In this conversation about Process, Jacquelyn Ardam and her undergraduate advisee, Cole Walsh, demystify the senior thesis. Cole’s thesis, “Mak[ing] Bright the Arrows: Recovering the Political Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay,” examines the poetry of the underserved Millay, whose work with the sonnet, Cole argues, deploys its “memorable speech” to intervene within the isolationist politics of the United States.
For this two-part installment of Process, I asked eight scholars who had just finished a book—their first or their fourth—to write informally about their experience. Conferences often feature roundtables about writing and publishing, but I thought it might be a good addition to have some personal anecdotes, stories less attached to the mechanics of the industry and more to the quiddities of the book-writing process. A book might arrive as an artifact, but it begins as a dream or a compulsion or a hunch. No review or reading, however generous, does justice to the messiness of the life that seals itself into the final object of the book, as though in anticipation of the spell that may someday release it. The intent here is not so much to demystify as to re-enchant.