ThesisCrazy Part 6: 261 Pine Street Edition!!

The residents of 261 Pine lookin’ cute

After a short hiatus due to being crazy busy, we’re back with the final ThesisCrazy installment, and it’s a special one too!! This article features three of the residents of 261 Pine Street; we have Phie Jacobs ’22 sharing their ~pertinent~ novella on a fictional disease pandemic, Kevin Le ’22 reveals the mind of a poet, and our very own head editor maury, Margaret Fitch ’22 talks about hybridizing the personal and the academic in her thesis about music performance anxiety! Read on after the cut!

Interviews by soap and maury

Margaret Fitch ‘22, (she/her). Music/Biology Double Major, Thesis in Music, Carrel #403

Working Title: “What’s Wrong With Me? An Investigation into the Phenomenon of Music Performance Anxiety”

On her topic: “It’s an investigation into music performance anxiety, but it’s sort of done in a unique way where I am fusing both a lot of academic research that I’ve done and personal anecdotes from my personal experience, because I have really severe music performance anxiety. I have three little interludes that are just personal writing, but then I’ve also read some memoirs from various musicians and I’m including their perspectives as well, so it’s really kind of a mish-mash of different things that I feel like comes together pretty well.”

On how she thought of her topic: “It really just came from me. While I was in high school I was in a very intense competitive music program. I played clarinet, and there was a while there when I thought I might go to music school but then I was like ‘Wait I’m too anxious, I wouldn’t be able to do auditions.’ So I gave that up and went to a liberal arts college because I wanted to be able to do music while doing the science I wanted to do as a career. Once I got here, I was like, ‘Oh, you can do music just like, casually? For fun?’ That was a mind blowing thing, and so the past four years have been me unwrapping the mess that was my music performance anxiety that I wasn’t able to acknowledge until I got distance from the environment that really fueled it. Basically I wrote this because I wanted to actually figure it out. I wanted to really know what was going on and what other people were experiencing too. It was a self-enlightenment kind of thing.”

On her progress: “Done!! I have my two folders with my reader copies in my backpack right now and I’m gonna go submit it after this interview, which is really exciting. I finished my first draft at the end of January so I’ve been editing for a while, and over the past few weeks it’s really just been getting emotionally ready to let it go.”

On her current mental state: “Good, yeah. I feel happy! I got a little bit emotional when I was printing it out yesterday because I was like ‘Oh, there it is!’ So yeah, I feel really good. I’m really happy with it and I’m really really proud of it.”

How many pages is it? “97 with the title page.”

On her most upsetting thesis experience: “I did. Probably in October I figured this out. There is this woman named Dianna Kenny who is a psychologist from Australia and in the 2000s and early 2010s she did a huge amount of music performance anxiety research. Her stuff is really important, she’s cited everywhere, and she’s just one of the giants in the field. So I was going to her website to cite something or whatever and I found out that in the past five years or so she has pivoted from studying music performance anxiety to trying to invalidate the experience of trans kids. It’s all pro conversion therapy stuff and like, ‘this is how you deal with the gender ‘disaster’ that is happening to our children right now.’ So I was reading this and I was totally losing my mind––I was so upset I called my boyfriend, like, screaming, and then I sent my advisor a frantic email that was like ‘what do I do, this is incredibly upsetting, I feel like I can’t use her stuff.’ But we came to the conclusion that if I didn’t use her stuff there would have just been this giant hole in the paper, so after I calmed down I ended up putting a little disclaimer note at the beginning of my bibliography that’s basically like, ‘Hey, fuck this bitch now, but like her stuff is important for the study of music performance anxiety.’”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “Writing for Wesleying is a very big one. I’ll sit down in my carrel and think, ‘Hmm I don’t wanna write that,’ and then I’ll write some jokey nonsense instead. Certainly in the last couple weeks doing ThesisCrazy stuff, interviewing the people and making the posts, has been big. And then also playing video games. This semester I was finally able to get a PS5, and that’s been great for my mental health but not so great for my productivity.”

Do you think you’ll miss writing for Wesleying? “Yeah! I’m sad to move on because it’s such a fun outlet, but once this thesis is done I want to make a couple more fun posts before I graduate.”

On her plans for April 14/after she hands her thesis in: “I do! Champagne at Olin of course, and then me and my housemates like to do charcuterie wine and cheese nights, so we’re gonna have the biggest and most elaborate charcuterie we’ve ever had.”

