Novel Weekends (10): Feeling Great

This has been an exceedingly productive weekend. I churned out a substantial part of Chapter 5, and I finished Chapter 4.

At this point, we have been introduced to almost all of the main characters that live in the Imperium: Imperator Talinissia, Tribune Theadra; Rowena the Huntress; Prefect Antonius; and Prefect Eulicia. They all have pretty interesting things going on around them, and now that we are in Chapter 5 the action is heating up as Theadra has to make a run for it.

I don’t normally like to toot my own horn, but I have to say that I have grown a lot as a writer in the last few months. Part of this, I think, stems from just writing a lot–on this blog, in my dissertation, on social media–and part of it comes from reading magazines like The Writer. And part of it comes from getting older and being more self-conscious. It’s a good feeling, to finally feel like you’re writing stuff that’s both interesting and pleasurable to read.

There’s still a long way to go with this novel project, but for the first time, I really and truly feel that it’s going to be a worthwhile journey, and that the endpoint is one that will be a strong payoff for both the characters and the readers.

What’s more, I think I’ve really begun to build a world and a story that have a lot to offer both in terms of depth and in terms of philosophy. I continue to draw from the deep wells of history in our own world, and I remain inspired by the fantasy greats in whose shadow my own work may one day grow.

Stay tuned, folks. While the Diss is calling, more world-building essays and updates on the novel are forthcoming, I promise!

World Building (6): The History and Ceremony of the Imperators

As has been noted elsewhere, the Imperium is ruled over by an autocrat known as the Imperator, whose power is virtually limitless. They are considered the living representative of the Name, and as such they exist in complementarity (in theory) with the Council of Prefects that rules over the Church.

Though the Imperator’s power is, in theory, without bounds, there are a number of factors that frequently influence how much they are able to wield. Foremost of these is the Senate, which is comprised of the various heads of the Houses, both Great and Lesser, that are the leaders of the many noble families, as well as some of the more wealthy and powerful merchants that inhabit the Imperium. There are, however, two “chambers” of the Senate. One, the senior chamber, is comprised of the nobles, including the Counts, Dukes, and Kings of the various administrative units, as well as the aforementioned Heads of House that are not rulers of these large units in their own right. This chamber wields all of the power and serves as the primary advisory body to the Imperator. The other, lower, chamber is comprised of the merchants and guild-masters. The Imperator is in charge of convening the Senate and having her or his decrees acclaimed by both groups. Except in extenuating circumstances in the history of the Imperium, the Senate has largely done as the Imperator wished. They also have the responsibility of acclaiming the Imperator upon his or her accession.

The position of Imperator has, by long practice, been assumed to be hereditary, even though this is not a strict rule. Instead, every Imperator that has established a steady rule has nominated their successor to reign with them as co-ruler, preferably when they are in middle age (as this supposedly cuts down on the possibility that an impatient heir may attempt to do away with a doddering senior partner). This has, for the most part, worked to the advantage of the Imperium as a whole, as it ensures a smooth transition from one ruler to the next. On occasion, however, it has resulted in conflict between parents and children, as the latter grow impatient for their turn to occupy the throne. This was the case with the Bastard’s War, in which a bastard son of Imperator Tiberian V slowly ingratiated himself with his father, thus spurring the ruler’s legitimate son to ignite a rebellion.

Through the years, the Senate has come to occupy a more pronounced and active role in the governance of the realm. Most of the various nobles who reign in their own right have historically treated their territories as their own private kingdoms, with little to no regard for the wishes of the increasingly-marginalized Imperators. Up until roughly 50 years before the time of the novel, this has been the case, and most people think of themselves as following their local lord before they think of themselves as subjects of the Imperator.

