The Birth of a Thesis: So I’m Really Doing This?

After my Swedish lecture, I rush to the 6th floor of Metsätalo to my next class.  It’s hardly just another course among many this fall.  It’s the one I’ve been dreading for almost two years, ever since I understood what it was and how much work it was going to be. I’ve watched older students stress over their papers and then celebrate when the finished work is a warm pile of papers fresh out of the printer.  Some students are brave enough to take up the challenge during their second year, even as early as the fall, but I believe third year’s the charm. The course outline paper says Proseminar: Travel literature.  Fall 2011 + Spring 2012. Two lists for the basic requirements, one for each semester.

The main requirement of the course is to say clever things for 20 pages and hand them in for grading.  Along the way I’m supposed to write other papers to give the teacher an idea of how well I am on my way.  Or not.  It’s the first true test of what I’ve learned in university so far.  Nothing compared to the big G which will become a reality in a few years time, but still the proseminar is a milestone in any university student’s life. The first few lectures so far have been all fun and games. Listening and digesting. Looking at bibliographies, thinking maybe that one, definitely not that one.

If I had a stack of papers on my desk representing the amount of reading I am going to do for my proseminar, I’d probably lie down next to it and assume the fetal position.  So maybe not knowing, not having the perspective to reflect on how much work it’s going to be is beneficial at this stage.  I kind of know what I’m getting into but I know little enough to feel more excitement than sheer dread.  I’ll get back to my thoughts on this in the spring at the latest by which time this theoretical pile will have tumbled down on my poor head.

But I imagine that the most challenging bit will be thinking of a clear thesis and then backing it up systematically and thoroughly.  As my proseminar teacher says, the beginning will be confusing and messy as I won’t yet be set on a project I’ll take to the end.  Personally, I hate not knowing or having a plan but I trust something concrete will have begun to take shape in my head by the time we reach the exam rush before Christmas.  It better have.  My research proposal is due in December.

Leaving my second proseminar lecture, I begin to have an inkling of what I might want to do with my essay. It’s just a word on its own but in a book it’s a theme that can possibly be explored. Whether I’ll end up snatching this idea and bending it to my will or whether it will be nothing more than a red herring remains to be seen.

The article is first in a series of three, reporting on the proseminar progress of yours truly.

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