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Hi everyone! My name is Cassidy, and I’m a sophomore from Elgin, Ill. I’m currently a double major in “English” (more on that later) and Psychology, but that’s all about to change.
I’ve got big academic plans for the next few years, and as of Tuesday, February 16, I’m one step closer. Someone upstairs (probably literally) passed the Individualized Major proposal, allowing crazy kids like me to do a lot more work in order to achieve their blended major dreams.
See, I could just double major, but since I see English and Psychology as being inextricably intertwined, it excites both me and my adorably studious professors to be able to create an entirely new major. (I honestly think that just meeting with both my advisors at the same time would be reason enough for me to go through with this. The combined nerdiness of Nathan Bartel [assistant professor of English] and Paul Lewis [professor of psychology] is enough to take on a roomful of pimply teenagers.) Since I’ll be one of the first going through with the process, I’d like to get my proposal in soon–-leave time for heavy revision and questioning. There’s not necessarily a set format yet, definitely no precedent, and even if there were, it’d still be a lot of work. I’ve been working out “explicit goals” and “reasons an IM would be better than a traditional double major” in the summer months of my Bethel planner. The paper passed on a Tuesday, I found out about it on Wednesday, and I had already coerced my profs into a meeting the next Thursday. (Yesssss.)
I’ll probably be working some of this out here in the next few weeks. I’d really like to submit a proposal before midterms, time permitting, so that all my revisions and stuff can happen before summer–-and because I’m impatient. (Yeah, also that.)
I’m kind of starting with my senior seminar as a way to explain my goals. (Bearing in mind that these things change all the time) I’m hoping for a three part research project:
1) a psychological and biographical history of an undetermined number of relatively famous writers whose mental illnesses played roles in their creative processes, e.g. Mary Wollstonecraft (depression-suicide attempt-depression-suicide attempt-depression-suicide attempt-depression-book) or Virgina Woolf (book-depression-book-depression-book-depression-book-suicide). This would function like a giant research paper, maybe lit review style? I’m not exactly sure. I’m visualizing a HUGE wonderful timeline.
2) a survey of living writers, regarding the collision of the creative process and mental illness. For some people, this will mean tracking the interruption of their creative processes by mental illness–-writers who can’t write anymore because of their illness. For others, it will mean interruption by recovery–-writers who can’t write anymore because they’ve “gotten better” and feel like they’ve been robbed of their material.
3) a survey of patients with mental illness, regarding the same from the other side. Again, for some this will mean a creative life interrupted by illness, and for others it will be a creative side only found through recovery.
Writing has been proven to help relieve symptoms of depression (I can find you articles later) and cool things like that, and I think that art therapy and writing therapy definitely have their uses in the world. I, however, am much more interested in the technical ramifications and inner workings of the creative process and mental illness. It’s almost expected by now that artists of any kind have “something wrong with them”—-it’s like a prerequisite for creativity. Where does this notion come from? (To that end, here’s a rockin’ video you should probably watch: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html ) Does it have any credence? Should it? Can poets write as vividly or effectively about happiness as they can about unhappiness?
So that’s where I’m headed with this. It’s exciting and wonderful and a little bit terrifying—-which is how I know it’s right.
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