has changed in Germany and how native-born Germans are thinking about that.

On how she thought of her topic: It’s been an evolving interest since freshman spring… I know, I have a more cohesive story than I think a lot of thesis writers have! I’ve taken a lot of classes starting freshman spring with a class called ‘MultiKulti Germany’ (Multicultural Germany). We looked at the Turkish ‘guest workers’ that came over in the 50s and 60s and then stayed, so they weren’t really as much guests as the Germans expected they’d be. We looked at different kinds of multiculturalism, different mixings of culture and religion and race in Germany. And [my thesis topic] sort of evolved from there!

On her progress: I didn’t start writing until about Christmas, so it was a lot of just trying to read novels first semester, figuring out what would work, what wouldn’t work. I have written all my chapters at this point, which is good ‘cause I’ve got… five days left! Still haven’t written an intro or conclusion yet, but those will fall into place.

On her current mental state: Okay. I think I rounded out the three-week mark with panic, the two-week mark with just apathy, and the one-week with a lot of excitement! A good trajectory!

On her most upsetting thesis experience: Last week, Word hadn’t been saving for like 5 days, and then I found out when I closed the document… when I opened it, everything was gone. So like, five days [of work]. So I cried a little bit, and then my housemate made me brownies and I rewrote everything that night. I had to get it out again before I forgot what I’d said. But that was bad.

Her favorite form of procrastination: Baking. I make a lot of cookies!

On her plans for April 16: I have a bottle of bubbly in my fridge, so that’s my plan, and then I’m gonna turn right around and write some grad school applications!

On her advice for future thesis writers: I think I would say two: 1) Don’t be afraid if your topic is really vague at first, I think that helps. And 2) I think if you are interested at all in going further in your field, it’s really a useful experience. Make sure you actually like it.

On her favorite part of her thesis: I really enjoyed getting to read all these novels! That was my first semester pretty much. And I also got the library to order a lot of books for me, so that was a cool experience. Getting to read all the books in German, and, I think, only like four of my sources are not in German, which is a cool thing that I proved to myself that I could do!

On if her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: Oh boy, I have no idea… maybe something German, but German music and TV are not really my vibe, so I’m not sure how I would answer for that one…

Her most used word/phrase: ‘Suffering’ is a common one, also ‘empathy’ and ‘realism.’

Anything else? My parents found out last week that I was, in fact, writing in English, not in German. That’s sort of a funny one. Yeah, so now they have to read it!

 

Jennifer Gagne ‘19, French and English double major, Creative Writing concentration

Working title: It’s titled “Should Be There Soon”. It’s a poetry memoir thesis.

On their Topic: My elevator pitch is the exploration of grief as a living process or grief as a complex experience. I guess a good summary would be my own grieving process. It’s written in the post year-long aftermath of the death of my mother while exploring other griefs in my life and essentially journeying through different forms of grief and how I understand it.

On how they came up with their topic: I wanted to do a creative writing thesis since I started at Wesleyan. Last year after my mother passed, I was in a nonfiction workshop with Lisa Cohen. I ended up because it was that same semester, writing a lot about this. Moving away and saying “I don’t think I can do this” to thinking about theses, and I realized that a lot of my work was centered around me moving a lot and leaving. It was a mixture of that and learning that I moved a lot. Last year I went to Montreal over spring break during what would have been my mother’s 47thbirthday, and I went to the Leonard Cohen exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. The entire thing was a celebration of his life. It was one of those things where I didn’t know who he was but by the time I left the exhibit everyone is in tears. It’s this sudden grieving that you didn’t realize you had that now you have leaving. I wanted to work through what that moment was and I chose to work now on it instead of waiting years to feel comfortable with this. I realized my current advisors are two people who have worked with me before, during, and after this whole experience. It kind of came out of necessity, that these are the people who I can bring this to and it won’t be too odd and they won’t have too many questions.

