Thursday, October 15, 2015

October 15 dissertation notes (Week 9): This one has pictures!

I admit it, y'all -- I spoiled myself a little bit today.

This morning I had to take care of some errands I was dreading, and when close to Forest Park on the way home, I obeyed the impulse to wander through the park for an hour before returning home. Because I knew it would restore some of the energy I'd just expended, and it's the sort of thing I always think about doing, but rarely actually take the opportunity to do. And because, well, Forest Park. And it's fall, and a particularly beautiful day.

And now that I've turned my attention back to my work, I do feel more content and hopeful than I likely would have without the detour. Still . . . things aren't awesome, following on last week's discussion.

I did send the follow-up email I mentioned in the previous post. That, and the response, was helpful, in that I know what I'm supposed to be doing next, and it seems I diagnosed the points of conflict more or less successfully. Still, even now, I don't feel as if the theological interest of the dissertation has ever been fully understood and accurately reflected back to me, and I'm being told to revisit things, once again, that I thought I'd demonstrated my grasp of several times over. Which is demoralizing, to say the least. But for a few reasons, I don't think that pushing back against those things would be very fruitful. There isn't much to do, at this point, besides pursue the track that's been suggested to me, and try to do it as best I can.

I was given the goal of submitting a revised statement of my topic, argument, and outline by December. So this week I've started pulling out material on rhetoric, particularly speeches by some of Gregory Nazianzen's contemporaries, such as Themistius and Himerius (both non-Christian rhetors who wrote and taught in the fourth century). I'm also supposed to look at progymnasmata, which are rhetorical exercise books of the kind Gregory himself would have studied in school. It's honestly not very interesting so far -- Kevin referred to it as eating one's academic spinach. I don't mind spinach in moderation, but I'd feel better about consuming so much if I were confident it's leading somewhere and isn't just a rabbit trail. But there's no way to determine that except by committing myself to seeing it through. So next week I'm going to have to hit this stuff really hard and see if I can begin to see any tenable comparisons taking shape. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to mix in some of what I actually enjoy reading -- i.e. Gregory -- not only to keep up motivation, but to help get my mind into more of a comparative gear. Kind of like mixing some bacon in with the spinach, if you will. :-)

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