Because this is my last semester at USC Upstate, I’m taking Senior Seminar: essentially, a 15-week-long writing workshop for a capstone paper. Knowing that I was going to take this course, I brainstormed all year for topic ideas. Writing 25 pages is easy for me, but a good, meaty thesis can be difficult to come by. By the beginning of this semester, I had two ideas: use the Order of the Real to explain body horror, or talk about the dearth of positive menstruation portrayals in literature and its impact on women and girls.
Now, the problem with both of these topic ideas is that there is no thesis statement. They’re just rough outlines, not even enough for an elevator speech. I knew they would not suffice. So, at the beginning of the semester, I decided to combine them.
It was as if a muselight had shone down from Heaven: Žižek! Body Horror! Menstruation! Feminism!
It was perfect, but I needed a text. I decided on Stephen King’s Carrie. It never occurred to me that it would be overdone, but my professor nixed it for exactly that reason. I was devastated.
I paced the fiction stacks at the library, hoping for a breakthrough. I pulled materials, just-in-case. Maybe I can do the Oedipal complex in Lord of the Flies. Some of these Daphne du Maurier short stories look good. What about The Lottery? Has Shirley Jackson been overdone as well?
In all of this, I pulled down a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Maybe I wouldn’t have to completely lose out on my concept after all. I could drop the body horror, but keep the horrific. Plus there were periods, and plenty of menstrual symbols to boot.
I had all but decided on doing Atwood’s novel, yet I sat in class on the second day of Senior Seminar without a thesis to my name. I needed one. It was there. I knew it was there. But I couldn’t see it. So, I started brainstorming again.
I wrote down everything I could think of. Red. Offred. Habit. Prostitute. Menstruation. As a sign of fertility it, saves. As a symptom of a lack of pregnancy, it condemns. Dualism.
There it was.
I scratched out a few rough drafts of my working thesis before ending with this one: Implications of the menstrual symbols in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale directly reflect the dualism, historically present, in women’s attitudes toward menstruation.
The moral of the story: BRAINSTORM.
Have you ever had something really great come from brainstorming? Let me know in the comments below!