Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning Journal 9: Response to Spradley, "Interviewing an Informant"

Since my project isn't based much at all on interviewing people about ethnographic questions, I've come up with three ways in which I can apply Spradley's interviewing techniques to my project:

1) Interviewing British friends and acquaintances (non-scholars)
Although interviewing the average Brit will play little part in my project, it will be very helpful to me to understand how people live in a country with a living monarch. From my American viewpoint, I tend to accidentally and subconsciously associate monarchy with tyranny, as well as assume that humans are naturally unhappy until they live in a monarchy. Although this isn't true, this has basically been drilled into my head ever since elementary school, and I feel like it is important for me to understand the different paradigms of government and social structure before I go too deep into my project.
I don't plan on interviewing native Londoners through the structure of Spradley's ethnographic interview, but many of his tactics seem very helpful. In casual interviews of what it's like to live under a monarchy, I would definitely express my ignorance and ask "mini-tour" questions, such as, "how might you and others react if you saw the Queen?" or "how does the Queen's opinions or actions affect your everyday life, if they affect it at all?" Of course, even in the creating of these hypothetical questions, I must admit to my immense cultural ignorance.

2) Interviewing scholars (historians, librarians, professors, etc.)
In interviewing scholars, I would probably use most of Spradley's tactics, except for one difference. Spradley, as the ethnographer and scholar, had somewhat of a higher social status over Pam, a waitress. Because of this, he repeated questions, tried to make her feel welcome and validated, etc. However, my interviewees will definitely have a higher status than I do (as an undergrad), and so repeating questions so the interviewee has time to think about them and be comfortable with answering them is unnecessary. In my experience with interviewing professors, it is the professor who has most of the control of the interview, and actions like restating or expressing interest may make me appear as if I'm patronizing them. However, grand-tour questions and incorporating will be very helpful to get as much information as I can. Professors are usually not afraid to talk for lengthy amounts of time.

3) Interpreting primary sources (journals, letters, plays, etc.)
This might be the most difficult type of "interviewing," and I will most likely have to refer back to scholars and other primary sources to help me interpret as correctly as possible. While I obviously cannot ask questions of the people who write these primary sources, I can infer from their writings what questions they are trying to answer. However, I must be careful not to infer too much (or possibly, too little) or else I will be doing imaginative, creative work rather than historic research. Since this type of interviewing is completely incompatible with grand-tour questions, I will have to rely on little hints of information here and there to answer what questions I have. And unlike the other types of interviewing, I may never get close to answering some of my questions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Learning Journal 8: The History of the Evolution of History; Annotated Sources

Since my project deals not only with historical events and people, but the way the histories about people/events are written, it is of primary importance to understand historiography which is the study of writing history. The type of history that I am planning to use is called "mythistory" which uses both myth and factual history in constructing an idea of what past cultures may have been like. At first mythistory seems like an odd way of trying to get at a more accurate picture of the past: isn't a myth something that is inherently untrue?

However, all myth come from and are affected by some bits of truth, no matter how small. For instance, imagine if a historian was trying to learn more about ancient Greek culture by reading the Iliad. If the historian were to dismiss all myth and "un-facts," they would be left with a bit of knowledge about geography and maybe the debatable existences of some marginal characters. Most of the Iliad would be useless to them. On the other hand, a mythistorian looks at the Iliad and finds a nearly infinite cache of knowledge: we see being clever was a very important quality to the Greeks, they believed fate was fickle, men found honor in fighting wars, the gods themselves were subject to fate, and the list continues.

Mythistory, then, is not a study solely of events and people, but also about what people believed about these events and people. In this way, mythistory is a study of culture, not just events. And while the field studies prep course is primarily concerned with cultures as they differ across space, mythistory is also concerned about cultures throughout time.

The same people who appear astute and world-wise in their understanding of different present-day cultures will most likely seem quite foolish in their understanding of different historical cultures. One of the biggest problems that historians have in trying to understand history is that the concept of "history" changes not only throughout space but also throughout time. A sort of prototype of history (for lack of a better description) was the ancient practice of writing chronicles, in which a historian wrote of events and people during a certain time and place. Chronicles were very different than our modern histories: they contained unashamed amounts of bias, went off on long and unnecessary tangents, and usually included all sorts of stories and rumors for the reader to judge whether or not they were true. And the chronicle is just one of many alternate ways of writing history.

