Thesis Re-Visited

[It’s] a popular notion, that it is exclusively suffering that produces good work, or insightful work.  I don’t think that’s the case. I think in a certain sense, it’s  a trigger, or a lever. But I think good work is produced in spite of suffering, and as a response, as a victory over suffering.

Leonard Cohen

I had the idea to read through my thesis, and post excerpts on my blog; I may still do that.  As always, I hesitate; I think that some of this work is of high quality, but I wonder how it will be received. I talked about my thesis and agonized over it for so long, that I’m not sure anything I could have created would have been worth the fuss I made about it. Then again, the only arbriter that really matters at the end of the day – my supervisor – gave me an A- on it. So I’m not really sure what I’m worried about in that regard. I suppose putting one’s work out there will always feel like an act of incredible vulnerability.

Reading my thesis in preparation for posting it reminds me of how far removed I am from the academic world; I admit that this reminder is somewhat disheartening. I’d have to read and study for months before I would become as well-versed in the theoretical language and literature as I was when I wrote the thesis. Furthermore, I don’t see myself having the opportunity to write something like that and become immersed in the acts of learning and creation anytime soon; I may not have an opportunity like that ever again.  I suppose my hesitation to post my thesis is borne from that sentiment as well, which isn’t exactly regret; I’ve just become aware that there’s a gap between where I am, and where I want to be, and I’d rather not think about it.  At the present time though, I’m a still a little too weary from the struggle to get through school to knit that yarn into motivation to go back.

Although there are ideas and passages in this piece that I wish I could have developed further, in some ways, that doesn’t really matter; what matters most to me about this work is that I finished it at all. I wrote it during a tumultuous time in my life, during which I was suffering from clinical depression and anxiety disorders. Hence, the Leonard Cohen quote above: this work is important to me for its merits as a piece of undergraduate-level scholarship, and because I see the completion of this project as a “victory over suffering.” I may always struggle with my mind, but this serves as a reminder that I can still (with a hell of a lot of effort, time, and support) complete the work I set out to do.

That’s what I’ll remember this piece for; this piece, with all of its glorious imperfection. Maybe one day I’ll regard the time of my life during which I wrote it as being “gloriously imperfect” as well.

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After thinking and writing about it, I’ve decided to post excerpts from my thesis after all. These can be found on the following pages:

Dance Macabre: Women’s Experiences in Burlesque Excerpt 1 (Introductory Chapter)

Dance Macabre: Women’s Experiences in Burlesque  Excerpt 2 (Research Methods Chapter)

Thesis Ruminations

At the moment I’m trying to figure out the first step to take in refining my research question.  I think I might go back into the literature to remind myself of what’s been done before, and see what I can add to the conversation on this subject. There are a number of ways I can approach this topic, and I have to decide what’s the most interesting to me.

Thinking this through: I might want to consider and evaluate a relevant debate within sociology – are the distinctions between “culture,” “subculture,” “counter-culture” are still relevant or useful? Some of the ambiguity within my current proposal is there because I don’t really know where I stand here. Those distinctions make it easy to categorize and study people, but we live in a world in which social/group affiliations, cultures, and identities are complex (if the term “counter-culture” evokes the 1960’s in my mind). Can it really be said that, say, the BDSM community is a “subculture” when many symbols of this group have been taken into “popular” discourses – Lady Gaga music videos, for example? Or are there values/ideologies/narratives/practices that are unique enough to locate this group within a sub-category of “culture”?

Similarly, I have to figure out whether or not “women who are into burlesque and could possibly be doing something interesting with gender norms/ideologies of gender, but maybe not, and maybe some are, but maybe some aren’t” count as a “sub” or “counter” culture. If not, is there a better way to theorize what they are doing?

But assuming they do count as a subculture for a minute, I could ask questions that try to tap into the discourse and ideolologies within this subculture. But then there are a number of things that are interesting here. I can figure out how they are relating to “cultural” norms and ideologies of gender, or I can try to capture the “narrative” used within this group (understanding it on more of a “micro” level).

Then I have to find a way to ask questions that aren’t full of academic language and whatever my assumptions might be (not with the intent of eliminating them, since I’m assuming that’s impossible, but with the intent of figuring out how my own location as a researcher/woman/white person/etc. affects what I do). There’s a lot to think about!