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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Dunkirk Air Combat Archive

9th – 22nd July 2018

I’m feeling fairly confident this week actually! Things are settling and I’m feeling like I’ve got the right routine happening at the moment and I’m finding some interesting stuff.

This comes off the back of a not so good week. Mostly just because a lot of things in my personal life were going on. The Thursday before last was the funeral for my aunt and the day before that I visited the library at the campus where my mother worked when I was a child and I spent a lot of time with her there and I think because I was already feeling a little vulnerable that hit me a little hard. So it was all in all a bit of an emotional hangover at the end of the week before last. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel as I went into last week feeling a little refreshed and lighter. And I’m sat writing this now in that library I still feel Mum’s energy here but it’s a lot less overwhelming and more comforting now that I feel in a personally in a better place.

Anyway, some actual content, I’ve been working through the book Dunkirk Air Combat Archive which is really interesting! The book is basically just a collection of actual patrol and combat reports from RAF pilots over Dunkirk. It’s been a really interesting read. There’s a lot of background information with it which sets the scene for every day of the evacuation, the weather, the military movements and decisions made that day, how much damage was inflicted on the town, the beach and the boats. It’s really given me a kind of day by day description or layout of the evacuation itself which has been really valuable. It’s also really fascinating to hear about it, or at least the air part of it, through the pilots themselves in a sense. Reading their actual reports gives that real sense of some of the things I talked about in my presentation. The sense of being outnumbered and overwhelmed really comes through in their reports as well as the issues of height. The impact that the weather had on them actually came through a lot stronger than in the secondary sources I dealt with in the presentation.

A particularly interesting thing that’s come about with this book is that it includes stills from actual footage from camera guns on Spitfires in the skies over Dunkirk. There are multiple pieces of footage it seems but because it’s specified where its come from I’m hoping that might give me a bit of a head start, or a help at least, in seeing if I can track them down. I’m really interested, in the potential comparison between the actual footage and the scenes in feature films about the evacuation featuring the RAF. It could be a really interesting avenue.

This coming week I can’t imagine I’m going to get a huge amount done, full disclosure. I’ve got concerts on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights which I’m staying in the city for and then I’m meeting on Thursday afternoon about some marking work I’ll be doing this semester so I won’t be home for pretty much three days this week and I imagine I’m going to be close to exhausted. I am going to try and find some time in the mornings to get some stuff done though. I’m aiming at least to have a productive day today (Monday) and on Friday to make up for the probably inevitable dip in productivity in the middle of the week.

Doing Alright

24th April – 6th May 2018

The past fortnight has been busy. I had my Masters graduation,  and some medical and family issues. It’s been kind of painful personally but productive in the way that it matters! I’ve been working on preparing for this presentation I have in mid-June as I really want it to be done by the end of May. I have such a busy time scheduled for the beginning of June.

So I’ve mainly been focusing in the last week or two on the historical research and reading what I can of what historians have written about themes present in the scene I’m working with. There’s lots to talk about and I might do a little more research but I think the historical part of the presentation just needs to be filled out and it’ll be pretty much ready to go.

This week I’m going to do some further research into the authors I’m talking about and focusing I think on doing some research into embodiment and really filling out and expanding my film analysis.

I’m also going to be really putting an effort into making sure I get on top of the admin stuff that I tend to push aside. I’m going to make sure to set aside time each day to work on those things, forms, emails, registering and applying for things etc, etc. I tend to go all in on a particular project or book or something and I’ve really got to balance all the aspects of the work including the bureaucracy, even though it might frustrate me.

So that’s the plan. I’m feeling a bit emotionally tired but I’m feeling good about the work so I’m hoping for a productive week.

 

Full Steam Ahead

16th – 23rd April 2018

I got a bit caught up and completely forgot about writing this yesterday! I had a decent but fairly relaxed week last week in the end. My dad took me out for my birthday and then a friend did the same and it was my monthly book club on Sunday. Not as much actual work got done as I would like in a normal week but I feel relaxed and energised and ready to crack on harder. Just an all-around more positive outlook than I feel I’ve had in a little while. Perhaps I needed to take a step back for a hot second to be able to take a few steps forward now.

