File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_1998/phillitcrit.9806, message 35

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 07:53:41 -0600
Subject: Re: PLC: Replies to T.Q Alexander

>I recently completed a literary studies degree course and in my
>dissertation I focused on Modernism. My decision was based on the fact
>that I had some difficulty (prior to commencing my dissertation) with
>Modernism ie the more I read the more I was unable to ascertain its
>beginnings and what it actually is ie the criteria that constitutes
>literature being regarded as Modernist. In despair I sought the advice of
>Modernist discussion list contributors and having taken heed of the
>replies, I felt confident enough to draw my own conclusions. I was then
>able to argue that the borders of Modernism are blurred and as a
>consequence the central argument of my dissertation was that many New
>Women writers of the late nineteenth were Modernist writers (pre-dating
>Woolf).To sucessfully back up my arguement, my largest chapter was on
>Modernism. Such a task a year prior to starting my dissertation would have
>horrified me. My ignorance was not bliss, I had to learn more about a
>movement which!
> spawned a literature I found difficult to understand. Modernism listers
>helped me immensely.
>I did not like Modernism because I did not understand it. I am now such a
>'fan' of this movement that I am focussing on Modernism for my masters
>degree. From not knowing whether to call it a 'movement' or a 'period,'
>and discovering it is /can  be called both (personal preference)
>Modernism is gradually becoming my forte.
>I hope that the replies to T.Q Alexander are as enlightening and as
>helpful as the replies I received, and guide him/her to a path of
>discovery as interesting as the path to which I was guided to by listers.
>Becky Foster
>     --- from list ---

I think the progress, the trajectory you describe is the _function_ of a
dissertation.  It is the carte de entrance to the realm of the learned on
the basis that you have explored under guidance an area upon which you now
know, or should, more than your guides (which is, of course, not to say
that you know everything, or that what you know is the best to be known in
the area--but you know enough, at least, to recognize the areas of your
ignorance.  This is also why the dissertation "defense" can be so much
fun--when you recognize that you are being asked questions by people not as
a test, but because they want to know--they are engaging in a conversation
with you on the level of accessing knowledge.

I take very seriously this process which permits the members of the club to
welcome you to the community of scholars.  Like comprehensive orals it is a
humiliating and empowering experience. My last question on my orals was did
I think that the committee should pass me. My answer was that I did not,
but that I was grateful to at least know now where to begin studying.  It
was meant in utter sincerity, and was apparently the right answer.

So to TQA, keep your ears open. Don't get specialized too early. Find a
theme, a concept, a congeries of ideas (say, Modernism) that interests you,
or baffles you, and explore _every_ area of study in terms of its
problematics (why do philosophers call modern everything post renaissance?
Why does Pater deny the renaissance its name?)


     --- from list ---


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