Meet the Lancs Uni student who wrote her dissertation on Connell from Normal People

Writing 10,000 words about Connell? Yes please

Eva Colcough, a Lancaster University theatre studies student, has written her dissertation on the TV adaption of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, specifically focusing on the character Connell Waldron. The title of her dissertation was “Class, back-footed, aloof smart”, a quote from Paul Mescal which he used to describe Connell.

At this point, if you haven’t read or watched Normal People, what are you doing? Normal People has become a cultural reset.

‘What it means to be a man in the world of Normal People’

Eva told us that for her dissertation she explored the theme of class in Normal People. She said: “It’s essentially looking at what it means to be a man in the world of Normal People and for Connell in particular and how that is impacted by social class status.

“In the work I track how these expectations of working-class masculinity change throughout Connell’s youth from his school days to university and beyond.”

‘I’ve always been really interested in feminism and gender studies’

When asked why she decided to write her dissertation about Normal People, Eva said: “I just set out to write about something that I enjoyed and was passionate about. If I wasn’t a fan of the topic I don’t think I would’ve been able to complete the dissertation, at least not without a mental breakdown.”

Eva not only loved the TV show but she thought that it was a perfect topic to write about for her theatre studies degree. She said: “I’ve always been really interested in feminism and gender studies and I think issues surrounding masculinity are becoming a lot more widely discussed in reference to things like toxic masculinity which is definitely relevant to Normal People.

“I think anyone who has watched the show will be aware of how key masculinity and class is to all of the characters and especially Connell- it’s not just about romance.”

‘Everyone has been absolutely amazing throughout the process’

Eva has had an amazing reaction to writing her dissertation on the popular TV show. Her academic advisor couldn’t have been more supportive. She said: “Everyone has been absolutely amazing throughout the process. I’ve been incredibly lucky because my academic advisor Elaine Aston was phenomenal in terms of her understanding of the show itself and the academic side of things.”

As everyone has an understanding of the show, or has binge watched it about ten times, Eva’s friends were able to read her work and comprehend it even though they aren’t theatre students. Eva said: “Doing my diss on such a popular show has also been great because it has meant that my friends who study completely different subjects have been able to read my work and understand it in a way that they might not have been able to do if it had been on something very specific to traditional theatre.

“The only thing I can hope for now is that Paul Mescal himself might stumble upon it and give it a read but I certainly won’t hold my breath!”

‘I was able to find something that would bring me joy to write’

Anyone who is writing, or has written, a dissertation will understand the stress and dedication it takes to work on a project for so long. Eva said that all in all she really enjoyed writing her dissertation. She said: “Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely beyond stressful at times but I know it could’ve been a lot worse for me.

“Because we had so much freedom with the topic it meant that I was able to find something that would bring me joy to write and also something that I could hopefully do quite well in because of the genuine interest I had in it. Although it definitely felt a little bit unnerving re-watching certain scenes in the library but I managed to get over the embarrassment eventually.”

‘I’m basically just planning to go with the flow’

When asked about her future plans after university, Eva expressed the difficulty of finding work in the pandemic and how her post-grad plans are “very much up in the air at the minute.” She said: “Before the pandemic it was hard enough to find work in the arts industry but I think at the moment it’s even more of a task.

“I’ll definitely be trying to opt for something that makes use of my creative faculties but unfortunately I have no idea what that might entail- I’m basically just planning to go with the flow.”

Writing a dissertation on one of your favourite TV show sounds like a dream. If you are doing a dissertation on a popular topic we should know about, reach out to us on Instagram.

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