Archive for the ‘thesis’ Category
1. Know what you have got to say
This is a huge one for me and I really ought to have learned it by now. More often than not, when the thesis stalls and I stop working on it, it’s because I don’t really know what I’m doing, not because I’m being lazy or bored or any of the other reasons I think. When I work out what I’m doing, it’s easy to make progress.
2. Have the research done
For me this means checking the secondary literature, making notes and so on. This not only helps with knowing what I want to say but also gives me something to hang what I’m saying on. Footnotes, references and quotes contribute significantly to wordcount but require minimal brain power to put in.
3. Sleep well at night
Not always easy to control but makes a huge difference to productivity. I have more or less cut caffeine out of my diet at the moment, which is helping me.
4. Eat well during the day
I have started buying ready-made sandwich fillers. I hate that I am buying them, but it does mean that I can make a sandwich in 30 seconds, almost as easily as opening a packet of crisps or eating a chocolate biscuit and pretending that’s lunch. Real food = real productivity.
It’s not that I haven’t knitted at all in the last few months, but what I have knitted has been stressful gift knitting or competition knitting and so on. I’m now knitting a jumper which involves miles of mindless stocking stitch which is perfect to pick up for ten minutes or more when I need a break.
6. Take long breaks
I used to feel guilty about this before this week. But my pattern in the last four days has been one hour of writing, one hour break. I can write 500-1000 words in an hour, so if I do that two or three times a day I’m well within the target for 10,000 words in a week. And I don’t feel dead at the end of it.
7. Watch tennis
I admit, this is not always possible or desirable. But I find that tennis is the kind of thing that doesn’t require constant attention and is quite soothing in the background. Sometimes music works, but I tend to prefer words or silence. Tennis gives quite a lot of silence without being totally dead. Queens is on BBC2 this week, then a week on Monday Wimbledon starts. I’m hoping for a very productive two weeks then.
8. Don’t try and do ten other things as well as the thesis
This is really, really hard for me in general and especially at the moment. I feel like I could be using all the non-thesis hours of the day for other work and especially writing. I’ve got three editors waiting to hear from me with stories and I haven’t worked on a single one all week. That’s tough. Partly because I like writing and I love the stories I’m working on. And partly because there is a nagging fear that these opportunities won’t last forever. But I honestly believe that the reason I’ve got so much thesis written is because I have had my mind on it all the time. It’s what I’m thinking about in the bath or in the car or when I’m in bed going to sleep. Normally, those are the times I’m thinking about my stories. My mind can’t make progress on both at once. I am not superwoman. This is hard to acknowledge.
So, okay, I have not written 10,000 words of my thesis this week and I probably won’t because I have a friend coming to stay for the next two days. But I have written over 8,000 words in four days and I know I can write the rest when I have the chance. And then I will have the final chapter done and the thesis almost complete.
At the moment I am working on the section of my thesis which tries to explain what a canonical approach to interpretation actually is. This is a harder question than I first thought. Here’s a summary of my thinking so far:
1. The canon is a cohesive, ordered collection of texts.
2. Choosing to read one of these texts canonically involves privileging the intra-canonical intertext above extra-canonical intertexts.
3. This involves a choice (whether conscious or not) on the part of the reader and does not deny the possibility of other interpretations, merely the right of other interpretations to be called canonical.
4. This intertextual interpretation must be governed by those canonical texts which describe the nature of the whole canonical intertext. That is to say, the canon’s own statements about its origin, purpose, content and audience need to be considered in a canonical interpretation of any part of the canon.
5. One of the things the canon tells us about itself is that it is divine discourse: God speaks through the canon.
6. Which means that the reader’s choice of a canonical interpretation in fact leads to an emphasis on the (implied) divine author’s communicative intent.
7. The divine author’s communicative intent is by no means limited to the passing on of information. The canon tells us that God’s purposes for the canon include things like making promises; giving warnings; making people wise for salvation; establishing covenant and so on. A helpful model for clarifying these kinds of things is Austin’s speech act theory. Locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts describe what is said, what is done by saying, and what results from what is said. All of these (and a fourth kind of speech act identified by Vanhoozer, the interlocutionary act) are part of the communicative intent of the divine author implied in the canonical text. Thus all of these should inform a canonical interpretation.
8. Canonical interpretation will thus make demands on the reader. A canonical interpretation will implicate the reader in the illocutionary, perlocutionary and interlocutionary acts. The effects of an interpretation will thus form one means of evaluating it: not simply ‘Is it right?’ but ‘Does it work?’
The working title of my thesis is something like ‘A Canonical Approach to the Song of Songs’. So far, my research has mainly been focused on the canonical approach, rather than the Song of Songs. Here’s the summary statement of what I think the canonical approach is trying to do:
The canonical approach seeks to discover what the text of the canon (in its final form) now means within the literary and theological framework of the whole canon, when used in its canonical function by the people of the canonical community.
That is to say, when texts are read in the context of the whole bible and when they are used for their stated purposes (revealing God, building the church, equipping us for righteousness etc.) and when they are read by the church, what do they mean? So it means we won’t be reading texts as isolated fragments, we will be looking to the rest of the bible to illuminate their literary and theological qualities. We won’t necessarily be concerned with recovering the original author’s intended meaning (or at least, we won’t be restricting meaning in this way). We won’t be using them to do things like reconstructing a history of Israel. And we won’t be attempting to read them from a position of academic ‘neutrality’.
Well, that’s what I think I’m doing. I’m meeting my supervisor later, so we’ll see what he thinks then.