Category Archives: paper

The Abstract

I am terrible at abstracts. There, I have said it. Even when I write something moderately good I cannot create an abstract to fully showcase the work. I try to rebuild the paper in bits and pieces, awkwardly finagling main ideas into phrases. Concepts that took me pages to explain and explore are now cut up and reconfigured. I am terrible at abstracts.

Part of the problem (and honestly I don’t know if this is common practice or not), is that I write my abstracts only after the paper is complete. Maybe if I started writing my abstracts before I had any fully formed ideas it may flow more smoothly. I don’t know. Maybe if I didn’t have anything to chop up to begin with then I wouldn’t feel so bad about the process. That poses a problem too (and again, I am not sure if this is common practice), but when I start writing a paper I never really know where it will go, making it nearly impossible to actually write an abstract. The things I think I will be writing about shift and bend as the paper progresses. If I did write an abstract before the paper, it would most certainly be an abstract of a paper I never wrote.

Tonight I was looking over my Dickens paper for the umpteenth time, mainly because I have to create an abstract for it. And I did. I honestly really like how this paper turned out. But the abstract… meh.

Here is the abstract as it stands. Make what you will of it.

If you happen to like it, well then the paper is just as good. If you hate it, then I promise the actual paper is way better!

Estella, A Fascinating Spectacle: “I Am What You Have Made Me”

Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations employs a most strange form of first person narration; even though Pip, the main character, narrates the novel, he does so from the vantage point of adulthood, looking back upon his youth. Thus there is a clear distinction between Pip, the character, and, for the sake of simplification, the wiser and older Pip. Yet they are still the same person. It must be noted that despite Pip’s attempt to retell the story as he had known it at the time, there is always a shadow of the wiser and older Pip overcast upon the narrative. Young Pip’s life story as it is presented to the reader is mediated through a retrospective lens. As Pip recreates himself from memory, so does he recreate all those who once surrounded him, most importantly Estella. Arguably Anamnesis, the Platonic concept of creation and recreation from memory, is a prevalent theme within character formulation throughout the novel, especially between Estella and Pip, addressing two very important questions: is Great Expectations a bildungsroman that traces Pip’s progress as he is formed by the memory of Estella, or is the image of Estella, as recollected by Pip, simultaneously constructed by him?

Pip’s great expectations, and quest for betterment, which stem from his adulation of Estella, function along the lines of personal elevation, congruent with the progress of the Petrarchan lover. While Pip may not necessarily knowingly subscribe to chastity in his pursuit of Estella, arguably the Petrarchan lover does not willingly relinquish physical love, but rather acquiesces to forgo it in light of the impossibility of his love. The main difference relies on foreknowledge; the Petrarchan lover explores his love fully knowing it will remain unrequited, while Pip, despite having glimpses of truth, never gives up hope. Pip’s journey towards betterment is constantly caked in hope of achieving a union with Estella, and in the end, he achieves this, even if only in ambiguous terms. Once a novel has been read the reader usually regards the entire work through the lens of the ending, attempting to conceptualize all of the events in terms of the final outcome, and piecing them together in such ways as to shape the path for what the reader knows will happen.

The first ending which Dickens originally intended is bittersweet, filled with remorse, but also understanding. After Pip devotes a lifetime to Estella only to be rewarded with unrequited love, he understands his erroneous desires of ever gaining her acceptance, and finally lets go. The second ending, and the one with which most are familiar, is definitely too tidy; even scholars in favor of this ending will concede to this point. Estella’s character can either be seen as the cold hearted, calculating enchantress who refuses to return affection to the bitter end, and will always remain aloof and just out of Pip’s grasp. Or she may be regarded as the result of her upbringing, but a dynamic character who grows within the novel, learning from experience, and willing to be redeemed by Pip through forgiveness and acceptance of love. Regardless of which ending is used, the anguish the idea of Estella has brought Pip all of these years leads to this point, and in either ending Estella’s fascinating spectacle comes to an end.

