Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fall Classes: "Always Be Closing"

Well, it's almost here. The thing I've worked towards for the past few years- my PhD program.
Classes start in little over a week, and I find this quote/scene going through my head.

"Always Be Closing".

If you're going to work towards something, something you want, then it only makes sense that everything you do be done to reach that goal.
One of the required books for one of my classes is Graduate Study for the 21st Century. I enjoyed it, even if a lot of the advice is advice I've encountered online and in blogs the last few years.  One thing in particular that struck me was the advice to have a plan, from the first day of class, on how each class you took could help you write your dissertation, and that each class should be chosen with that purpose in mind.
Now, I realize that for someone entering having just finished undergraduate, in a combined MA/PhD program, this may seem unrealistic. But with someone with a Masters in Education, and one in English literature, this seems perfectly reasonable.

So, my class schedule:



NCVPS Office Hours

12-1250 ENG 101
1230-145 ENGL 500 Introduction to the Professional Study of English
12-1250 ENG 101
1230-145 ENGL 500 Introduction to the Professional Study of English
12-1250 ENG 101

2-315 ENG 551 Old Norse

2-315 ENG 551 Old Norse


4-630 ENG 537 Teaching Composition

4-630 ENG 537 Teaching Composition
4-630 ENG 551 Uppity Medieval Women




  • ENGL 500: Introduction to the Professional Study of English
  • ENGL 537: Teaching Composition
  • ENGL 551: Uppity Medieval Women
  • ENGL 551/LING 590: Old Norse Language and Literature
 I am starting this experience knowing exactly what I want to write my dissertation on.

How Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost is our modern concept and tracing the history of this character from its folkloric representation, beginning with Old Norse mythology and Loki, to Milton's incarnation.

I've been researching, and framing, and revising this idea for three years (four years ago it began to niggle in my brain with a Milton class I took, three years ago it took shape under another class). Since then, I've been using conference presentations, and blogs to refine it.

So I chose my classes carefully (well, the two I could choose, the first two are mandatory for all incoming students. Having three years experience presenting at conferences, and twelve years of teaching experience, I'm interested to learn about the school's culture and norms through these classes).
I took the Uppity Medieval Women class because the professor is a medievalist (obviously) and I'm thinking that with so much of my research being 700-1500, that a medievalist will be able to help the most with advice. Also, the idea of how women of the medieval age viewed devils, and the Devil, is one that I haven't encountered in my research. (So that's a gap I need to address, and if I can't address, point out this strange gap).
I took the Old Norse, because for me, my argument starts with Loki and Old Norse mythology, migrating over to England with the Anglo-Saxons and influencing English folklore. I had to take it as a linguistics course (it's listed as both) because it is also listed ENGL 551, and the computerized registration wouldn't let me register for the same extension, but different courses.

I'm not ashamed to say that from day one I plan on looking for people that can help me write my dissertation. That I'm looking for an adviser, and for classes that will add chapters to it. Another great piece of advice in Graduate Study for the 21st Century is that you should start fleshing out your dissertation AS you're taking these classes (from day 1) while the research and notes are all fresh in your head, instead of returning to it two or three years in when it's just a stack of paper. That each class should be part of a chapter, or a chapter by itself. 
This makes perfect sense to me, so that's the plan.
I was also able last week to pull together the last couple of years of notes and such and come up with a working outline, which I'm hoping will be helpful in selecting an adviser, showing exactly where I want to go.

Thesis Prospectus Outline
  • Current scholarship
    • polemic
    • heretical tendencies
    • Forsyth, sources
    • Russell, devil character
    • function as epic/hero
  • Gaps
    • type of character versus history of character and/or sources Milton used
  • What this ISN’T
    • examination of demons/devils
Chapter 1: Satan’s Personality in Different Works and What it Reveals (Loki)
Chapter 2: Physicality
  • precedents
  • physical characteristics
  • how it changes through time
  • what these changes represent
  • images
Chapter 3: Actions
  • Old Norse myths
  • medieval morality plays
  • Jacobean plays
  • Shakespeare
Chapter 4: How Satan is Reflection on National Identity
  • Anglo-Saxons
  • Heroic myths
  • English folklore
    • German folklore/fairy tales → Anglo-Saxons?
Chapter 5/6/8: How the Character has been used by factions
  • Church →  sermons
  • Malleus Maleficarum
  • Polemics
  • King James → Demonologie
Chapter 6: Church Use
*Combine with 5? See if there's enough research to warrant breaking this up
Chapter 7: Representation of Knowledge (Blake, Bible, References)
  • Doctor Faustus
Chapter 8: Polemic Use
*see previous note
Chapter 9: Milton’s National Epic
  • by using the folkloric representation, and not the literary one, Milton references his own original intent to create a national epic
Chapter 10: Looking Forward
  • Whole new set of questions

And trust me, most of me knows that the uber-planning is part of my nervous energy as I wait for orientation and then classes to start. But I figure, if I have the time, and the ideas, I might as well make good use of them, right? 

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