Dissertation Weirder Than Mine

A few months ago I found myself sitting naked in a bath tub, being bathed by a man twice my age. Afterwards he dried me, wrapped me in a dressing gown, and fed me white chocolate and tangerines.

I'm not part of a fetish scene, I'm not in a care home – I put myself through all this for my dissertation.

I'm in the final year of my English and drama course at the University of Leeds. Like everyone else in my year, I spent several months staring at the ceiling, trying to come up with a topic for my dissertation.

It's not easy. You need to come up with something that's original enough to demonstrate your creativity, while still providing enough material for a serious academic analysis. After three years of books, sweat and tears, you don't want to screw it up.

In the end, I chose to write about "intimate theatre", a concept my bath buddy, a performance artist called Adrian Howells, takes pretty seriously – here he is explaining what he does on YouTube. It might seem like a niche topic, but after a few millennia of human civilization, it's getting harder to come up with something new to write about.

Here are a few other former students on their wacky dissertations:

Rachael Patterson, 21

University: King's College London

Subject: Philosophy

Dissertation title: The Possibility of Unicorns: Kripke v Dummett

What it's about: Whether or not the existence of unicorns is metaphysically possible. It analyses the arguments of the philosophers Saul Kripke and Michael Dummet and tries to find a winner. Neither of them really think that unicorns actually exist, but Dummett reckons they could – in another possible world.

The best quote: "There is a chance that we are mistaken: there may be unicorns. Furthermore, we can consider a world different to our own in some way, in which unicorns do exist. They are not a biological or metaphysical impossibility in this sense, and the images and descriptions we currently affix to the term 'unicorn' help us to imagine the possibility of such creatures existing in a different possible world. Therefore, there might be unicorns."

Grade: 2:1

Jason Miller, 30

University: Westminster

Subject: Music

Dissertation title: A Critical Analysis of the Entrepreneurialism behind UK Acid House Rave Culture in 1989 and How the Music Changed British Pop

What it's about: I was trying to prove that the raves of 1989 laid the foundations of a potent new capitalist model, selling youth culture as a brand via the power of drugs, mass raves and hypnotic tribal dance music.

The best quote: "With our world becoming increasingly automated, with real human contact becoming secondary to email, it is comforting to know that an industry exists, and is driven by consumers wanting to succumb to a leisurely pursuit that both stimulates the senses and brings together thousands of people every weekend across the country."

Grade: 1st

Saskia Rusher, 24

University: Sussex

Subject: Anthropology and cultural studies

Dissertation title: To What Extent can Reality Television (with Special Reference to Big Brother) be seen to be Exploitative and Disempowering?

What it's about: I examined the depiction of Big Brother's Jade Goody by the media, exploring concepts of class, gender and notions of celebrity mostly through a Marxist paradigm. With media exposure seen as one of the greatest touchstones of individual achievement, I asked whether Goody's public trajectory could be seen to promote a neo-liberal ideology which in effect distorted wider politico-economic structures and distracted viewers from the real rigidity of the British social class system.

The best quote: The subtitles included "Jade Goody or Baddy?" and "Goody – A Jaded Reality".

Grade: 2:1

Rebecca Cowell, 24

University: Cambridge

Subject: Chinese (Oriental studies)

Dissertation title: Representin' the Dirty North: The Indigenisation of Rap Music and Hip-hop Culture in Beijing

What it's about: I argued that, although hip-hop has no roots in Chinese society and history, the hybridised form of hip-hop created through indigenisation can be defined as true to the global hip-hop musical genre.

The best quote: "A Chinese boy with dreadlocks and a necklace with a large dollar-sign pendant is comparing his 'bling' jewellery with a shorter, solemn-looking boy wearing a Yankees cap and a baggy T-shirt. He tells me he is a biochemistry student at Beijing University and visits the 'Dirty South' night in club Vics every Tuesday. I ask him why he likes hip-hop. In strained English he replies, 'Cos I'm a gangster'."

Grade: 2:1

Does your dissertation topic push the boundaries of academia? Do you know anyone writing about something weirder than unicorns?

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