WHAT THEY LEARNED: Anna Pedersen ’15

Inspired by a class she took freshman year, the comparative literature major studied Don Quijote as a site of performance.

You could say that Anna Pedersen’s thesis, “So is This the End?: The Unfinishability of Quixotic Play,” was four years in the making. After all, it was inspired by a class that she took during her freshman year with the man (Israel Burshatin, the Barbara Riley Levin Professor of Comparative Literature) who would eventually become her advisor.

“The class was ‘Quixotic Narratives,’ and it was a course that used Don Quijote as an archetype through which to explore the narrative structures of modern texts,” says Pedersen, a comparative literature major who also minored in Spanish. “I was taken with this exploration of Don Quijote’s implications and influences and wanted to research this further by studying the text as a site of performance, eventually concluding that it is this performance [that] has continued throughout the numerous modern reimaginings and reinterpretations of the novel.”

Later this month, Pedersen will move across the globe to Abu Dhabi for a Global Academic Fellowship, a 10-month teaching and professional development program, at NYU’s campus there.

“The process of working on a long-term writing project [like my thesis] will hopefully prove useful, as my main duty [at NYU Abu Dhabi] will be the instruction of writing to undergraduate students,” she says.


How did your advisor help you develop your thesis topic, conduct your research, and/or interpret your results?

The advice, wisdom, and assistance that Israel Burshatin provided for me throughout the thesis process were invaluable.   was inspired to start this project largely due to a class I took with Professor Burshatin my freshman year, but aside from this, Professor Burshatin helped me from the beginning of this process by suggesting avenues to begin my research and then helping me to refine my topic and craft a clear and concise argument. Over the course of the year, he challenged me to dig further into specific aspects of my topic and encouraged me to shed parts that we less strong or less relevant. During the writing process itself, he gave me a great deal of freedom over the form that I wanted the project to take, but he also gave me important feedback and provided a voice of reason during the editing process.

What did you learn from working on your thesis?

While I greatly deepened my understanding of Don Quijote and performance theory, I think a majority of my learning from the project resulted from the experience of researching and conducting a long-term writing project. While I never expected the process to be easy, I had not anticipated the many forms my thesis would take over the course of the many months that I worked on it. I had to learn to let go of ideas and topics and whole sections of writing as the project took form, allowing the thesis to evolve in a natural and freeform way. This… requires a certain amount of faith in the writing process and confidence that all of the research, whether it ends up in the final product or not, has played an integral role in the creation of the thesis.


Image courtesy of G.A. Harker.

“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.