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JUMPING THROUGH HOOPES

THE SENIOR THESIS

By Eloise D. Austin

The Senior Thesis at Harvard, a research paper of the highest magnitude, represents the culmination of diligent study within a field. For those who choose to take on the challenge, the thesis can represent an exploration of personal interests, as well as a taste of higher education and professional avenues. Many disgruntled and jaded senior concentrators view the thesis as the bane of their social existence, not to mention an unpalatable chore, as they realize that toiletry practices of Minorcan societies no longer tweak their interest. Over the past few years, seniors have covered the typical range of topics, including the socioeconomic histories of every imaginable country, province, and anthill. Then there are the 100-page analyses, dissecting each feasible theme in Edith Wharton novels, and the usual incomprehensible, highly obscure science papers. For instance, the thesis entitled Single Voxel Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectral Editingmight have won a Hoopes Prize, but its title doesn't muster up visions of trashy reading on the beach.

However, among the archived papers in Pusey Library, many of which are destined to collect dust and sit unperturbed in cabinets, there exist theses that challenge the traditional drudgery of topics. Interspersed amongst the hundreds of recent, less engaging synopses, a few unconventional and just plain bizarre titles emerge from the Hollis index. For instance, few economists have ever made a mental connection between the New York Stock Exchange and their bowls of soggy Fruit Loops. It was only a matter of course before new horizons in economics were explored and charted Demand for Ready-to-Eat Cereal and Its Implications for Price Competition, Merger Analysis, and Valuation of New Brands. Men who are befuddled by female sex lingo can seek counsel in Hard to Swallow: The Form and Meaning of Women's Oral Sex Talk. And it isn't simply a coincidence that The English Patient drove women to chocolate binges and mallomar fetishes. Film-induced Sadness as a Trigger for Disinhibited Eating Among Dieting Women scrutinizes this cultural phenomenon in exhaustive detail. It takes two to tango, but, in the highly competitive circles of fox-trotting and waltzing, there is a science to Accurately Judging Success in Ballroom Dance Couples. It might amuse Dave Letterman to know about the mechanical differences between the airy hip-swaying stride of Richard Simmons and the brusque swagger of Sylvester Stallone; the information is right at his finger-tips in Gait Differences and Sexual Orientation: Evidence from Dynamic Point-Light Displays.

Almost every American is prepared to give a dissertation on Jerry Springer episodes--even the most straight-laced, devout CNN watcher has been tempted to buy the uncensored video--whether "Attack of the Angry Wives" or "She's Carrying Her Brother's Baby." One Harvard senior must have spent the year plastered to the tube in order to write Serving Society's Spectators: Daytime Talk-shows and the Creation of Synthetic Social Capital. Another student surely racked up an interesting rental record at the video store upon completion of When She Was Bad: A Study of Sex-Positive Pornographies.

Whether one is reading over Parody in The Simpsons: Animating the Audience through Comedy and Critique or No Next Year: Brooklyn and the Dodgers It Can't Forget, it is refreshing to know that there are exceptions to convoluted representations of fractals and statistical number-crunching so often found in senior theses. Even if not a single academic curiosity is piqued by Don't Spit in the Soup We All Have to Eat: a History of the Dudley Cooperative House, at least the dust mites will become storehouses of esoteric facts and sexual innuendo.

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