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Thesis Spotlight: Camille Boechler

This week we’re featuring recent Ogden Honors graduate and liberal arts major Camille Boechler in our thesis spotlight project. Camille was an obvious choice for this feature because her research was so exceptional that she was named a 2017 LSU Discover Scholar. Under the guidance of Chris Barrett, an assistant professor in the Department of English, Camille’s thesis undertakes a Queer reading of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Camille may be off to bigger and better things, but she recently took the time to tell us about the inspiration behind her project.

Please tell me about your thesis project.

The title of my thesis is “The Potential Worlds of 2001: Imagining a Queer Physicality in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.” The shape that my thesis has taken is a Queer interrogation/investigation of the phenomenology in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). In this project, I am working at the intersection of Queer theory, film studies, and philosophical/phenomenological texts. In this interdisciplinary approach, the practical terms of film and philosophy studies allow me to apply the more theoretical terms of Queer theory to the filmic text of 2001. At the heart of my project is the identification and articulation of the film’s many physicalities – amongst several other examples, I argue that 2001 has a certain aesthetic of potential. I break this “aesthetic of potential” down into four categories: narrative potential, tactical/filmic potential, potential as an alternative history, and potential as a contingency. In turn I express how these various potentialities can as a whole be thought of as a physicality, and I contemplate the ways in which this can facilitate a Queer reading of 2001.

How did you come up with the idea?

Last spring, I completed an independent study that focused on Queer film theory with Professor Phillip Maciak from the Film and Media Arts program. In one of our discussions about the final project I did, he mentioned that I may want to consider Queer science-fiction. 2001: A Space Odyssey has been my favorite film for a few years now and it was only a matter of time before I wrote something substantial on it. Over the course of the 2016 fall semester, my thesis advisor and I bounced ideas around while I read as many academic texts as possible and re-visited the film several times. By sheer coincidence, I stumbled upon Sara Ahmed’s book Queer Phenomenology: Objects, Orientations, and Others, which spoke to a lot of the same concepts I’d already been discussing with my advisor. Reading Ahmed’s writing was instrumental in giving me the push necessary to bring my project to the level it is now.

Who is your thesis advisor and how did you find him/her?

My thesis advisor is Professor Chris Barrett. A few of my friends had taken classes with Professor Barrett and recommended her to me. I finally met her at the 2015 Louisiana Queer Conference and enrolled in her Shakespeare course for the spring 2016 semester. Because of the incredible compatibility of our intellectual and academic interests, as well as a great chemistry throughout our correspondence, I think we’ve made an excellent team and I am so grateful to have her as my director. 

What do you think makes the project important

The short answer is that Queer theory in itself is an important field because of the ways it has helped change public perception of the LGBTQ community since its beginning. It is my aspiration that my thesis can be an illuminating addition to the discipline of Queer theory. To elaborate, my goal for this project is to provide an alternative reading of a canonical film/sci-fi text that departs from the mainstream criticism surrounding it. Although many critics have written about Kubrick’s film, distinctly Queer readings of it are sparse. Furthermore, my writing is the first to think about potentiality and physicality from this interdisciplinary perspective of film studies, Queer theory, and philosophy. I hope that I may shed new light on discourse around 2001 by queering my reading of the film, despite the fact that the film does not itself seem to theorize on LGBTQ representation. 

Why did you decide to write a thesis?

Since I was a freshman I’d always envisioned myself writing a thesis. Amusingly enough, I was originally a biochemistry major before I switched to Film and Media Arts – but even then I was set on writing my undergraduate thesis. Even now being in a completely different field, my determination and enthusiasm for research work and writing is still present, if not more so. Writing has always been the primary means through which I express myself and it simultaneously comforts and challenges me. As I mentioned before, 2001: A Space Odyssey has been my favorite film for some time now and even before writing my thesis around it, I often found myself thinking about it and revisiting it. My relationship with the film has been stimulating and evolving, as every time I may gain new insight on it, I am only confronted by even more questions about it. I don’t think that my work with the film will be entirely wrapped up even after I graduate – this is a project that I can see extending itself into my future.

Do you have any advice for Honors students thinking about writing one?

Read, read, and read even more. In my experience, I’ve often felt as if I didn’t have enough of a critical background in my writing. The more you read and the more you’re exposed to, whether it’s academic texts or not, the more you can look for in a text when you’re writing your own close readings. Also, when you read a lot, there’s a higher chance that you’ll know if what you’re writing has been said before. If you find that what you’ve been writing has already been touched upon, that gives you the opportunity to branch out further and to challenge yourself to reach places with your thesis that you might not have known were possible.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I plan on attending graduate school and pursuing a PhD program, although I don’t know which school I’d like to go to yet. I’m taking a gap-year to not only prepare my graduate applications, but also to read more and broaden my knowledge. Additionally, I mentioned earlier that this is a project I see myself continuing post-graduation. After completing it for my undergraduate thesis at LSU, the next step is to edit and cultivate it to the point where I can submit it to an academic journal for publication. And who knows, this project might even develop into a full-blown book one day!