On their progress/process?: Most of my writing was last semester. Before that I wrote 20 pages over the summer. I used an Olin fellowship and went to a cabin on a farm for a week in Maine. It was a lot emotionally, but I got a lot done. Last semester I submitted 5 pages a week minimum to advisor. I spent a lot of time Thursday evening here (thesis carrel) and in my room just writing things. The number of works in my thesis are based on listening to songs and then being like “oh this reminds me of a moment, I’m going to write about that”. I’ve worked a lot in the carrel. I guess for progress I felt really slow about it but I think that’s a good experience because I had to revise things and make a manuscript. I have a folder this tall (shows me how tall) of thesis papers. I mean, it’s done, but… Its over 90 pages, but all of the creative pages are exactly 80 because the English department requires that.

On their current mental state: I’m kind of in a good place, because I was able to finish a lot earlier than I was thinking. Occasionally I read through it again. I just reformatted some things last night. It’s one of those things where every time I open it I have to play music that makes me think of it. I keep a tissue box in my carrel because sometimes I’ll pause while reading it and get a little teary. It’s definitely been really cathartic. I think it’s helped me not hold in these things for however long it was going to take. Now I know I can read this and move on.

On their favorite form of procrastination?: I love watching The Voice videos on Youtube. I will follow the entire season on Youtube. I just found out you can watch the Voice after its recorded live on Xfinity Campus, so on Mondays I try to watch it or just wait until the weekend. It’s so emotional. I don’t even care about singing that much I’m just intrigued.

On their plans for April 16th: Definitely the steps. I’m really excited for the steps and the joy of that. I’ve been at the steps seeing people do it for most years and thinking about champagne. I still don’t know how to pop champagne so I’m going to have to figure it out. Just being part of the fun event. I’ll probably go home and just chill. I’ve already started chilling a little bit. I’ve tried to read for fun or just read books I never got to for my thesis.

Advice for future thesis writers: Make sure you actually love what you’re doing for your thesis. Don’t do it for your department, don’t do it for your advisor, don’t do it because you think you need honors. I really wanted to do this because I really wanted to advance my craft and then it became something emotionally that I needed to do. Now I know I can write a manuscript and actually write whole pieces. Just making sure that the main reason you’re doing is for you and that it’s something you’re passionate about. Equally, if you start a thesis and you feel yourself burning out, do not be afraid to drop it. I’ve known so many people who have dropped it because it just wasn’t working out for them. I don’t see the point in waiting throughout the whole thing, because you’re just going to hate it. And your name’s on it.

On their favorite part of their thesis: I actually have two sections with great titles, but there’s this one section that I really love and it was almost my thesis title but not quite. I have a section called “Forgetting My Friends Faces”. It’s named after a poem in that section. It’s an entire section about how I navigated friendships when I was younger and also how I still navigate friendships. When I moved a lot when I was younger I didn’t remember people’s names and I legit can’t remember their faces. With time, I just kind of forget everyone. It’s a section that’s really cool to me and shows that grief isn’t just about someone dying in your life. It can be any loss, which was another key thing that I said at the beginning of my thesis. My mother is not dead in every story.  A lot of people who know me would expect me to only write after her death. But I’m like I lived for 21 years. I had a whole life with her during that time and I still have a whole life. It’s kind of my favorite section because its something that I didn’t address growing up at all.

On if their thesis was a song/movie/TV show: This is going to sound really cliché, but “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. There’s a poem based on it, like it’s been the song. I also have a lot of other songs that I listen to and I’ve thought about making a Spotify playlist of all the songs referenced in my thesis and all the songs I’ve listened to while writing it. I feel like Landslide encapsulates all 6 sections. But only the Fleetwood Mac version; I love Dixie Chicks but not the vibe.

Their most used word/phrase: I’ve tried to avoid certain things. It’s probably the pronoun “you” honestly. I love me some second person.

 

Medha Swaminathan ‘19, Psychology and French Studies double major, thesis in French Studies/Romance Languages and Literature.

Working Title: The title as of now is “The Missing Link: Tarzan in the Early 20th Century French Fantasy Landscape.”

On her topic: So basically, Tarzan in film, in books, in comics, was super popular in France in the decade of the 1930’s specifically. Which is kind of weird, because why Tarzan? Why then? Why France? So my thesis is looking below the obvious film technology or serialization aspect of why it might be popular and thematically analyzing Tarzan to see how themes in Tarzan aligned with popular French sentiments regarding colonialism in Africa at the time. So basically, looking at Tarzan as an allegory for French colonialism in Africa.

