Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Robin Silbergleid: I met Madeline spring semester of her sophomore year when she signed up to take my Eng 353 course on motherhood in American literature. From the first day, she stood out as one of the top students in the class–an astute literary critic, careful writer, and thoughtful class participant; yet it was a while before she revealed just how and why the topic was important to her. Madeline‘s thesis, Unzipped, takes its title from a backwards abecedarian essay which pivots toward and away from “M–Mother.” Over the course of three classes and her senior honors thesis she has carefully excavated the loss of her own mother unexpectedly days after her high school graduation. The completion of this project (during quarantine!!) is a testament to her intellectual and emotional resilience. Madeline, it has been an honor to be a part of your journey; I’m so proud of you–congratulations.
How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?
My time spent as an MSU English major has been a time of immense growth. It has been challenging and uncomfortable, but all the while fulfilling and necessary. The girl that entered into this program in the Fall of 2016 is not the woman that’s graduating this May—and I think that’s beautiful.
Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?
Of all the classes, instructors, and experiences I’ve undergone during my time at MSU, Professor Robin Silbergleid particularly stands out. Signing up for her Women Writers course the spring of my sophomore year, I could have never anticipated the impact she would have on my journey as a writer. Taking as many of her courses as I could in the following year, she then went on to become my capstone advisor. Tackling a 60-page, invasive investigation about the loss of my mother would have never been possible without her soft assurance, her calm disposition, and her consistent support—both emotional and academic. I owe so many things to her.
What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?
My advice to future English majors would be to write about the things that scare you. Writing offers us many things, but none more beautiful or meaningful than human connection. The classmates I’ve moved and who have moved me are among my fondest bonds created here at MSU, and none would be possible without taking that risk. You’ll surprise yourself, I promise you.
What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?
This year I’ve tackled an honors thesis titled Unzipped, and it’s the single most important piece I’ve ever written. Tracking the loss of my mother, and spanning more than a decade of my life, the piece investigates growth. A personal testimony to human resilience, Unzipped strives to illustrate the tidal waves of grief, both the drowning and floating. In pursuit of rawness, I hoped to uncover my most vulnerable self, and to find peace in the stillness surrounding loss. But beyond that, it’s my relationship with my mother. It’s the culmination of all the triumphs and collapses of our kinship. It’s honoring her the best way I know how—in life and in death. The structure of MSU’s honors thesis enabled me immense creative freedom, and in the end, turned into my greatest emotional and academic achievement of all time.
What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?
Post-graduation, my aspirations are to continue writing the hard stories—pieces like Unzipped. If I’m lucky enough, maybe one day I’ll be a published author, and can look back on my time at MSU as the launching pad for my greatest dream.
Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?
Being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis is surreal. There’s lots of grief—moments lost forever, friends you may never see again, the list goes on. Some days it’s hard not to feel robbed. However, if the journey of my life has taught me one thing, it’s to hold onto the good. I have survived the hardest four years of my life, and that is always worth celebrating, no matter the circumstances.