This may not be a good idea, but I’ve decided to start journaling about writing my dissertation, and I am going to do it on my personal blog. As far as I know, nobody reads this blog yet, so right now it is just for me, although it might be nice to produce the receipts to show that I do in fact work on this all the time. I’m constantly feeling inadequate and behind schedule (although I’m getting better at sending stuff to my committee). Writing a dissertation is a project like no other, and it is also supposed to be a first-go at what you want to spend your life doing. So far so good for that, I’m very happy being a scholar. I think my dissertation is going to be good and I am excited about my topic (you can read about it here).
Here is what I envision treating in my journal:
- The day’s basic ideas and problems
- My work schedule and situation
- Noteworthy or new texts and books I have been using
- Music I listen to when I work (I don’t listen to music constantly, but usually at some point I have some on)
- My feelings
This journal will help me keep the ball rolling, help me deal with the emotional impact of engaging in such a project (and the sometimes overwhelming responsibility that the as yet unachieved future brings, which depends on my dissertation). I don’t plan on “giving away” what I am writing about or doing academic work here.
So here it goes for today:
I recently sent a small piece of my chapter on Jonah to committee members. It tackled three thorny places in the novella that, to me, were obstacles for understanding the plot. That might be a good thing to journal about another time. Now that I am basically happy with my solutions, I am examining the plot of the novella. This is a major topic for each novella I am treating. It is also a place where I will utilize narratology. In light of that, I spent most of the day reading and rereading theory, most of which focuses on the abstract part of storytelling, the story or fabula. It is difficult to translate a concrete narrative into an abstract summary that is accurate and that articulates a deep structure that can be used to talk about the novella as a whole. I looked through Barthes, Todorov, Bal, and Rimmon-Kenan, and through them at the ideas of several others, most notably Bremond. I am very much taken by his approach to mapping out the events of a story, which emphasizes, in a good Aristotelian way, how it is comprised of actions that are traids of potentiality-process-resolution. I spent a lot of time looking at a chart in Rimmon-Kenan that demonstrates this method using Oedipus Rex. I’m excited to apply this to Jonah and began thinking about ways in which to do that, but it was time to pick up the kids. So that’s where I’ll start tomorrow (its just after midnight…so in a matter of hours).
Although I am working on plot, I am thinking ahead to character. I am excited to think about Jonah as a character, and consider whether “prophet” is a character type available to authors at that time. Were the Elijah and Elisha stories, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, read and considered to contain a certain type of character? Is Jonah an innovation or a completely new thing?
I felt a bit overwhelmed today when facing applying theory to plot. Much of what I was reading was classical narratology, but I need to look at some modern treatments. I’ve got some books on order. Reading some Culler brought this on, since it took away some confidence I had in Bremond. But I am getting closer to having a workable model to apply to my texts. I need to remain confident.
Today’s Word Count
Minimal, but worked on the structure of the Jonah chapter and made notes for various sections.
Today’s Books and Articles
Herman and Vivaeck, Handbook of Narrative Analysis
Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction
Todorov, Introduction to Poetics
Barthes, “The Structural Analysis of Narrative”
Culler, Structural Poetics