My bachelor’s thesis, produced with XeLaTeX

I’ve finished my bachelor’s thesis, which I’ve produced for the Research Seminar 3 course with XeLaTeX. Here is my thesis, and here is the LaTeX source. The thesis is written in Dutch, but comments in the source are in English. This is a large document with 31 pages and a lot of literary references. I think the larger the document gets, the more advantageous it is to use LaTeX or XeLaTeX. I can’t imagine the hassle to deal with tons of literary references in such a large document. I’m very happy with the layout. If the thesis had been submitted within the deadline it would have been graded with a score of 8,5 but I failed to do so. I needed another ten days to finish, so one point was subtracted. This had me banging my head against the wall for my stupidity to underestimate the necessary work and my inadequate time management. If only I had already started working on it during the Christmas vacation there wouldn’t have been a problem. I had intended to so, but during Christmas vacation I decided to do exactly what a vacation is meant for: enjoying my free time. Nevertheless, I’m very pleased with the grade, because I expected worse based on my failings with the initial version of the paper I submitted for Research Seminar 2.

I chose to use the Linux Libertine font which I mentioned earlier, because it provides small capitals, which my other favorite font Gentium does not. This time I made some modifications to the chapter style and the section style. I decreased the font size of the chapter title and the vertical space after the chapter title. I made the section titles display in small capitals and gave the section numbering a hanging indent so that they are placed to the left of the margin just like the chapter title. For both the chapter and the section titles a subtle dark red color was used, I think it improves the looks because it’s less boring than pure black.

My faculty’s guidelines dictated that the thesis had to use an increased line spacing of one and a half. I don’t like this rule because it defaces the layout of the document and because it demands more dead trees, the document needs 12 more pages compared to standard line spacing. Fortunately the Memoir package provides the {DoubleSpace} environment, which only affects the body of the text and leaves footnotes, headers and footers unharmed. I used double line spacing instead of one and a half line spacing as specified by the guidelines, because Memoir’s double line spacing looks more similar to one and a half line spacing as produced by Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.

On the 29th page you can see a nice map which I produced myself. It shows the extent of the Greek world in the Mediterranean in the sixth century BCE. I had to create it myself because comparable maps found on the Internet were ugly bitmap images available in a low resolution. Of course bitmap images loose detail as you zoom in on them, unlike vector graphics. There was no suitable vector graphics map of the Mediterranean available on the Internet, so I asked one of the map makers on Wikipedia if he could create one for me. Unfortunately I didn’t receive any reply, so I decided to do it myself. I downloaded this map from Wikipedia and started modifying it with Inkscape. At first it didn’t work out and I was tempted to give up, but I persevered and was successful in the end.

Let me describe the methodology. The entire world map is huge, not only in canvas size but also in file size, and I only needed the Mediterranean. First you need to remove useless continents like the Americas, Antarctica and Australia and all the islands – no offense meant to the humans and penguins who live there – because those are separate objects which you can easily delete. Europe, Africa and Asia are a joined land mass so they are a single object. You need to cut it up so you remove the land which is not necessary to be visible on the map of the Mediterranean. You do this by drawing a large square over the land which needs to be removed. Then you select the square and the land, and you choose Path → Division from the Inkscape’s menu. This separates the piece of land covered by the square from the land not covered by the square. Now that the unnecessary land is a separate object, you can delete it easily.

Now you should have narrowed down the world map to the Mediterranean. Here comes the labor intensive part. Say you want to designate the area in the French Riviera colonized by the Greeks with a red color as I did. You select the land mass, then you copy it. Then you choose the Edit path by nodes button. Select the nodes on the coast of the French Riviera which you need, then choose Edit → Invert Selection from the menu. Then delete all other nodes, and clean up any remaining ones not in the French Riviera. Because all nodes are on the coast line now, you need to create a few new nodes so the object will cover some distance inland. Make sure the fill and outline color of the object are both dark red to get a comparable result to my map. Repeat this process as necessary, because I needed many small objects to mark all Greek settlements. If you do it correctly, the red objects will overlap perfectly on the landmass and coastlines, and it will not overlap on the light blue sea water. The only thing which I forgot was adding a black line (a square with transparent fill but a black outline) to the edges of the map. As you can see, on my map the outline color of the landmass borders the edges of the canvas, which is the same as the color for the coast lines.