On how she came up with her topic: I took this great class with my now-thesis advisor, Professor Meg Weisberg, last spring. It was a French studies class, looking at the jungle and the desert portrayed in Francophone African literature. So literature written in the French language by African authors about the jungle and the desert. We had to do an oral presentation, but this class was a four-person class so basically every day was an oral presentation. My thesis advisor was a little more relaxed with the topics we could pick for this oral presentation since it wasn’t as big of a deal given that we’d been talking so much in class. So I was like, I’ll do something fun; I’m going to talk about Tarzan, because, like, jungle, very loose connection. Really, I didn’t know anything. I hadn’t even seen the Disney movie. As I was putting together this short presentation, I started to realized that just the bare-bones plot of Tarzan is pretty problematic. You have a white guy basically colonizing an indigenous jungle and beating down the indigenous residents. The French Studies department at Wesleyan has a very post-colonial theory focus. They try to critique everything from a post-colonial lens, which is awesome, so that’s just been my education in French Studies. As I was looking at this for the first time, I couldn’t help but make connections, and was really excited about it so I pitched the idea to my now thesis advisor. We started working and refining the project.

On her writing process: First thing to know is that I’m partially enrolled right now, which means that I’m only writing my thesis. I’m not enrolled in any classes. So I still do all my extracurriculars, but my academic load is literally just my thesis. So that’s great, because it gives me a lot more time. I knew at the beginning of this year that I was going to partially enroll, so it allowed me to be a little bit more flexible throughout the entire process. I’m very lucky. I did most of my primary sources research over the summer, so a lot of reading. I did a lot of writing about the primary source stuff I found it very helpful to working in Olin in my carrel. I have a gorgeous carrell. It has a huge window and is outside facing, I’ve got plants, it’s beautiful, it’s quiet, I love it. Now I’m in the re-writing and editing process in the last two weeks. I think being in my carrel feels a little bit confining. I like to be around people; it’s a little bit of a stressful time. So I found I’ve been editing better in my room or in Pi. But in terms of writing, it’s so helpful to have a carrel.

On her current mental state: It’s definitely crept up on all of us. I feel pretty okay. I think that I tend to enjoy school a lot, like I really love my academics. For me, it’s not super stressful in the process of working on it, but I think the impending deadline is a bit stressful. I think wanting it to be the best it can’t be and knowing that it’s a huge project and there’s only two weeks left has been getting to me a little bit. But again, it’s a little bit of a tricky thing with classes and majors and finances, but for those who can partially enroll, I would highly recommend looking into it if you think you’re going to write a thesis, because its just made my mental health a lot better, knowing I have one single thing to focus on. Right now, for a lot of seniors the spring is stressful in addition to theses because we are trying to think of post-grad and job apps and grad school, and so it helps you balance that a little bit better too.

On their current mental state: This isn’t upsetting, but this was the most trying moment of my whole thesis. So, I love interlibrary loan- so helpful. I’m focusing on the decade of the 30’s so the Tarzan films that I needed to watch were the 1930’s MGM Tarzan films. I got those through interlibrary loan, super great. I procrastinated a little bit on watching them, because I figured I could just renew my subscription. I had a pretty harsh deadline for myself to finish writing something, and that was predicated on watching these movies. I remember it was November 14th- I will never forget this day- was the day that the interlibrary loan thing was do. I was like, its fine, its November 12th, I’m just going to go onto ILL and renew this. I’ll get a couple more weeks so I have some time. They were like “under no circumstances can you renew this item or check it out again. You have two more days left with this item.” IT was the complete set of the 1930’s movies and I had been sitting on it for two and a half months. To be fair, there was probably a queue. I was in panic mode, because I had to watch all of them and analyze them and that was the meat of my primary source literature. I didn’t even have a DVD drive on my stupid new computer. I was like oh my god, what do I do. My lovely friend lent me her DVD port, and I spent literally three days locked up in my carrel from the moment I woke to the moment I went to bed watching hour upon hour of six full 1930’s Tarzan films. Which are one, bad. They are in black and white and a racist and horrible. It wasn’t even pleasure watching. I was taking notes and writing down time stamps. It was actually horrible. It kind of became this joke because watching a movie is a fun thing to do. I’m also not a huge fan of movies so it was just horrible torture for me. But then I came out on the other side with these great notes, they were really useful. The moral of that story is really pay close attention to your interlibrary loan stuff and also don’t procrastinate.

