Build My Gallows High

(Ethan Gates)– What have I gotten myself into?

That’s pretty much been the only thought running through my head since Wednesday morning, when the English department finally decided that it might be prudent to tell me whether my thesis proposal had been approved, what with there being mere hours left in Add/Drop and all. After some last-minute scrambling to get registration approval from both my advisors (I see now why so many double majors wait to formally declare the second one), I started to relax for the first time in over a week: at last, all the tentative pieces of my schedule had coalesced into one, confirmed, manageable beast. Granted, that beast was something of a chimera, with random days off in the middle of the week, ungodly chunks of class time on the other days, and film screenings galore, but at least I knew what I was dealing with, and could now work on taming my creation.

The goat part is eating at Val.

The next day, I was reveling in my first day of freedom, ringing in No-Class Thursdays with a resounding round of snores (my lack of commitments for the day clearly calling for an epic bout of naps). But somewhere around 10 p.m., after my second movie of the day, I remembered: I’m supposed to be working on my thesis.

The walls of my pleasingly spacious Wieland single suddenly began to close in on me. I had decided to try to write a thesis months ago in Petersburg, when I stumbled upon a topic that played equally to my love of Russia and of Western films: namely, Russian Westerns (if the idea of communist cowboys amuses you as much as it does me, you’ll understand why I settled on this subject). I had already watched some films and read a few books to make sure my proposal was a strong one, sure, but when I thought about a thesis, everything was always so prospective; it wasn’t until that acceptance e-mail came through that the terrifyingly concrete reality of the thing dawned on me. I have never actually written a paper longer than 12 pages in my life. And now you want me to write HOW MUCH? Shit fuck.

I tried to counter my panic with cool-headed logic and organization, putting together a list of books to consult and films to watch to start my research. The length of said list was enough to put me back into the fetal position. I’m still working on uncurling.

The task is daunting, but I’m sure once I get going into a steady work routine, 60-70 pages of critical analysis of “White Sun of the Desert (Белое Солнце Пустины)” won’t seem quite so unreachable. I just need to remember on No-Class Thursdays from now on: fewer naps, more notes.

Comrade Sukhov would not agree with me.

I’ll leave you with the first installment of what I hope will be a mini-feature in my posts: a list of three films that in some way relate to my topic and/or the thoughts expressed therein. To continue my attempts to frame my thesis in a positive light, here’s three films for anyone who thinks Westerns are just John Wayne strutting around being a dick to women and Native Americans. Trust me, there’s an awesome genre hidden amongst the overwrought machismo and casual racism.

Three to Think About: Westerns for People Who Don’t Like Westerns

  1. My Darling Clementine (1946)
  2. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
  3. No Country for Old Men (2007)