However, several recent Imperators have moved back to the model earlier established by their predecessors, taking on an increased role in direct governance. Part of this has stemmed from the increasingly restive and invasive Korrayyin and their allies the Haransharin, both of which have required strong forces. The current Imperator’s father became known as the Hammer for his ability to strike swiftly and without mercy, bringing fear to his enemies, both inside and outside of the Imperium. Indeed, he was well-known for his ability to bring the rebellious and fractious lords of the realm to heel and, unlike several of his predecessors, he took to attending meetings of the Senate, allegedly to make sure that he was aware of the goings-on in his realm but, far more likely, to strike fear into those who might be fomenting rebellion.

They have also returned to a model of court ceremony that had not been seen in several centuries. Now, it is required that all of those who wish to gain an audience with the Imperator, no matter their estate or class, must perform several rounds of obeisance, in order to show the proper humility to the one who is considered the earthly representative of the Name. This has served to ensure that the nobility understands their place in the divine ordering of the universe.

As a result of this semi-divine status, all Imperators are required to be crowned and anointed by the eldest member of the Council of Prefects. This is to ensure that the Imperator is blessed with the power of the Name as well as the acclamation of the Senate. This typically takes place in the Magisteria, the great church that sits at the direct center of the capital of Aïonis. The ceremony, as with all things connected to the Imperium, is intended to remind all of those gathered that the Imperator reigns with the utmost secular and temporal authority, and it is also a day in which the common people are treated to the greatest festival that any of them are likely to know. Recent Imperators have known that it is the common people who wield the true power–though they don’t realize it–and have acted accordingly.

Though coups are relatively rare, they have occurred for various reasons. The Imperator’s person is considered inviolate in theory, but as with so many things this does not always translate into consistency in practice (as the incident of the Bastard’s War makes abundantly clear). There are always those for whom the way that things have always been done are no impediment to their own ambition. It also doesn’t help when Imperators die before ensuring that their successor is secure on the throne, which happened with Talinissia’s father Philophanes, who died while she was still in her 20s, setting the stage for the armed uprising of her brother and the bitter Siblings’ War that nearly toppled the Imperium into utter chaos.

As the events of the novel begin, it remains unclear how much the position of Imperator has been damaged, and whether Talinissia is the one to bring stability. History, after all, has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

Novel Weekends (9): The Big Picture

This weekend, despite still being a bit exhausted from the Orientation, I’ve been able to write a bit. What’s more, I’ve been largely happy with the writing, which is always a truly great feeling.

I’ve now moved into a new character chapter, that of Rowena, a half-Anukathi/half-human assassin, spy, and general operative. I don’t have a full sense of her as a character yet, but things are starting to emerge as I write this chapter. For me, that’s one of the most exciting parts about this project: discovering things I never knew about the characters I’ve created. I know that she lost a father in the revolt led by the current Imperator’s brother a few years before, but I don’t know which side he was on (yet), or what her own political affiliations are.

The book I’ve been doing for research about the rediscovery of Aristotle’s works in the Middle Ages has really revitalized my drive to work on this novel project. I now have a stronger sense of the larger stakes, though the endgame is still a bit fuzzy. I’m really trying to do something compelling with the final battle that’s definitely a staple and to answer the question: “what happens if the gods on both sides die?”What happens to human beings in this schema? Does the created world keep going, when the force that gave it life is gone?

That probably gives you a sense of the trajectory. I’m still envisioning a quartet that leads to the final battle, but I also want to do a second series that continues the story of the first but in some new ways. I haven’t even decided which characters are going to survive, but I’ll figure that out as I go along.

Things are heating up, and I couldn’t be happier.

Reading History: “The Alice Network” (Kate Quinn)

I hate to be a fangirl but, well, I’ve been a fan of Kate Quinn’s ever since I read her book Mistress of Rome way back when. I must confess, though, that I was a bit disconcerted when she announced that she would be moving from the world of ancient Rome to World War I and World War II. I just loved her books about ancient Rome so much, I wasn’t sure the magic would continue into this new outing or, more frustratingly, whether I would be able to do it. Ancient Rome was my bag; 20th Century…not so much.

