Not every senior thesis gets accepted to the Festival de Cannes or praised by Michael Lewis and The Wall Street Journal, but that's not necessarily a reflection on the thesis writer. In fact, many of the College's most successful alumni didn't even write a thesis. And many of those who did might agree with Conan C. O'Brien '85: "A lot of hard work [goes] into [a] thesis. And no one is ever going to care."

During last week's Commencement, we decided to check out the Harvard University Archives to unearth a few theses (alas, we couldn't get a hold of any Radcliffe ones there) written by future movers and shakers while they were just lowly undergraduates.

B.J. NOVAK '01

Current claim to fame: Actor who plays Ryan on "The Office." Also a writer and co-executive producer for the show.

Concentration: Literature

Title: “To Be or Not to Be”: Hollywood’s Answers to Hamlet’s Question

Page count: 83

Excerpt: “And of course, in the case of this soliloquy, the forces of text and culture are deeply intertwined: the cultural significances of 'To be or not to be' are necessarily born of its appearance in the play’s text; and of the vast range of possible textual meanings of the soliloquy, the set chosen to be highlighted in an individual production is inevitably based, to some substantial degree, on how it reflects cultural conceptions of the speech.”


Current claim to fameTwitter personality.

Concentration: History and Literature

Title: “The ‘Old Child’ in Faulkner and O’Connor”