Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Drawing a Dissertation

Readers at ITM and Old English in New York may remember that the topic of my first chapter is the Old English Orosius. You may remember, way back in November, when I revising my chapter on the Orosius, I was having a bit of trouble straightening out the terms with which I spoke of the various voices in the text.

I'm working, again, on revising that same old text. You can see a small snippet of what I've been doing with it here. However, in the past few weeks or so I've been trying to tap into my formerly quite creative side, which sometimes gets sublimated by both a lack of time and a lack of interest. I don't have time to draw anymore, for example. But in the past couple weeks, I've taken to literally sketching out some of my arguments in the chapter, to help me keep straight the number of elements, levels, or names that appear in the essay.

The fruits of today's labor? The following diagram. Please note that, should it make it to the final copy of my dissertation chapter, I'll redraw it and make it a bit cleaner:

The "legend," if you will, is the following. 

ASE = Anglo-Saxon England
Rep of HAP = Representation of the Historiarum Adversum Paganos in the Old English Orosius.
Cwæð = The "cwæð Orosius" construction in the Old English Orosius. 

Essentially, I'm trying to represent, albeit somewhat simplistically, the levels of interaction of the Latin and Old English texts.   So they intersect where Latin historical texts are present in Anglo-Saxon England.  The first level of that intersection is the Latin versions of the Historiarum present in Anglo-Saxon England at the time of the translation.   At that point, the attribution of the text can still be to Paulus Orosius, as these are texts in the original language, copies.  The next level, then, is the Old English translation.  The "voice of authority" is no longer Paulus Orosius himself -- if such a thing is possible to think of, to borrow the Derridean line, and in light of having *just* taught Death of the Author to my undergraduates  -- so I'm calling that level of narration/authority the "Translator/Narrator."  

This next level is where things get a bit messy.   For various reasons, in order to understand the way the source text (the Historiarum Adversum Paganos, by Paulus Orosius) interacts with the translation, the Old English Orosius, I find it useful to suggest a distinction between the parts of the Old English text which are specifically meant to represent the Latin text and those which can only be departures that are the results of an explicit choice on the part of the translator.   The majority of the text falls into the first category.    Certain sections of the text, like the part in the geographical preface which relates the travels of Ohthere and Wulfstand, fall into the second.  These are clear departures from the Historiarum.   To express the identification between the translator and the voice of Orosius, I've chosen Orosius-translator.  This category is distinct from the explicit, reported speech citations of Paulus Orosius that occur where the text inserts the first person or, more explicitly, the cwæð Orosius  (a phrase which occurs fifty times in the text, and means "Orosius said").   To mark the distinction, I'm using Orosius-narrator. 

That's a lot of information, particularly for folks who perhaps aren't as familiar with the Orosius.  However, the question I have for you today dear readers, is about the use of diagrams in dissertations.   Are they a good thing, where they help lay out your thought process in a way that makes your prose that much clearer?  Or are they a crutch I should dispense with, and use merely in the draft stages, to help my mind keep track of the many "facts" of the text?   Has anyone out there written a book/dissertation/article that makes extensive use of diagrams?  Or that uses diagrams at all?   How did that work? 


cross posted to ITM

17 comments:

tenthmedieval said...

I think that can only help, and also demonstrates that you think in interesting ways. It could use some work so that it doesn't need so much explanation, but on the other hand (and I've done this with a forthcoming paper) a diagram that needs to be explained is actually a good way to open up a subject sometimes. However, my experience is that almost any diagram will be questioned thoroughly by a prospective publisher come proofs time because for some reason they still cost extra money. For the examiners, though, use anything you can to make your thought easier to expound!

Meg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meghan said...

Bear in mind, I'm responding to this as a lowly Bachelor of Arts (essentially, I have a very small wergeld in the academic community)--but I found the diagram to be quite helpful. Without it, I would've had to read the text at least twice to really understand what you were saying. That is in no way a shot at your writing--it's more a sad commentary on how much my brain has deteriorated outside of the ivory tower.

In very plain language, pictures are shiny.

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