Although I’m quite aware people have much greater problems than writing a BA paper, this has been my biggest problem since January this year. As cliché as it might sound, I learned more than the content I was writing about. It’s been insane at times and wonderful other times. I wished I would have been able to blog about it while I experienced all this, but to be honest I barely had time to leave my house and I don’t think I would have made much sense anyway. This is not going to be a post where I complain about oh-how-hard it was. Although it is true that many tears were shed and many feelings were broken when my ideas didn’t go through supervision, I think it was one of my most useful experiences so far. I learned so much about my own limits, my own strengths, and my general ability to appear confident when I was the exact opposite in reality. So instead, I choose to write about the positive things of writing my paper, although some nagging will,needless to say, squeeze in here and there.
One of the most positive things about this whole process was the fact that I was allowed to work on the novel I wanted and with the concepts/theories I wanted. This turned out to be quite luxury since people wanting to do Shakespeare, Chaucer, and other heavy authors were turned down from the start (which I think it’s unfair but this is a discussion for another post). I was a bit nervous that my idea(s) wouldn’t go through since I wanted to write on Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho in connection to pastiche and abjection. Erotica and horror are notorious for not being well received by academics and I was afraid that the bad reputation and stigma attached to these genres will backfire at me. It turned out that my teachers were happy with my subject and trusted that I could pull it through. I guess it helped that American Psycho is now a canonised novel, but I like to think my teachers are all open-minded.
A second thing that I was really happy about was my supervisor. Having a nice, smart, knowledgeable supervisor is very important for the success of your paper. In hindsight I don’t think any of my four possible supervisors would have been bad, but I got the one I was really hoping for. I cannot stress how helpful he was in the process of writing this. In three supervisions he managed to get me back on the right track (from which I was going away from at the speed of light), be supportive when I thought I was only writing ridiculous things, and gave me strong advice on both style and content that made my paper a hundred times stronger than before. In one word, he was wonderful and I am so thankful he chose to supervise me. The more the BA paper semester approaches you hear horror stories about bad supervisors who don’t show up, dismiss ideas without giving the students the chance to explain what is their thinking behind it, or simply do not care about what happens to the quality of the thesis. I am happy my supervisor was not one of those (he is as far from that as possible) and I will be forever thankful for his help.
When looking for previous research I could use in support of my own, I got to dip my toes in the wonderful world of horror literature deeper than normal. Why do we derive pleasure from it? Why is it scary? How is it scary? How does it often contain a deeper meaning? Reading textbooks on this turned out to be very far away from boring and tiresome (as most of the textbooks are.) I learned a lot about horror literature and I am sure I will approach it with a different eye from now on. As one of my former teachers used to say, everything becomes more fun and interesting the more you know about it.
Writing 40 pages and trying to coordinate everything is a pain. I never wrote such a big academic paper and between thesis statements. The paper had to be written in the MLA style, be coherent and have a logical structure. The fact that I was having dreams about forgetting to include a reference in my Works Cited section says A LOT about my stress level. I went from “I got this” to “This is not as easy as I thought” to ” This is tricky as hell and I’m never going to make it” to ” I’m pretty sure i’m going to insane” to ” It might not be as bad as I thought” in just a couple of months. It wasn’t just the content that was stressful but also the presentation, the structure of the text, the way I would need to explain my points at the opposition seminar with something else than “Leave me alone you bullies, you!” I’m glad that part was over and I can definitely say that I know how to handle stressful situations now.
The content was fun to write. It was like solving a puzzle. My paper’s main point was the American Psycho is a satire (and trying to prove this by looking at other elements other than the consumerism and violence which are mainly the angle other scholars approach.) It was fun to look for clues and find the right puzzle pieces that clicked together right and then explain everything on paper. I had fun with a novel I’ve always found to be one of the most complex postmodern novels (postmodernism is kind of my thing). It was hard to decide on quotations I wanted to use and certain things to include in my analysis just because I had a plethora of things to choose from. I loved every second of it.
I learned that I am most productive in the morning and not so much in the night. I’ve also learned that too much coffee and Red Bull doesn’t always work the way you want it to. Sure it kept me awake, but focused? Not so much.
I used to have this romantic idea that I would take my book and my laptop somewhere on a blanket in the park and write and write. All I really did was stay in the house and only go out to buy groceries. I had no time for anything other than reading article after article, and book after book. This might sound fun to some of you but it gets really stressful after the first month when the more you read the more you understand how little you know. But as it happens, I also learned from this— it’s never as hopeless as it seems and after a night of good sleep things appear to be more clear.
The day I saw my grade (which was really good by the way) I cried a bit and felt such relief it’s hard to explain in simple words. In all honesty it only hit me a week after that it was all over, that I’ve done this, that I concluded my three years of study with a paper that I’m quite pleased with. My opposition seminar went good and because I could defend my paper in a proper manner my grade went up even more. It feels like everything is finally getting into place and I can now breathe. It also feels like something is missing. It’s strange but I was somehow used to plan my day according to which article I would read and which paragraph I would have to re-write. Now that all that is done it’s like I have no aim anymore. Of course I am now free to read what I want to read (novels and short stories and poetry here I come!) which was a luxury I could not afford since January since. I can finally come back to my blog which I’ve missed (I had a few attempts to write a couple of posts but after re-reading them I thought all the stress was obviously coming out in my writing.) I’m looking forward to do some creative writing of my own since everything I wrote these past months was academic writing, strictly about what other people wrote, and in a very formal style.
I have plans and projects for this summer (some of which I’ll reveal here soon) and I’m pretty much occupying my time dreaming about the awesome things I’ll get to learn/do in my next education stage, my MA at Lund University. I also need to catch up with WordPress, which I’ve been shamelessly ignoring all this time. My fingers tingle with the need to write and it feels intimidating to look at a blank page and knowing I have the liberty to once again write whatever I want. But I need to start somewhere and break the silence on this blog. See you soon!