I’ve mostly been focusing on the historical analysis side of the film. Looking into the facts of the issue I’m dealing with. I’m going to continue with this and then go back to the film analysis with some of this information in mind. I think that will inform not just what is being done cinematically but how that’s relating to the historiography. Filling in those helpful layers so I can put something good together for the full panel meeting next week.

I’ve still go to send something off to one of the historians that consulted on the film I’m working on (which is a little nerve wracking I’ll admit. Feels like cold calling someone) and I think I’m almost ready to put in the ECP (which seems ridiculous I feel like I’ve been messing around with that for far too long) and I should probably make an appointment with my school’s librarian as well soon. I’ve also been looking into the software for making clips. I downloaded Handbrake to have a go at that but it’s not reading my DVD properly and so I might have to either try and sort that out or just give up and invest in Tipard instead (which to be fair, I checked and probably looks like the better option).

In a nutshell, I feel like this week is going to be much better.

 

Today’s Mood: Frustration

9th – 15th April 2018 

I don’t really have anything to report this week because I feel somewhat like I’m in the same place as when I wrote this last week. I feel like I’ve progressed nowhere this week. Logically, this isn’t true. I put together the timeline chart for the Early Candidature Plan and I’ve put together shot lists for a few scenes from one of my movies but I also didn’t finish either of the things that I wanted to last week, that being the ECP in its entirety and Mr Smith Goes to Tokyo which frustrates me. I know that I’ve gotten things done and the shot lists for instance are already illuminating some interesting things for me but I still feel frustrated. I feel like I didn’t get enough done last week when I didn’t really do anything differently. Sometimes I won’t have gotten as much done but I know that there was I had a day where I had to do others things, or I took off, or I just wasn’t as focused or something but this week I really felt like I was working normally. Maybe I’m expecting too much of myself again but I felt like I really had a realistic goal for last week and have no real reason not to have met it.

I’m also getting frustrated with the way that I’m finding I’m putting little tasks off, admin stuff and things like that, and prioritising bigger things and then realising that I never did those tasks or I haven’t done them for weeks and that’s driving me a little mental. I guess though that it just means re-evaluating my schedule and setting time aside time to do those little things.

I don’t really have anything else to say, just got to make this week better. And work a little harder, especially as it’s my birthday this week and I’d like to be able to not to anything then.

Back on Track

2nd – 8th April 2018

This week felt productive! After carrying that yuck feeling about the synthesis into the beginning of the week, my meetings with my supervisors really helped sort me out. It was reassuring and constructive to get the feedback that the synthesis was actually alright for what it was. I think through talking about it I had to address how much my perfectionism when it comes to my writing can be a bit of a straitjacket. I have to relax and realise that not everything has to be a perfect mini version of my thesis, especially not at this point. I sometimes expect far too much of myself which is not so good for my productivity or for my mental health to be honest. Anyway, this is something I’m going to keep trying to work on.

Putting in the abstract to present at our history faculty’s In House felt really good! To be honest, I’m still quite intimidated by the prospect of doing it so I’m a bit proud of myself for just getting in there with it. I have a terrible tendency to simply avoid things that make me anxious but as that is going to get me approximately no where in the future, I’m feeling good about taking some steps to quit doing that. Big up my supervisors for their help and encouragement in this regard.

On this note, I now have to pick some scenes from my films to start working up shot lists for so I can present a proper in depth analysis. Its hard to limit myself to only certain scenes because ideally there’s so many I’d like to do. As it is I’ll have to just focus on a few for now.

I’m still reading Mr Smith Goes to Tokyo which is actually becoming a touch of a problem. I’m finding it so interesting that I’m reading it too slow. I like to think that I’ve gotten pretty decent at effectively skimming things so that I don’t sit and try to read every word of every book because I obviously don’t have the time for that. However, with this one I’ve found myself reading it almost word for word which isn’t I guess a bad thing because it’s relevant but it’s also taking more of my time that I would normally spend on one book. At least I’m gathering a lot of notes and interesting information I suppose.

So my plan for this week is to work on getting my shots lists together  so I can start really working on that analysis. I also want to get the Early Candidature Plan finished. I’m still working on putting that timetable together. I’ll finish Mr Smith this week and maybe have more of a look into the press for my films as well. Hopefully it will be another good week.