Last week we were treated to two very different and truly remarkable projects.
Dylan opened up our time together with a glimpse of his thesis inquiry – a project that dares to ask what grounds our sense of meaning and our sense of self between the acts of reading and writing. I think Dylan’s inclusion of Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, and his tribute to the simple yet stark “emergence” of poetry (the poetic) in the intimate spaces of our homes, is a key achievement. These musings have helped him tie his thesis work together so creatively. His narrative of his own apartment (and the fly in his confined space) speaks volumes about his own existential question(s) regarding our solitary existence. Dylan’s story cultivates a kind of “resistance” to finality – a “poetics of non-arrival” per se, or a poetics of suspension, perhaps. Who knew that a autoethnographic narrative could yield such philosophical results? That is the distinct gift that Dylan has labored to produce, as he continues to think about reading and writing and the self. Wow.
Lexie also gave a courageous and inspired reading that began with the important assertion that representation matters. What you see and what you hear when you are young leaves a profound trace, …an invisible imprint on what you think is possible. And so, Lexie’s work is an important intervention. One that cuts to the chase and speaks important truths for so many girls who have not had the luxury of seeing many versions of themself in our culture’s “hallway of heroes”. Who better than Lexie to tell them the truth regarding the hardest parts of growing up? Her narrator’s finely crafted wisdom is a distinct voice that imparts strength and honesty. Her experience is clearly rooted in the world of her intended audience, and that is a key element in why she can be trusted. But another part of the trust this narrator achieves is about not shying away from what is difficult, and researching her way through things that are complex. I love this project, and I think Lexie has been brave and generous in deciding to write it.
Next week we will hear from Ryan! We are on the homestretch, and I look forward to these last few classes with you.
You should now be in the revision phase of your overall work. Revision literally means to “see again,” to look at something from a fresh, critical perspective. It is an ongoing process of rethinking what you have written: reconsidering your arguments, reviewing your evidence, refining your purpose, reorganizing your presentation, reviving stale prose. For me, this phase of writing brings the greatest joy and clarity. It is really where the thinking work is dialed up. Studies have shown again and again that the best way to learn to write is to rewrite. In the revision process, you improve your reading skills and your analytical skills. You learn to challenge your own ideas, thus deepening and strengthening your argument. You learn to find the weaknesses in your writing.
A congratulations to Kevin for an inspiring presentation and a special reading of the opening part of his work entitled “Distance”. With this reading, we were able to catch a glimpse of his “everyman” story – a pandemic fiction that is shaping up, as it sheds some ‘truth” light on these troubled times we have all struggled in together. One “regular guy” (Kirk) is caught up in forces beyond his own control, and we can see a bigger (and perhaps a more existential) picture in his plight, as he strives to keep and find connection in a world that has foreclosed on trust and emotional intimacy.
As always, I am looking forward to presentations from Lexie and Dylan, who will work share their work this week. You are all on the homestretch. We have a few more presentations in order, and a bit of time to do some peer-reading in the last couple of weeks together. Keep your eye on the date of May 4th!
We are now closing out the last day of March, and you have just a few weeks left to complete your MA thesis. The final submission deadline is May 4th, 2021. There is now some building light at the end of this tunnel, and I want to both congratulate you all on the hard work you have put in thus far, and also encourage to keep the energy up for this final push of just a few more weeks.
Thank you to Emily for a compelling and harrowing glimpse of your gifted imagination with your reading of your fictive story “Siren”. We were all mesmerized with the the dark and disturbing psychological profile you have been so carefully building. This is part thriller, part psychodrama, and it is clear you have been working very hard to establish both a convincing and persuasive narrative that is also truly alarming. This kind of storytelling work is indeed a fine balancing act, and your writing effectively draws us in as readers. Bravo for the significant progress you have made with this project!
Next week we will hear from Kevin about his own creative (pandemic) fiction, and we will also have our usual progress “check-ins”. I will be about 20 minutes late to class because I am slated to be on a Kean University OER conference panel from 4;00pm until 4:45pm (right before we meet). Please expect me to open up our usual Zoom classroom around 4:50pm, and you are all welcome to join the OER session for free if interested!
Thanks again to Linda for a deeper dive into her thesis inquiry which features the power of her own autoethnographic narrative(s) along side her research into equity in education. This special project offers a unique lens because Linda harnesses her own memories as a young student and an immigrant, in addition to her experience now as an English teacher in 2021. The result is a more nuanced understanding of the inequity that remains when learning to write in American classroom’s today. Bravo to Linda, for her important thesis work which has both heart and soul, as well as critical acumen.
Next week (3/16) we will NOT be meeting on Zoom, and your thesis work will be conducted “asynchronously”. The next time we will meet in Zoom is Tuesday March 23th. Please use to this time to focus on your work, and to get a lot of writing done.
For March 23th, Dylan is scheduled to present first, and then after break time, Emily will present as well.
Keep going, and use the two weeks time to surge ahead (with self-discipline and determination) and set small (modest) goals to keep momentum along the way.
