Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pondering his voyage...revisiting Paradise Lost for the #DevilDiss

So far my dissertation work has focused on the English folkloric devil in popular literature that I'm reading as precursors to Milton's Satan. I've spent months close reading every instance of the devil in popular literature from the Anglo-Saxons up through Milton. And this is all very valuable work because it allowed me to group appearances and themes by subtopic and see the big picture.

But one of the key bits of advice I received at my prospectus defense was to make sure that this project was clearly rooted in Milton. In fact one of the more pointed notes was that my title for the dissertation is "'Pondering his voyage': The Folkloric Origins of the Miltonic Satan" and that I didn't get to Milton until chapter five so I either needed to work Milton in earlier, add another Milton chapter, or drop Milton from the title. The first one is really the only option I saw as viable.
So that meant today was spent revisiting Paradise Lost. I ordered a clean copy of it a few weeks ago, wanting a fresh start from my other annotations, not wanting to be tied to old ideas. So this morning I sat down with my clean copy and lots and lots of Post-It flags.

 The color coding is divided into my chapters:
  • Blue = physical descriptions (chapter 1)
  • Pink = personality and actions (chapter 2)
  • Orange = drama (chapter 3)
  • Yellow = English national identity (chapter 5)
I reread all of Paradise Lost marking each instance of textual evidence according to its appropriate flag. I then went into Google Docs and pointedly ignored the draft chapters I have of chapters one and two. I instead created a new "working" document with all the chapters, and started pulling the textual evidence and writing. The physical descriptions are all finished and I have nine solid pages. Those close readings will now frame the other work I've been doing with the popular literature examples although rather than copying and pasting from those documents I plan on reading them, and rewriting the arguments so that they're framed around Milton.
I will then systematically go through each color/chapter and follow the same process. This will allow me to make sure all my work is grounded in Paradise Lost and make sure that these throughlines are clear in the work. It also allows me to reexamine the work I have done in the last year and focus on global revisions and not surface edits. I think this ultimately will get me where I need to be faster. It's a little more time consuming than just revising the survey chapters but I do think ultimately it will serve me better. Chapter three and four are in conference form, so these pulls should be less time consuming.

I'm feeling good about this perspective shift and hopefully it will prove fruitful.

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