Today would have been my Mother’s 88th birthday and even though I know she is not here I find myself still wanting to wish her a ‘happy birthday’…so Happy Birthday Mum:):) xox
So, as a writer-researcher-student I find myself in an interesting place. At first I wondered how I was ever going to ‘do’ reflexiveness. And now, of course, I’ve seen the light. How so you ask?
Well…it’s like this…firstly, I am working on an essay which is now in a ‘second’ draft form so I think it has possibilities…and this morning I will also be working on updating my research proposal…and guess what?…the section I have to complete is all about the research methodologies for creative practice projects. Again, I am working on the second draft of this update and so I do have something to play with. But what is interesting is that I have been away from the draft novel for a few weeks now…may be it’s a few months…anyway, I am getting anxious. I want to get back to it as fast as I can but there are other considerations that I have to meet. No fuss, that’s how it is…it is the balance between being a writer and a student.
Now to the second point about reflexiveness…I became aware yesterday that I my whole existence is built around ‘being reflexive’ every day…I live my project and so as I do my normal chores around the house…well one has to eat, and shower, and I can’t not walk Dougal doggie…well as I work I spend most of my ‘mind-time’ thinking about what I am working on.
So…back to yesterday…I was working on the Literature Review and writing about Irish Studies readings. As part of this process I have read a great article by Prof Ian McBride…he writes about Irish historians and their varying approaches and as my project is premised on Hayden White’s argument about the ‘practical’ past I absorbed every word in McBride’s journal article (“The Shadow of the Gunman: Irish Historians and the IRA” Journal of Contemporary History 46 (3) 686-710). After I read the article I spent some time considering how I would approach the subject of Irish historians in the research proposal. Well the decision I made is at this point is ‘not at all’. I have to be relevant in my writing and I am not actually studying or writing about Irish historians…however…of course they will be covered in some detail in the exegesis. Why there and not the research proposal? Well my thinking is that – from my research so far, I haven’t been able to find much on Irish historians arguing/agreeing with Hayden White’s theories -or even anything much on what they think of his oeuvre (my fav word at the moment).
Of course…as everything is in draft form at the moment…including me…this all might change in the not too distant future:):)
My heartfelt sadness about what happened in Paris I know is felt by others around the world. Solidarity in love will hopefully win the day, but I know as I write those words that the people conducting terrorist raids, shootings and bombings also probably express similar sentiments. I try not to be too judgemental but I think there might come a time when judgemental is exactly what I have to be. Or has it come already?
So this week, what am I up to? Well I have been away for a few days and have come back refreshed. I was having a little trouble with an essay I have to write and it came down to trying to get too much informtion into a paper of only 2000 words. So, back to basics…I sat down in a quite place in Rutherglen and thought about what the essay was supposed to encompass. It has to say why I am choosing to work with Hayden White’s take on the ‘practical’ past as opposed to the historical past.
White eschews the notion that professional historians are authorised to deliver a past that they consider the proper version on the basis of evidence authenticated by other historians. However, as a researcher-writer I want exactly that which is referred to a dry as a dust history as a referent point in my work. History validates historical fiction. Historical fiction validates the work of professional historians. So why do history and historical fiction have to be at opposite ends of the spectrum? And why do they have to be considered as complimentary? They are different and I would like to celebrate that difference.
You can see my problem here, I get too distracted. Back to the essay. Using Hayden White allows me to look at Irish female migration and research and learn. Then I will write a story based on that research. In choosing Hayden White as my theoretical framework I feel a validation for the project that I can defend. Okay, so the essay could be written in however many words that last sentence contained but then again it doesn’t say how…yet!!!
I had to answer some very interesting questions as part of my homework this week but as I think about how I should respond I have also asked a few questions of my own.
What do you think about having to write an exegesis?
I don’t have a problem with writing an exegesis as such but I do wonder how universities would manage the creative practice degree if there were no exegesis. However, I am loving that I work within a disciplined framework. I know what my area of interest is. I know what my research question is. But what I am not sure about, is the notion that we have to ‘performance manage’ our creative outputs – how do we measure these?
Are you convinced of its value or do you feel it is yet another university hoop to jump through?
I think the exegesis has value, particularly if you want an academic/creative practice career. There is also value in the experience of writing an academic paper of around 30,000 words as well as the novel of about 70,000 words. Totally different writing skills are learned along the journey.
Can or should creative work stand alone?
It doesn’t need to – it depends on what your creative work is – it should be up to the practitioner-researcher.
How would you describe your relationship to writing?
I split this question off from the one above because I am not sure here what you mean. Which writing? Whose writing? Writing in general? Writing academic papers? Such a broad question which can be played with no-end if you are a writer. It can also be played with no-end if you are a (fill in your own area of practice ……………………. )
And for those of you doing a totally written thesis, how does the writing work integrate or mesh with the broad research you do?
Again, not sure what is meant by this question. The writing I undertake is part of the research journey but there are other activities involved as well and while everything meshes, sometimes it is a tightly woven fitting fishing net and at other times I could squeeze a submarine through it.
And finally to everyone, what might be your future plans for this writing i.e. conferences, publication?
Well, writing conference papers and articles for journals and of course getting the novel published is all part of ‘the plan’ for my degree. Also, I didn’t think there was a choice about this aspect of being a PhD student in that there are expectations that before I have completed the degree I will have had at least tried to have one paper published. It seems from the questions asked here that the focus is not really on creative-writing projects. Josie Arnold: 2005, in “The PhD in Writing Accompanied by an Exegesis” examines the PhD in creative writing at Swinburne University of Technology and notes that a lot of information about PLR has come from the schools of art and design, mainly visual and performative arts. I found this to still be the case in 2015.
May be that is one of my challenges…more thinking required