Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Smallish Dissertation Update

Chapter One has been sent to both Dissertation Chair and Second Reader. Appendix will be typed tomorrow, and I shall feel like a real Anglo-Saxonist.

What is this appendix? Well, it's where I sort out how the Old English Orosius uses the the proper name of the historian Paulus Orosius, and to what effects.

Why does this list make me feel like a real Anglo-Saxonist? I think it's because it feels like "real" data. Quantifiable, and therefore tangible.

There's just something so darn satisfying about achieving descriptive accuracy.


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.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Blogging as Practice

I need to start thinking of blogging less as "production of text for public consumption" (though it is that) and more of a practice. But practice for what, I ask myself? And that seems to be my key question as I embark on a little experiment. How can I use this blog, Old English in New York, to think through my dissertation as I move through the steps of revision, rewriting, researching and writing the next three chapters of the project?

So: I am going to attempt to write a bit each day about what I'm working on in my dissertation. I'll still be posting substantial things over at ITM. But when I started this blog -- oh, those many months ago! -- it was supposed to work for me. I've been neglecting that aspect of blogging, and I think, as I continue my grand experiment in blogging the academic experience (okay, okay: my small experiment in blogging a graduate student's experience), it's time to get back to the basics, as they say.

I will attempt to post every weekday. We'll see how that works out. And what it yields, if anything. For now, however, I have obligations that require my real-life presence, presently.