All entries for April 2006

April 30, 2006

Sunday, 30 April

Two weeks have gone since I finished Chapter III, and preparations for IV insist on progressing at a tortoiselike rate. I should have come to expect that by now; every successful advance is followed by this disorientated vagrancy.

But surely, I am starting now to regain my bearings. What I've written of a plan is somewhere between two–thirds and three–quarters [seven–tenths?] of what it needs to be: I lack still a strong conclusion but I do believe that as I go along I will discover my expression. Have enough now to start writing as and when…

The first half of the Chapter should focus on Petrarch's theories of poetic imitation and of poetry generally, to establish how the Bucolicum Carmen relates. The objective is to try to sketch out the themes of Petrarchan pastoral — the dryness and humourlessness [relative, I should say, when you compare with Virgil's] that has kept it at the back of bookshelves for centuries.

Sounds riveting, no?

I've also had the idea of using — to really boil down the comparison between the two — the theme of loss and consolation in both the Carmen and the Eclogues as a kind of "case study". There is a big section of [I think, good] work on this topic in my preparatory essay that I haven't fitted in as yet; with some sprucing up — perhaps, more focus on Virgil's poems — it could be very illuminating. Kind of pure textual engagement that appeals to Andrew at least.

The only snag for now — and it's only a small one — is that I'm down to offer a half–hour presentation on the subject of my research for the Department's PG open day on Thursday, 25 May [Beats' Birthday]. Going to give it on Servius as an intermediary between Eclogues and Carmen. Still have to write it, anyway: 10 pages. Shouldn't take long.

April 26, 2006

Wednesday, 26 April

When any situation threatens to become a little sticky — Indian food enthusiast and former Prime Minister Sir John Major would surely attest — going back to basics is generally the wise thing to do. So after boondoggling over Chapter IV of MA Research Project for the last ten days — reading bits of this, noting bits of that, but ultimately formulating no idea of what I'm going to do with it — tonight I dug out paper and pen for some old–fashioned, no–frills cogitation.


It's veering dangerously close to cliche to suggest that keeping things focused is probably the golden rule in the racket of academic research [indeed, of all academic writing]. The individual parts — from chapters to sub–headings, to paragraphs, to individual sentences — must be stacked in such a way as to fashion a coherent argument. It's easy — out of slackness of thought, or even just out of sheer panic — to start spattering things willy–nilly over the page around whatever you have to say: that's when things get grim.

So I'm pleased to have revisited the two chapters I have written, considered closely the questions they asked and the answers [I hope] they provided, and recognised how this next chapter has to move things along towards the ominous ringing of the final solution. Providing as it will the conclusion of that part of the project which reckons directly with the Bucolicum Carmen as a text, I have decided to ask do the pastorals of Petrarch represent a faithful imitation of a 14th-century reading of Virgil's, or rather a conscious recasting of the Eclogues into a new and different form?

Already, the structure is rather clearer in my head. Which is enough for me, for now; I'll publish more as and when it happens — hopefully over the next week.

April 12, 2006

Wednesday, 12 April

Or rather…

Monday, 10 April

Resolved yesterday, after having spent almost a week scribbling in pencil on scraps of paper and flitting back and forth from a blinking [but stationary] cursor at the end of my chapter, to just write the thing until it's written — instead of worrying myself with stretching it to an arbitrarily-determined length of 7,000 words.

Micro-planned chapter conclusion, and supplied it with its first 400 words — even if just under half of those were drawn from a hefty quotation copied from Bergin's translation of the Africa. But words are words and they all count.

Tuesday, 11 April

Another 300 words. Shouldn't require more than another couple of hours to finish.

Wednesday, 12 April

Rejoice! In an hour — marvellous in the telling! — 400 words, and done!

Well, all except my very last sentence, but still. 6,425 is a respectable total for now and in my naivete I'm hopeful that another 500 or so will materialise from somewhere between now and September and immerse themselves in there.

The conclusion is — I concede — a little tangled, and I'll be waiting to see what Andrew makes of it when I catch up with him next week [with 33 pages of work to be read through, I suspect that'll be tricky!] Still, I'm sure it's essentially sound and should allow me to segue faultlessly into the chapter I've budgeted the summer term for writing: Virgil, Petrarch & the Pastoral Genre.

And did I mention I'm a week ahead of my deadline? Forgive my smugness.

Finally, a health warning.

For anyone reading this who might be foolish enough to entertain the prospect of research study: the obscene amounts of time that are involved in reading, word processing and seeking solace in hours of playing playstation have — unsurprisingly, I suppose — exacted a duty from my eyes. I liken it to having spent months on end lifting free weights: I now [figuratively] possess bulging biceps — but puny little legs.

… Yes. As if that analogy hasn't made it clear enough: an eye-test confirms all this has left me slightly short-sighted.

And to think how, in years gone by, I have gloated at my four-eyed girlfriend about my vision, believing it to infallible! I should have known then that speciness would be visited upon me!

Oh Penny Murray, didst thou teach me nothing of Sophocles during second-year Tragedy?

April 04, 2006

Tuesday, 04 April

Wrote 400 words in what time I devoted to chapter today. One thing word-count doesn't reflect, though, is the fine conceptual [please, don't laugh] work that I managed today; clued in to an important link between the section I've just written and the one that follows. Still, just because the bridge is in place it doesn't mean that talking about Petrarch's satires on the Papal Court at Avignon in BC VI-VII is any easier.

Once I have waded through the paragraphs on these two present poems [which I haven't addressed in any sort of detail up until now], I have some vague ideas for a conclusion drifting in the depths of my mind's conceptual soup that may need scooping to the surface.

The pasted section of text still requires a significant reshaping but with two weeks of [largely unhindered] time to be finishing, I remain confident that plumping the chapter to the required length will be comfortably achievable before the end of the vacation.

April 2006

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