Another great evening spent with all of you thesis writers…

Thanks again for another great evening of thinking and exploring together. This week it was a pleasure to hear from both Kevin and Dylan as they presented their thesis-in-progress work. Our agenda:

Kevin is working on a thesis project that was born last Spring in the Networked Narratives class (“Net Mirror” course). He is forging his way through a dystopic landscape in what will prove to be a “pandemic fiction” – arguably a new genre that takes a closer look at the shifting social consequences emerging from a crisis born from a global public health disaster. This pained new world is born of a paucity of trust because the technologies employed to keep us safe are simultaneously also tools that might take away individual freedoms. In the age of data tracking, micro-targeting, and ubiquitous algorithms determing your next moves, what happens to human understanding (of both the self and the other)? With new forms of data driven digital surveillance, what happens to people who just want to feel connected, but find it difficult to trust in anything? Kevin sets out to tell a tale of his “everyman” protagonist – Kirk, and the conflicted “striver” antagonist – Juan. Through a series of unforeseen events (and perceptions of events), Kevin will open up these hard questions about life today in the age of COVID-19 and it’s aftermath. I think Kevin has paid close attention to setting (New Orleans and the Southwestern US) and he has set the stage for a creative work that will possibly lend itself to a screenplay or a series pilot “treatment”. Through his presentation, I think he has identified some possible categories for his lit review – and now he can delve into some deeper research.

Thanks to Dylan for a really thoughtful and courageous presentation of his thesis-in-prgress – a project which involves his deeper philosophical and personal query into how a writer defines the self. Dylan’s work dares to ask difficult questions about the origins of self-understanding and identity in light of the writer’s trials and tribulations. He grapples with concepts like authenticity, truth, inspiration, interhumanity (via Witold Gombrowicz), the repesentation vs. the real through language, rumination vs. reflection. His work also heads off the struggle with depression, and writing is situated as a pathway through the ambiguity, indifference and/or pain. The work adds up to a brave act, as it bears a certainly vulnerability which is necessary, and in this case, yields a certain profundity. I am certain that it is work that only Dylan Hirtler can produce. His talent and his intellect is made evident throughout. His thesis is ultimately part field-guide, part inquiry, part philosophy, part Writing Studies research, part auto ethnographic narrative, part scholarly and artistic curation…and this special pastiche will add up to a rigorous account of the writer and the self. I am thrilled to see this work manifesting, and I can only imagine how it will grow with more time.

Next class we will hear from both Nives & Linda, and I am sure it will be another memorable night. I am so deeply touched by all of your collective talent…the diversity of your intelligence and the spirit and soul of each of your projects. Bravo…as we head towards Thanksgiving!

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