Inspiration at Clark
Another night and I’m stuck inside slaving away on my honor’s thesis. It’s nights like these that I really question why I ever decided to go ahead with this project. It only takes half a second for me to think back and remember what got me to take this on…
Let’s rewind. I’m a sophomore. It’s spring 2011. I, being the silly, over-ambitious fool that I am, decided to register for two graduate/ doctoral-level history seminars, a course called Writing History, and an intro drawing class. I was reading hundreds of pages of articles and books every week, drawing for hours on end, and spending too many late nights/ early mornings hung up in the Academic Commons writing papers. The semester was tough, but it was worth it.
What had me nervous was my writing history class. Writing History is a course designed to develop important research and writing skills in regards to history (duh.) It culminates with a 15-20 page research proposal. Ideally this proposal ends up serving as your senior thesis proposal, so if you’re thinking about doing thesis, this class is kind of a big deal. I knew that I needed to write a thesis during my senior year in order to do the master’s history program but I was struggling. I couldn’t come up with a topic for the life of me. I met with my professor during office hours and she gave me the advice to think about my interests, both in and outside of history, and find a way to link them in a topic. Great advice, but at the time I was too stuck. The semester was drawing to an end and I needed to begin my initial research so I settled on a topic I felt extremely average about. My disinterest blatantly showed in my early papers on topic. I was not satisfied.
This brings me to the big day. My day of inspiration. I was in Professor Deborah Dwork’s Rescue and Resistance, Holocaust history seminar. That week we had read a book about cultural activities that had occurred at the concentration camp of Theresienstadt. Typically we would spend the class with a roundtable discussion of the book, but today’s class was different. A string quartet group known as the QX Quartet was performing compositions by Theresienstadt inmate Viktor Ullmann on campus that week and had agreed to give our history seminar a private concert. About halfway through the song below I had a burst of inspiration. Suddenly, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.
I realized then I wanted to write my thesis about the incredible art and music produced in concentration camps as acts of resistance. I finally had found the combination of my interests both outside and inside history. The concert was followed by an open discussion with the musicians about the piece and about what it represents in the context of Theresienstadt, resistance, and the Holocaust which helped me to solidify my idea further. I had to completely start from scratch on my writing history proposal but it was completely worth it. And that sort of brings me back to how I’m now here, a senior right in the middle of researching and writing my thesis which I should probably get back to working on right now…
That day remains one of my favorite history-nerd-gush days of my time here at Clark (and believe me there have been PLENTY… so that says something)