Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Prospectus, Part the first

I'm beginning to try to write my prospectus. How is one meant to express in ten pages, the work one hopes to accomplish in the next two years, not knowing yet exactly where that work will take you?

I'm beginning to see that my topic is good if you take for granted the importance of my theoretical framework. If you don't, however, it looks amateurish and unacademic. So, what I need to do is demonstrate, really convincingly, that my mode of thinking is relevant and intelligent enough to merit those two years' work. Alternately, I need to find a way to conceive of my theoretical frame as a genre and undertake the project as a study of that genre. So, this is what I need to do in my introduction (of both the prospectus and the dissertation itself).

One way of establishing relevance is to illustrate my topic's historical trajectory. How far back do I reach in pursuit of this goal? Certainly back to Goethe - Die Wahlverwandtschaften is an obvious choice - but do I attempt to go further? And if I don't, do I have to come up with a rationale for starting with the Goethezeit? Is my topic a phenomenon of the Enlightenment? If it is, why am I focusing on the 20th century? Too many things to think about.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Semester coming up...

As noted, I'm not really very good at keeping resolutions and I'm only inconsistent at making them. My birthday falls perilously close to the holidays, so resolutions made at that time are generally derailed by New Years. New Years seems an arbitrary day to start a new leaf and starting either 1. Hung over from the night before or 2. Depressed from holiday let-down never seems like a good idea. So, maybe a list of new-semester resolutions?

I'm thinking a lot these days about how to structure my time so that I'm productive as well as relaxed and balancing work with life. I'm also thinking a lot about how to have a life outside work, but that's a topic for a different blog. The challenges I'm facing are these.
  1. Not taking a full load of classes = less structured time, no discrete tasks to finish. This means no instant gratification.
  2. Prospectus due at a stupid time (February 27 - three weeks into the new semester)
  3. Adviser leaving the country at an even stupider time (January 25 - one month before Prospectus day)
  4. Danger of TFing duties eating up spare work-time.
  5. Danger of procrastination eating up all remaining time.
  6. Lack of concrete direction in Dissertation research/writing threatens to derail entire project from the beginning.
  7. Losing precious office space due to changing teaching duties. This is combined with:
  8. Inability to be productive at home.
So, how do I deal with these things?
  1. Try to keep my office. Failing that, create a good space for working at home (try to make the desk in the bedroom workable).
  2. Try to schedule sections carefully. I have a teaching commitment from 5:30-7:30 Thursdays and lecture 1-2:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Depending on when the Professor ideally wants sections to happen, maybe I could schedule them for Tuesdays after lecture - back to back? Then I would (theoretically, unless something else comes up) have MWF free.
  3. Budget time carefully and stick to that budget. I.e. spend no more than 2-2 1/2 hours prepping for Extension School each week. Plan specific times and tasks for working on Prospectus/Dissertation.
  4. Institute a system of goals/rewards. Set benchmarks to be passed before allowing myself to do something fun.
  5. Institute weekends and stick to real days off and real days working, rather than half-assedly doing both all the time.
If anyone here does read, do you have any tips on dealing with unstructured time and nebulous tasks? Do share.