Boy was I wrong.

From the very first page, right up until the last, I was absolutely hooked on this novel. There were moments of heartbreak, laughter, joy, and every emotion in between. Indeed, this novel is some of the best historical fiction from one of today’s undisputed masters of the craft. My loyalty to this author has once again been incredibly rewarded, and I have once again met fictional characters whose lives continue to live on in my brain long after I read the last page.

The novel follows two characters. One is Charlie St. Clair, an unwed and very pregnant American out to find her cousin Rose, missing since the end of WW II. Her search leads her to the door of one Eve Gardiner, a former spy in the Alice Network during World War I. The novel also follows Eve in her youth, as she overcomes her stutter to become part of the famous spy ring known as the Alice Network. In the process, she also confronts the villainous profiteer René Bordelon. As the two stories interweave, both of the characters have to confront unpleasant truths, both about themselves and about those that they love.

As a result of this back-and-forth narrative patterning, one gets a sense of the way that history repeats itself, often catching up individuals in the gears of events that they can never entirely name nor control. Both Charlie and Eve frequently find themselves falling in love with damaged men, men who for one reason or another find it difficult to reciprocate those tender feelings. And while Eve’s ultimately has more of tragedy than of romance to it, Charlie does manage to carve out a space for herself and, ultimately, for Eve as well.

In keeping with Quinn’s extraordinary ability to dive deep into the particular challenges that women faced in the past, the novel also shines a light on the double standard regarding women and their sexuality. Both Eve and Charlie have to contend with the issue of sex. Charlie, as the beginning of the novel makes clear, is an unwed mother (a particularly pernicious stigma in the postwar years), while Eve is slowly drawn into the erotic web of Bordelon, who is as sadistic as he is exquisitely cultured. He loves exacting pain and pleasure in equal measure, and he is particularly inspired by Baudelaire, whose bust he uses to inflict horrific torture.

And let’s be real here. René Bordelon is without question one of the best villains that Quinn has ever created. Of course, Quinn has always had a tremendous skill in crafting baddies that put the in in infamy, but with this collaborator she has really outdone herself. With his dedication to pleasure and the finer things in life, his suave and deadly charm, and his ruthless efficiency, he stands as the very worst that the modern world can create. While I don’t want to give too much away, suffice it to say that he gets his just desserts in the end and boy, let me tell you, it is incredibly satisfying to read it.

The novel also focuses on the way that both Wars have left tremendous scars on the men who were forced to fight in the trenches. Finn, Charlie’s love interest and Eve’s chauffeur, bears the scars of his time in the service, particularly his encounters with the freed prisoners of the concentration camps. Further, she is haunted by the specter of her brother, who committed suicide as a result of the wounds, both physical and emotional, that he sustained during his service. It is his death that drives her to continue fighting to discover the fate of her cousin Rose and, later, to do everything in her power to give Eve, who almost falls into death and despair, something to live for.

In the end, The Alice Network is a tale of the ability of women to triumph despite all of the things hurled at them by the horrors of war. There are terrible losses to be endured, sacrifices to be made, but these ultimately prove worth it by the happiness that the characters manage to grasp for themselves despite all they’ve endured. Though the experiences of women and their contributions to the grisly business of war are often glossed over (or excised entirely) from the war record, Quinn has brought them to life with a spirit and vitality that it would be hard to match. We feel like we know and love these characters, and thus we suffer and triumph right along with them.

What’s more, we also come to celebrate the unlikely and beautiful friendship that springs up between these two extraordinary women. Each finds in the other something that they lack as individuals, and it is precisely this melding of two very different spirits and temperaments that binds them and allows them both to heal from the wounds that two world wars have inflicted upon their minds, souls, and bodies. The novel is as much about the women as a team as it is about them as individuals, and that’s what gives it its particular power.