On her favorite form of procrastination: This is a good one- I love editing. All my friends are writing theses, so I’ll help them with their theses as a means to procrastinate my own thesis. Because its feels like it’s all thesis related and that I’m doing thesis stuff. Even with my friends who aren’t writing thesis I’ll be like “can I help you with your job applications?” It makes you feel good but then I don’t have to beat the game about my own work.

On her plans for April 16th: This sounds ironic given what I just said about my worst thesis experience, but I kind of want to check out those movies again if they allow me to and watch them with friends and genuinely enjoy this story that I’ve spent the better part of a year looking into in a really critical way. My thesis is about Tarzan and all the ways that Tarzan is really messed up and the ways in which it can be critiqued from political, gender theory, and race theory lenses. I feel like it might be fun to sit back with people who haven’t read my thesis and don’t know what this is about and watch the Disney movie on Netflix and just enjoy it. With a couple beers.

Advice for future thesis writers: I think the main thing that I found really helpful is remembering why you’re writing a thesis. Please don’t write a thesis if you feel like it’s just the thing to do. It’s such an undertaking and it so self-guided that you’re going to lose motivation right away if you don’t want to be doing it. I that vein, it’s a really individual project, so it should be something that you’re passionate about. I’m going to law school so I was going to write my thesis comparing pysch and French and comparing different justice systems. I love the idea of that, but it wasn’t something I wanted to spend the whole year on the way I do Tarzan, which has literally nothing to do with anything I will ever do in my future. But it’s interesting to me. It’s really important to find something you’re passionate about and to really try not to get stressed out by what everyone else is doing. Everyone will finish their thesis and it will be good. People are all sussing each other out a little bit, because it’s an individual project. Someone will be like “I just finished my fourth chapter and you don’t even have an outline yet.” People move at different paces but everyone is going to finish and it’ll be fine.

Favorite part of her thesis:  I was looking through old footage of what’s called a colonial exposition, which was basically a human zoo of people from different French colonies all corralled together outside of Paris as a demonstration of what the French colonies looked like. It was so problematic, but I was looking at footage of it even though I wasn’t sure I was going to use it, just to get a visual of what was being described in documents I was reading. I had this really crazy moment in that footage where I realized I had just found something. This indigenous person was acting in a way that was very obviously acting as opposed to an authentic experience, which is what my whole thesis is about. I feel like moments like that when you find something are really exciting, because a thesis is supposed to be a project where you embark on something that no one has studied before. You put everything into it, and sometimes it can feel like you’re not pioneering or doing something new or exciting. I think those moments of “Oh my god I just discovered something that was really crazy and I’m going to write about it” even if it’s not super relevant to my overall argument, I will remember that moment of discovering something and feeling like a little archaeologist, you know? Another thing that I think is fun is that I spent so many hours watching those movies and I spent so many hours reading all these Tarzan books and looking at comics. There’s some great parenthetical citations I have where I’ll say like “Tarzan is referred to as “savage”. And I’ll just I have a parenthetical that is three lines long where I just cite every single time that it happened. Time when you have fifty citations and you realize “I do have the evidence to back this up and I actually do know what I’m talking about.

On if her thesis were a song or a tv show: I think it would be that song “The Sun of Man” from the Tarzan movie that is a huge part of my thesis. The song I listened to the most while writing my thesis is “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite. It has nothing to do with my thesis but it really motivated me.

On her most frequently used term: In quotes, “’benevolent’ colonialism” is the number one. Number two is I have a lot of “F’s” and words that beginning with “F”, so I have to try not to make my sentences so alliterative or else its annoying. So like “fantasy”, “fiction”, “fabrication”, all of those words come up a lot and I just interchange them.

Any questions she wishes we asked: I think the biggest thing is that theses are really fun and something you’re going to look back on in years and think “Wow, I can’t believe I did that when I was an undergrad”. I’m really glad I got to write one, and I think keeping stress levels low and being really aware of that at the outset is something that’s really important.

Interviews by henmichelle, and fos