Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to Richard, A Literary Journey

So, where should I start?

First of all, my process for anything is never the same, but very particular.  Even though things are always different for me, there are certain patterns I go through.  Call it something obsessive, or maybe even compulsive, but my writing is like my drawing.  All of my art is like each other.  As in drawing, I will erase
over and over and over and over and over again.  There is something about not getting something just the way I want it that bugs me.

This isn't to say my writing is perfect, but I liked this paper.  It actually would have been a much better paper to go with for some kind of dissertation or something... that way I could fully explore every single relationship, and how they relate to literature through different stories.  Granted, I am kind of happy with the page requirement.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Little Paper Story

When we were asked to bring a favorite book to class, I didn't fully realize that those would be the books that we wrote our papers on.  So I just brought my favorite book, A Little Princess.  I wasn't very pleased when I realized that I would have to compare that book to Alice in Wonderland in a paper, because it didn't seem like the type of book that would work very well for a paper.  I also couldn't see anything those two books had in common.  Fortunately, I discovered along the way that it is very possible to write a paper on A Little Princess and that both books do have things in common.

A Journey to a Miracle (believe it or not)...

I almost feel like I've done some miracle for the past month... I've had a lot of obstacles on the way but I'm finished! Not that I enjoyed the process, but I feel like I've run a mile in that process. My finished product has somewhat changed from the direction I've taken from the beginning, but I feel good about it.

I remember when I first uploaded my first post, my personal narrative--which unfortunately had no comments (not that I mind). I was quite embarrassed to upload it in public view, but I quickly realized "everyone else put it up, so what's the use of being shy?" When I got around to writing my thesis, I was devastated not because I couldn't find anything in common between Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Sara but because I couldn't find the words to express/describe my thesis. My pick, Sara is not a well-known book. Its genre is spirituality and New Age (or metaphysical), which isn't really sought out by many people. It was difficult not to go into too much depth with my book because it would confuse many people who are unfamiliar with this kind of genre. That is why I needed help from my mom, who was familiar with Sara and also Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, who could guide me to see the similarity and differences between these two books without going off tangent with Sara.

"I Love It When a Plan Comes Together"

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From the beginning I knew that I wanted to write my paper about the narrator of The Book Thief who just so happens to be Death. Basically I had my paper planned from the beginning, it was simply lacking social proof and a solid structure. I knew where I was going, but I was still figuring out a details. Throughout this entire process I've received a lot of weird looks as I explained my paper to those around me. However, after the initial shock of my topic wore off, most people were willing to offer advice and some even got excited about it.

Research, on the other hand, was not as easy to come by. I scoured the Internet looking for anything that was even remotely related to my topic of the personification of death. Then I scoured the BYU library, and finally the public library. Eventually, I found an encyclopedia about mythology that had dozens of representations of death listed and explained. After that I had more ideas of what to search for, and research became an easy task. As I found those different representations of death, it became easier to compare them to The Book Thief. 

Down the Rabbit Hole of Writing: A Survivor's Tale

It’s hard to exactly pinpoint when the idea for this final paper really began. In some ways, it’s been building throughout this entire semester, becoming refined in each of the smaller papers we have written on Alice in Wonderland. From talking with Professor Burton in the paper conferences we've had after each one, I did start this paper with the intent of talking about existential meaning in some way. But I think the real beginning came as I went back to one of my favorite books, The Count of Monte Cristo and wrote about why I love it so much. I think a lot of times, being English majors, we forget this important detail as we get so focused in getting an essay done—that we love books. In this whole process, the only thing that kept me from despairing over my attempt to compare Alice in Wonderland to The Count of Monte Cristo was the constant reminder of why I love the book: because of its fascinating ending.

Life isn't fair, but it has its moments.

I concluded that the main theme of The Princess Bride is "life isn't fair, but it has its moments."

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In that vein, this is very much one of those moments.

And life very much isn't fair.

Researching for and writing this paper was a struggle for me, but the end result, surprising myself, I am proud of. Honestly, from the get-go I didn't think I would have written something good enough to be published. Now, I desperately want to share it. Thanks, Professor Burton. Look what you did to me!

It all started down a rabbit hole...