Her advice for future thesis writers: “I think besides the usual like-your-advisor and like-your-topic sort of advice, I’d say one of the unique things about my thesis is that rather than writing the big three chapters that a lot of theses are organized into, it’s in like ten different smaller chapters. So even if you don’t structure it like that, I think breaking it down into really small chunks is really helpful. It’s much more manageable, so you don’t think ‘Oh I have to write an entire twenty five page chapter over the course of this month,’ you think ‘I have to write five pages this week talking about this specific thing.’”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “I love all of it. And it feels really special to say that because I could count on one hand the number of pieces of writing in my life that I’ve done and actually liked. But my favorite part is probably the first person memoir-esque writing that I do here, because it was very difficult to write but I’m very proud that it’s on the page now and that it’s part of this work.”

What made those parts difficult to write? “It’s just emotional stuff. I mean I had a lot of really bad anxiety and depression caused by music, and that’s hard to write about. It’s stuff that I hadn’t thought about in years on purpose because it’s not fun to think about. But getting it written out here feels really cleansing. My therapist loves my thesis, she’s super proud of me!”

If her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: “I’ve literally been thinking about this since I got the idea for this thesis sophomore year. There’s this song by a guy––a band, but it’s just one guy, called Radical Face––that’s called ‘More Clay than Stone,’ and it’s about using the distance from something and the power of memory and nostalgia to make things that happened to you less painful. And it’s a really hopeful and beautiful song, and I listened to it a lot while I was writing this.”

On her most used word/phrase: “Probably ‘MPA’ which is the abbreviation for music performance anxiety. Actually I’m gonna look and see how often I use ‘therefore’… Only six times! Wow I’m killing it. I definitely cut a bunch of ‘therefore’s.”

Theses feces: “Nothing of note to report, nothing out of the ordinary.”

Kevin Le ‘22, (he/him) COL and English Major, Thesis in COL, Carrel #403.

Working Title: “Last Will and Testament”

On his topic: “That’s a really hard question to talk about. I mean, I was working on my abstract earlier today (because we have to do that now), and I was thinking about literature as legacy or a record or inheritance and was also thinking about like, to whom is literature intended? And I think that you know, everyone has the potential to receive literature and inherit it and enjoy it and to write their own. My topic, I guess, it’s a whole bunch of poems, and some prose, and some poetry manifestos that are elaborating on my continuing views of literature and poetry.”

On how he thought of his topic: “In freshman year, I knew already that I wanted to write some sort of poetry collection, and when I joined COL, I knew that I had to do a thesis. And so I was already trying to write poetry. Beginning freshman year, sophomore year, it was really hard. In junior year, I took Techniques of Poetry. And you know, like I started writing poems more rapidly from that. I think I started writing my poems during the summer before senior year, and I just kept writing maybe like four or five every two weeks or every week. I did a lot of revision and I now have around 41 pages of poems.”

On his progress: “Progress is rapid, very sudden and unpredictable. But it’s like a small seed and then becomes a seedling. You can’t really predict what it’s going to look like in the end. You can only grow and nurture it. I’m done but it’s done in the same way that, like, a grown tree is done, it’s like still growing”

On his current mental state: “Honestly, I think with my thesis, I’m pretty happy with it. The thing is, I tried to get to like that 20 or 30 poem mark last semester, and once I accomplished that, there’s like very little stress this semester, except for when I have to talk about my poems in, not necessarily academic way, but like, in a way that tries to explain what the poems are doing.”

On his most upsetting thesis experience: “Well, let’s just say that I had a pretty bad professor with whom we were interpreting poetry or poems in a certain class. I sort of like raised up a resistance against a dominant academic ideology or discourse. He didn’t like it. Then afterwards I felt that like, even as a writer of poetry, all my progress had been invalidated by this academic who knows more about poetry than poets do, apparently. I actually cried for a bit afterwards. I sort of cried about how like, ‘oh, no, it’s like, I don’t want poetry to be taken away from me.’ So that’s my most upsetting experience. But we’re all better now!”

On his favorite form of procrastination: “I guess, like… Oh, I know. When I tried to write a whole bunch of like, prose essays for my thesis but they just ended up being completely unrelated. Like it was like I didn’t actually want to talk about my thesis a direct way. So I went about it more of an avant garde way which ended up not being related at all.”

On his plans for after it’s turned in: “Once I hand in this thesis, I’m gonna be like, ‘Okay, bye.’ I’m gonna take a writing hiatus for the rest of the semester.”

His advice for future thesis writers: “Honestly I would say begin early. The earlier that you can get some vision going, and the earlier that you can start to see work in progress, the less that you have to worry about fully forming something at the last minute. Also would say pick a good advisor. This is really important because some advisors would point out a central thing of that student’s thesis and say like, ‘Oh, you need cut that out.’”

On his favorite part of his thesis: “It’s like it’s a poetry collection, but I really do like trying to find what font looks best.”

What font is it in? “Palantino!”

If his thesis was a song/movie/tv show: “It would be Debussy’s Clair de Lune!!”

