Penn Senior Lawrence Castles (C ’17) tried a new tactic to get his thesis through its final stages: tears.
“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” said Castles, verging on tears as he recounted the incident, “I knew my argument wasn’t really complete and there were some tautologies in my conclusion, but I’m a second semester senior and the fact that I’m even using the word tautology should be enough at this point as far as I’m concerned.”
Castles had been working on his thesis on the history of the loom and its intersection with gendered conceptions of production for over a year, but it proved more difficult to write than he anticipated. “I really just had this musing one day about the loom being gendered and proposed it to my advisor because I had no ideas and I didn’t prepare for our meeting, but then he was totally obsessed with the idea and immediately copied me on an email to a GSWS professor to get their opinion and now we’re here and I’m not actually sure what my thesis is on anymore. I just kept quoting back-and-forth between Judith Butler, Marx, and a book on the history of the loom.”
Castles said that his thesis advisor started showing concerns early on and that things didn’t improve much at the beginning of this semester. “At our first meeting this semester he told me that I really needed to figure out what I was writing about, he was really stern with me, but at that point I was already too far in over my head, I just had no idea whatsoever, I kept on writing him weekly updates on theoretical stuff I was reading to stall, but that caught up with me last week when I turned in a draft of it.”
Castles reports that his advisor was exasperated at their meeting a few days ago. “He handed me a copy of my thesis that was basically 50 pages of confused comments and passive aggressive questions marks. You know, the kind that have no comment with them, but still say so much? I knew that it was going to happen, but the reality of it was so much worse than the thought of it.”
That, Castles says, is when he just started to cry. “All I could do was cry, I just felt like I had nothing left to give. It’s true, I have nothing left to give anymore; I’m a husk of a person. At this point in my Penn career it takes three solid weeks of doing nothing to get an hour of decent work out of me, I don’t even recognize myself anymore, but I don’t care, I can’t care. The tears just kept coming and coming and my advisor had no clue what to do, like, he just looked at me confusedly and started backtracking all of his criticisms until he said it was fine.”
Castles says he has no regrets. “I know that you’re supposed to feel accomplished and like you learned something at the end of it all, but truthfully, I’m just glad it’s going to say that I got departmental honors on my diploma so that my parents think I’ve conquered some enormous challenge. Now they’ll love me as much as my older sister, okay, probably not, but, like, I won’t be as obviously disappointing to them anymore!”