The Long and Winding Road

In the early stages of conception for my paper I, like many people, had no idea what to write about. Even in the middle stages of conception when things we supposed to be more solidified and serious, I found myself wondering how I was going to put my ideas together. Everyone else was coming up with themes of feminism or some other interesting topic that tied their favorite book to Alice in Wonderland. I quickly chose the topic of a biographical comparison simply because I couldn't think of anything else. I always had the thought “I'll change it later when I think of something better.” After a while though, it didn't seem like I was going to think of anything better.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

There and Back Again: A Trip Down the Rabbit Hole

Literature and Illustration:

Upon reviewing my first paper for the class with Dr. Burton, I realized that I did not completely understand the elements that comprise a literary critical analysis. I feel like I now have a better understanding of what those elements are, and I hope that I have been more capable at displaying them in my writing. 

In our meeting, Dr. Burton discussed some of the specific elements of an analysis. We talked about how quoting from the primary text can be beneficial to quality analysis, and this was something I felt I already understand and used within my paper. He then continued to discuss the common topics of literary analysis that are used. This is where I realized that my paper and writing style were both very limited in their exploration of these analytical topics. I focused on plot and character in my analysis of Alice in Wonderland, and I could have further expanded my analysis to include discussion on Language, Diction, Tone, Description, Imagery/Symbols, Setting, Genre, Rhetorical Strategies, and other common topics. As I started to understand the vision of analysis Dr. Burton explained to me, I decided to choose another topic to explore, and I felt that illustrations were an interesting aspect of literature to investigate.

How to enjoy writing an academic paper:

The journey to my finished product has been long and not without turbulence. Yet here I am, with a literary analysis paper behind me and I really enjoyed creating it. Here is a little bit about my process and what I have learned from interaction based research.

In the first post I wrote on this literary research blog, I summarized the novel Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Annalee was the first to comment about how there are several feminist aspects in the novel that I could relate to Alice in Wonderland. I shared it with my Facebook friends and got a lot of people interested in the paper I was beginning to construct. Even though I was trying to avoid feminism, I took Annalee's repeated advice to incorporate feminist tones and it led me to my finished product. Until I was convinced, my first working thesis (or tweethis statement) dealt with control more than the role of women in literature. Sophie suggested I use more formal analysis and bring the author into the paper more, which was great since formal analysis is a weakness of mine. Annalee commented as well and expressed that there was still not a real "so what" in my argument. The only way to rectify this was to finally let feminism in and start talking about men and women as well as control. 

As I circulated my ideas to my friends on Facebook, I asked some general questions to get a conversation flowing. I asked what people thought about the book Ella Enchanted and was linked to some helpful websites. I also asked what people thought about feminism in Young Adult Literature. Later, I was able to get some helpful opinions about the definition of beauty. In a comment on my new post, Kate confirmed that what Annalee had been telling me for several posts now was true. I needed to address the feminism in Ella Enchanted.

Take Your Protein Pills and Put Your Helmet On

It's time to leave the capsule, if you dare. For whatever reason, I feel like David Bowie's Space Oddity is summing up my experience in writing this paper. I had a hard time with this one. I psych myself out so hard that by the time it comes to really writing the paper, I'm burned out and too scared to start. So I have to put my big girl pants on and get some work done--that's the biggest thing I learned from this process. Oh, and if anyone else happens to be in the mood for some 70's-tastic David Bowie, I've got you covered.

The Perks Of Writing

This video clip is the end of the film adaptation of the novel I wrote about, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I wanted to share this scene with you all because it ends the movie and is also the conclusion of the novel. The main character, Charlie, has a line which says " helped me. Even if you didn't know what I was talking about or know someone who's gone through it, you made me not feel alone" which I think describes my semester. So many of you in this class gave me so much feedback and suggestions for my paper and it helped me tremendously. I'm so glad we were able to do things like peer evaluations, blog posts comments, and chat sessions because they were the biggest influences on my writing. I know now the importance of social proof when writing important things like this.

Help Wanted--From One Desperate Student to Another

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Okay, so I know all of you are probably just like me. Completely swamped, busy with finals, and have plenty of things to do. But I am still writing my research paper, and would appreciate any help that anyone is willing to give me. 

I am trying to figure out how to form a cohesive thesis statement. I'm not quite sure how to make this a "research" paper rather than just a typical literary analysis. What I would like to do is talk about one of the following: 

1. That Education is tied directly to agency. This manifests itself in The Count of Monte Cristo with the Abbe Faria, who helps Dantes figure out why he was imprisoned, and then gives him the knowledge he needed to be whatever he wanted. When Dantes escaped from prison, because of what Faria gave him in education (not just the treasure), he was able to start completely anew.

