Friday, February 1, 2008

Thesis Ideas

I met with my advisor this week to talk about ideas for my thesis project, which will occupy my third term of school, beginning in May. So far, I have about a hundred ideas, but the primary one has to do with the building known to LDS as the Kirtland Temple, which was the very first LDS temple, built 1833-6. I think it would be interesting to research and write about the structural history of the building--how it was conceived, where its stylistic influences came from, who were the people who built it, what iconography and symbolism does it contain, and how it influenced the appearance and symbolism of subsequent LDS temples. I want to know if the iconography used in current LDS temples originated in the Kirtland building, or if it evolved later.

This would probably be a fascinating topic, but first I have to do some preliminary research in order to find out what has already been written on the subject. Is there too much, or too little that has been said? Are there any contributions that I could make to that literature?

And though this topic interests me greatly, I have a few misgivings which I would need to overcome. Would it be cheating to write about a subject I'm already, as a Latter-Day Saint, more than basically familiar with? Would I be pigeon-holed into a category considered (even falsely) to be less "scholarly" than if I were to write about, say, Winslow Homer's southern watercolors or the influence of Art Deco on the creation of Rockefeller Center? Would my fellow students, many of whom know my religion, think I was taking the easy path by choosing a subject so close to home? Could I write an objective and scholarly paper on a subject that may end up having deep spiritual and emotional resonance with me? These are the things I must consider these next few weeks as I make my decision.

Fortunately, as I said, I have many back-up topics to write about, which would probably fascinate me to no end. These include: Hawaii's traditional quiltmaking, Fraktur drawings of the Pennsylvania Germans, Shaker gift-drawings, Theorems, Mary Cassatt's etchings, gravestone carvings, early American self-portraits, etc. So you see, I will not lack for a thesis topic, the question is just, which one?

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