Dissertation diaries 2

Well I must admit for the second instalment of my dissertation diaries things have progressed quite a bit. I am now in Edinburgh (full of the cold, hurray) and have started my fourth year of uni. When I last informed you of my dissertation journey I briefly mentioned what my plans were and also how I felt about it all (read that here).

A few months later and I am just as terrified but more relaxed (I think) about it all. In essence, I am just trying my best to take each day as it comes. So since you last heard from me I have read two books and listened to one audio book and I am starting to get an idea of where I want to take my dissertation, which is probably good timing considering I have my proposal to write in the next few weeks.

So far I have read Erasure by Percival Everett and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and I have listened to Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo. From reading these texts I am forming opinions around representation in novels and the importance of authentic writing during and post trauma. Everett for example looks at satirising the literary market and its stereotypical representation of the Black community thus showcasing how authors who just want to be an author are made to feel like a spokesperson for the whole of the Black community while being pigeonholed into only writing about the experience of, in this instance, African Americans. Whereas, Adiche looks at white authors depicting trauma and the need for an authentic voice, especially when that voice should be someone directly involved in the conflict and not someone in a position of privilege. Blonde Roots on the other hand, rather than placing writing amongst the narrative, uses its form to go against the typical representation of slavery. Evaristo depicts slavery as something happening to Europeans, with the slave owners being Africans.

I think from these discoveries I would love to look into how writing and using novels as a way of reframing history, adding back in the voices that were removed and creating a new conversation, is important to the representation of Black people in the 21st century. And on the other hand, for what Everett pointed out, that writing can make this image worse and more damaging. I would love to add in references to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but whether this is possible (because I have studied it before) is something I am unsure of.

In other news I had my first dissertation class this week. I can confirm that it is going to be all online (*insert sad face*). I have a two hour workshop every Tuesday where a different lecturer will discuss a different part of the dissertation process and/or our career options. This one past wasn’t exactly informative as it went over a lot of what I already know. However, this Tuesday coming will be a workshop dedicated to our proposal which I believe is due in the next few weeks. This proposal will determine who my supervisor is and will be my chance to outline my plan for the upcoming months. So basically getting it right is quite important. I’ll probably update you on my proposal and how it went in a few weeks so stay tuned for that!

One thing that was touched in my workshop was time management. If I am honest it is the one thing I am not sure how best to approach it. I am not a regular user of a calendar and I don’t have a weekly planner that will suffice for my dissertation. Plus anything for my laptop like a gaunt chart or an apple calendar is not something I open regularly. I think the whole process is a bit overwhelming so structuring it is something that confuses me because I have no idea how much time every aspect takes. The thing with a dissertation which differs massively from a standard essay is there are so many different components which need to be done at completely different times. My brain is good but not that good (at remembering it all).

Right now my brain is still telling me that it isn’t happening, and if it continues to be like that, it’ll hit me like a bus. Just in general my opinion on fourth year has shifted. I am more relaxed and want a better balance between enjoying myself and being in the city again and doing the work. I know that will be difficult and every week will most likely be different. However, I don’t want to compromise on my sanity and wellbeing in the process.

We are not wanting a repeat of Sophie having panic attacks in the middle of a bar. No thanks.

So my plan is to write my proposal and hopefully get confirmation that what I want to do is possible. I am not entirely sure if I need to read anything else, I do have three books that are awaiting my attention but if my idea is already grounded in thought and precision then I don’t really see the point in waisting my time. But don’t worry I will read them at some point. Then the next thing for my attention will be my literature review, something which is quite daunting. Wish me luck! Make sure to subscribe if you want to stay updated with how it is all going.

Let me know if you have any time management tips below, they would be much appreciated.

Much love,

Sophie x

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