As always, Quinn has done a magnificent job bringing to light the struggles and triumphs of the forgotten women of history. I know that I, for one, cannot wait until she reveals her next work. I know that I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it when it comes out.

Character Sketch (3): Eulicia Khamytzes

We come now to Eulicia, one of the most enigmatic of my viewpoint characters, even to me. I’m still exploring her character quirks, her desires and motivations, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

Born into the powerful and influential House Khamytzes, she has known from an early age that she was fated for great things. While her elder brothers pursued the cursus honorum that would lead to their political futures, she decided that she would pursue her power through the auspices of the Church. It had been several generations since a member of her family had done so and thus, in consultation with her father and mother and the other leading magnates of her House, she saw the Church as a viable pathway to power.

Unlike some of her fellow Prefects and others in the Church, she is not primarily interested in the intricacies of theology or language, philosophy or the sciences. Instead, she is interested in politics and, above all, ensuring that the Imperium and the Church remain wedded in their mutual partnership. Naturally, this has also meant ensuring that heretics are expunged, but she does this not out of any doctrinal loyalty, but out of a desire to ensure that the world that she cherishes remains stable. For her, the costs incurred in this mission are never too large, for stability means that everyone, of high or low estate, is able to rest at night knowing that their lives are secure. (Of course, being born to wealth, she really has no idea that this doesn’t always work out so well in practice).

Given her upbringing and her birth, she moved quickly through the ranks of the Academy, and while she did not attain the highest marks, she was a competent student and teacher, able to impress those who encountered her with her erudition and the precision of her thought.

When one of the key places on the Council of Prefects fell vacant as the result of the death of Prefect Plakidia, Eulicia was in the perfect position to fill it. Her noble birth and her rank within the Church ensured that her election would not be too acrimonious, though there were a few ruffled feathers among the other noble families who also had their own members primed for the accession. The Duke Childerick, for one, had hoped that his own daughter would assume that position, and his resentment, and that of his son, will come to have significant consequences for the present actions unspooling.

Eulicia, like most of her fellow Prefects, has actively sought out a political role for herself. Unlike most of them, however, she has fostered particularly strong and close ties with the current Imperator Talinissia, with whom she has been close friends since they were both students at the Academy. Indeed, she has been by her side since it first became clear that her father, despite the wishes of many in his innermost counsels, was going to make sure that she acceded to the throne. Thus, it was Eulicia who was given the sacred task of investing Talinissia with the regalia upon her accession.

From the beginning of the reign of the Imperator Talinissia, she has thrown in her lot with the unlikely heir and done everything in her power to make sure that she has the support she needs from within the Church. This, despite the fact that a significant number of the Great Houses–and a large number of the Lesser ones as well–conspired and sided with Talinissia’s brother in his ill-considered bid for the throne. Though it would have been easier for Eulicia to abandon her friend, she did not and has not done so, strong-arming the more ambitious and rebellious members of her own family into supporting this particular member of the imperial family.

It should be clear, then, that Eulicia is more than a little ruthless. She does not necessarily see herself that way, however. Instead, she firmly believe that what she is doing is for the best of the Imperium, the Church, and the fundamental order that they represent on the temporal plane. She has made many enemies, but there are also many that respect her as a woman of integrity, ironclad as it may seem.

All of this probably makes her sound like someone who is merely hungry for power and is jealous of her class status. I suppose to some extent that’s true, but there is something else going on with her, as well. Eulicia is a woman who is utterly convinced that she is in the right, and it takes a great deal to convince her to change her mind. As the events of the novel unfold, however, it remains to be seen whether she will be able to weather the storm that is about to overcome her world and all that she knows.

Character Sketch (2): Theadra

Theadra is, in many ways, the centerpiece of the story I’m telling. Or, at any rate, she is centerpiece, since I see this project as more of an ensemble than a solo. It will be her actions that will transform the world that she lives in, her discovery that sets off a chain of events that will radically reconfigure everything around her.

First, though, a few words about her upbringing.

