One for the Modernist scholars out there … interesting scope to this conference!

British Association for Modernist Studies

‘We Speak a Different Tongue’: Maverick Voices and Modernity, 1890-1939

Website: http://www.dur.ac.uk/maverick.voices/

St John’s College, Durham University

“Maverick Voices and Modernity” is an international conference whose aim is to explore and reflect upon the wide range of writers that were caught up in the Modernist moment, but traditionally fall outside of what has been thought of as literary Modernism. Our event registers those individual voices that offer alternative visions and counter-responses to mainstream Modernism and often still remain in productive dialogue and tension with key aspects of established Modernism.

Deadline for abstracts: 1st March 2013.

Plenary speakers: Professor Chris Baldick (Goldsmiths College, University of London) and Professor Michael O’Neill (Durham University).

Call for Papers

With a focus on the fiction, poetry, and drama of the period 1890-1939, “Maverick Voices” registers the diversity of innovation beyond the traditionally defined boundaries of literary Modernism. Famously in “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” (1924)…

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I am eagerly awaiting my own copy of Susan Sontag’s On Photography, which I have dipped into but never fully read, cover to cover.

It was due yesterday – so my frustration will have to be eased by devouring this week’s LBR, which has a fascinating review of the books released to commemorate the  centenary of the sinking of the Titanic. (April 10-14, 1912)

https://www.mylrb.co.uk/adwuklp/?gclid=CI-L0rT79rQCFePHtAodlEIAgg
https://www.mylrb.co.uk/adwuklp/?gclid=CI-L0rT79rQCFePHtAodlEIAgg

It is a fascinating take on the gender dynamics of the early twentieth century identifying the ‘expected’  male chivalry and courage as ‘the price of patriarchy’ – highlighting that patriarchy imposes as many restrictions and expectations on men as it does on women – something that any gender theorist should bear in mind when composing a ‘feminist’ article or opinion. Given the ridicule and abuse many male survivors of the disaster suffered it was encouraging to read an article which attempted to redeem an impossibly mythologised situation.

Drafts

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Ok … so what constitutes an introduction? How do I summarise, without necessarily generalising, the objectives of my 80,000 plus thesis; remembering not to go into too much detail, whilst not neglecting important factors. It seems a tall order to me …

I was working on the premise that as the thesis unfolded so would my argument? No?

Apparently not – I need to be far more methodical in my approach so I turned to some tipsters for their advice ..

What is an introduction?

  1. A statement of the goal of the paper: why the study was undertaken, or why the paper was written. Do not repeat the abstract.
  2. Sufficient background information to allow the reader to understand the context and significance of the question you are trying to address.
  3. Proper acknowledgement of the previous work on which you are building. Sufficient references such that a reader could, by going to the library, achieve a sophisticated understanding of the context and significance of the question.
  4. The introduction should be focused on the thesis question(s).  All cited work should be directly relevent to the goals of the thesis.  This is not a place to summarize everything you have ever read on a subject.
  5. Explain the scope of your work, what will and will not be included.
  6. A verbal “road map” or verbal “table of contents” guiding the reader to what lies ahead.
  7. Is it obvious where introductory material (“old stuff”) ends and your contribution (“new stuff”) begins? (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~martins/sen_sem/thesis_org.html#Introduction)

This raises a few questions then – the Abstract – do not repeat it? So what should I say in the abstract?

  • A good abstract explains in one line why the paper is important. The final sentences explain the major implications of your work. A good abstract is concise, readable, and quantitative. 
  • Length should be ~ 1-2 paragraphs, approx. 400 words.
  • Absrtracts generally do not have citations.
  • Information in title should not be repeated.
  • Be explicit.
  • Use numbers where appropriate. (N/A- Humanities rarely want numbers!)
  • Answers to these questions should be found in the abstract:
    1. What did you do?
    2. Why did you do it? What question were you trying to answer?
    3. How did you do it? State methods.
    4. What did you learn? State major results.
    5. Why does it matter? Point out at least one significant implication.
  • It all sounds so very simple doesn’t it …

So – I have the body of my research done, the majority of it drafted out into chapters, a little muddled in parts and crying out for rewrites, two small chapters to be written (which is normal) and my supervisor wants an introduction, to set out the thesis to help me restructure (makes sense right?)  …

Sooooo – it should be easy! It should! Oh yes it bloody well should!

So why am I sitting here scratching my head, scrabbling for words to describe what I can so “eloquently” (her words not mine) discuss when I am in a session with her?

Oh – the things that beleaguer us are often so minuscule, so inscrutable, so quixotic, what chance do we , mere mortals, stand of ever pinning them down …

Well if they can do it so can I!

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From HDR

Your first chapter is extremely important because it sets the scene and the tone for the thesis. It is your first real opportunity to highlight the importance and value of your work and to contextualise it, all in a well-written, clear and interesting manner. This is the first impression that the reader or your examiner will get. It will give an indication of the writing style, the depth of research and content, structure, language and complexity. Examiners indicate that they pay considerable attention to the first chapter, which creates a strong initial indication as to the standard of the thesis.

