July 30, 2006

Sunday, July 30

Chapter continues to progress, with 1000 words added this weekend. I'm only half–way through discussing the sixteen eclogues of the Buccolicum Carmen and I've already ploughed through almost half of my chapter's length. Things are getting very dense in the middle and I can tell already there will be a lot of fat to cut away once this thing is cooked through. Better to have too much than too little.

Hope to update again tomorrow.

July 28, 2006

Friday, 27 July

Added some 700 words today — not quite as fluidly as an Alastair Cook century innings — to push my week's work on Chapter V up to almost 2,000. What I did today was mainly concerned with the first and earliest poems of Boccaccio's Buccolicum Carmen — composed when the influence of Petrarch's bucolics was not yet prevalant — as a kind of pastiche of Virgil's three 'amorous' eclogues. Though it's heavy on the footnotes I'm fairly pleased with what I've put together.

Working two jobs tomorrow, so I'll look to pick up again on Sunday and Monday.

July 24, 2006

Monday, 24 July

Having spent the last couple of weeks reading and noting from Janet Smarr's edition of Boccaccio's Buccolicum Carmen, I have returned to the Learning Grid to type up the pan scribbled out in my trusty notebook and begin writing.

And this is the worst part of doing my thesis, without a doubt; such dread that flashing cursor inspires, waiting ahead of the Introduction I've to write. I feel as if I can't find any of the threads I let go of when I finished Chapter IV.

I reckon I can give myself until the weekend of the 19–20 August to have this done. After that I'll be too embroiled with moving house and committment to visiting Kate's [and mine] to get anything done until early September at least.

That leaves me one whole chapter still to write — plus introduction, conclusion, corrections and other adjustments — in just one month before my deadline. I have always been aiming for more like Christmas, but trying to balance too much of this project with full–time work in the Autumn won't be easy or fun.

I could do with finishing this chapter in three weeks rather than four, like I did the last one…

July 10, 2006

Monday, 10 July

Productive day spent in PGR Room today.

Completed my eclogue–by–eclogue profile of Boccaccio's bucolic collection [that is, the one I was putting together without actually having gone through the poems first] and promptly got to work assimilating the scholarship of Janet Smarr from the edition of her translation. Did I not mention? The book finally arrived last Thursday — after four weeks of waiting on Inter–Library Loan — right in time for me to go away for the weekend.

Nevertheless, what's encouraging is that the prospective chapter is already taking shape before I've had chance to really map my own reading of Boccaccio's pastorals. At this stage, the "essay question" of Chapter V is from the writings of Boccaccio, how can we appraise Petrarch's position within the "pastoral tradition"? And for good measure, how does Boccaccio locate himself within that tradition? Will progress with that until I see fit to alter it — full planning stage can't be far away.

From what I've read so far, it appears that although Petrarch's influence upon his fellow poet was not inconsiderable — the subject–matter of Boccaccio's pastorals progresses from the worldy–political to the spiritual–philosophical as he read more of his mentor's Bucolicum Carmen, over a period of years — Boccaccio still talks of Petrarchan pastoral in terms of a redefinition of the form; a redefinition that he retreats from — or, at least, is not sufficiently confident in his poetic standing to adopt — towards a more modest model that is closer to Virgil's [or, indeed, to Dante's].

So I have an idea of what to look out for before I begin my own scrutiny of the Buccolicum Carmen [two Cs for Boccaccio]. Will be getting down and dirty with some unabashed textual analysis over the next week or two — and, of course, keeping the world informed of any significant discoveries that I make in the course of that time.

July 05, 2006

Wednesday, 05 July

Brief update.

Have waited four weeks now for Janet Smarr's English translation of Boccaccio's Buccolicum Carmen to arrive from British Library on inter-library loan. Concede that I might have done more to work with the Latin text on its own -- which is available online [thanks Carlo] and also in the Warwick library — but at over two–and–a–half thousand verses I've kept putting it off in expectation that the Smarr will soon arrive.

Still, have scraped together enough bibliography — mainly from Bergin's Boccaccio, Grant's Neo-Latin Literature and the Pastoral, and Hubbard's Pipes of Pan -- to start gathering information eclogue-by-eclogue and to prepare for when I finally do get to read them. I feel like I've already located enough threads [intertextuality between the two Bucolica Carmina; the balance of influence on Boccaccio between Petrarch and Virgil] to make for a strong chapter.

Also filled my time with a little research into the Latin eclogue[s] of Dante, written in the form of letters to Giovanni del Virgilio; withdrawn from the Store the definitive edition of the correspondence between the two by Wicksteed and Gardner. As these obviously predate both Petrarch's and Boccaccio's my intention is to include my discussion of them in the first chapter of my study, which will basically chart the history of Virgilian pastoral through the Middle Ages. The thesis now is based on the pastoral tendency of these three great writers of the trecento — as a phenomenon, I suppose — and Andrew has given his approval.

