Dissertation Days (1): Revision, Revision, Revision

Since I’m a fan of new initiatives, I’ve decided to start keeping a semi-daily record of my progress on my dissertation, in order to keep myself accountable and to help me keep track of my progress. And, since I love being publicly visible, I’m going to do so here.

Each post will be strictly limited to 400 words. I have a tendency to get wordy, so this will help me learn to be concise.

As some of you know, I’m currently in the process of writing my third chapter, which argues that colour in the midcentury historico-biblical epic expresses a desire to escape from modernity and its associated pressures (the atomic bomb, the dreariness of labour, the irrevocability of time) into the world of antiquity, flush with desire and visual/sensory plenitude. At the same time, these films also force an encounter with history’s terror through the spectacle of destruction.

So, the feedback from my adviser on the first draft called for some deep revisions, and I’ve been hard at work on that for the last two weeks. I’m now almost halfway done with the draft that I think I will resubmit, and that feels pretty gratifying.

The historical context is a lot more coherent, and I think I’ve managed to curtail my typical “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach,” in which I basically toss together all of my research and hope for coherence (it usually isn’t very coherent). Even now, even after all I’ve written and all the progress I’ve made, it’s surprisingly difficult

However, as I’ve made my way through this version, I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to find my own voice and to articulate my own arguments, rather than having them drowned out by the cacophony of competing voices that I tend to rely on overmuch.

So, when tomorrow dawns, I plan on continuing the progress that I’ve made so far. As of now, I’ve been doing a lot of cannibalizing of early drafts, drawing in the more coherent parts. I’ve got a pretty strong grasp of the broad contours of the argument, so now I have to do the hard part and start filling in the gaps in the piece. It’s always the hardest part of the process, to figure out what exactly it is that I am trying to do and say in each part of the chapter.Ugh.

Dissertation writing is hard, but here’s to a productive day tomorrow.

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