This first chapter must introduce the thesis with an emphasis on its key components, providing a clear statement of the topic or problem under investigation. It generally includes:

  • Context information
  • Theoretical framework
  • Statement of the problem or ‘gap’ in the research
  • Aims of the project
  • Brief description of your methodology/ research
  • Outline of chapters – Thesis plan

The purpose of the Introduction is to provide a rationale for your research project. It establishes the need for your research within the current knowledge of the discipline, in a clearly constructed logical and explicit argument, clarifying how this work will contribute to knowledge in the field. In addition, the Introduction often discusses why the particular approach taken in conducting the research has been chosen.

To establish the need for your research, you must indicate in precise terms the problem which has not yet been adequately investigated. This is usually done by showing:

  • the limitations of previous research
  • the gaps in the previous research
  • the unresolved conflicts in the field that still require investigation
  • new developments that are required by the current state of knowledge in your field.

You will probably treat these points in more detail elsewhere in the thesis – if you review the literature in a free-standing chapter or in sections of separate chapters, for example – but you still need to present them in summary form in the introductory chapter.

The Introduction generally moves from general information providing background about the research field to specific information about the research project itself, culminating in an outline of the chapters . This finale to the introductory chapter provides a plan of the structure of your project, describing chapter by chapter, the major components of the research and showing how the various threads are woven together. Try to make it interesting and informative as you outline the way the content is organised in each chapter.

The Thesis Whisperer always manages to articulate what most of us are thinking.
Visiting my Osteopath recently to discuss my sore neck and shoulder muscles I found myself saying ‘If any one asked me whether or not it was a good idea to do a PhD I would probably tell them that as long as they didn’t mind losing their figure, their health, and their marbles then to go ahead!”

I have worked in various careers over the years and I have to say the last decade in academia has been by far the most stressful, especially as I have combined this with raising a family. Now teens my children do not recall a time when I was NOT a student or a researcher. And I have gained weight, become unfit and have recurring and chronic health problems (though luckily treatable) as a result of the intense periods I spent hunched over my keyboard.
Whilst I fully accept that this is largely due to my own lack of organisation or self-motivation (yes I should take more exercise, drink less alcohol, take more regular breaks, meditate and have fewer late nights and more early mornings), I do feel that much of what I suffer is as a consequence of the work ethos academia generates.

It seems like unless you are shrouded in angst and stressing over the next deadline, you are not really ‘getting’ the full PhD experience. It s something that MUST be suffered through!

But by far the biggest hurdle of all is the lack of any ‘real’ understanding from anyone outside of the field. Unless you have been through it, or are living it, or are working in Academia, there is no way of expressing that it does not work like a normal job! You cannot quantify ‘thinking time’ for example. TW wrote “but that doesn’t mean I have been doing nothing. Oh no – for that is not the academic way. Between bingeing on TV sci-fi series, catching up on all those Antiques Roadshow episodes on my TiVo (yes, I am an old person now), having meals with friends and general slacking off I have been getting through my to do list and landing some of my bigger planes.” struck a chord with me – there is NO SUCH THING AS TIME OFF IN ACADEMIA. You cannot escape your own brain, your own thoughts, or the notion that you have to plan ahead … the only way to take time off is to leave the profession and do something else. Academia is a 24/7 job, that real life interferes with. It is the most incompatible job for family routine, it is also the BEST job to have with kids because it is flexible (apart from deadlines) and as long as your kids are flexible too then it can be rewarding. But because you sit and apparently ‘do nothing’ for long periods it is considered ‘easy’ … not by all but by some. And it is this constant struggle to get people to understand this that is frustrating. TW “Sometimes I think that doing a PhD turned on the ideas engine in my brain so that, even when I am on holiday, I never really stop thinking about my research.” – yup that just about summarises it for me too.

 

calvin_and_hobbes_on_ritalin

The Thesis Whisperer

Recently a Forbes article claimed that being an academic was the least stressful job of 2013. However, a storm of protest on social media forced the author to add an addendum acknowledging that this probably wasn’t the case. In fact academics work a a lot and that work tends to intensify in the so called ‘down time’: January here in Australia and July in the North of the world.  Freed somewhat from the distraction of emails and the responsibility of caring for students, us academics inevitably find  ourselves facing the deep endof the ‘to do’ list.

My January experience is a bit different this year because I’m more than half way through a 6 week break between jobs. I left RMIT on the 12th of December and I’m not due to start at ANU until the 30th of January. I have no classes to prepare and no…

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The Unreliable Narrator

This phrase could describe me and my blogging commitment – I start, I go great guns, I falter and then I disappear, for months at a time! 

 

I am back mainly because I need a space to vent my frustrations in the upcoming months as I reach the final hurdle and near submission! 

 

I have nine months … well just under seeing as we are half way through January already! 

 

Today is day one … word count is resting at 62,263. two chapters to write and an introduction and conclusion to formulate and the whole thing to format (iWIP)  …

 

So January 14th 2013 – it begins! 

 

From January 15th 2013 I am going to try and free write for 20 mins, on here, to set my thoughts down on the day ahead and to order my writing. It’s experimental so bare with me. If any of you are still out there that is!