Like her mentor Antonius, she grew up as a member of the lower-class. Her father was a butcher in the capital, while her mother was a seamstress and maid for a wealthy merchant. Indeed, it was this merchant (one Justin by name) who first saw in her the spark of true academic brilliance and brought her to the attention of Antonius.

Theadra was plucked out of her life of obscurity and enrolled in the Academy with all of her expenses paid. Like her nameless benefactor–it would be some time before she learned that it was Antonius–she leaned toward the human sciences and philosophy. And, like him, she was also the subject of torment by those who saw her as an interloper in the rightful terrain of the nobility. However, she persevered, determined to prove herself worthy and to make sure that she made her benefactor’s investment in her worth the expense.

Theadra possesses a truly remarkable adeptness with languages, and she has mastered at least 5 at the time the story begins, including several of the archaic languages that have already fallen out of the knowledge of the average citizen of the Imperium. From the beginning of her time in the Academy, and later when she took up the positions of the ascending Church hierarchy, she has been tasked with translating the numerous old scripts that can be found in the archives. Though the Church has remained remarkably consistent in its teachings since its origins, it has also managed to lose track of many of its foundational texts as well. Translators and commentators are thus much in demand, and so Theadra has found herself similarly called upon to serve the Church.

At the time of the novel, she has already risen to the rank of Deacon, a middling position within the Church but understood to be one of the key planks in the cursus sanctorum, the ladder that ascends to the ultimate position of Prefect. As such, she has a not inconsiderable amount of power within the Church, though because of her introverted nature she has yet to accrue the sort of clientele that she will need if she wishes to ascend into the higher ranks of the clergy. This has frequently been a bone of contention between her and her mentor Antonius, for he has learned (often the hard way) that it is necessary to have allies of particular power and influence if one is to make advancements.

While she is steadfast in her adherence to the Church, Theadra has begun to feel the pinch of doubt. She desperately wants to believe with all of her heart, but there have been many things that she has read that have challenged her belief in the unassailability of the Church. What’s more, she has begun to take to hear the dissatisfaction of the common people, who see in the Church the worst sort of hypocrisy. While the commoners have begun a downward spiral into financial penury, facing all manner of tribulations throughout the Imperium, those in the upper echelons of power continue to thrive. Despite their claims to the denial of the material world, they still cling to the very things that they deny. To Theadra’s eyes, used as they are to the privations that most people face, this is very troubling. Indeed, it will come to shape much of what happens to her, and much of what actions she takes, as the novel progresses.

At the time of the novel, she is around 25 years of age. She entered the Academy when she was 15, and so she has had 10 years to learn what she has and to gain some allies. Her closest friend is, without a doubt, Antonius, though there is always the tension that exists between a superior and a subordinate (or a teacher and a disciple). Despite this, there is a genuine warmth there, though as the events of the novel will show, there is a limit even to such things. And as events will likewise show, Theadra is, despite her own wishes or knowledge, caught up in forces that she can neither name nor control.

I’m really looking forward to fully developing this character. To my mind, it’s high time that we have a female epic hero who fits into the mold of the likes of Rand al’Thor, the Ohmsford family, and the like. Hopefully, Theadra will serve as that character.

Novel Weekends (8): Momentum

Well, it seems as if I have finally hit some momentum when it comes to my novel. I finally have a story that I think holds together pretty well, and after re-reading some of the material I’ve produced, I’m also happy with the way that I’ve told it so far. There’s a lot yet to go, but I’m confident I can get there.

Over this weekend, I managed to finish up the Prologue (which is now basically done), as well as parts of Chapter 3. I also published a character sketch of one of my primary characters, which really helped me to understand his depth and motivations in a much more sophisticated way.

I’m really happy with the way that the pieces of the first part of this novel are coming together. Writing an epic that’s more than just an adventure (though there’s nothing wrong with that), is a bit of a challenge, but it is definitely one that I am determined to undertake. I really want my fantasy novel to do, something and that is what makes it such a tremendously enjoyable endeavour.