As I prepare for my field study, I'm beginning to realize how impossible it really is to take the "truths" from one place and present them in a different place. All accounts of history, including the one I will write as part of my field study, have innumerable biases and cultural influences which we cannot hope to avoid. But by using mythistory as my primary method of interpreting historical events and people, I hope to use bias and culture in my favor to help create a more complete picture of historical cultures.

Annotated Sources:

Sharpe, Kevin. Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in Sixteenth-Century England. New Haven:Yale UP, 2009. Print.
Catalogs and analyzes primary sources showing representations (visual and written) of the Tudor monarchs and their families. Covers a great deal of time (from the beginning of Henry VII's reign to the end of Elizabeth I's) and a huge number of sources. Importance resource for my project in measuring the effect of the queens on the public.

Doran, Susan and Thomas S. Freeman, eds. The Myth of Elizabeth. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003. Print.
A collection of essays about myths and other less-than-truths surrounding Elizabeth I. Discuss the myths that made Elizabeth popular, as well as those that stemmed from unpopularity or caused her to be unpopular. Attempts to trace many of the Elizabethan myths to their origin. Highly useful for my section on Elizabeth.

Oakley-Brown, Liz, and Louise J. Wilkinson, eds. The Rituals and Rhetoric of Queenship: Medieval to Early Modern. Portland: Four Courts Press, 2009. Print.
A compilation of essays about Western European queens and their methods of enforcing their power as queen. Discusses which methods of rhetoric and ritual were successful in establishing and maintaining power and in gaining respect, and which failed. A few essays on Mary and Elizabeth will be especially helpful in my project, the rest I may skim to assess the social milieu in which Mary and Elizabeth were living as queens.

Frye, Northrop, edited by Robert D. Denham. Myth and Metaphor: Selected Essays, 1974-1988. Charlottesville: Virgina UP, 1990. Print.
A compilation of essays by Frye on the topic of myth and metaphor and how they are used in history, language, imagination, and everyday life. Taken from a symbolist perspective. Although this book is far too exhaustive for what I will actually need in my project, there are a few essays which I can use in trying to come to a more concrete definition of myth.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning Journal 7: Response to Agar and Hall, Annotated Sources

Reading Agar and Hall got me thinking about how I plan to communicate with others while on my field study. At first I thought that little in the reading applied to me, because both Agar and Hall discussed cultures that were very foreign to the average American: Austria, Japan, Mexico, and Kurdish, to name a few. Unlike other students in the class, my culture shock seems to be quite minimal. Like the U.S., England is a highly-developed, westernized country. We speak the same language, share history, and have a great amount of "pedestrian traffic" between us. It seems as if there should be little difficulty for me in my project, especially since I will be spending a lot of time doing silent research in libraries and galleries, and not doing social science research and interviews like other students.

But this is simplifying things far too much. When I think about the difference between English and American culture, I am reminded of a certain Top Ten list from the Late Show with David Letterman. In this Top Ten, Ricky Gervais (from the original British The Office) presents a list of the "Top Ten stupid things Americans say to Brits." Among them are numerous comments about teeth, accents, double-decker buses, and questions about if they've ever had tea with the Queen. Although I don't think I would be ignorant enough to ask a Brit if they personally know the Queen, this list made me realize that much of what I think I know about modern-day England is just a bunch of stereotypical cliches viewed from American eyes. And while some of my British friends may find it cute or endearing when I assume something about their culture which turns out to be completely incorrect, I'm sure that it may not be as cute when I'm in London and expected to understand the culture.

One of the ideas that I enjoyed, but also found confusing, from Hall, is his theory of who runs on monochronic or polychronic time. At first I was reassured that the U.S. and England both ran on monochronic time, but later in the article he also mentioned that women tend to run on polychronic time (shouldn't this have been mentioned at the very beginning of the paper, or does Hall assume that we only care about the male half of different cultures?). So it could be possible that even though I'm from a monochronic country, I may have difficulty working with British professors, scholars, and librarians, not because they're from a different country, but because they're male.

In general, this reading has convinced me that I need to do a lot more work on acclimating myself to British culture than I previously thought. Like Agar said, even though two people may speak the same language, language doesn't live inside a circle, and so communicating effectively will require earnest attempts on my half to understand and assimilate myself into British culture.

