Introduction: Welcome to My AP Research Project!

Mar 03, 2019

Hello all!

I’m Krystal and I am currently a student in AP Research. As a part of this course, I will be conducting individual research. Unlike others pursuing senior projects, AP Research is centered around creating and presenting a completely independent research report; everything from the creation of our research questions to the collection of our data must be done on our own. (Quote the Internet, “Weird flex, but okay.”) Also, Dr. Brown is giving us separate instructions for what each one of our blog posts must include, so the content of my posts might look different than that of the other seniors.

Okay, enough disclaimers. My AP Research project will focus on finding intersections between terror management theory and McCarthy’s literature, two things that seem equally obscure to the STEM-focused students at BISV. But that’s okay—I’m a humanities kid, so I’m used to people feigning interest in my academic work. (If I were in an episode of The Office, this is where I would look into the camera with a soulless look in my eyes.)

Terror management theory, or TMT, is a modern social psychology that rationalizes how humans deal with the thought of death. Originally developed by Ernest Becker in the 1970s, this theory posits that humans are intellectually unique because we are capable of reflecting on death. However, we currently do not have any permanent mechanisms to evade death (bio kids, we’re still counting on you!). Because we know that death is final, yet we have no way to escape this totalizing phenomenon, this paradox causes us to experience existential terror, or death anxiety, in which we constantly fear death itself. TMT also hypothesizes that we suppress death anxiety through two mechanisms—proximal and distal defenses—which allow us to respond to death anxiety both consciously and unconsciously (more on that in a later post).

I have been a fan of Cormac McCarthy’s literature for a years. The first time I read his work was in middle school, when my older brother was studying The Road for his high school English class. He came home one day, flashing the minimalistic black cover of The Road, claiming it was the “saddest” and “most traumatic” book he had ever read. And of course, middle-school Krystal interpreted that as a challenge to read The Road and to be “not traumatized.”

So I took the book from my brother’s desk, flipped to a random page, and literally started crying within the first five pages.

(So Oliver, I guess you still one-upped me.)

The Road is a gripping story about a nameless father and son trying to navigate and survive in post-apocalyptic America. Cormac McCarthy is also a famous contemporary American fiction writer and a Pulitzer-prize winner who is famous for his graphic, violent prose. The prevalence of death imagery in The Road indicates that there is a plethora of data that TMT can be applied to, in order for us to draw new conclusions about the characters and themes in the novel. This leads me to my research question, “How can terror management theory’s dual-process model be applied to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to generate a new understanding of The Road, as well as of terror management theory?”. In addition to learning more about McCarthy’s work, my project will also allow me to develop a methodology that future humanities researchers can use to apply terror management theory to other fictitious works, such as movies and visual novels. Because, you know, that’s basically the value of literature research. Honestly, all literature research boils down to the idea that “read book good… Yes, must read more book.”

Also, I’m stealing Dennis’s idea to give quotes of the week—and don’t worry Dennis, I’ll include you in my Works Cited, in classic AP Seminar fashion. And what better place to draw quotes from than from The Road itself?

So I leave you with this wonderful, brilliant, absolutely beautiful excerpt from the first paragraph of The Road: “In the dream from which he’d wakened he had wandered in a cave where the child led him by the hand. The light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease.”

2 Replies to “Introduction: Welcome to My AP Research Project!”

  1. Ethan F. says:

    Krystal: “Everything from the creation of our research questions to the collection of our data must be done on our own.”

    Krystal: “I’m a humanities kid.”

    Indeed, truly two of the biggest “weird flex but okay’s” of the year. 😛

    Haha I’m just kidding! 😀 Love the polished writing style of your blog, as well as your detailed description of the niche academic area that you’re investigating! The excerpt at the end was also very enjoyable to read and painted a nice picture in my head. I’m looking forward to reading more about people dealing with the concept of death!

  2. Krip R. says:

    Hey Krystal,

    I really enjoy the fresh, engaging, and thorough style of your blog! Your topic is fascinating and I have enjoyed learning about it.

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