My three previous chapters have now been proof–read and obviously require a little rewriting — generally for the sake of clarity, where I've managed to get a bit tangled up in myself, or where minor inconsistencies exist from one chapter to the next. Will aim to have them all updated before I start any writing on the Boccaccio section.

June 07, 2006

Wednesday, 07 June

Finished my chapter today. Have done more than half of my 40,000 words now.

Can't really be bothered to say much more other than I think it's good. Hopefully Andrew will confirm this suspicion Friday.

Will return to study after week or so's break, to plan chapter on pastoral after Petrarch — Boccaccio and beyond.

May 22, 2006

Monday, 22 May

Almost got through planned section of Chapter IV. But not quite.

Have passed half–way mark. Given myself three more weeks.

Just came in from watching Capote at Royal Spa. Painful, very affecting. May buy book tomorrow.

May 17, 2006

Wednesday, 17 May

Completing a Blogging triptych: a personal best since like January.

Continued to press down my foot on the throat of Chapter IV by finishing the section on the letters [mainly to Boccaccio] in which Petrarch outlines his theory of creative imitation. Having established how he would have determined to make his own, distinctive impression upon the pastoral form with the Bucolicum Carmen, I am now ready to unpack his poetics and explain what sort of image he'd shape it into.

Elected just to re–read notes and plot out that section rather than move on to more writing; though as the plan is far more comprehensive than what I usually give myself to work with I'm optimistic that when I do sit down to it again [Friday, I expect] I might be able to go right through and do it all. Chapter could be 4,000 words + by then.

Happened upon a little nugget in an article I must have read about a dozen times — such a lazy skimmer am I. Bernardo has a half–paragraph about Petrarch — with his tendency to personify abstract significations — writing poetry that appears complex but has a fairly simple meaning, whereas Dante (to use his comparison, though I would say the same is true of Virgil) — having more of a tendency to the opposite — writes poems that appear simple but have a very complex meaning. I think this articulates my nebulous ideas about what — beyond the allegories in themselves — it is that leads the likes of Greene to refer to the Carmen in terms like "failure", "stillborn".

Checked out Wolfson Room when I visited Library after finishing — remembered Andrew's recommendation that I familiarise myself with a little Augustine considering that he was another of Petrarch's icons. Looks a little pokey, and spoiled as I am by all this slimline technology I felt my skin crawl slightly at the sight of suitcase–sized desktop PCs. No — even when people approach me as I study and ask, "You're one of the people who works here, aren't you..?" — I'm Learning Grid through and through now. It's pointless trying to get away when the end of term is so close.

May 16, 2006

Tuesday, 16 May

As I suspected: yesterday's slog, though torturous, was just a rite of passage to freer and easier writing. I spent about five hours at the computer today, discussing Petrarch's paraphrasing — in various of his letters — of Seneca's theories of imitatio. Inserted — for the sake of clarity, as to my meaning — a little extra padding into the rudimentary introduction I wrote yesterday and ended up with over a thousand words banked on the chapter. 1,600 total.

The Learning Grid experiment continues to progress with pleasing results. I have been tipped off as to the presence of the postgrad–only PC cluster in the Main Library's Wolfson Room [the University probably has let me know but I'm too ignorant to have realised] but only if things get desperate will I venture over there. I am quite keen to settle here after Week 8 and through the summer months, when the wobbly–lipped revisionites have all cleared out.

Plan is to do the same tomorrow, and get stuck into the next section — which will reckon directly with Petrarch's theories of poetry [that is, not just of poetic imitation] and how the Bucolicum Carmen represents pastoral cast in his own image, if you will. If I can manage the same as I did today I'll be very happy…

May 15, 2006

Monday, 15 May

After seeming to claw back a little ground on my studies last week — knocking over in a day–and–a–half the script for my thirty–minute presentation How Servius Shaped Petrarch's Reading of the Eclogues — I returned to the Learning Grid today to resume the gruelling drudgery that is the writing of Thesis Chapter IV.

Over the course of a little more than four hours, I earned the meagre reward [but a reward nonetheless] of about four–hundred words. Initially — it had been so long after all those half–baked, aborted attempts to start the thing off — I couldn't quite remember how I actually planned to marry up the two strands of my introduction: the Bucolicum Carmen and Petrarch on the cusp of the Renaissance and the Bucolicum Carmen as relates to Petrarch's theories of poetry & poetic imitation.

So much time was spent dragging out those ideas an inch at a time, staring out the window at the flickering drizzle and scribbling on a piece of A4. I felt a great deal of sympathy with the ENGXIAND attack as they chip, chip, chipped away at Sri Lanka's batsmen, toiling in vain for a breakthrough that would never come. And indeed, though my introduction is written, I fear it wouldn't be adequate for a regular essay — let alone a full chapter. I'm resolved to proceed and return to rewrite it later, if necessary.

At about half–past three I threw up my hands and accepted that I couldn't carry on; had left the relevant books at home and paid a brief visit to the teeming library to locate other required passages for photocopying. Will return in the morning to press on into the main body of the discussion.

40,000 words feels a long, long way away still.

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