Tuesday, May 3, 2011

he sez, thesezzz

After waiting and waiting and waaaaaiiiitttinnngggg, I finally heard back from the chair of my department that my English classes count toward my MLA degree and that, if I take 2 classes this summer and 1 more in the fall, I can do my thesis in the fall semester. That resulted in the following exchange of emails:

me to professor:
Hi Tom,

I'm following up on the voicemail I just left you, but in case you haven't received it before you read this, I was wondering if you would be interested in being my thesis advisor.

I spoke to Dr. Burger and asked her if it would be okay if I asked you, since you don't teach in the MLA department, but she said it would be fine if you were willing. I don't know what your schedule is like in the Fall, but if you would be willing to advise me, I'd be thrilled, since you're familiar with my work and my research interests.

As you already know, I want to use the theory of performativity in my thesis. More to the point, I'd like to examine performances of gender and sexuality in characters written by Southern female writers (as there is a strong emphasis on a more conservative lifestyle and traditional femininity in the South) and examine how they work within and outside of these constraints and norms. I'm not yet decided on authors I want to use, but I think I'll limit it to three. Dr. Burger is willing to be a panel member and I'm planning on asking either Dr. Horowitz or Dr. Howard to be the third panel member, since I've had classes with both.

Since I just got the news that I could write it today, this is as far as I've gotten (i.e. no proposal yet. I plan to work on that in the next few weeks, after finals). If you are able and willing to advise me, I'll pull something together and try and get it to you by mid-May. If you're not though, I totally understand and I really appreciate all the help you've already given me with this.


professor to me:
Hi Mandi,

Congratulations on being approved to write your MA thesis. That’s really exciting! I’m glad you’re going to have an opportunity next year to do a longer, more elaborated research & writing project on your gender & performativity topic.

And thanks for asking me to be your advisor for the thesis. I would certainly consider saying yes, but would have to know more about the amount of work & of time commitment this will require. I don't know anything about the MLA program or its requirements for its MA theses (and for its thesis advisors), so that’s one thing we would need to talk about. I’m also not a specialist in southern literature or American literature, so that’s another consideration.

By when would I need to let you know? I would prefer seeing a proposal before making a definite decision about whether or not I could say yes. And we might want to wait until the end of the semester & the end of the exam, grading, and commencement season before meeting to discuss the thesis & your ideas for it & the possibility of my serving as your advisor.

So what I would say for now is that I will definitely consider doing it, but will want to talk with you & to know more about the project and also about the nature of the commitment I would be making. Does that sound good? Of course I want to help you & support your work & mentor your project. But because of my administrative job in the English department, my time is pretty limited (as you know) & so I would want to make sure that I can make the kind of commitment to your project that it deserves.

So let me know about the timetable for getting a definitive commitment from me & we’ll take it from there. For now, congratulations on getting the clearance to write the thesis, and good luck with finals.

It was fun having dinner with you & Stephen the other night. Warm regards, Tom

me to professor:
Thanks for the quick response!

I understand your concerns about the time constraints and the topic. My understanding is that I would probably need about 4-5 meetings over the course of the semester, as well as time for the defense. I would probably also email you my chapters as they were written, should you agree. Nevertheless, I've emailed Dr. Burger with those questions and asked her if there are specific requirements for MLA thesis advisors.

I am fine with waiting until the semester ends before diving into this. I plan on drawing up a proposal soon and I'll submit that to you at your convenience. Since I wouldn't be defending until the end of the fall semester, I probably don't need to know for certain if you're available until July or so. I'm happy to meet with you when you have some time so we can discuss further. Hopefully by that time, I'll have answers from Dr. Burger. In the meantime, I'm going to finish up my performativity paper!

Thanks again :)

So now, whenever I finish up this blasted paper for him, I need to get cracking on writing a thesis proposal. I have two examples from the department, as well as Alyson's so I should be okay on that front. I need to pick out and read my novels. I definitely want to use Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina and I'm also thinking of Shirley Ann Grau as a potential author. Alyson suggested I use a woman of color for my third author and I think that's a good idea if I want to explore the performative aspects of race...but I'm not totally certain I want to do that yet. Keeping it in mind though. The topic would definitely work with both those authors.

Cross your fingers that Tom says yessss. I need to bake that man some encouraging cookies. Gender performance at its finest.


  1. Good show. One note: he knows it's an "MLA" not an "MA" thesis, right?

  2. He does. I think that was a mistype.