Gunlord’s Dissertation Saga, Season 1, Episode 16: The Behind-the-scenes/making-of documentary!

Welcome back, brothers and sisters! Today I’ll start on something of a new format for my Friday entries, reflecting my (kind of) newfound freedom. At some other forums I’ve seen (mainly 4chan’s /v/, admittedly…) people make lists of what they’re watching, playing, listening to, etc. on a Friday night, replacing the “ing” with “an” (for reasons too long to get into here). Now that I’m pretty much entirely happy, content, and stress-free, I figured I’d spread the love by sharing a little bit of my rather charmed life with all of you. What I rather like about it is how well-balanced it is—I’ve managed to keep busy with all sorts o’ fun stuff, along with some somewhat more intellectual stuff as well. But after the update, I’ll keep my promise from last week to tell you more about the writing of my dissertation. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been

WATCHAN:

Muv-Luv: Schwarzesmarken. Long story short, it’s set in the Muv-Luv universe, which means it revolves around humanity’s war against Zerg-like aliens who landed on Earth in the 1960s, where humanity’s hope resides in giant robots piloted by buxom hentai heroines in skin-tight outfits. Schwarzesmarken takes place in the 80s, when the Cold War is still going on, but in this universe the BETA are invading Europe, meaning that the political tension between East and West Germany hinders humanity’s war effort as a whole.

As I’ve said elsewhere, maybe I’m getting old, but I just can’t get into this series, though I’m still entertained by it (the mech fights are cool). I could deal with the buxom hentai heroines in the original Muv-Luv series–there was some political stuff there, but it was set in an alternate-history Japan where the Shogun held political power all the way into the 2000s, and the political issues raised by that seemed far enough removed from history that well-endowed girls frolicking around (and, admittedly, getting killed in gruesome ways) didn’t seem *too* out of place.

Schwarzesmarken, on the other hand, is set in East Germany, which doesn’t seem to have changed as much as Japan did in the alien invasion alternate history. The sinister Stasi are still around, spying on everyone (including the protagonists, who are expert mecha pilots fighting against the aliens) and executing innocent people. As grim as the original Muv-Luv’s “alien war in Japan” setting may have been, it didn’t have a secret police spying on and killing its own civilians. Thus, I just can’t buy a bunch of big-breasted supermodels with big anime eyes ruthlessly gunning down “dissidents” by the dozens. The hentai trappings are just too incongruous with the extremely dark setting, even more than the original games were.

Ah, well…I’ll still watch it anyways. It’s just something I wouldn’t watch with other people :p

PLAYAN:

The new Shadowrun games from Harebrained Schemes on Steam. Shadowrun started out as a pen and paper game like Dungeons and Dragons set in a cyberpunk world where magic, dragons, etc. existed alongside high technology, AIs, that sort of thing. Recently Harebrained made a couple of computer games set in that world.

I’m kind of two minds about it. The good: The music and writing are absolutely FANTASTIC. The bad: The games tend to be pretty glitchy, and the RNG (Random Number Generator, essentially how the game calculates your chance to hit an enemy as a percentage) is absolutely ridiculous. It essentially sucks every bit of fun out of the game on Hard mode. It’s not just me complaining about bad luck, from what I’ve heard, friends of mine have run statistical tests –they ran a hundred trials, and when you had a chance to hit of 70%, you only ended up hitting about 30% of the time. It’s incredibly annoying and obnoxious. Also, the latest game in the series, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, made some changes to the hacking segments of the game which are very annoying as well. So while I’m glad I bought the games, they have some pretty major flaws which prevent me from liking them as much as I should.

READAN:

The Legend of the Galactic Heroes novel series, specifically the first one, Dawn. To learn more, check out what I’ve been…

WRITAN:

A long review of the novel:

https://www.amazon.com/review/RB1A7VIGJO4K8/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1421584948

 

Alright, so that’s what I’ve been enjoying myself with this past week. Now to continue with the previous week’s theme. As promised, my friends, here’s a little more on my writing method for my dissertation. I don’t want to spend too much time retreading ground I’ve already covered. The most important thing to know about my writing method is that I kind of jumped around a lot, as I described in this entry. So today, I’ll go through the writing of my dissertation chapter by chapter, but I’ll ask you to keep in mind that this won’t be a chronological, day by day account of my writing–some work on chapter 1 may have been written *after* chapter 2, and so on. And one more thing–I can’t quote too extensively from my dissertation cause it hasn’t been published yet and I wanna keep it safe–you know the importance of that ;D So, let’s get started!

