The Birth of a Thesis: Nice to meet you, Janet

Somehow the fall semester has flown by and I’m halfway through my proseminar. It’s been rather interesting and, at times, unnerving. What was all fun and games at first gave me a bit of fright in the beginning of November. I spent the first two of months of the course familiarizing myself with 19th century exploration and a satire set in the 1990s, thinking it’d be the book I would choose for my topic until I realized the project would be too vast for a BA and I had to abandon it. After that I drifted aimlessly for a while and had to set up a meeting with my teacher to talk about what I wanted to do. Apparently my three to five hazy ideas called for some action and I have to agree. I suppose my problem was having too much on my plate from the very beginning. Lesson learned: getting a little lost on this journey of discovery is not the end of the world. Accepting that I may not always be fully in control of everything hasn’t been easy.

So on the morning of the day when I was to have my one-on-one with my teacher, I grasped at the clearest, most reasonable topic in my head and settled with it. It’s subject to change its focus somewhat, but I’ve settled with it. I’ll be getting to grips with the Scottish Janet Schaw and her Journal in my attempt to analyze her letters cum travelogue to see what kind of overtones this text from the 1770s contains. After writing two research proposals, the picture is becoming clearer to me. By the end of March, I should have a 20-page draft ready.

The course itself has provided interesting insight into the genre of travel writing and its theories. The overview of the history of travel and writing about traveling has certainly piqued my interest. The other students’ topics are varied which will make for a diverse spring semester. It’s a shame there isn’t more time to get to know as much as possible about the numerous fascinating sources. I have a very good collection of intriguing titles if one day I find myself wondering about what to read next, just for fun.

But for now Christmas brings me a much needed break and I won’t be touching my project for a while. The other day I was typing the name “Jane Austen” and instead wrote “Janet Austen”. Ms. Schaw is taking over my brain and spelling. I expect her to show up in my dreams accusing me of who knows what. So yes, I need to cut myself some slack and stuff my face with gingerbread cookies because in January I will create a rather important Word file (and a few dozen pack-ups).

Songs for a Festive Yuletide

Interview with Santa Claus