Thank you to Nives for launching our thesis-in-progress presentations, and in particular, thanks for her generous reading this past Tuesday. Nives’ project has evolved into a comprehensive and compelling account of the struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. It is informed by a researcher’s close and meticulous attention, and a storyteller’s heart. The Seashell is also a personal window into the dimensions of Nives’ of life and earned wisdom. One of the things I love about her work is the clear impact her writing has on readers. She effortlessly invokes a sense of empathy in us, as she bravely takes us through the twists and turns of her own struggle. And she makes us understand the complexity of that experience, and the acute self-awareness that accompanies the wrenching confusion and pain. Bravo to Nives. I can see you are entering the homestretch.
Keep working on your individual goals this week everyone. Some of you have really hit a stride and just need to keep up with the writing you have been doing, and some of you will recalibrate and switch the process up a bit this week, in order to approach other aspects of the overall vision.
We will have the pleasure of hearing from Linda this coming week, and I look forward to it.
This week, we kick off our series of individual thesis-in-progress presentations. Nives will inaugurate this semester’s series with her courageous and inspiring memoir. I am looking forward to our remaining tour of talent for the next several weeks, and the collaborative spirit that will arise from the peer support and feedback that is a part of this tradition.
Here are the slides from last week, and I am glad we had the chance to pursue a collaborative lit review, and consider the common ties in your projects.
I am sharing here a short video to inspire you as you keep going with your writing. Each of you has your own goals. Stick with it, and don’t lose sight. Try to write at least a little bit most days per week, and embrace the research component of your process when you need to switch from the creative/generative mode and fuel and re-energize some of your curiosity. Remember, this is the time when you should be putting in the time, and building significant momentum:
Hopefully our TRIZ protocol last week drew to the surface the ways in which we sometimes get stuck. It is always good to face obstacles head on, and the TRIZ “liberating structure” is designed to do just that, and help you co-formulate strategies to overcome pitfalls along the way.
You should be building on some momentum now. Lean into this, and let the words and work flow. This is the time to be writing without constraint…generating significant content for the overall project.
At this stage, it makes sense to revisit to your Lit Review as it stands, and identify any important gaps…be prepared to address any gaps you think you might have in your Lit Review as you continue on. You will all gear up for your class presentations which will start soon and loom on the horizon.
As always, blog about your progress, and what you are learning.
I am glad we spent a bit of time on this basic reminder to be aware of your “personal battery”. Just remember how important it is to keep this kind of self awareness at the forefront of your consciousness when you are trying to carve out the right amount of time for meaningful thesis progress. I also want to remind you of the deadlines coming up for participation in Kean’s Open Education Conference, as well as the University’s Research Days campus-wide forum. These are worthwhile opportunities for all of you. There is access to further info about these events in our slides from class below:
At this stage, I want to remind you all of the power of love, and it’s connection to life’s processes. I find that happiness and fulfillment are not so much an outward looking search, or something you discover at the end of some long journey. Rather, happiness and fulfillment are the art of you-in-process. You in the here & now.
Yes, you are all on an arduous journey – the MA thesis. There are challenges along the way, and there will be difficulties that manifest on your path to completion. But remarkably, it is also the process, the work you do today (in the “now”) that is most important. So lean into it, explore your intellect, continue the research, carve out the time to write and create. Prioritize this journey that you have elected to be on. Because it is a special time, a blessing. In a sense, I want you all to remember to love the life you live and to love this thesis process, and life will in magical ways, love you back 😉
I look forward to our next round of our thesis reflections together. Don’t forget to blog about your process/progress.
Have you noticed a period or a spell of listlessness or despondency, a lackadaisical feeling, a slump? You might find that we are now in the doldrums.
Everyone gets the doldrums – a feeling of low spirits and lack of energy. The “doldrums” were apparently experienced by sailors in the mid-19th century. The word, once reserved for that feeling of despondency, came to be applied to certain tropical regions of the ocean marked by the absence of strong winds. Sailing vessels, reliant on wind propulsion, struggled to make headway in these regions, leading to long, arduous journeys. The exact etymology of doldrums is not certain, though it is believed to be related to the Old English dol, meaning “foolish” – a history it shares with our adjective “dull.”
My point? Simply that it is early February, it is cold outside, the days are short, the work is piled up, and things are especially difficult during this time. Add to this our unforeseen pandemic circumstances, and it is a struggle, for sure. The doldrums. But despite this, you are all taking steps, and you are doing your best to keep going. This is courage. I am proud of what you are doing. When we meet, I am trying to build into your weekly routines customized “small steps” to keep you pushing through. Soon, the outlook will change, the proverbial wind will indeed pick up, things will thaw, and the world will start to blossom. So will your work. My message this week in no matter what, just try to keep going, and stick to small steps.
Here are our agenda slides from last week:
Keep going, and I will see you on Tuesday!
Ps. I am so glad that you are planning to pull together some work to share during our Research Days university forum, and I just want you all to keep those deadlines in mind as we move forward (March 15 registration closes).
Hi everyone. Hope you are all well, and working diligently on your thesis progress. As a result of last week’s thesis conferencing, each of you has a personalized “to-do” as you move forward (…with consistent dedication). I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday evening, and I suspect that at the time of our meeting, we will just be emerging on the other side of a pretty significant “snow event”.
I hope you all keep safe and warm, and do your best to focus. It is a time to hunker down, stay put, and try to set aside some time for your own thesis progress as well. Be sure to blog what you have been working on, and we will pick up where we left off last week. I will check in with each of you, and we will also engage in some reflective processes.