Annotated Sources

McNeill, William H. "Mythistory, Or Truth, Myth, History, and Historians." The American Historical Review 91.1 (1986): pp. 1-10. Print.
Discusses the history of historiography, pointing out the inherent inability for a history to be both factual and a narrative. Also exposes "scientific historiography" as just another fad in history, one which has tried to destroy all connection between myth and history, by incorrectly identifying history with truth and myth with lies. As one of the founding texts of mythistory, this is a definite must for my project.

Mali, Joseph. "Jacob Burckhardt: Myth, History and Mythistory." History and Memory 3.1 (1991): pp. 86-118. Print.
Builds off of McNeill's foundational work on mythistory. Attempts to prove that mythistory is still a respectable way of interpreting past events and to justify its existence in historiography. Does much of this by analyzing the works of a historian named Jacob Burkhardt, who has previously been dismissed because of his recording of myth along with history. The introduction is especially helpful; the Burkhardt part isn't as useful other than as an elaborate example/explanation.

Heehs, Peter. "Myth, History, and Theory." History and Theory 33.1 (1994): pp. 1-19. Print.
Argues that myth and history are so intertwined, it is impossible and quite destructive to both the facts of the past and the narratives of the past to try to separate the two, to only write a mythical or historical narrative. Proposes that many times, highly factual historical accounts, over time, become infused with fiction, and thus becomes mythical. These accounts, though they maybe untrue in many parts, are still highly important in history. This article will be helpful in explaining how rather factual histories of the queens changed into elaborate myths over the course of a few years.

Searle, Eleanor. "Possible History." Speculum 61.4 (1986): pp. 779-786. Print.
Discusses the responsibilities of a historian in researching subjects and events which have few actually facts around them. Also admits the inescapable effect which each historian has on the works they write, no matter how much they try to remove elements of their own biases or opinions from their text. I'm not sure if I could actually use this in my project/paper, but it does bring up a lot of interesting points which will definitely be on my mind as a do research.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Learning Journal 6: London Facts/Research Patterns and Annotated Bibliographies

My Learning Journal for today will be divided into two parts: one about research trends that I've noticed, and a fun part about interesting trivia about London that I've learned.

Research trends:

Many times when a student tries to do research on a historical event or person, they find themselves stuck in one of two situations: a) their historical event/person is so well documented and discussed that they can't really find anything new or interesting to write about, or b) so little is known about their historical event/person that they'd have to do some intense archaeological digging or carbon dating to create new knowledge to write about. When I first started researching the Tudor monarchy, I first thought that my project fell under category A. The Tudors are such a popular monarchy to research because even though their dynasty was relatively short, their reign was incredibly dynamic, and brought England out of the shadows of Northern Europe to become one of the most powerful countries in the western world.

However, even though searching Elizabeth I on Google will turn up more than two million results, the fact of the matter is that a lot of research--even research done by professors and highly-trained scholars--falls victim to stereotype. In my research to date, Lady Jane Grey is seen as either a victim of her parents' greed or a Protest martyr; Mary I is a blood-thirsty, crazy, loathsome Roman Catholic; and Elizabeth I is Gloriana, the mother of England, and favorite of Henry VIII's children. Luckily, recent research on Mary has tended to be more sympathetic (maybe we've finally gotten over our fears of Catholicism?) and fair in judging her actions. However, current research on Elizabeth still tries to prove that her forty-five year reign was just one huge Edenic celebration, and the few scholars who research Jane Grey only seem to write about her when a new Jane Grey movie or play has come out and needs some historical corrections.

That said, my goal in writing my thesis is two-fold: identify what is truth, what is myth, and what is unknown about these three women; identify how these myths formed, what use they have in history, and how they've shaped the modern story of the Tudor monarchy. Even though I'm an under-graduate and have little experience compared to the other scholars and professors who themselves have fallen prey to stereotypes, I hope that by unbiased analysis of primary sources and with guidance from my mentor, I will be able to identify stereotypes and truth and be able to judge between them.

Part two-Interesting facts about London:

1. There is no official law or act that ever declared London as the capital of England or the United Kingdom. It's just a de facto practice that hasn't been questioned for centuries.

2. London is slowly experiencing more floods as a result of tectonic movements. The north part of the island is moving up, while the south part is sinking down. This is called "tilting."

3. London is home to four world heritage sites: Tower of London, Kew Gardens, Greenwich, and Westminster Abbey (with a few surrounding buildings).

4. London has a bike co-op in which you can register online and purchase a bike key. This key will open up any bike at any of the "docking stations" throughout the city, and then you can ride it to your destination. Once you have arrived where you need to be, find a docking station nearby and leave it there. If you need the bike again, just go to the closest station and get another. Brilliant!

5. No one really knows for certain the etymology behind the name "London." Although many scholars have put forth theories for its beginning, they have all proved to be incorrect.

6. The traditional center of London is Eleanor cross.

7. It's divided into five sub-sections: West, South-West, South-East, North-East, and North.

8. More than 100 of the EU's 500 biggest companies have their headquarters in London.

9. With the coming of the Summer Olympics in 2012, London will have been the only city in the world to host the Summer Olympics more than twice.

10. London began as a Roman city, but after many years people began moving out of the limits of the city to other nearby areas, and the population of London declined. However, when Vikings began to come and attack the towns outside of London, the citizens moved back to London for the protection of the city walls.

Annotated Bibliography:

Richards, Judith M. "Mary Tudor as 'Sole Quene'?: Gendering Tudor Monarchy." The Historical Journal 40.4 (1997): pp. 895-924. Print.
Points out that scholars usually overlook Mary I when it comes to questions of gender in English monarchy, and instead just fawn over Elizabeth I and her brilliant ways of dealing with gender. Discusses the importance of Mary's five years as queen, the reworking of many political traditions to fit a female monarch, and the idea of a king consort rather than a queen consort. Very useful to my project, especially considering the lack of resources about Mary I which I am encountering.

Whitelock, Anna, and Diarmaid MacCulloch. "Princess Mary's Household and the Succession Crisis, July 1553." The Historical Journal 50.2 (2007): pp. 265-287. Print.
Debunks the common idea that Mary I's take over of the state from Lady Jane Grey was the result of just a random uprising of Catholic gentry from eastern England. Explores the connections between Mary's household and the East Anglian gentry, and argues that Mary had much deeper and older friendships with the gentry than hitherto thought, and thus their support of her was not at all spontaneous. Useful to my project insofar and it discusses Mary's public acting and rhetoric.

Montrose, Louis A. "Idols of the Queen: Policy, Gender, and the Picturing of Elizabeth I." Representations.68 (1999): pp. 108-161. Print.
Explains that since portraits of Elizabeth I were usually the only way an average person (or any person living outside of London) could see the queen, these portraits had to be regulated very carefully so as to not convey any incorrect or unflattering aspects of the queen. Unpacks the deep symbolism within many of Elizabeth's portraits, and shows how carefully they were planned and painted. Useful insofar as it deals with portraits during her accession as well.

Farran, C. d'O. "The Law of the Accession." The Modern Law Review 16.2 (1953): pp. 140-147. Print.
As is stated in the title, this article gets into the nitty, gritty details of the political and legal processes behind the accession. Tracks and explains the evolution of the accession, including the creation of a king consort, prince consort, or no consort title at all for a man married to the queen regnant of England. There are a few facts here and there that are useful to my focus, but other than that, it's mainly about the law of the accession from 1700 to modern times.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Learning Journal 5: Being Consistent and Source Document Analyses

As I keep reworking and perfecting my research question, I realize that I might be coming at it from too many sides. What I mean to say is, I think my research question needs to drop one of its facets, namely, the part of the question which specifies the accessions of the queens as the temporal limit of the study. I think I need to drop this part because it's logically impossible (or at least highly difficult) to judge whether a lasting effect comes directly from the accession or from another part of the reign. The documents I'm studying to discover lasting effects were all created after the reigns of the queens, and therefore they are assessing the entire reigns, not just the accessions. They may be incorrectly projecting ideas about the queen from the latter years of her reign (for instance, that Mary was very unpopular) onto the early years. This kind of historical inaccuracy would be too complicated to detect in many cases, and thus would be disastrous for the validity of my argument.

However, I might be able to keep the accession part in my research question if I argue for the importance of monarch's "first impressions" and the way they affect the rest of the reign. I could also acknowledge the possibility of historical inaccuracy by projecting contemporary ideas onto past events, and use this to show the mythical side of things (rather than just the wrong side of things). This would provide a reason for me to keep in the accession aspect in the question.

The final product:
My study will compare the real accessions to the theatrical ones, analyze the differences, and discover how the historical and mythical accounts of the accessions affect theories of royalty, religion, and gender. These specific theories are as follows:one of the king’s two bodies can be female; acting as a monarch is as theatrical as playing a character onstage; and kingship is created by the imagination of the people, not by brute force, gender, or lineage.

Source Document Analysis Worksheet

Author's name: Marsden, Jean I.
Publication Date: Summer 2002
Title: Sex, Politics, and She-Tragedy: Reconfiguring Lady Jane Grey
Journal: Studies in English Literature
Volume, Issue, Pages: 42.3 pp. 501-522

  1. What is the source’s stated purpose (the argument or thesis)?

To argue that Lady Jane Grey doesn’t quite fit into the she-tragedy genre like playwrights tried to reconstruct her in the early 18th century, even though she was a good bit of propaganda for anti-Hanoverians to use in trying to make the Hanovers look evil because of their Catholicism.

  1. What evidence does the author provide to support his or her main argument? How is the author attempting to logically prove his or her thesis and how does this affect the organization of the document?

She looks at the genre of eighteenth-century she-tragedy as a whole and then compares its aspects and characteristics to those of the play about Jane Grey. She is showing how other she-tragedies were or were not successful, and so her article is basically organized into different discussions on different plays and how they relate to Lady Jane Grey as the main character of a she-tragedy.

  1. Who is the audience? What does the author assume the audience already knows about the topic?

Most likely other English professors of British literature, grad/post-grad students and maybe even undergrads studying English. She assumes that the reader has a workable knowledge of British history and ability to effectively analyze a play text.

  1. Describe the author’s methods (i.e. how does the author know what he or she knows)? In your opinion were they appropriate why or why not?

She did a lot of primary research and then found commentaries/studies of these texts to discover the opinions of other scholars. Using the primary texts and others’ opinions, she formed her own argument. I think these methods were appropriate because they take into consideration many different viewpoints so that the reader can have access to all sorts of opinions and facts and then determine what they themselves think is correct.

  1. To what other sources (theorist, researchers, artists) does the author refer? Explain the specific ideas the author draws upon from these other sources to support his or her own argument (the theoretical framework).

Other she-tragedies, others of Rowe’s play, and commentaries by other critics/historians/English professors. One of the ideas she draws upon is the typical attributes of a she-tragedy heroine and the typical events of a she-tragedy.

  1. What are the connections between this source and your project? How useful or applicable is this source’s approach to your own project? How is yours new and different?

She comments a bit on “The Innocent Usurper,” which is one of the plays I will be analyzing in my project, and she talks about the mythical remaking of Jane Grey. My approach is probably more different than it is similar to this paper, because I will be studying all three queens, the elements of a she-tragedy is not my main focus, and the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not the eighteenth century, is my timeline.

Source Document Analysis Worksheet

Author: King, John N.

Publication date: Spring 1990

Title: Queen Elizabeth I: Representations of the Virgin Queen

Journal: Renaissance Quarterly

Volume, Issue, Page: 43.1 pp. 30-74

  1. What is the source’s stated purpose (the argument or thesis)?
Elizabeth I began showing her celibate intentions early on in her reign through artistic symbolism rather than later on through political acts.

  1. What evidence does the author provide to support his or her main argument? How is the author attempting to logically prove his or her thesis and how does this affect the organization of the document?
She mainly looks at literature, paintings, and other works of art from Elizabeth's life. Hhe uses primary documents to prove/disprove scholar's opinions, and so the article is organized into sections of analyzing certain documents to create an argument, and then comparing the argument to modern beliefs.

  1. Who is the audience? What does the author assume the audience already knows about the topic?
English professors, scholars, and students. The reader should understand Elizabeth's life, as well as basic theories of gender and religion during the sixteenth-century. You should also know a bit about art criticism and interpretation as well.

4. Describe the author’s methods (i.e. how does the author know what he or she knows)? In your opinion were they appropriate why or why not?

The author looked at historical accounts and records from Elizabeth herself, Elizabeth's historian, and contemporaries. These eyewitness accounts from informed writers are very appropriate, as long as (obviously) the accounts are true historical documents and not forgeries.

  1. To what other sources (theorist, researchers, artists) does the author refer? Explain the specific ideas the author draws upon from these other sources to support his or her own argument (the theoretical framework).
Stephen Greenblatt: King expands upon Greenblatt's argument that Elizabeth's myth as a virgin queen was not only started by and used by English politicians, but was also created and expanded in many ways by the common people of England.
Louis Adrian Montrose: Montrose points out that if the common people were able to alter and use the virgin queen myth in their own favor, they also had the ability to abuse it greatly (like a modern country will lampoon its government leaders). The fact that they did not abuse it too much shows how wonderfully the myth worked.

6. What are the connections between this source and your project? How useful or applicable is this source’s approach to your own project? How is yours new and different?

This is a great resource for me as it deals directly with myths surrounding Elizabeth I, especially the famous myth of Elizabeth as the Virgin Queen. The Virgin Queen myth will definitely be a key part of my project, and the viewpoint that Elizabeth basically started that myth herself is in keeping with my viewpoint on Elizabethan rhetoric. My project is new and different because it deals with all three queens and myths about these women in general.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Learning Journal 4: More questions and a sorting

As I read today's text and looked at other students' preparations for their field study projects, I realized that my project needed more exactness, more parameters. Although my thesis is founded in the humanities and doesn't need the absolute exactness of projects in the sciences, it still is lacking a bit in clarity. I spent some time looking at my statement of intent from my honors thesis proposal, and came up with the following (written in colloquial English, because that's the language of my mind):

Okay, so I basically want to see how being a leader of a people can compare with being an actor onstage, performing in front of an audience. I feel like these are so similar, it's almost frightening. For instance, how many presidents has America elected because they looked good and spoke nicely and played the part? And how many of them led secret lives of cheating on their spouses and lying to the American people, but we never suspected them of anything because they acted the part of a great citizen? Is ruling a country just as easy as fooling its citizens? I'd say that in many cases, it is.

(tangent: However, I think a huge difference between presidents of democracies and kings or queens of monarchies is that the president can always pass the buck to someone. Since the only true power that the president maintains by himself is veto power, no matter how disastrous their term they can always convince the people that their supporters were the ones who voted in favor of the president's bad ideas. On the other hand, a king or queen like those in 16th century England had full reign over all choices as long as they had sufficient money in their coffers. But this means they also had full responsibility for the choices they made.)

So my question is, if a ruler is basically an actor (who in fortunate circumstances also has political talent), how do actors portray rulers? Years or decades later, after the full effect of a leader's rule--or misrule--can be measured, do actors

To answer these questions, my case studies are Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. I'm focusing on these women because they show I guess what you could call an "interruption" in the typical succession of English monarchs. Many monarchs had little different effect on their country because they inherited the kingdom from their fathers and didn't really change their ruling style from how their father had ruled. They didn't enforce any radical laws or fight wars or anything important like that because their reigns were times of peace with little social unrest. In these cases, it may not have really mattered whether the king was a political genius or a stick, because the country did not at that time require much of its leadership.

On the other hand, during the 16th century, England was going through a lot of social upheaval. First, the Reformation and breakaway from the Catholic church was a huge change for the English people. Second, England was starting to become a political and economic world power rather than just an island country. Third, for the first time in centuries, England was to experience three female monarchs in a row. This radically changed ideas about the gender of rulers, as well as effecting most ideas about women in general. Such a transitory, unstable period of English history was truly a proving ground for the English monarchs. Not only did the monarchs have to be politically talented in order to survive, but they had to act the part of a monarch in order to convince their people of their capability in reigning.

By comparing the factual Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I to their fictional portrayals in 17th century plays, I hope to see what actually stood out to the people. Years after the reigns of these queens, what did the people remember about them, and what did they forget (or choose to forget)? How did "acting like a monarch" change because of the queens' reigns?

(footnote: my thesis and project will only span these queens' accessions--that is, the period between the death of their previous monarch, and their coronation. This is for two reasons: 1) I need to narrow the time period which I am studying, or else I'd have to write books and books in order to completely explore the subject, and 2) the accession is the most vulnerable point of a monarch's reign, because they technically do not have the rights of a monarch, but they are expected to act like one. Accession periods are also the easiest time for a challenger to the monarchy to try to overthrow the monarch-to-be.)

Short and sweet version: I'm going to compare Jane's, Mary's, and Elizabeth's public performances as acceding queens to theatrical versions of the same performances to see how their accessions changed ideas about gender, religion, and political power in England. There's a difference between how you actually acted (as a secret politician) and how people perceived you (acting the part of a monarch), and odds are your public performance will be the longer lasting legacy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Learning Journal 3 and Research Question

My current research question for my project:

What were the lasting effects of the accessions of Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I on English theories of royalty, religion, and gender, and how were these effects portrayed through theatre, literature, etc.?

Learning Journal #3:
In reading the research proposal for the student studying comic books in India, and in reading my own paper that I presented at the HIC-AH conference, I think I'm started to realize how much time and revision really will go into my proposal and my thesis. I read through my paper many times this past week in preparation for presenting it, and each time I had at least three or four different things that I felt needed to change. There were even a few points in which my logic seemed shaky or I think that I misread/misquoted a source. I was very surprised by this, because this had been a final paper in another class, and I had received at least an A- on it. I guess I thought that if it had passed inspection by a professor, then it didn't need much revision. I was obviously quite wrong. I'm not saying that the professor didn't do anything to help me improve the paper, because they did. I think I was just surprised about how much you can revise a paper and think it works great, and then you put it down for a few weeks or months and then come back and your point of view has completely changed. It was amazing to see all the new ideas and ways of thinking I had learned since I had written the paper.

I hope that by constantly working on and thinking about my project proposal and thesis, I will be able to catch and revise errors in my thinking/writing before they get too big. In watching others work on big projects, and in working on big projects myself, it seems as if people try to create a project, then do the research on it, and once they become an expert, they realize their project is deeply flawed and they have to start from scratch. This is definitely something I am trying to avoid. Although I've already turned in my honors thesis proposal, I haven't yet turned in my project proposal for my field study. Since I'm already doing research for my thesis, hopefully this will make me an expert before I plan the details of my project, and I will be able to continue with my plans instead of having to scrap them because they won't work. My goal for writing my project proposal is to be an expert in the subject and methods of my research before I confirm how exactly I will go about researching.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Learning Journal 2: Notes on Babbie's "Qualitative Field Research and Research Design" and 25 Questions

Notes on the the class reading:
I feel as if a great deal of my time in creating my research methods will be spent in deciding how I can convert the data-collection methods I am learning of in class readings (surveys, interviews, etc.) to work with historical figures who lived 300-500 years ago. Although I do have a few questions listed above that I could ask current populations in London, most of the research I am doing will be analyzing the opinions and events of 16th- and 17th- century English men and women. Since I cannot ask these men and women currently to respond to my questions, I must learn how to interpret their writings (or writings about them) and from these attempt to construct their points of view.

However, this does not at all mean that speaking to modern Brits will be unhelpful. As a student right now, I am disconnected from Elizabeth I, Mary I and Lady Jane Grey in two important ways: geographically and temporally. While I can never bridge the gap temporally, I can definitely do so geographically. And even though this still could not replace the theoretical possible of interviewing 16th- and 17th- century English men and women firsthand, it can provide me with new insights that I could not access in America. It will, for instance, make a huge difference if I talk to Americans, for whom the concept of monarchy is old-fashioned, restrictive, and un-patriotic; versus talking to Brits, for whom monarchy is a proud tradition, a current practice, and an intrinsic part of government.

I noticed how important it would be to change my mindset from American to British when I was trying to think of an adequate way of explaining the British monarchical practice of accession to Americans not well versed in British political rhetoric. At first, I felt it was very accurate to compare the change in British monarchy to the change in American presidents. For both, there is a time of waiting for the new leader, a ceremony for the new leader to pass through in order to gain the rights and privileges of his office, and many other similarities. However, I soon realized that I was simplifying the analogy too much. In British history, the change from one monarch to the next usually requires some sort of national drama: the death (natural or unnatural) of the previous monarch, a treaty between two parties warring for the throne, and a monarch's abdication are a few examples. But in American history, the change from one president to another is most often rather monotonous, brought on every four years because of voting, not because of death or violence. Furthermore, the transition of one president to another is rather peaceful and boring. Never has a contender arisen to challenge the legitimacy of the elected president or to attempt a coup. And since the longest presidential term can only be two sets of four years, rarely does a president have the opportunity or power to shape the economics, society, fashion, and/or culture of an era. On the other hand, just a quick review of British history will expose countless contenders challenging the legitimacy of a monarch-to-be, as well as the huge effect of monarchs on British culture: the Elizabethan Era, the Jacobean Era, Edwardian Era, and the Regency, just to name a few. So while I may have thought the period in between a president's election and his swearing in was sufficient to describe a British accession, further study showed how inadequate the analogy was. This, of course, would have been obvious to someone who better understood British culture.

In a nutshell, the previous example shows why I need modern British views as well as historical British input in my research.

Twenty-Five Questions

1. How does the British Library work?
2. How do British/English views of monarchy differ from other countries?
3. How has the idea of monarchy changed in Britain?
4. How has respect for the monarchy changed?
5. How are dukes, duchesses, lords, etc. treated by the public and the monarchy?
6. Is it possible to physically handle primary texts at the British Library?
7. What kind of architecture was popular in Tudor England?
8. How are Tudors seen by modern Brits?
9. What are the steps of the coronation ceremony?
10. Where does the coronation ceremony take place?
11. Has anything about the coronation ceremony changed since the 16th century?
12. How do British/English people tend to treat unpopular monarchs?
13. How did Elizabeth, Mary, and Lady Jane Grey run their households prior to queenship?
14. What was typically worn to one's own coronation ceremony?
15. What events typically happened between the death/deposition of the old monarch and the coronation of the new?
16. How did the myth (Lane Letters) behind Lady Jane and Dudley begin?
17. Who wanted Elizabeth to be queen?
18. What public speeches/appearances were made by these women during their accessions?
19. How did they "train" for queenship?
20. When, where, and by whom were the three plays performed?
21. What kind of clothing did the queens wear?
22. What are the biographies of the playwrights?
23. How were the queens portrayed in the plays?
24. How did the queens officially claim the throne?
25. How did they quell (or at least, attempt to quell) rebellions?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Learning Journal 1: "Context and Meaning" Response

The first thing that came to mind when I read Edward T. Hall's "Context and Meaning" was a little chart that my English 451 professor used to explain the history and function of literary theory:
According to this chart, the text (the actual book that we read) has at least four huge influences working on it: the author, the reader, the world, and the code/language. Throughout time, many different literary critics have argued for different influences having more weight than the others in determining the meaning of the text. Nevertheless, all four influences are vital to truly understanding the text, and if one is removed, the text loses much of its meaning.

Being an English major, I used this model as somewhat of an allegory in understanding the article. The author is the speaker, the reader is the listener, and the text becomes whatever information the speaker is trying to make accessible to the listener. The world represents external influences, and the code/language are internal factors. I don't think we usually realize how many issues are at play when we speak or listen to each other. We like to assume that the ability to speak the same language is the only thing necessary to ensure successful communication, and if this doesn't allow for success, then we in turn assume that there must be a flaw in either the speaker or the listener.

As Hall pointed out, this is especially difficult in crossing over cultures. I've noticed that even when I'm trying to be a cultural- and racially sensitive and understanding person, I still assume that if someone from another culture doesn't understand an aspect of my culture, they must either be stupid or I must not be explaining it well enough. Like most everyone else, I easily forget how varied the human experience can be.

In my field study experience, I will have to face the challenge of trying to understand humans across cultures and across time. My purpose in traveling to London is to research the effects of the accessions of Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I on English ideas about gender, power, and religion. This requires an in-depth understanding of the context of English culture before, during, and after the three accessions. In researching these three women and the culture in which they lived, I've noticed that I tend to forget even the most obvious cultural differences. For example, I assume that women throughout time have been proud to be women, or that the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are instinct rather than the privileges of democracy. If I could go on the field study of my dreams, I would grab a time machine and travel back to sixteenth- and seventeenth- century England. Since I cannot, I can at least travel to London and live among people who are used to living under a parliamentary monarchy and who have inherited parts of the culture from hundreds of years ago. Though I know that I can never completely understand the nuances of Tudor England, I can at least make an attempt to get outside of American culture and experience Tudor England's cultural progeny.

I especially connected to Hall's discussion of the effect of space on humans. One aspect of Tudor England's culture that has remained relatively unchanged is its architecture. There are many buildings in London and the surrounding areas which were build and/or used in Tudor England, and which can still be toured today. By experiencing cathedrals, castles, and other buildings of religious and political importance, I can get a better idea of the Tudor definition of faith and power than I would if I just read about it in a book.

All in all, I've decided on one thing: studying and researching my topic from here in Provo may be possible, but I can never come close to understanding the context and culture of Tudor England without experiencing the art, architecture, culture, society, and politics of London.

My favorite quote: "It is impossible to separate the individual from the environment in which he functions." (p 67)