Images of the Crusades: The Illuminations From a Manuscript of William of Tyre's Histoire d'Outremer (Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France, MS fr. 9084)
by Sarah Kolba
Dept. of Art, 2010
Thesis Advisor: Professor Ida Sinkevic
Q: When did you start thinking about your thesis?
A: As a self-designed major I knew I would complete a thesis from early on in my career at Lafayette, but I really started seriously considering topics for it in the spring of my junior year.
Q: How did you start tackling your thesis project at the very beginning?
A: I knew what general area I was interested in working on further—the relationship of art and romance literature—which then, through discussion with professors, developed into looking at a particular genre of illuminated history manuscripts from the 13th century. One of my professors recommended a massive book on Crusader art which included many of these manuscripts. I skimmed through that over the summer and from it got a sense of the topic so that I could begin to narrow down my particular project. It also provided me with an extensive bibliography.
Q: Did your advisor explain the structure of a thesis project to you?
A: Yes, in the fall my advisor and I sat down and she explained the ways to approach the format for the thesis (what is typically included in the introduction, chapter one, etc. and ways to think about how to best organize the chapter outline) and we built a timetable for working on the project.
Q: Did you have to do a literature review? Had you ever done one before?
A: Yes, though it wasn’t phrased in that way I did review the previous scholarship on my topic. I had never done so in any kind of systematic way before the thesis.
Q: Do you remember receiving correspondence from the library about your honors thesis?
A: I contacted the library about acquiring a PhD dissertation related to my topic, but I did not receive any correspondence from the library about my thesis.
Q: What did you find most challenging about your thesis project?
A: The most challenging part for me was getting beyond compiling what the scholars in the field have already said and knowing that I was really making a new contribution.
Q: What did you find most rewarding about your thesis project?
A: In a similar vein, the most rewarding part was when I did realize that I had made those further steps into analysis that was new and had begun to bring together the individual observations that I had been making into actual conclusions.
Q: What assistance did your advisor/department offer you throughout the course of the year?
A: The department purchased the microfilm of my manuscript from the BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France) so that I could have the primary source for my research. There were also two progress presentations during the year in front of the department which were very helpful in terms of organizing my research and ideas into a coherent form, getting comments and input from the professors, and preparing me for the final defense. My advisor helped me with organization of the material as I began to write and offered feedback on the chapter drafts.
Q: Did you meet with librarians in the course of conducting your research? How many times and at what stages of your research?
A: No, though I did occasionally stop by the ILL office to make a more specialized request or ask for an extension on an already renewed book.
Q: What other kind of support did you rely on throughout the year to accomplish your thesis (IT, parents, friends, etc.)?
A: My friends and family were my main support. My friends doing theses in other departments were an especially important source of commiseration (though it could sometimes add to the stress to hear that they were further along!).
Q: Were you able to get access to all of the research materials you wanted for your project?
A: Yes, through the purchase of the microfilm and dissertation and then ILL requests I had the materials that I needed.
Q: Would you do anything differently if you went through the process again?
A: I think if I went through it again I would have inquired with the library about the possibility of actually purchasing a few books that I needed to request constantly throughout the entire year on ILL.
Q: What advice would you offer other honors thesis students, especially in your department?
A: Take advantage of the mid-year presentations—I was amazed at how prepared I felt for my defense after having already presented the material in two earlier stages.