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Rose Steptoe, Graduate Communications Editor

With any project as daunting as a senior thesis, it can be quite a feat for students to incorporate their writing and research into their everyday lives. However, the English and Comparative Literature honors students this academic year have had the added challenge of writing their thesis throughout a pandemic. We reached out to students graduating this spring who have been hard at work on their theses during this tumultuous time, and several shared their varying experiences and approaches to their thesis process.

Veronica Chandler’s thesis project  “’African-Americans in Hollywood: Where are they going and Where have they been?’ takes an in-depth look at the structural inequities in the film and television industry and the ways black creators try to overcome these issues in their day-to-day lives.” As part of her research, she has “interviewed black cinematographers, directors, actors, and editors [and] used the Black in Film database, a website where black creators connect with one another, as a method to reach out to potential interviewees.” 

For Veronica, there have been pros and cons to working on her thesis during the pandemic. “I’ve had writer’s block, and although in previous semesters, I could spend time away from my paper, and return to it later; now, there are less places to go. However, one positive that has come out of my thesis is that I can conduct interviews with an ease and frequency that would not have been possible if people were not confined to their homes,” she says.

Andreamarie Efthymiou’s projectis a literary analysis of works by Greek Cypriot women. [It] explores the relationship between women’s narratives, the absence of these narratives from the public sphere, and how this influences both and political identities that have developed in Cyprus.”

On staying motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic, Andreamarie  says, “I am surprised that I still have the motivation to continue working on my thesis, but I think this is due to the fact that it is on a deeply personal subject that I do not just view as a ‘thesis topic’ but rather part of my own quest to understand my own identity.”

Kat Freydl describes their project:

“For my thesis, I’m seeking to identify a new genre, or perhaps new mode of analysis, for contemporary horror films, informed by the theories of Michel Foucault, Frantz Fanon, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Fred Moten, and which is primarily concerned with carcerality and abolition. The body of films I’m looking at includes The Witch (2015), The Lighthouse (2019), Hereditary (2018), Midsommar (2019), Get Out (2017), and Us (2019). Basically, I’m doing a literary analysis of these horror films and connecting them to the ideas of abolitionary theory and post-structuralist literary theory!”

For Freydl, aspects of the pandemic have informed their approach and writing:

“I’m drawing on the experiences of quarantine and the COVID-19 pandemic in general to better inform my thesis, because it’s all about confinement! It’s been very helpful to write about something I genuinely care about, and that has relevance to what’s going on in the world. For me, it’s also a huge advantage to be able to virtually meet with my advisor, and I feel like everything going on has normalized digital communication a lot more, so I can send as many clarifying emails as I want.”

Cherish Miller’s thesis project is “looking at the healing properties of poetry, specifically confessional poetry, by examining the poetry and biographies of Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell.

Miller’s research process has remained intact in spite of certain limitations: “I have been very fortunate that much of my thesis process has been unaffected by the pandemic. UNC’s Library system has been amazing at adjusting their process to accommodate online and socially distanced viewing of materials. Some resources have been a bit more difficult to access, but for the most part things have been readily available online.”

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