Then increase the canvas size so the map won’t look so small and require lots of zooming in. Finally, save the map in PDF format so you can use it in LaTeX. I needed a lot of time to get this map right as you can image, but I’m certainly proud of it. Hopefully this small tutorial I’ve given here is helpful for other who encounter problems with Inkscape.

Now I’d like to mention the content of my thesis. It researches differences in Ancient Greek attitudes and practice of nudity in two dimensions, time and gender. The Archaic Period and the Classical Period to be exact. Regarding female nudity I remembered the case of Phryne, on whose Wikipedia article I had somehow (don’t ask me how!) stumbled upon a long time ago. The Wikipedia article reports that the ancient Greek author Athenaeus of Naucratis wrote that she was acquitted of a capital charge by the judges because she showed her nude body to the court. In my search for an explanation for this event I searched for scholarly articles with search engines (Google Scholar really shines here). This event required explanation because female nudity in public was not done in the Ancient Greek world in general, Phryne would be an exception to the rule. I found the article ‘Hyperides and the Trial of Phryne’ by Craig Cooper. He argues that there is convincing certainty that the event was a fabrication by a biographer who was the source of Athenaeus’ information. So the event never happened in reality, Phryne would have begged to the judges for acquittal without revealing any nudity. This means that the Wikipedia article is misleading; I intend to fix this by rewriting the article partially, so that Cooper’s perspective will also be mentioned.

Finally, I still encountered a few problems with using (Xe)LaTeX. I wanted to put a literary reference in the caption of the map on page 29. That made XeLaTeX choke during the compilation of the document, giving the following error message:

! TeX capacity exceeded, sorry [parameter stack size=6000].
\MNR@old@caption #1[#2]->
                         \def \@currentlabelname {#2}\NR@@caption {#1}[{#2}]
l.291 ...de zesde eeuw \autocite[\nopp 61]{noble}}

Googling for the error message revealed to me that it had to do with memory limitations of LaTeX, and that you could try to increase it in order to solve the problem. That didn’t help me, I didn’t dare to mess with the LaTeX configuration files too much because I was afraid it might give me further problems. To create an unnumbered chapter like I did in my document for the introduction (‘inleiding’ in Dutch) you have to use \chapter*{Inleiding}. But the consequence is that the chapter title will not be added to the table of contents and the header. I used \addcontentsline{toc}{chapter}{Inleiding}\chapter*[Inleiding]{Inleiding} to get it working correctly, but that’s an ugly, hackish solution. Why the assumption that I don’t want unnumbered chapters to appear in the table of contents? Lastly, when I used \setlength{\beforesecskip}{10pt} and \setlength{\aftersecskip}{10pt} to change the vertical spacing before and after a section title, I noticed that the paragraph following the section title would be indented. Of course that’s not correct behavior because the first paragraph following a chapter or section title usually isn’t indented. Not sure whether this is a bug or intended behavior. I still need to figure out how to fix these problems correctly, but if anyone cares to comment because they have a solution, I’d appreciate it.

4 thoughts on “My bachelor’s thesis, produced with XeLaTeX”

  1. Nice article. I have started to work with xelatex this year, and I’ve enjoyed to write a lot of texts in it. I’m also Dutch, just like you. Thanks for posting a document source, perhaps it will help me in the future as well.

    BTW you might want to check out the “artikel3” document class one day.

  2. Pingback: Improved a Wikipedia article, annoyances with Wikipedia’s editing process « Information Overload

  3. Thanks very much for this post. I found it quite informative, especially your source code and final product. Your thesis looks great and you helped me figure out how to do some XeLaTex / Memoir things that have been escaping me. Thanks again, from Montana (USA).

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