writing practice

All posts tagged writing practice

How I Write A Paper

Published February 5, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Yes, maybe not a terribly interesting topic for a blog post.  But I am a student, after all!  This kind of thing is my meat and potatoes.  Or bread and butter.  Or…oh, whatever.

Anyway, this was my process (such as it is) for the paper that was due this past Wednesday.

On Monday, I finally finished the reading (half a day behind schedule), and sat down to write.  This is what I wrote:

I have no idea what I’m supposed to be writing for this paper. On top of total lack of guidance, there’s the fact that this was, in fact, four different works.

I guess I should start out by summing up my impressions of the four works. Metaphysics: impenetrable musings on the question of being. Physics: actually, I remember very little of this one, other than that he correctly guessed why it rains, and was on the verge of guessing at the basic concept behind evolution. Ethics: uh…a lot of musings on virtue, mostly. Politics: racism and sexism.

Yeahhhhh…I have no idea what to write.

At all.

I am so screwed.

And that was when I gave up for the day.

Tuesday morning, I got up, turned on the computer, looked at what I had written the night before, became discouraged, tried to work on my novel, became even more discouraged, and went do do something else for a while.

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I’ve thought the better of today’s post

Published March 31, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I was originally going to write a little story called “An April Without a Fool” about life in a little town where a young boy obsessed with practical jokes drives everyone crazy every April, until he and all his friends go off to war, and after he comes back–and a lot of his friends don’t–then he doesn’t feel like pulling pranks anymore, and the town breathes a sigh of relief at not being bothered for once.  It occurred to me that it might sound like I was passing judgement on people who like to post April Fool’s Day jokes, so I decided not to write it.  (Actually, the point was supposed to be both an explanation of why I, personally, don’t do it, and a reminder that one doesn’t need to do it.  However, I’m pretty sure my metaphor was going to be too heavy-handed and was going to make my message look worse than it was.)

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Thesis musings

Published March 20, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Don’t let the title set off warning klaxons shouting “boring!”:  my thesis is going to be about the Trojan War, as dealt with in literature and art for 3000 years.

Okay, maybe that still sounds boring, except that I’m focusing on gender issues and the role of Achilles.  So I’ve got all kinds of fun stuff like men in drag, and men loving other men.  (Though, strangely, the two are not actually connected.  Not directly, anyway.)

So, if anyone’s read any of my previous entries about my eventual thesis, then those (un)lucky individuals already know that the course I took last semester ended with a massive research paper that was, well, I thought it was an early concept sketch, as it were, of my Master’s Thesis.  But after the fact I realized that there was no actual, you know, thesis involved.  I was just essentially doing a literature and art review covering well over 2000 years.  It’s interesting stuff–books have been published about far less interesting things–but it’s not a thesis.

The entry that follows is partially filling the few interested parties in on what I’m thinking now, and partially just a writing practice for me, trying to determine what I actually want to make the real thesis about.

So, last semester’s paper started out about sexuality–focusing on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclos and how it’s been re-interpreted and re-presented/represented–but morphed into being about gender roles about two weeks before it was due.  (Never a good time for a topic shift!)  But that still doesn’t qualify it as a thesis.

I started that final paper out with an introductory section given the “cute” title of “Manliest of the Achaians” since it was about gender roles (particularly regarding the definition of masculinity) and because one of the often repeated ways that Achilles is described in the Iliad is “best of the Achaians.”  I tried to cobble together some kind of pseudo-thesis for that paper, saying that his primacy as an icon of masculinity was best proven by examining the exceptions, or some such rubbish.

But the thing I’ve been thinking of lately, whenever I come to dwell on the subject, is how the reverse is true.  No, not the reverse, exactly, but….well, in short, I’ve been realizing that despite his sometimes being held up as a paragon of masculinity, there has never been a time–that I’m aware of–in which Achilles actually was all that masculine.

Sure, he fights better than anyone else in his entire war…but only when he’s not sulking in his hut/tent.  Sulking is never regarded as manly in any of the cultures I’m dealing with.  (I would love to visit a culture where it was regarded as manly, though…)

Sure, he talks a good game about loving his concubine, Briseis, but he completely ignores her when he gets her back, because Patroclos, the one person he truly loves, has been killed.  Admittedly, in the culture where these tales began, loving a man more than any woman was not considered a stain on a man’s masculinity, but the homoerotic aspect of their relationship has tainted his masculinity in many succeeding cultures.  (For example, the 20th century performances of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, in which Achilles appeared in drag, or wearing a feather boa. (Not making that up, btw.  Read it in the introduction to the play.))

