2017 Grad Thesis Prep Symposium (March 3, 2017)

SCI-Arc students Connor Covey, James Kubiniec, Sasha Tillmann, and Nithya Subramaniam present drafts of their in-process graduate thesis proposals. Stan Allen, Florencia Pita, Marcelyn Gow, and Todd Gannon critique the proposals. Allen advises the students to refine their proposals in reference to the CATTt schema devised by Gregory L. Ulmer in Heuretics: The Logic of Invention:
• C = Contrast (opposition, inversion, differentiation)
• A = Analogy (figuration, displacement)
• T = Theory (repetition, literalization)
• T = Target (application, purpose)
• t = Tale (secondary elaboration, representability) But also Tail (applicability in the world)
He also offers Jeffrey Kipnis’s three goals:
• Convince that the problem belongs to the discipline
• Identify the vulnerable cliché
• Devise a viable counter-proposal
Todd Gannon reminds Allen that CATTt has been used for thesis prep for so long that it’s been retired. He suggests that, in general, rather than pursuing maximum clarity, it would be more productive to pursue incongruity and ambiguity.
Allen cautions against the temptation to try to describe and theorize a sensibility.

Commenting on specific projects, the panel suggests a variety of lines of investigation to pursue, from
Thomas Pynchon’s 1997 novel Mason & Dixon, Gerald E. Frug and Eyal Weizman on borders, Fredrick Barthelme’s “On being wrong”, and serious shop talk rather than theory texts as a model for formulating an argument.

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