Introduction:

This part wasn’t too hard. I waited until I’d finished up some of the other chapters before writing the “abstract” and table of contents, but for the actual body itself, I started off by trying to find a nice anecdote, which historical papers generally begin with. I was quite fortunate; it didn’t take me much time. Reading through Philip Foner’s Frederick Douglass on Women’s Rights gave me a letter where he used the term “head of family” explicitly. Since “head of household” was a big theme in my dissertation, I promptly decided to go with that for my opening anecdote 😀

So after that, I chose some quotes I’d already prepared from my previous readings on my other subjects to quickly illustrate what I’d be arguing (i.e my thesis), and that was that. Then I quickly described how my project would be important, mentioning that David Ericson had raised similar questions in regard to a different subject a little while ago, so my project would be helping to flesh out the historiography. I also described why I chose the guys I did–essentially, they were all famous, but also different intellectually, so it’d be profitable to give ’em a look. Then I did my historiography review, and I actually used some of my dissertation prospectus for it. I was under the impression most dissertations started out with overviews of what other folks had written previously, and since I already did a lot of that in my “literature review” section of the prospectus, I pretty much just typed that out again, with a couple of changes based on what I found in further reading, of course. I know plagiarism’s always a worry, but it was my own work I was running off of in the first place, so how could I plagiarize myself, especially since doing another literature review would just say the same things, for the most part, I said in the prospectus?

So after that I was about halfway done, all that was left was to ease the reader into the rest of the work. I offered brief descriptions of the sorts of primary sources I’d use, then did brief biographies of each of my six subjects, defined the terms I’d be using a lot (paternalism, head of household, etc.) and finally wrote brief outlines of each chapter–after I’d finished them, naturally. This part of my dissertation will need some reworking, certainly–lots of style changes, that kinda thing–but that’s how it always is with drafts. Not too much trouble.

Chapter 1:

Hoo boy! I’d thought this would be 10,000 words long, but it ended up being over 20k! This chapter essentially described what each of my six subjects said about fatherhood in relation to slavery up to the end of the Civil War. As it turned out, there was more material than I anticipated! My advisor told me I had to find out some way to make a narrative from these guys, which was a little hard since they didn’t interact with all of each other in one big debate or something, so I chose to hinge my narrative on chronological turning points–the 1830s and 1840s, where they were getting started in their considerations of slavery/their careers as abolitionists, then the 1850s, which kicked off with the Fugitive Slave Act and got everyone’s attention, and then of course the 1860s, which saw the Civil War. I think I did a pretty good job of both charting how the ideas of all six of these guys changed over time, and bouncing those ideas off of each other–nothing both the obvious differences (pro-slavery and abolitionism) and the surprising similarities. Again, I’m sure there’s editing to be done here, but this chapter is probably what I’m proudest of.

For the next one, Chapter 2, I examined how friendly and hostile audiences reacted to the proslavery/abolitionist rhetoric revolving around fatherhood my subjects used. This was a tough one to write, and I wasn’t sure I’d manage to get something satisfactory on my first draft, but I managed to pull it off. I always worked from the primary sources before anything else, and the primary sources in this case were a little scanty. I guess this might mean I have to go on another journey to find some, but I did the best with what I had. I ended up concluding that fatherhood-oriented rhetoric didn’t really carry or sink the arguments any of these guys made with hostile or friendly audiences, so I then shifted the chapter over to the question of ideas and ideologies, which I think was a good idea, helped flesh it out a lot. According to my advisors, ideas are things someone consciously considers and actively chooses to deploy, while an ideology is more unconscious–more like the cultural background someone comes from that influences all their beliefs unconsciously. Now, I know ideology is used differently in other context, but that definition came from Gramsci, IIRC, and it’s what my profs told me to use. I may have to change that around a bit too, but I think I did a pretty decent job of paying close attention to the texts I examined and teasing out which parts were consciously deployed and which parts reflected unquestioned, underlying belief systems.

After that, Chapter 3 explored how my six subjects behaved as fathers themselves. This was pretty tough…I got a lot of good information on Douglass, Dabney, and Hammond (I paid special attention to how they raised their sons differently than their daughters), but I wasn’t able to find as much on the other three–as I mentioned in my email to my profs, I hope I’ll be able to find more info on them later, but it’s possible any personal correspondence, etc. between them and their kids has been lost ;_; I’ll also need to add an introduction and conclusion to this chapter, and connect it better to the other chapters, which is something my profs warned me about, but I’m happy I at least managed to get something good for half my subjects 😀

After that comes, at last, the Epilogue! This was another chapter I thought would be pretty tough, but while it was shorter than the others, I think I also managed to cap it off reasonably well. The first thing I had to deal with was a little bit of “periodization,” so to speak. I’d initially thought to describe how my subjects used fatherhood rhetorically throughout Reconstruction (except for Hammond, who died in 1864), but I ended up finding so many good quotes from after the Reconstruction period (1877 is when the “gilded age” starts, from what I heard) that I decided to just extend it until the last of my subjects passed away (Dabney, in 1898). I actually ended up cutting a little bit out of it too—there were a couple of paragraphs I wanted to add, but they weren’t important and I really wanted to just hand something in to my advisors ASAP. Maybe I’ll add em in during my second draft. But other than that, I think the epilogue capped off my dissertation pretty well, and I also think I do a good job of playing Douglass, Dabney, and Fitzhugh’s ideas off each other, though I admit sources from Garnet and Delany were a *little* scanty there too. But I found just enough to keep myself in the clear, IMO ;D

So that’s it for this week. I’ll be back to tell you all the fun stuff I’ve been doing next week too! 😀

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2 comments

  1. […] mentioned in this entry, I’ve been living pretty darn well ever since handing in my dissertation’s rough draft. […]

  2. […] mentioned in this entry, I’ve been living pretty darn well ever since handing in my dissertation’s rough draft. […]

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