Friday, February 11, 2011

Good News: Thesis Topic!!

After turning over about a dozen different ideas for my thesis, I've settled on one. Amazing how you'll be reading alone, trying to research for one idea, and another will just fall on your. That's about how it happened, too, it sort of just occurred to me and after I was having a total freak out earlier this week about this whole thesis thing. Right this minute, I've feeling eons better than I've been feeling about this. Eons might be an understatement.

Initially, and I only say initially with regards to the time between Jan 1, 2011 and today, my thesis plan has been to do something with the idea of woman as monster. Sounds easy enough, right? Right. Unfortunately, I'm learning that I have some serious scope issues. The thesis is only 80-120 or so pages and there was no way I was going to be able to talk about every single representation of woman as monster in literature, it was just impossible. I managed to scale it down to the Romantics and Victorians (about 1770 - 1901), but I was still having problems scaling it down to a research question. Since the thesis is just one big answer to one big question, not having a question means no topic. I've met with my thesis chair twice this semester, so far, and we've talked it over, and though I'd had a ton of good ideas and guidance, I was feeling really, really hopeless.

Then, yesterday, while skimming through the essays in The History of Gothic Fiction by Markman Ellis, looking for any information about how or why women were presented as monsters during this era, I saw something that propelled my project down a road I hadn't even considered. I scribbled it down in the little notebook where I'm doing my thesis research notes and put everything away, determined to give it some time and think it over. There's a fine line between what is acceptable as a scholarly project and a topic that's just not. The more I thought about it, and ran it past Matt, the more confident I grew in my idea.

Today, I did some research to see if anyone else was doing what I'm planning to do and, to my very happy surprise, no one else is!  People are doing similar things, talking about this aspect or that, but nothing exactly like what I'm proposing to do. I sat in stunned silence for a while, wondering how I had managed to come to something that was new, and it was then that I started to lose steam. I tend to have very little faith in my ideas.  If scholars aren't doing it, then it must not be an idea of worth. It's a vicious cycle, that, because no matter what idea you come up with, it won't be good enough if no one else is looking at it. I spent some time pep talking myself and then, when late afternoon came, I collected my nerve and emailed my idea to my thesis chair. Then, I waited, hoping I didn't sound like a complete dolt.  Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long.  She emailed me back within the hour.

She said my idea sounded great, with a valid topic and reasonable approach, and that I wasn't working with too much (or little) material for a project of this size. I was absolutely floating around on a cloud of contentment and self-satisfaction for hours tonight, which I honestly needed because today has been a bad day. Of course, when I looked over the first email I sent her (four or five paragraphs long) and see all the typos I just want to crawl under a bench and wilt, some English major I turned out to be, so a tiny bit of my happiness is sapped by my inability to communicate without looking like I have no grasp of the English language. I really need to proof read more completely before sending emails to people with PhD's, I was just so thrilled to have a working idea, and so nervous that she wouldn't agree that it was a good idea, that I sent it without proofing it at all.

So right now I need to sit down and decide what novels I'll be using for my project and which side of the argument I'll take. I know I haven't said what my topic will be, I'm guarding it with my life right now. Now that I have one, I don't want to do anything to jeopardize it. This step, the deciding what sources to use, is a lot harder than it sounds, but at least I have a topic and know what sort of sources I'm looking for definitively. That's a great feeing, and I'm not going to lie, I just keep thinking that something's going to go wrong and that I'm not going to be able do it. So, I'm going to try to get my topic proposal out of the way this week so I can stop worrying.  It's not due until March 11th, but the sooner I get it done the sooner I can start working on my thesis topic proposal for the college of graduate studies. As the thesis topic proposal is the majority of my grade, I really need to get that going with enough time that I can really work on it.  Procrastinating on this particular thing might not be a good idea.

I have a meeting with one of the professors on my committee on Monday afternoon to have my degree plan signed and I plan to talk it over with her then. She's not my chair, but it's important that all of my committee members understand what I'm planning to do, so I'm looking forward to meeting with her about this. I think, as I'm working with the Gothic and she enjoys the Gothic, she'll be fine with what I'm doing. Finger's crossed.

For now, with all that said and my thesis topic floating around in my brain, I'm going to bed (and without proof reading, too!!).  Good night!