In Response…

I am looking over some commentary on a paper I recently wrote. Either I didn’t make myself clear, or the purposes of my project were somehow lost to the reader.
I will attempt to offer some responses.
“Are you implying Chaucer had an intention when writing?”
I am not implying Chaucer had an intention, I am overtly stating it. In fact my entire argument rests on this.
*** Two pages later***
“Are you trying to say he intended to write the Tales?”
No, it was an accident.
“Does it matter what order they are in? Who cares if they are read backwards?”
Even though I am sure the world will not stop turning should the order of the Tales remain undetermined, it is nevertheless interesting to explore the ways in which they were transcribed, and the methodology behind each editorial edition and addition. Why else would I undertake a textual study? It is an interest like any other, amusing (to me) for its own sake. And considering the amount of scholarship on this exact topic, apparently a lot of people care, and have cared for centuries.
“You say there are 90 manuscripts. Why are you only using two?”
Manly and Rickert outlined every extant manuscript and compiled an eight volume set of books (over 4000 pages) doing so. I am writing a ten page paper. Therefore I am focusing on the two manuscripts many would agree are the most definitive and complete. Also, if you refer to page 5, I discuss the relevance of using Hengwrt as the prototype for Ellesmere as it is commonly thought that both were completed by the same scribe. The significance of this can be found on page 6.
“Sp?” next to Hengwrt. Each time.
No, that is exactly how it is spelled.
“This strikes me like you are saying Grimms’s Tales ‘should’ be in an order.”
Although I am sure there can be such an argument, and maybe one day I will make it, I have never once in this particular paper mentioned Grimms’s Tales. Therefore I cannot tell you what order they “should” be in, or if there is one.
“You mean Retraction?” Next to Retraccioun. Each time.
Yes, I mean Retraction, but I am not trying to modernize the text. If that were the case I would just change all of the spelling and create my own version.
Next to my phrase “… which was believed to have been found in his desk upon his death.” “What do you mean ‘in his desk?’ Is this a metaphor?”
No, I quite literally mean in his desk. Physically present within the man’s desk. On the table. Right there. I am not sure how I can make myself any more clear.
“A lot of your scholarship seems to look at the differences in ink type on the different sheets. Maybe the scribe just ran out of ink?”
Well yes. But the point is that he ran out of ink after having written the pieces in a certain order and then went back to complete the rest, which is why the ink is being analyzed.
“What parameters are you using on scholarship?”
I have no idea what you are asking me.

I Intend To…

I am in the middle of applying to doctoral programs. And by middle, I mean I am looking at the million things I will be doing all summer in order to get my applications in. So basically by “middle” I mean I am staring blankly at a screen trying to piece it all together in my head.
The good news is that all the schools seem to want just about the same thing. I only have to do this once.
For the most part it is pretty straightforward. Letters of recommendation. Ok, not hard, just have to ask.
Foreign language requirements. I am sure there are tests for that, if I haven’t fulfilled them already. Ok, good.
Giant test thing. Not a problem.
Letter of intent. Well, I am pretty sure I know what I want to do, and why I want to do it, so basically I have to write it. However, I am not sure if I need 7200 words to state my intentions. What kind of intentions require that many words? Maybe they want an approximation of every intention I will have from now until death. Still, 7200 words? I am not sure I intend to do that much. Someone once told me the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So maybe for good luck I will just write down all of my bad intentions. Still not 7200 words worth. Maybe I will outline all of the bad intentions I may potentially have, but will never go through with. Does that mean they are not really intentions then? Well, if I am going to come up with 7200 words worth of intentions (good or bad), then I better start writing.
If this whole letter of intent business wasn’t upsetting enough, they want a large paper I have written recently within the field I wish to specialize. Well, um… they don’t have those here. I have never even heard of a class remotely related to my potential field having been offered in the last two years. A little late now. So basically I am going to just write a paper, unsupervised, and pray for the best (and really, I should *never* be left unsupervised).
Then there are the schools that don’t necessarily require a paper within any specific topic, but even there I have slim pickings. I have all of three papers to choose from, and one of them I haven’t even finished writing yet. I feel like a girl who only has one dress and changes it a bit each time to make it look different. I have redone, rearranged, rewritten, and undone the same two and a half papers more times than I can count.
Granted I have gotten quite a bit of use out of them, it is sad to think that I have taken 11 classes, and this is all I have to show for it. This is not to say I haven’t written many little papers, but what I am supposed to do with those? Paste them all together in some sort of patchwork of literary analysis and try to pass it off as some sort of experiment with literature? Yes, yes, I know some of them could be developed further into larger papers. But that is not the problem. Yes, they could be, but how much do I really want to discuss these things? Obviously not very, otherwise I would have probably done something about it.
So I am off to beginning my massive list of (potential) intentions, while writing imaginary papers (and I think this right here counts as an intention, maybe even two… totally off to a good start!).