I’m Back!

Obviously it has been quite some time since my last blog, almost a year on here actually (though I have been writing reflectively on and off for that time). Although I often let things like this slip when things get tough, returning to it feels cathartic. I had let myself forget how useful it is to both get my feelings about what I’m doing out and to recognise the work that I have actually done.

To start with, I should perhaps catch you all up. Despite everything I went through in the three weeks prior to handing in my Confirmation of Candidature document and doing the presentation, I passed it with flying colours. No amendments needed! Since then I have been working on developing an idea of what I think the thesis might look like and which is naturally ever evolving but I think I have something to work with. I’ve also written somewhat of an introduction, that will no doubt need to be edited and changed, but its nice to have a version of it. I’m currently on the fourth draft of my first analysis chapter, this one being on the film Mrs. Miniver (William Wyler, 1942).

The last few weeks though, have been a particularly rough patch in a very hard year. This month actually marks a year that I have been getting consistent treatment for my depression and anxiety. Hence the lack of desire to post about the work. It’s still a constant struggle every day of my life but at least I am now on the right track. Over the past month or so though, it became clear that I needed to take a break, something I had been avoiding doing throughout this whole year. I had forgotten that mantra, ‘rest is a requirement, not a reward.’ It got to a point where I spent more time at my desk crying than writing. Finally, I was convinced to take the break I needed. It ended up being longer than I anticipated because it turned out things were even worse than I realised. But the important thing is that I sought help from the appropriate professionals and from the support network of loved ones I am blessed to have around me.

I have had to make sure to work on finding that work/life balance that we’re always searching for. I have a rule now not to work from home at all (as my house is far too small for there to be any separation between work and relaxation if I work there) and I am trying harder to dedicate the work days to my research so I can freely spend the weekends with family and free from the stress of the thesis. I readily acknowledge that at times in the next year and a half this may not always be possible to maintain but when it is, I have to give myself time off.

Getting back to work this week with a better headspace and renewed motivation has been great! My immediate plan has been to go back to the literature in order to be able to make my draft of the Miniver chapter more sophisticated and more insightful. There was a significant amount that I had set aside to have a look at but did not even skim through. I have been working through the draft again to spot the places that need more information or need to be expanded with more sources or more critical engagement (which I was not feeling as confident in). This has felt like a nice and easy way to ease myself back into the work whilst still being productive.

I had been analysing Mrs. Miniver in terms of melodrama and so I returned to the literature on this. This felt like a good place to start as it was the last place I had been. I have been going through the relevant chapters of Marcia Landy’s edited collection Imitations of Life. So far, Landy’s introduction has been useful in providing some more context on melodrama and expanding some of the ideas I’ve already come across, particularly Thomas Elsaesser’s (his essay Tales of Sound and Fury can also be found in the aforementioned book) notion that the internal conflict or emotions of the characters are played out externally though the mise-en-scène in melodramas. Thomas Schatz’s chapter also provided a more detailed history of the development of the family melodrama than I had previously come across.

In discussing the relationship of melodrama, ideology, and politics, Landy makes a point that I think is important for my whole thesis. She argues that we have to keep in mind that the text “is not merely a direct response to or reflection of social life; it is also a determinant of social reality” (Landy p. 18). This is an idea that I think relates to the crux of my argument about history and film. The way that a historical film engages with the contemporary context of its production and how that context is expressed in the film is certainly a key aspect of the analysis of the depiction of history in a particular film. However, I also think that the specific choices of how to represent a version of history in these films inevitably impacts the way that the audience thinks about that history. This is what I am making an attempt to measure or analyse through my study of both the films and the responses to them.

This is an idea I have often discussed before, but it is helpful from time to time, especially when something I read prompts to me think about it, to try to articulate these overarching ideas. Especially now that I feel like I’m coming back to the thesis feeling clearer.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Trying to Keep Busy

13th – 19th August 2018

I really don’t have too much to report this week. For the most part I’ve been working on putting the CoC document together. It’s been a bit of a tough slog still with my Grandma passing away last Wednesday. I’m a bit touchy and sometimes it’s hard to keep focused but I think keeping busy is the best option for me. I’ve also been going to uni a lot more. I’m on campus five days a week now and I’m finding the routine, almost like getting up and going to work every day, is helping me keep grounded. It also doesn’t give me the room to just lie around in bed which, if I’m honest, is what I feel like doing most of the time at the moment.

So yes, I’ve been working on the CoC document over the last week. I read back over my introduction from my Masters thesis and the synthesis I worked on earlier this year and worked out what stuff I can use and made a little scaffold based on the sections that are required for the document. This left me with only a few parts that need to be put together from scratch as it were, so I’m feeling okay about it going together. It just needs to be written up properly and formalised. It’s still a little sketchy at present. The things that I’m most worried about are the sections like the research outcomes and maybe the research case a little and I also realised I have to do a budget, but I thought I would talk that through with my supervisors.

Other than that, I’m also trying to fit my marking in which I think I’m getting a decent rhythm with. I’m marking an annotated bibliography at the moment and I’m finding the pedantry of it somewhat relaxing even though it is slightly tedious. Only one of my students is using my referencing style so it’s also somewhat interesting to learn a bit about other styles as well as a nice reminder to myself about what I need to look out for in my own work when I was digging into Chicago.

This week I’m looking to get a first draft at least of the document as close to finished as I can. Next week I’ve got to go interstate for the funeral on Monday, so I really would like to get as much work as I can done before then.

