4/1030: narrowing down the questions

A few weeks ago, I set up a revised list of research questions to submit as a part of my application for acceptance as PhD candidate. One of these questions, the one I call my thesis question (since I believe answering it brings me closest to my claim) is:

What power do intermedial references have in literature that allows authors to use them in migration literature to help enunciate the individual voice of a depicted minority character?

I followed this question up with a lot of sub-questions, for example “what is individual voice?” “how authentic is this voice?” and others to help address the follow-ups I anticipate from critics. Apparently, it’s good I challenge my own question, since the follow-up is pretty much what I expected.

I sent my question to my MA thesis sponsor, and he graciously replied with some very helpful suggestions.

First of all, I definitely need to back up my ideas about individual voice with theory. I have Bakhtin (ah, M.M. Bakhtin, how I would have loved to have met you) as my main man. I also have a few Composition and Rhetoric theorist in my armory. As far as the authenticity of this voice, I have Bhabha and Spivak to analyze again.

My mentor, then sponsor, seems to think I should avoid focusing on individual voice and instead focus on the intermedial references. For example

“How and why are intermedial references so common in migration literature?  What meaning(s) do such references contribute and/or elucidate?  How and why is intermediality a significant element of migration literature?

I don’t mind using these as my prime research questions. I even have them as a part of my list of things to do. I was afraid, however, that the question was too broad and leaves open too many answers. I thought I had to already have an idea of the answer in order to propose my project. But perhaps I should allow myself more room for hypotheses. After all, it has crossed my mind that the better answers have to do with crossing borders. The breaking down of linguistic and media borders is conducive to the breaking down of cultural borders. My issue with this claim is that I thought that it was laengst geklaert. I mean, who doesn’t see the breakdown of borders and norms in literature today? And the novel, of course the novel transgresses former expectations; that’s what makes them novel.

I think I’m onto something when I say that intermediality is a significant element because it breaks up secondary discourses and opens up for new kinds of voices. What are these new kinds? I guess I still have to clarify that.

Honestly, whenever I think I’ve figured something out, I manage to get sucked into a whole new sets of challenges and possibilities inherent to my questions.  I fear I may never get anywhere… I’ll keep reading and reading and now have any answers- just more questions.

Maybe it’s time to start doing literature review conscientiously again- find some answers before asking more questions.

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality. 

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