Sunday, April 17, 2011
"You're close to a completed proposal now. (I of course speak from having the benefit of also seeing the full draft of your proposal last week, in addition to your latest posts.) Once you've got your second adviser on board, I think it's time to write this up, wrap up Cap One, and move into full gear for completing the thesis itself. This is what we want--someone already fully into the project and running with it, advisers on board, by the end of Cap One. You'll find as you move into the next phase that some of your ideas keep shifting as you get more feedback from your emphasis advisors and find more interesting source material."
Mark wrote these paragraphs as comments on Van's and Misty's latest blog posts. They are the first of many such comments, we hope. Each of you is progressing on your own timetable and in your own manner. What you'll all have in common as the course ends, at least all of you who will pass the course, is an acceptable proposal, one rich with research and informed by what you've thought about that research and well stated with clear indications of what you'll be working on during capstone 2. Additionally, the proposal will have been approved by two emphasis advisors.
I was very pleased this week when Jarry came by to see me. He showed me a thorough proposal complete with a good annotated bibliography, a comprehensive list of the dental terms he's translating into ASL, and a prototype DVD that demonstrates how his visual dictionary will work. Some of the pleasure came because Jarry hadn't been posting on the blog and I was unsure of his progress. He has made great progress.
That is, of course, all we care about. The blog postings have been a means to an end. There are other means to the end of a good proposal.
Final postings of the final proposal are due on April 25, as stated in the syllabus. Additionally, please bring your signed advisor pages to either of our offices.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
This post is meant to demonstrate solidarity with you as move from first ideas to the hard work of working through large amounts of material at the same time you're still looking for just the sources you'll need.
The picture I took this morning is of the floor just to the right of my chair at my desk.
On April 7th, for an international conference being held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, I'm scheduled to read a paper called "Andre Umstaende: Erection as Self-Assertion in Heinrich von Kleist's 'Marquise von O..."
The paper isn't done yet.
After five full days of reading and writing during spring break, I worked on it all day this Friday, Friday night, all day yesterday, yesterday evening, and will now turn to it today again as soon as I'm done. I've got a great idea (that was the proposal the organizers of the conference accepted) and I've got a couple of dozen pages of notes and even some paragraphs. I've got 12 important articles about the story (see them lying there?), I've got an important book called "Fragments for a History of the Human Body" and theoretical works by Irigaray, Burke, Schopenhauer, and Herder. And most important, I've got the work by Kleist that I'm reading so closely that I've almost worn it out.
Moving from the original good idea to the development of that idea is just plain hard.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Keep letting us know how your projects are going.
We're in this together.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
The opinion piece on "Teaching to the Text Message":
The book review on Gleick:
Sunday, March 13, 2011
She brought several of her recent creations to show us. Each has a name. Each is made of beads Jan has collected. She knows the history of the beads -- which range from Czech glass to German silver to Nevada turquoise.
The necklace on the far right, for instance, is made of Tuareg beads (the Tuareg are nomads of the Sahara and make remarkable jewelry, as well as wearing blue robes).
I thought of the beads and of how Jan collects them and then strings them while reading the blog posts today.
Writing a thesis and making in jewelry have a lot in common, I think.
Before you can make anything, you've got to have materials to make it with. That takes collecting. Several of your blogs show the results of some good collecting. You've found good information to work with.
While you're collecting, you're also thinking about how to make sense of the information you've got. You're working out an argument, a narrative thread, a story to tell.
It's not enough, obviously, to have a pile of beads. It takes a good eye, inspiration, patience, stringing and restringing to make a good necklace or bracelet.
Thus the title of the post: patience. As you continue to work, making some progress each week, enjoy what you're doing, trust yourself, be patient as your move forward.
And if you'd like to see more of Jan's work, here's a link:
Sunday, March 6, 2011
After reviewing the latest posts, I am worried, frankly, about a general lack of urgency. Desultory commentary--on an article read, an opportunity opened, an interesting contact made--at the rate of one post per week will string your thesis project along quite nicely for a few years or more. The assignment given last week was not an ultimatum, nor would simply meeting its requirements be the highest form of progress, but the assignment was given because we are becoming anxious about the months flying by. Put another way, to pass this course requires the completion of a capstone thesis proposal: a full work up of annotated sources sufficient to the completion of the project, a working thesis, an explanation of inspirations, methods and goals, and a step-by-step outline of how and when the capstone will be completed. We are now approaching the midpoint of the term and very near to the end of regular, all-student class meetings, after which you will scatter to complete your proposals while keeping regular contact with us. The object, once again, is a fully functional capstone proposal, not any series of assignments or the minimal update of a weekly post.
