Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Argumentation, pt 1: Names

Apparently, when I write, I am a lot like my University Writing students. I come to the crux of my argument in the last paragraph (or in the case, the last ten pages) of my piece. What's interesting, of course, is that my dissertation requires a framework I'm not really used to thinking about. I've got 45 pages to signpost and structure: it's a very different feel from even a 20 page paper.

What's particularly challenging is the number of texts I'm talking about in the piece. It's really only two: the Latin Historiarum, by Paulus Orosius, and the Old English Orosius. But the number of references to works and authors multiplies when I attempt to nail down an argument about the texts:

Latin Text: Historiarum
Old English Text: Orosius
Latin Author: Paulus Orosius
Old English author: Orosius translator
Latin Narrator: the historian Orosius
Old English Narrator: Orosius-narrator, not to be confused with the citation of the historian Orosius in the cwaeth construction used throughout the text.

Certain problems come into view: How to keep the Orosiuses separate? How do I talk about an Old English author/translator who doesn't have a name without getting unwieldy? Who's narrating the Old English Orosius, anyway? Can I delineate these differences in a way that will keep my reader from being endlessly confused (as I suspect a reliance on italics or quotation marks might do)? I need a shorthand of some sort. There's a good reason that if I ever get back to my Anatomy of a First Chapter (I will, I will!) the second part is called "The Trial by Appendix". Because I (mostly) understand my argument. The real question is -- will any of you?

These are the things nobody warned me about when I started "dissertating." Mundane concerns, perhaps. But nothing I write matters if it isn't clear enough for my readers to understand it. Perhaps I need to learn as much from University Writing as my freshmen do.


theswain said...

AH, how I know your problem! Wouldn't it be Orosii? Anyway, might I suggest coining a name for our Old English translator, or even simply calling him the OE Translator or the Orosius Translator or Orosius Redactor, since he edits as much as he translates.

I'm really looking forward to reading this, so hurry up, will ya?

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