Absurdism in Children’s Literature, Joy in my Thesis

I woke up at 6:30 this morning with a burning desire to get up and start playing, like it was Christmas morning or something. What’s crazy is, as excited as I am for today, the only thing I’m going to be doing is working on my senior thesis. A literary research paper. That’s what inspired me out of bed three hours early this morning.

None of my friends are doing a thesis for their undergraduate degrees unless they’re specifically enrolled in an honors college, so I guess it’s just one more perk of being an online student who is expected to write—not test—on everything she learns. The fantastic thing about online school is that it teaches you how to integrate reading and learning into your day, into your life. Brick and mortar schools are all about tests, tests, tests…but when you go to school online and have access to the internet during any given exam, they realize how much more sensible it is to teach you how to write (and write well) on your subjects.

Ergo, I’m writing a sixty page senior thesis as the capstone of my undergraduate career. Since I have no intention of going to grad school, this is kind of my big blow out, the grand finale, of my relationship with academia…and I want to make it count for something. I am resolved to produce an end product that I’m proud of, and is hopefully publishable.

My senior thesis is a sixty page paper, and the last thing I have to finish before I can graduate this summer. I’ve got four months to pull this thing together, and I’m writing on absurdism in Victorian-Edwardian children’s literature fantasies.

Absurdism, in this context, refers to the philosophical concept of the “absurd”: the conflict between mankind’s desire and need to search for and seek out a meaning of life, and his inability to ever find it. We’ve been walking this planet for eons and we’re still asking what is the meaning of life? I’m an absurdist because I believe if we haven’t figured it out yet we’re not going to figure it out, if we haven’t stopped asking yet we’re not going to stop asking, and if this is so we might as well embrace and enjoy it.

I think literary nonsense is a fantastic vessel for this, and themes of absurdism exist well outside of the gloomy, nihilistic fiction of absurdist authors like Kafka and Camus. Think about the way Alice tries to make sense of Wonderland, or what Wendy Darling is searching for when she heads to Neverland…aren’t there some commonalities between their fantastic quests and our own impossible-to-understand human conditions?

I am having an absolute blast with this project, studying Christiania Rossetti, J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, Andrew Lang, Ruyard Kipling, and Kenneth Grahame. I’m going to be spending my summer on Stanford’s campus, and am looking forward to being a quick walk away from their Meyer and Green libraries. I may or may not be moving in with my boyfriend this summer solely to get access to his school’s libraries 😉


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