Sure, he’s the most handsome man in the Greek camp…but put him in a dress, and he’s more beautiful than all the daughters of Lycomedes.

And that’s just the original myth I’m talking about, primarily as described in the Iliad.  (Though the stuff in drag on Scyros came from later Greek sources, like the Athenian tragedians.)  There’s all kinds of new wrinkles as time progresses and the definitions of masculinity shift.  Like the bit with him retiring from the war?  In the Middle Ages–and this was inherited by authors as late as Shakespeare–he withdrew from the war because he was in love with Priam’s daughter Polyxena, and so he was withdrawing to obey his lady, as any proper Medieval knight would.  But that was still a stain on his masculinity, a willing subversion of it as proof of love.  (This is particularly the case in later authors who deal with that version of the story, especially Shakespeare.)  And in the 18th century, particularly in England, the kind of masculinity on display in ancient times–the bravado, the violence, the drinking, the noise–became detested, and was no longer acceptable for a man obeying social dictates.  (If you’re familiar with Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Squire Western represented the old, no longer accepted style, and Squire Allworthy represented the new masculine ideal.)  So everything about Achilles that had been his more manly side–the violence, the bad temper–became defiances of proper masculinity.

However, all of that is still just a literature review, a summary of how things changed over time.  And while that would be fine and dandy if I was writing a book for public consumption (and yes, I’d like to do just that), it’s not acceptable for a Master’s Thesis.

But I have totally no clue what, precisely, my thesis is, coming off that base.  Admittedly, there’s still some time yet before I need to think about that.  (Not sure how much, exactly.  At least a year, most likely.)  But I feel like I ought to have a better handle on what I want to do with my thesis, in case anyone asks me.

In fact, it came up today at the museum.  The director was saying something about why (straight) men can’t bring themselves to admit that other men are attractive, and then she started apologizing to me, and saying how that was just the sort of thing that comes up sometimes, and of course I laughingly assured her that it was nothing out of the ordinary to me, since my thesis involves just that kind of issue.  Then I had to try to explain what my thesis actually was, and it started getting awkward.  But that was okay, ’cause it’s an informal setting (which sounds bizarre, considering I’m talking about the director of the museum) and I’m still only a volunteer there.  But if a professor should ask me about it and I don’t have a good answer…!  Then I’m gonna feel realllllllllly weird.


Published February 23, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I am so dead in the water.

Research paper due Thursday.

Total words of paper written by 6 p.m. Monday:  0.

Okay, admittedly, I could write a lot between now and bedtime.  And it’s only a five to six page paper, so that’s not very many words.  But I was really hoping to be at least halfway through the first draft by now.

The problem is that my topic is multi-faceted, very complex.  So I didn’t want to just sit down and start writing blindly.  Instead, I did this thing that I learned in high school called “writing practice”…though at this point, I’m not positive that what I recall it being is what it actually was.  Anyway, what it boils down to is thinking in text form, just pouring out words to assemble–or at least slightly un-jumble–your thoughts.  Not unlike a blog entry, I suppose.  Only less…um…processed for others’ comprehension.  (Won’t make the claim that my blog entries are interesting, but a proper blog entry by a better blogger would definitely be more interesting than my writing practice for a paper.)

So I was doing that most of the day, trying to sort through precisely what I want my thesis to be for this paper, and then sorting over my primary sources, taking specific notes on what was in them that I would be able to use.  (Many of them, after all, I read before I had even the roughest idea of what I would write this paper about.  Especially given the syllabus simply says “Short Paper” for this week, and doesn’t make any mention of it requiring sources outside of the assigned ones.)

The only up side to any of this is that I feel like I did hammer out a pretty interesting thesis (the basic topic of “perceptions of the Other during WWII and the role of propaganda in those perceptions” being very vague and capable of generating hundreds–or thousands–of theses) so hopefully my paper will be the better for it.  Also since I went over my primary sources already, hopefully I’ll spend less time swapping back and forth between them looking for the right quote as I’m actually writing the paper.  Though I’ll probably spend a long time sorting between the secondary sources, so that may not help as much as I would have liked.

In other news, it’s very cold here.  Just FYI.

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