I’m currently trying to pound out the second draft of my Prospectus, which somehow has become even more difficult than writing the first draft (go figure. I’m told it only gets worse from here.)
The Prospectus is essentially a twenty-page document in which you describe what your dissertation will look like, written before you write your dissertation. In this process, you perform a “meta” analysis, as one of my professor’s likes to say, which means you think about the process of the dissertation, rather than the dissertation itself. It’s putting the Philosophy into my Doctorate of Philosophy.
I’m stuck on this section called Discursive Contents, which is kind of a description about the critical conversation into which your work will fit. So, it’s like an annotated bibliography, mixed with a research paper, mixed with the chapter summaries (which are their own part later in the Prospectus). It’s like having to do my written comprehensive exam all over again, which is maybe why my hands start to shake when I sit down to write it.
(Also, my computer keeps overheating, another reason why my hands are shaking. I’ll be sad if my computer melts, but I just want it to wait a couple more months. Or at least until I can go home to back it up again tonight.)
I had brain-block again today. Even though it’s due on Wednesday. Curses! And it was actually my mental curses that inspired me to write today’s writing lesson.
If you saw The King’s Speech, you’ll remember that Colin Firth plays King George VI, the British Monarch with an unfortunate stutter in the age of radio. In the movie, Geoffrey Rush helps Bertie overcome his vocal tic by encouraging him to silently curse his way through speaking. As he gives his radio speech, Bertie brilliantly announces war with Nazi Germany by repeating some terrible words not fit for this blog.
So this afternoon, silently wishing I hadn’t decided to write a dissertation on silence, I had a mental stutter. I simply can’t get over the hurdle of merging a conversation with books and my chapters. It’s just a pain. I try to write it out, rather than merely think it, so I’m left with a word soup to edit, rather than a blank screen. This is what my word soup for today looks like:
This text is distinctive because the writers openly call attention to silence as a rhetorical, linguistic sign. Expanding this text to consider the impact of the French Revolution, two themes start to emerge, the silence and suppression part. All you have to do is write, write about how your first chapter comes first because you want to introduce this idea of the French Revolution as somehow related to this uptick in silent works, works that are interested in the ways that language can somehow express absence, whatever, absence of understanding, feeling, thought, it’s about the not understanding, the sense of loss that romantic writers felt, they felt frustrated, confused, like, what is happening in the world? And the only way they could come to terms with this was by looking to nature, like I haven’t said that a million times before
And then I stopped because I think a run would do me more good than writing about how I’m confused and the Romantic writers are confused, and we’re all confused together. Over-identifying with my subject, much?
Anyway, the point in today’s lesson is that King George overcomes his stutter. And we can too. Just write it out, write write write even when your head is about to explode. And if you end up writing some garbage, well, that’s why radio silences were invented. And if you come up with something amazing? Then you’ve got the King’s Speech.