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Laureanne Willems: our winner of the Best Master’s Thesis Award 2019!


The jury managed to
narrow down the nominations for the Best Master’s Thesis Award
to three students. Congratulations. Dear Laureanne, your thesis
immediately drew the jury’s attention. After all, a comparative study
of three autobiographical literary works by authors writing about
their own anorexia is not something
one encounters every day. How does it feel to have won
the Student Award for Best Master Thesis? Very unreal. It hasn’t completely
dawned on me yet, but I’m very happy and
I feel really honoured to have won it because I think it is a very important topic
that needs to be more widely considered, and so I’m happy that
I contributed in this small way to bringing attention to it. Can you tell me more
about your topic? What I realised was that there are
multiple layers of interpretation of anorexia nervosa as a
sort of concept and illness. And it’s researched in
so many different fields. So it’s medically investigated.
The academic field is busy with it too. You have medically, humanities, philosophy.
You have the cultural understanding. And these work together
to create sort of an altogether image of
what it means to be anorexic. And this is very limiting because
it means that people are excluded from it, and it also means that people
who are included in the label are limited in the ways
of understanding themselves. Because what I realised
when I was reading the memoirs is that people who have
the lived experience of anorexia often do sort of take in
all these different interpretations. They may not always
agree with them, but they do play a part in sort of
their understanding of theirself. And you’ve had anorexia yourself. Did that inspire you to fill in
the gap of knowledge? Yes, very much so. Because when I was thinking about
my idea for a topic for a thesis, I was still in recovery.
I was nearing my treatment. And at that time I’d been
in treatment for two years and I found that there was,
like you said, there was such a gap of knowledge
between what I experienced myself, every day, and what people were
thinking about what I experienced. And this frustrated me. And so when I looked
at anorexia memoirs, I thought this may be an opening
to start a conversation for people to have sort of
an accessible way to look at this. And so that’s what inspired me.

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