His most used word or phrase: “Oh God… the word ‘silver.’ You really gotta expose me like that!! *Laughs*”

A question he’d wished we’d asked: “Maybe like ‘what inspired your thesis.’ I already knew that I loved poetry. But to be honest, I was inspired to write this thesis in part by reading all these poetry collections, and a lot of that came from outside of what I’ve read in the classroom. It came from personal interest. I think that’s like a really major thing. So long as the thesis comes from like, personal interest that you will have done anyways, if you haven’t experienced that classroom, you have a lot of motivation and energy to see it through.”

Phie Jacobs ‘22 (they/them). Biology and English double major with a concentration in creative writing, Thesis in English, Carrel # “I never used it”

Title: “The Forgotten Name”

On their topic: “Well, it’s a sort of pandemic thriller novel. It’s a creative novella that follows these two different characters coming from vastly different backgrounds, both navigating a deadly viral pandemic that’s sweeping the US.”

On how they thought of their topic: “It actually was based on a book that I wrote in high school long before the COVID pandemic. It was a very different book. I also wrote it when I was a teenager. So obviously it was lower quality and I kind of put it away for a few years. And then when I got to thinking about what I wanted to do my thesis on, I thought I would, you know, try and reimagine that story with what I’ve learned in the COVID pandemic and to make it more relevant to today.”

On their progress: “Well I ended up in the first semester, writing a lot of material for the first draft of the novel. I just wrote a ton of stuff. I edited what I’d written before, but I eventually kind of abandoned that to start writing new content. And then second semester was a lot of cutting all the stuff that I wrote in the first semester, and editing what I’d gotten down. So first semester was a lot of content creation and then second semester was a lot of editing.”

On their current mental state: “I mean, I feel amazing now that I’m done! I’m partially enrolled, so I was just working on my thesis this semester. So once I turned it in, it was like, a huge weight had been lifted and I’m finished!”

On their most upsetting thesis experience: “My most upsetting experience was not being able to go to the celebration because I was in Boston, looking at apartments for next year when my girlfriend and I both got tested positive for COVID. So I was stuck. I couldn’t travel. I was in quarantine and I couldn’t go to the celebration in front of Olin and that was very sad. This semester my thesis was the only thing I had been working on and so it really sucked to not be able to celebrate with everybody else. I did get to go to the little Prosecco party at Shapiro. Which was very nice.” 

On their favorite form of procrastination: “I want to say just like sitting and mindlessly scrolling on things. Another great form of procrastination is doing a thing that is technically productive. You’re like ‘Oh, I’m not going to work on this. I’m going to do my laundry or I’m going to wash the dishes. Because that needs to get done.’ I think that’s probably the best form of procrastination. If you’re gonna procrastinate, it might as well be doing something that is productive.”

On how they celebrated turning it in: “I didn’t really do anything. I was stuck in my room. I did have a makeup celebration because just me and one other person who’d also had COVID, Katelin Penner ‘22, where we popped champagne. I splurged on like an actually fancy bottle instead of buying the La Marca prosecco like I always do *laughs*. Then I came home, made myself a cocktail, made myself egg salad sandwiches and sat outside with my friends.”

Their advice for future thesis writers: “I think go into it knowing exactly what you are you have to submit at the end. Finding out that I had to have everything in 1.5 margins was like ‘Oh, my thesis actually has to be a lot shorter than I had originally thought it was going to be.’ I ended up only submitting an excerpt of what I originally thought I was going to submit. It’s especially difficult for a creative writing thesis where there’s lots of dialogue so you don’t have those big paragraphs and you end up getting fewer words on the page. And the page limits are really strictly enforced. So if I had known that going in, I probably wouldn’t have ended up writing and creating all this content that I then wasn’t able to submit.”

On their favorite part of their thesis: “I’m very proud of some of the final ending chapters. I wrote it mostly in order, so those were the last things I wrote. I was very proud of them because my thesis was these two intersecting stories that mostly are going parallel and they don’t become intertwined until the end. I was very proud of the way that I finally intersected them.”

If their thesis was a song/movie/TV show: “I did listen to a lot of Mitski while I was writing it *laughs*. If it was a movie it would probably be one of those like road trip montage movies. I’ve never seen that movie Train to Busan but that’s a travel pandemic movie. So yeah, that.”

Their most used word/phrase: “I could look it up. Can you do that? Can you find your most frequent word?… Oh, actually, probably the most used word is ‘noun’ because I use so many definitions. At the beginning of each chapter there’s a definition. It usually starts with blank ‘noun’, and then I give its definition in biology or in something else. So biology might be one of the most used words too.” 

Any questions you wish I had asked? “I wish you’d asked me to read the entire thing out loud!” 

Theses feces: “Oh, um I’d say not different from regular. Like, I wasn’t keeping track. I think that’s a great name for that question!”

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