The Mo(u)rning Has Come

“No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.”

This is my favorite quote from Dracula and I think it's entirely applicable to this paper as well. (I used it in a previous blog post, so I might as well come full-circle by using it again.) This has been a long semester, but it's been a good semester. While at times things seemed dark, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we are almost through!

This paper has been a bittersweet experience for me. As an English major, I love to write... but I hate being given parameters for a paper. I hate it so much that I can have the whole paper basically written but then I refuse to do the final page or two. I don't know why, but I guess it's just my protest against authority. (Like when your mom told you to clean your room as a kid and you knew you needed to but you wouldn't because someone else told you to.)

With this procrastination habit in mind, I was afraid of writing this paper. I knew from the beginning that I just wouldn't want to do it and that I would be pulling an all-nighter just to finish it in time. Luckily, Professor Burton is a little smarter than I am when it comes to writing papers and he had us do annoying little tasks and blog posts. Or at least that's what I saw them as in the beginning.

I hate when teachers give me busywork and that's what I thought Professor Burton was doing to us. I was sick and I didn't want to do more than I had to on this assignment. But, I had to do all of the little blog posts and research and thankfully I did. If it hadn't been for those seemingly annoying tasks then I would have been up at all hours of the night in an attempt to finish my paper. Because of these tasks, I got to sleep (Unheard of for a college student, right?) and I was actually happy to finish the semester. My paper wasn't as strong as I would have liked, but that's just that for me.

Now that I'm finished with the paper and this class, I have that bittersweet taste in my mouth. I'm happy to be done, but I feel a little sad that I don't have a project to work on. I like keeping busy and this paper, and all of the buildup to the paper, kept me more or less on top of things and that was nice. Now I don't have that anymore and it's a little disappointing, although relieving.

Basically what I learned from this assignment is:

  1. The best papers are hard work. Sure, papers can be easy to write if you have a knack for writing, but that doesn't mean it's a quality paper.
  2. The best papers take a lot of research. Before this paper, I always skimped on my research. I didn't know how to research as well as I would have liked, but I also just hated the task of researching. But, this class taught me that researching can be interesting, especially when you find that perfect piece of evidence to support your claim.
  3. The best papers take time. Where you spend your time shows where your dedications are. This paper became a big deal for me because I spent so much time on it. Because I spent so much time on it, I grew to love it and you should always love what you're writing.
  4. The best papers make you step out of your comfort zone. I was not excited to write a comparison paper. That's my weakest form of writing and I didn't think I could do it because I had never tried it. But, I managed EIGHT pages of comparisons. And I now have something to be proud of.

This assignment was hard and I can't pretend to be sad that it's over. However, I will miss certain things about it, especially my growth process. I'm a different person than I was when I entered the class. I'm a better writer and I'm more excited to write and to take pride in my work.

(I'll post a link to my paper later tonight; I just wanted to get this up asap.)

I Didn't Think We'd Ever Get Here

This was probably one of the hardest papers that I have ever written. It wasn't that I was ill-prepared or anything. I just had a very hard time pulling the trigger and spilling my soul onto the page. I chose very early on to write about Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. I had reread the novel just a few months ago, and it was still fresh in my mind. I connected to Hemingway's "Lost Generation" and wished to write something that would do them justice. I mentioned this in my personal literary narrative. I particularly connected with the story's protagonist, Jake Barnes. I thought that he was such an interesting and complex character. He was deeply flawed and injured, both emotionally and physically. I had heard that The Sun was a story was without heroes. How could this be? How could these characters that I had grown to love and care for be villains or cowards. I remember the lesson when Dr. Burton taught that a thesis should be arguable, provocative, and divide a literary audience. The lights clicked on, and I knew that I had to defend my literary friends from the common perceptions and literary thoughts that marked them as antiheroes. My task was set.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Out On The Tiles

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Last week I was able to aquire my final stage of social proof. I was feeling pretty confident with where my paper was going and at that point I was on page five. It seemed to me that I was nearing the home stretch. I only had a few more pages to go, and I only needed to go through one more round of social proof. For my "expert" level of social proof, I chose to speak to Dr. Westover, a professor here at BYU. Although he's not a specialist in the topic I am am writing on, he does have a Ph.D. in English, and as a result I found his insights very helpful. I sent him an email and presented my thesis to him and the direction I was going and he responded with several ideas. Here is what he wrote: