Episode 97: Dissertating Bullets

Perhaps the scariest part about dissertation writing is the sheer magnitude of writing such a massive piece of academic power. For a while this will become your calling card to the world of academia, one of your first publications, and a critical corner stone of your standing as an academic. All of my friends and professors who have/are going through this process say that you need to be realistic and think of the dissertation, not as a magnum opus, but rather as a really long paper that needs to be good enough for five people with PhDs to live with it. Still, on average the standard dissertation for something literary is close to 200 pages and even with the bibliography taking up about 10% of that, the quantity is daunting. Upon facing such an endeavor I find myself unable to make much progress when it comes to actual pounding away on the keyboard to write.  Even the separation of chapters keeps me at an awe inducing distance from actual dissertating.

The only way that I have been able to climb this Everest of mine is to make pitons and footholds at a slow but steady pace, not looking at the vertical horizon of the summit but rather at the next point of ascending. To make it plausible even under my slow typing skills I have subdivided my dissertation proposal into bullet points with the bare essentials of what each chapter will strive to achieve. Like a bitter pill, each bullet point will now be part of my nightly medication until I have ended this illness known as a PhD. So to you my handful of readers, I declare that each night as much as I am capable of, I will face a different bullet and show you my work. Midnight Snack Serial is going into overdrive. Editing will be a mission for another day but for now, things need to be plastered on the digital canvas. With a few pages every night, the drip of blogging will weather stone of academia . Direct quotations of everything will be added later but I will attempt to keep everything with a serious tone so expect a lot of fancy words along the way. 

Here are the bullet points, wish me luck.

  • Chapter 1: Intro
  • Start with Barthes and Foucault, establish distinction between author and authorship
    • Author as entity vs corporate vs single person
  • Equate author functions with authorial performances
  • Go through each literary theory
    • Why Textual criticism, specifically the Tanselle/Shillingsburg method.
    • Throw in dash of other theories, like narratology and reader response to show how narrative production is an active process of proper story telling for an active audience
    • Explain why media studies is an important distinction, which is why chapters are done through each medium
  • Limit scope of reading to serialization because it shows a more active process of authorship through a single story, easier to follow and analyze as opposed to writing single books over time.
  • Further limit with contemporary texts because emphasis of dissertation is how authorship is alive and well post the declaration of its supposed death.
  • Make sure to include copyright law, because an important function of authorship is establishing/defending your literary creations from others. Apply to rest of chapters.

Chapter 2: Print 

  • Quick overview of history and context of print serialization.
    • Victorian serials. Transition from literary magazines to books. The issue of page count.
    • Establish the chain of editors, publishers, and other people between author and readers. Mostly done for good reasons but ultimately alter narrative production, Tanselle’s explanations.
  • Begin praising JK Rowling at every possible level.
    • How she established her narrative world while doing the first book because narrative consistency/continuity is important.
    • Can control quantity of content (rising page count) and publication (world release dates).
    • Influence over adaptations *note: tread carefully when explaining this
    • Continues to talk to readers though interviews and Pottermore website. Any extra info given can be considered canon.
    • Celebrity authorship. Accio quote website.
    • Lawsuit about the Potter wiki when it was becoming a book, something that she even used but used copyright to stop its publication.
  • Print incurs the concept of profit when compared to web publishing


Chapter 3: Comics 

  • Use McCloud and Eisner to explain how comics work.
  • Provide quick history, include Eco’s Myth of Superman to show difference between episodic and serialized storytelling.
  • Debate how authorship is weird between writers and artists. Briefly showcase standard comic book writing versus the Stan Lee method.
  • History of authorship of Superman from Shuster and Seigel to corporate property of DC and their extended legal battles.
  • Too many authors leads to continuity issues. Explain Crisis event as fusion of narratives and of authorships.
  • *Note: tread carefully around remakes, rewrites and other things that are technically adaptations.
  • Different levels of corporate authorship and trickle down effect in Death and Return of Superman series. Socio cultural effects at onset and ending of series.
    • Make sure to include the following: Made national news. Killed death.
  • Offer Atomic Robo as contemporary alternative to superhero comic outside of DC and Marvel
    • How Clevinger and Wegna are both authors and creators rather than standard writer and artist.
    • Authorship is more personal thanks to social media, like Twitter as a backstage pass.
      • Accessibility to authors as people and to narrative.

Chapter 4: Webcomics 

  • Overview of digital media and history of webcomics
  • Explain in detail how author functions have expanded considerably in “true” one person operations. Provide examples of companies like Topatoco that help with extra stuff.
  • Begin praise of Rich Burlew and OOTS at all levels
  • Similar Praise to Thunt as an e-maginary friend of his.
  • Crowdfunding and kickstarter, how readers are taking on author functions, like getting seed money for projects.
    • Ascended readership through those that become forum moderators and even artists. Include fan art and examples like Xin Ye of Erfworld
    • Throw in stuff from Webcomics Weekly Podcast and interviews I did in 2010.

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