Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gimme a break

This last week I did very little regarding my dissertation. My routine has been disrupted by a big proofreading project. For the last week I have been hard at work as a freelance editor, proofreading a dissertation. I considered this a good opportunity to earn some cash on the side and get more experience editing. (Still looking for a job, so any non-academic experience should come in handy in that regard.) Also, I'd never read a dissertation from beginning to end (only chapters); reading this dissertation on modern American literature helped me to visualize better what a dissertation should look like, at least in my discipline.

Of course the guilt settled in earlier this week. But I beat it down by writing my random thoughts on Evernote any time I could. I already have a schedule for this upcoming week. And I feel motivated to get some work done after not doing anything "big" dissertation-related. I really missed my morning "dissertation hour," for I had to fit my proofreading work into different moments of the day, and I had to prioritize what needed to get done immediately.

I also put together an online reading group this week. After Jo VanEvery suggested to me on twitter that I reach out to my online buddies if I couldn't find any writing groups here in KC, I put the shout-out on Twitter. The idea of sharing chunks of writing at a time puts the pressure on, in a good way. Also, we're talking about putting together a schedule for sharing, so that way we know when we'll be posting and when to give feedback.

I'm excited about this! I really need to get detailed feedback on my work. I oftentimes feel dissertating is a lonely venture (and I'm not the only one to say that); although I like sharing my dissertation adventures with you, my readers, I need specific feedback too. I'm not sure about posting parts of my dissertation online--in the vein of open-access publishing by sharing works-in-progress--at least not yet. It's something I have considered though. On the other hand, I also enjoy reading other people's papers and giving them feedback. Not sure if it's the comp instructor in me or the curious intellectual in me, but one of those enjoys engaging the writing of others. Maybe both?

In other news: earlier this week in #phdchat on Twitter, folks were posting links to "plain language" versions of their dissertation projects. In other words, they tried to summarize in plain English, for all to read, what their dissertations were about. That made me think about my project too, for I am constantly thinking about the importance of my dissertation outside of just my degree and how to articulate it to people outside of, say, my committee. So here's the plain language version. Keep in mind I am not going to look back at my proposal or go over my chapter notes to write this. I want this to be as true as possible to what I want to do, not what I have done so far.

I am researching representations of urban space, particularly representations of New York City as a home. The body of creative expression I am looking at is twentieth-century African American and Puerto Rican literature: fiction, poetry, and drama. My main goal is to analyze New York City's potential as a homespace for these displaced communities who have migrated to New York City. Both African Americans and Puerto Ricans migrated en masse to New York City at different points in the twentieth century. The reason I am bringing different genres/media together is because these representations of home are not limited to one author or one genre, but overlap across genres and across authors. This shows a concern for finding and/or constructing a home in urban space. My first chapter focuses on Langston Hughes and Willie Perdomo and their representations of Harlem. My second chapter looks at Piri Thomas and Ann Petry and their representations of street life (also located in Harlem, mostly). My third chapterwill analyze Broadway as a place for these representations to be staged for a mainstream audience. My last chapter will close the project by bringing the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe into the conversation. This part is the one I haven't really fleshed out, but I feel like it would end the project nicely.

So this is my dissertation, in a nutshell. Any comments, feedback will be greatly appreciated!

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