I’ve also begun reading a fascinating little book called Aristotle’s Children, which details the rediscovery of Aristotle’s works in the late Middle Ages and the learning revolution that it sparked. This has helped to add some layer and depth to the story that I am telling, for The Heretic’s War is, quite simply, about one of those periods of epistemic shift that really reshapes how an entire civilization thinks of itself.

Now that I’ve started to make some genuine progress on the Dissertation–and, more importantly, nearing the finish line–I feel like I have a bit more space to work on my creative projects. That is truly a great feeling, and I look forward to the adventure!

Character Sketch (1): Antonius

Born into a yeoman family in the western duchy of Aspaña, Antonius was not, at first blush, fated for any sort of prominent position. However, he was from his youth a tremendously ambitious young man, and through sheer ruthlessness and determination he was able to secure himself a position in the local monastery, where he could at last indulge his love of books, knowledge, and the wisdom of the ancients.

It was not long before the abbot recognized his innate potential and began grooming him for a potential career in the highest echelons of the Church. He was sent to the Academy in Aïonis, recognized by everyone as the only sure way for those born into the lower classes to make their way up the ranks. He impressed his teachers, who recognized his intellectual and spiritual gifts and did all that they could to continue cultivating them.

He soon made a name for himself as one of those insufferable types of students who insists on following the rules, despite the fact that this made him tremendously unpopular among his fellow students. He was tormented by those who saw him as doubly a threat, both because of his accomplishments and because of the fact that he was a lower-class person who had risen to a position that they deemed the exclusive purview of the wealthy and the elite.

Though there was much he hated about his time at the Academy, he met the man who would come to be the love of his life, the nobleman Trystane. This youth, who came from the Peninsula, was one of those rare people who, despite their innate privilege, makes a point of befriending those in the lower classes. He was a few years younger than Antonius, but he was also brilliant, though in a different way. Whereas Antonius leans toward philosophy and theology, Trystane is more attuned to science and to the workings of things, including the affairs of nations.

The two began their relationship during their time at the Academy, and they have remained with one another ever since. Given that the Church officially condones same-sex relationships–both among the clergy and the laity–they have been allowed to be joined officially in the sacrament of marriage. This caused no small amount of friction with Trystane’s family in particular, since doing so not only abrogated any of his political ambitions but also sullied the vaunted name. Still, the relationship has persevered through all of that.

Indeed, it has been Trystane’s political acumen that has allowed Antonius to quickly ascend the ranks of the Church. There were, of course, many who opposed him, but Trystane was quite willing to do away with those who stood in the way of his beloved’s interests. Though he may have abandoned his traditional family loyalties, he was still able to use the skills that had been cultivated in him from an early age.

As Prefect, Antonius made it his duty to ensure that the purity of the Church is maintained. He views the stability of the Church as key to the stability of the cosmos, and he is also determined to ensure that the Imperators do not interlope too thoroughly on the interests and prerogatives of the Church. As a result, he has had several tense run-ins with the previous Imperator, and he has also been known to have heated arguments with the current Imperator Talinissia.

At the time of the novel, he has already been serving as a Prefect of the Church for the last twenty years, and in that time he has become one of the most ruthless and relentless persecutors of those who have been found. Unfortunately, he does not enjoy a great deal of support among the population of the Imperium, though the rank and file of the Church find him to be generous. He has made it a particular point to cultivate the talents of those who come from similar backgrounds as himself, including and especially the young Theadra. This girl, the daughter of a butcher, has a bright future ahead of her, though the events of the novel will test her in ways that she would never have imagined.

