Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Monday, August 10, 2015

#DevilDiss Revisions CH 2


A little over a week ago I sent the second half of my dissertation off to my director, thus clearing one of the major hurdles of the dissertation process, having a complete draft in a short time (heck having it at all puts me ahead!)

Having a complete draft just means I have a solid foundation for more/better work though.
I have said from the beginning that I thought the second half of the #DevilDiss, which looks at how the English folkloric devil is USED in Shakespeare, pamphlets, and Milton was not only better written, but also more clearly conveyed what I want the dissertation to do.
Chapter one, on the emerging Anglo-Saxon devil is solid, but I had the advantage of writing it in a course, with a great professor who gave me great feedback, so it needs minimal notes.

But the survey chapters, two and three, which examine the physical and then personality/actions of the English folkloric devil, I've always thought were rough. I wasn't happy when I sent these off to my director, but after nine months of revising and revising, I could no longer see the forest for the trees. I needed to send it out to get notes so I even knew where to start.

Each weekend in August is assigned a chapter, and this past weekend was chapter two's turn, so this was what I did:
  • Back at my prospectus defense (which now seems very, very long ago) the question of whether or not my dissertation was about Milton came up. While the culminating chapter is about his portrayal of Satan, I realized (mostly from tweeting the hashtag #DevilDiss) that the focus was the English folkloric devil, not Milton.
    • So initially I had followed the advice to frame my survey chapters with Milton passages. Reading back through, having written the Milton chapter, I realized a couple of things. The first was that the argument I was trying to make with the framing is already covered in the Milton chapter, and if I need to make any alterations, I'll make them there. The other was that the Milton framing of the survey chapters felt artificial and forced. So I cut the framing. This also helps with these chapters feeling bloated.
  • Originally these chapters were organized by subtopics- Merlin narratives, animals, contrast with angels. These are all subtopics of the English folkloric devil but they were not a cohesive organization. They also didn't connect the physical appearance of the devil, which is the whole point of the chapter.
    • What defines the devil is that he is visually different, monstrous, and not us. So I reorganized the chapter around that. This means that there's now a clear throughline in the chapter around this, it also means that I revised those subtopics to emphasize the constructed monstrosity of each of those topics/groups.
  • I also used (because the chapter was so big) images to represent each subtopic as signposts. But as my director correctly pointed out, I was using them for lazy writing (although she was nice about it, that's what it was). I was depending on the image to make the argument instead of MAKING the argument. So I removed all of the images. Then I revised transitions and opening lines in paragraphs in order to make a clear argument.
    • But I did add three images in the section where I talk about how Jews were used as a constructed Other/external threat/monster to Englishmen in the medieval and early modern period. I thought this was a rare case where it was important to see the images.

  • I managed to make all these changes on Saturday. I always handwrite my notes first, so by 5p on Saturday, this was what I had, and needed to type up on Sunday.

  • So those were the major changes, but I also had what I consider housekeeping tasks. I needed to go through and add more secondary sources. As my director pointed out, while I've read widely and deeply, the citations and footnotes didn't reflect that, so I went through yesterday after I typed up my revision notes and added more references.
    • The nice thing about being organized and taking my notes in books with tabs that are color coded to my chapters is that I literally just had to go to my bookself, start at one end, flip to the blue flags for chapter two, and cite.

  • Today I will print the chapter out on campus (because I'm out of paper and it's still a lengthy chapter). I'll spend today and tomorrow afternoons after the job seeker's workshop reading through and making any last minute notes.
    • I think I may need to add some more footnotey secondary sources but we'll see.
So that's my revision process.
As soon as I finish these revisions I'll send it off to the director, as I said I'd send each chapter as I completed it versus all the chapters as a chunk, since she's already seen (roughly, oh so roughly) how the chapters function together. 
This Saturday I'll follow the same process for chapter three which focuses on the personality and actions of the English folkloric devil.
I'm hoping the process runs as smoothly.

I'm trying to focus on just doing the best work I can. I'm trying not to focus on everything that is riding on this- what my director thinks about my revisions, the progress I make, is what will determine (in addition to the quality of my chapters four through six) my defense date.

On a side note, and because I'm brutally honest here- my director was nicer than she should have been about seeing the big ideas in these chapters versus the INCREDIBLY EMBARRASSING number of errors and crap in these chapters. While I appreciate being able to see the big picture (and helping me see it) I understand now why she said "tentatively" I could go on the market.
But on the flip side, with my work ethic and the fact that I wrote a complete draft in less than a year, I still think I can revise in less than that.
I still wish I could defend by campus visit time, and am aiming for an early spring date, but also recognize that revision cycles take time, so making my peace with that.

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