 

 

Unpleasant Surprises

6th – 12th August 2018

This past week was a bit trying honestly. Mainly this was because of my Grandma’s health. We were really worried we would lose her last week. We rushed down to Canberra where she is on Thursday and I tried to focus and get some work done on the way down, but it took a lot of energy to do so. Once we got there, she was not looking great, having had a stroke and her left side being mostly paralysed, but thankfully she’s being taken excellent care of and for the foreseeable future, it seems she’s going to be okay.

Also this week, finding out my Confirmation of Candidature was going to be a bit sooner than I had imagined (in a month with the document due in about three weeks) initially threw me a little and I knew that I was also heading into marking a bigger, and what I imagine will be more time consuming, assignment this week. All of this together left me feeling a fair bit overwhelmed toward the end of last week. Over my time doing research projects, all two years of it, I’ve managed to learn, however, that freaking out really isn’t going to get me anywhere, so I stopped, took stock, and started thinking logistically about how I’m going to tackle the coming weeks and everything that needs to be done.

To start with I looked at another student’s CoC document which turned out to be a huge relief. I was struggling a little to work out exactly how I was supposed to put the document together and amass the disparate strands of my project together into one piece. Looking at this example and seeing the structure of it instantly eased my mind. Being broken down into sections is a lot easier to manage and it made me really see that it is a lot like the introduction to the thesis itself so that made me feel a lot better. I’ve done that before, I know how to go about it. I also realised that I’ve done a lot of that work already, both in the synthesis I did earlier in the year and in my Masters. I’ve also been keeping track of the stuff that I’ve been reading as I do it, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to put it together once I have the structure I want to do it in. I was thinking perhaps of approaching it in a similar way to the way I did my introduction in my Masters. I feel like that was pretty logical and coherent. We’ll see how we go.

I’ve also gone through my bibliography again as it stands now to work out if there’s anything on there that I haven’t read yet that I think really needs to be in the document and there’s a couple of things but nothing I don’t think I can handle. I’ve been skimming through Anna Clark’s Private Lives, Public History recently which I had unwisely been putting off.

For the immediate future then the plan is simply to get this document done and ready to go by September!

 

Reflecting on my First Conference Paper

2nd – 8th July 2018

This week was a bit of a hectic one, I’ve had a few family issues to come to terms with.  However, in reflection I’m excited to have presented at WSU’s Postgraduate Conference on Friday (6th July). I was a little anxious about it at first, it’s a bit of a different environment to the History In House (a meeting in which members of the history faculty can present their current research to each other which I presented at in June), and then once everything went a little pear shaped earlier last week I became almost ambivalent about it, given that my mind seemed to be on 100 different things at once. Once I was at the conference though, whilst my nerves kicked in a bit I wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought I was going to be.

I have to take a moment to pass on thanks to my dear friend Alix who I work with at uni two days a week usually but who, this week, listened while I talked through the presentation, checked my PowerPoint, and even let me stay with her the night before the presentation to save me the three hour trip I was going to have to make and who came for moral support. I’m not quite sure I would have handled it as well this week if she hadn’t been so lovely to me.

During the presentation itself I still felt a little shaky but I tried to remember the idea that I am the expert on this particular thing in this particular room. I was a little intimidated as well by the people in the room. I highly respect every member of the history faculty but doing it in the In House environment where everyone is presenting and talking about their research feels like a different, safer place in many ways. It feels more collegial than the conference did, though I’m trying to remember to think of myself less as a student under scrutiny. Anyway, having a few academics there who I also very highly respect but don’t often have much to do with felt a little intimidating but as I got going it stopped mattering at all.

I was still a little hyperaware of my voice but I’m trying to work on that. There was another technical glitch with the clip, this time there was no sound whatsoever which threw me but ultimately I just narrated it myself a bit (though I do completely agree with my supervisor Judith, who commented afterward that I perhaps should have just winged it with the clip instead of wasting too much time trying to figure out a solution). I felt like I handled the questions fairly well, some of them genuinely making me think about my project and raising some points that I will have to look into, I think. At the end of it all I still wasn’t feeling super happy but I wasn’t really mad about it.

It did make me think about my own response to feedback and what that means for my own growth. I find myself often responding to any praise with self-deprecation and I don’t think that that is really helping me at all. Slightly tangentially, I recently watched Hannah Gadsby’s incredible comedy special Nanette (which is completely and utterly brilliant and I would recommend it to everybody) and in it she talks about having built her career on self-deprecating humour and how she doesn’t deserve to do that to herself and to anyone that identifies with her. Though I’m not in the same situation as Hannah it got me thinking about – frankly, a whole lot of things, it’s quite honestly changed my life – what I’m actually doing when I respond to things simply with self-deprecation. I don’t intend to start being arrogant, I still believe strongly in humility but when people give me positive feedback, especially about something which I lack confidence in and especially from those whose opinions I trust, and I immediately respond by putting myself and my performance down, I’m not sure how I’m ever going to grow in that. If I keep myself in that place of believing I’m not good at it then I’m never going to develop confidence. Henceforth, I’m going to try to work on taking in what people say about my work whether it be constructive criticism or praise. I need to learn to be kinder to myself. I should write a self-help book.

In other news, I’ve gone through my present bibliography and worked out what it is I think I need to have read for my CoC document, excluding, of course, any new works I find. I’ve got an RAF archive book from the library and my plan for the immediate future is to work through that, and then slightly longer term to start going through my resources and beginning to put together this document.

Overall feeling a lot more on track.