Further, Antonius has also earned the enmity of several of his fellow Prefects, almost all of whom hail from the nobility and thus view him with no small amount of skepticism and outright hostility. Of particular note in this regard is the Prefect Eulicia, who sees in him a threat to all that she has come to hold dear, particularly the order imposed by the aristocracy and the nobility. The two have spent many years sparring with one another, neither able to gain a definitive advantage over the other. How long that stalemate lasts, and who will emerge the victory in their strife, is one of the major plots of the novel.

Stay tuned for more characters sketches as I learn more about my characters and share that knowledge with you.

Dissertation Days (46): Adventures in Research

As promised, I was back at work on the Dissertation today. I’m actually quite tremendously pleased with the work I produced today. Although I only wrote 500 words, I think that they were pretty good ones (all things considered), and that is always a cause for a minor celebration. There will, of course, be a lot of revision between the time I finish this draft and the time I turn it in, but that’s just par for the course.

This was also a surprisingly productive day in terms of research. Peter Brooks’s brilliant Reading for the Plot has been really helpful in beefing up that theoretical section. Indeed, I basically spent the entire day focused on that. Sometimes, you just hit your stride when it comes to writing a theoretical section, and you get that fiery, passionate feeling that you are really onto something important in the way that you’re phrasing and articulating your argument. That’s the feeling I live for, and this is the first time that I’ve felt it in a couple of weeks.

In this chapter, I’m really trying to get to the heart of the tension between narrative and spectacle in the epic film. These are terms that people often use as if they were self-explanatory–epics are simple narratives that overcompensate with a use of spectacle is a typical line of argument–and I want to give this the sort of detail that I think it deserves. The way I’m framing my argument, I think anyway, will serve as a nice end to the dissertation as a whole and has some important connections to the first chapter. Given how much I’ve struggled with this chapter, I’m really happy that it’s finally starting to take a shape with which I can be happy.

Given that I only have 2 more days here in West Virginia, I’ll probably take another mini-hiatus until I return to Syracuse. Then, I’ll be back at the normal schedule (as much as possible), though it might be a bit touch-and-go because of the new TA Orientation that’ll be going on throughout the second week of August. And, of course, there’s all the other stuff–articles, revisions, conference proposals, etc.–that will undoubtedly eat their way into my free time.

But, I shall persist, as I always do.

With the right amount of determination, I know I can get this done, and I can get it done well.

Onward.

Dissertation Days (45): Insert Clever Title Here

Today, I worked mostly on context, with a little bit of composition in the discussion of Fall of the Roman Empire. I also wove in some criticism of Cleopatra into that section. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the material that I produced today, though I also know that there will need to be some finessing and trimming done (those goddamn couplets are still proving to be something of a thorn in my side).

All in all, this was quite a good day, especially since my productivity tends to slow down when I’m visiting West Virginia. I noticed some repetition in the historical section, so I’ll have to take care of that, but it does seem as if the broad contours of that are pretty much in place. One of these days soon, I’m going to have to take another look at the theoretical section. There are a number of coordinates in that section that I think work well separately, but I need to make sure that they all fit together in a coherent whole and, just as importantly, that they also lead directly into the discussion of the films.

I also like the material I produced about The Fall of the Roman Empire. I’ll need to do some re-reading of secondary material once I return to Syracuse, so I can begin layering that it more consistently. As we know, that will also help me to nuance my arguments and explain how my own contribution elaborates on the existing scholarly conversation about this particular film.

Though this draft still has a number of weaknesses, I am determined to make this the draft that I end up submitting. It’s hard not to get frustrated, and I have to keep reminding myself that sometimes, it’s okay to spend a day revising rather than just producing more words. Old habits die hard, though. Still, I am also a determined person, and so I shall continue endeavouring to revise this chapter as the days go by. Someday soon, I know, this chapter will be done.

Tomorrow, I may not get anything done. Lots of obligations, but I’ll surely write another 1,500 words or so in the following week. Plus, I hope to be able to start the revision of Chapter 1 soon, and if I keep up the pace I should have both Chapters 1 and 2 in pretty much finished shape by the end of August.

Onward!