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Arts and Humanities Juniors Prepare Senior Thesis Proposals

Barker Center
The Barker Center houses the English Department.
With fewer than two months remaining in the spring semester, Harvard juniors studying arts and humanities-related concentrations are gearing up to submit their senior thesis proposals.

These thesis proposals are meant to outline students’ plans for their senior thesis, which eligible undergraduates will complete next spring. English, history of art and architecture, linguistics, history and literature, and music concentrators will all need to submit the proposals, meant to track junior-year progress toward the final goal.

In the English department, students may choose to write a critical thesis, a creative thesis, or no thesis at all. This Wednesday marks the deadline for proposals for critical theses, which take the form of a piece of analytical writing. Inspired by his work in virtual reality at the Harvard Innovation Labs, English concentrator Connor S. Doyle ’19 said he will submit a proposal that examines the “the intersection of the virtual and literature.”

“Literature can make time work in different ways,” Doyle said. “[I’m looking at] how texts in literature are able to conjure reality or virtual worlds that are more sophisticated and have different rules of time and space than our world where realities can exist in superpositions or like layers rather than linearly.”

Doyle, who wrote his proposal last week, said he feels “really prepared” for his thesis.

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Music concentrators have the option to propose either a written thesis or a composition thesis to their department by April 2. Haden F. Smiley ’19, a joint concentrator in music and romance languages and literatures, said he will submit a written thesis proposal.

“I have to do a project that is at the intersection of the two fields, and mine is an ethnographic study of American country music festivals in Italy,” Smiley said. “International country music isn’t a topic in musicology or ethnomusicology that’s covered widely.”

Smiley said he is not very stressed about his proposal. He explained that, in both departments to which he belongs, he is currently taking junior tutorials—courses that in part seek to prepare students for senior theses—that have been helpful in keeping him on track.

Mateo A. Lincoln ’19, a joint concentrator in music and comparative literature, is currently completing a junior thesis for comparative literature on the 20th century Ballets Russes in relation to the French novelist’s Proust’s work. For his senior thesis, he said he is thinking of adapting a text into a libretto for an opera or musical. The process might involve translation, he said.

“I feel like I’ve been on the other end a lot of musicals. I’ve been conducting them and teaching music and things like that, but I would love to be on the first end of composition,” Lincoln said.

While history and literature concentrators do not need to submit a thesis proposal until the fall, the students do have to submit a junior essay at the start of April. Director of Studies in History and Literature Lauren Kaminsky said she thinks this system gives students the “core skills” they need to write a successful thesis.

Susie A. Clements ’19, a history and literature concentrator, said the junior essay acts as a “practice or mock” for the senior thesis. She said she is writing about the original TV series GLOW, which centers on female wrestlers. Clements added her actual thesis still feels “ages away.”

Marina F. Felix ’19, a history of art and architecture concentrator, said she will submit her thesis proposal by April 16. Inspired by a golden age Spanish painting class she took, she will be analyzing Spanish baroque paintings. Felix will look at how “vision and sight interact with science” and possibly with religion, too.

The history of art and architecture junior concentrators held a meeting last week about theses, and Felix described the students at the meeting as “smiling,” “nervous,” and “sarcastically laughing.”

“It takes a village to raise a thesis,” Felix said.

—Staff writer Annie C. Doris can be reached at annie.doris@thecrimson.com.

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