Some of you are obviously making great progress. Those of you who are not making great progress (or who are not sure what bee got into my bonnet this morning) should read through ALL of the other posts, taking note of those that most clearly approach the goal of a complete capstone proposal as described above. Read our comments on each post. If you can say to yourself, when viewing even the most far advanced project, "Ha! I have done as much as this and more already," then by all means post all the wonderful stuff you have done. Post as often as you have fresh material to post. Aim to finish the proposal early. Aim to prove my concerns totally unfounded. Put me in my place; show me what wonderful things you have done and are doing.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Encouraged by the excellent progress some of you have made with practical issues (Kate, congratulations on the internship; Jessica, congratulations on the peace and justice studies funding). Encouraged by the emerging annotated bibliographies in some cases.
Discouraged where there seems to be little progress.
What makes the difference?
I've been reading a 1965 Croatian novel just translated into English. The image on the cover (taken from some odd thoughts of the main character) is of two ears that seem to be listening. Listening for what?
For our purposes, they might stand for the acute attention required as we sift the universe for the information that will make us experts on our subjects. They might stand for curiosity, without which we'll find nothing. They mean, for me, the intense awareness required as I work on my own projects. When I'm all ears, I hear a lot of good stuff.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
My Sunday morning review of the class blogs has treated me to many encouraging signs of progress, including some posts of emerging annotated bibliographies. No matter the type of thesis you are pursuing--artsy, money-making, activist, scientific, metaphysical, all the above--it is always a good idea to document and annotate every aspect of the research along the way to the finished project. With that in mind, I encourage those of you who haven't yet posted the beginnings of your annotated bibliographies to let us in on your progress on that front, and I encourage those of you who have given us a glimpse of what and how you're collecting your supporting information to expand and continue the posts.
Here's a couple of excerpts from good ol' Wikipedia's entries on "annotation" and "annotated bibliography" to remind you of what we're talking about here:
"Annotated bibliographies, give descriptions about how each source is useful to an author in constructing a paper or argument. Creating these comments, usually a few sentences long, establishes a summary for and expresses the relevance of each source prior to writing. . . .
The purpose of annotations is to provide the reader with a summary and an evaluation of the source. In order to write a successful annotation, each summary must be concise. An annotation should display the source's central idea(s) and give the reader a general idea of what the source is about."
I would like all of you particularly to consider the potential role of the source (human, text, cybertext, multimedia, whatever) to your finished project, whether as contribution, signpost, or even an instructive dead-end.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Leah reports that she sent off her application to work this summer at a Georgia aquarium that houses whalesharks. Obviously the kind of work that will lead to a good thesis and, in Leah's case, to a potential dilemma: what if she has to decide between two internships? My comment was that her kind of dilemma is a sure sign of progress.
Drew writes that he has an actual event -- for next Halloween -- to plan. That's a remarkable step from vague potential.
Van has moved in the last couple of posts in his thinking about insanity/film/reification to rethink the three sections of his thesis, dropping one for the time being and adding another that came up while talking with a friend. What the posts show is the productive fluidity that comes to a project as we have lots of information, lots of ideas, lots of possibilities and let them work in us, let them ferment, let them find a good form.
And there were quite a few other posts that showed good progress. There were also a couple that felt like posts for the purpose of posting. Make progress, week by week, and you'll have something you can be really proud of.
By the way, there have been quite a few really good comments. Keep helping each other with good questions and suggestions. I like the feel of this.
A final note about the photo. I'm working, with Lyn Bennett, on a book about the construction of meaning of barbed wire. We just heard from the American Quarterly that they need two more months to evaluate the article we submitted about late-nineteenth-century advertising of the new invention (they've had it since August!). In the meantime, however, we're writing about barbed wire in literature. Lyn found, just this week, a couple of very interesting references to barbed wire in Steinbeck's novel Grapes of Wrath. So while we wait, we keep working, keep writing, keep collecting. The photo is from yesterday morning, an attempt to use the snow and the early morning light to highlight what's really a difficult thing to portray. Spenser and others of you who are good photographers could do this better and more easily; but I'm left to try lots of times and hope to get lucky.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Today I've been thinking about what, of all possibilities, would be the most important thing to keep in mind as we work on our theses and books.
Progress is what I came up with.
What progress have I made today? What progress this week.
Progress, of course, comes from work. Hard, concentrated work.
Have I worked on the thesis today. This week? Has the work been hard?
If it has, I've made progress.
And if I make progress, I'll have a good thesis or book.
And with luck, I'm not trying, with my progress, to get a nationalist elected to the Serbian parliament.