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Monday, August 20, 2012

England is my foundation

After returning to the States, I've realized there's one thing I miss about England more than anything else: the history.  In my opinion, it seems as if England is just chock full of history.  Everywhere you go, every house you enter, every cemetery you walk past has some sort of amazing connection with a famous writer, a revolution, a member of the royalty, etc.  Less than a mile away from my flat is a station where John Keats went to school.  A little further on is an ancient church with stonework from the thirteenth century, as well as a marketplace that has been in use for just as long as the church, if not longer.  A school next to the church has existed since Tudor times, and the stream which runs nearby all of these landmarks was dug in the late sixteenth century.

The rest of London seems to follow the same pattern of historical abundance.  Wherever you go, there are always those little blue plaques reminding you of the vast and important history of the current location.  For a girl from a neighborhood that's only thirty years old, a city that's 153 years old, and a state that's barely older than that, the very notion of entering a 700 year old building is dizzying.  In fact, sometimes the amount of historicity is so overwhelming, I'm tempted to think that the little plaques are ploys for tourism rather than historical facts, like the inordinate amount of hotels in Memphis claiming "Elvis slept here."  But whenever I doubt these historical claims, a bit of research always proves them correct: yes, the man who was the inspiration for Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde did own that restaurant; yes, this little building is the oldest wooden edifice in all of Europe; yes, this grocery store was built on the site of an ancient Roman burial ground.

What I have learned from these experiences is that England has ten times more history than any civilization could ever find a use for.  If you are a Brit living in London, the lives of your ancestors and forebears surround you to the point of asphyxiation.  Especially in central London, where you can't even cross a street without walking in the path of half a dozen famous events or people.  And while this may seem mind-boggling, it's also rather comforting, in my opinion.  It's comforting to know that people have been living and dying in your city for the past two thousand years, that life has always pressed forward, and that life will continue to press forward.  It's comforting to know that your ancestors may have lived only a few dozens miles away from where you're living right now.  It's comforting to know that this land has been a safe haven for human life for centuries, and that you can go to a library and read about their own experiences in this old-as-time-itself land.

My home in Utah seems like a small boat adrift on a sea of novelty and temporality in comparison to the galleon of England, firmly anchored by the weight of history.  Yes, I know that Utah has a rich history, with the pioneers of the 19th century, the Utes before them, and--who knows?--maybe the Nephites or the Lamanites before them.  But for me, for Averyl Dietering, Utah is not the foundation of myself or my family.  My father is from Texas, and his ancestors are English and German.  My mother is from Massachusetts, and her ancestors are Welsh and English.  When I think about my ancestry, my people, and my home, I find myself returning to England.  Though I've lived in Utah for 21 1/2 of my 22 years, there's something about the infinite history of England which seems like home, like finding a foundation which countless of my ancestors spent their lives building. 

It is for this reason that I don't think I'll ever cross England off my list of places to see, like people cross off the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids of Giza.  I will keep returning, if only to feel the confidence of that great weight of history, the feeling of that ancestral foundation beneath my feet.

Why you should never get comfortable

(This post is also to make up for one I missed.)

I always find it a bit humorous when anyone purports the ability to teach members of one culture how to "act like a native" in another culture.  It simply isn't possible, and it's a ridiculous notion.  I think I might trust someone to read my palm and tell me my future before I would trust someone who guaranteed that they could teach me to act like a native Samoan, Tibetan, Russian, Mexican, etc.

However, before I start sounding as if I believe all attempts at cross-cultural learning are futile, I suppose I ought to share the aspects of cross-cultural learning which I do believe can be taught.  For example, it is important to learn taboos and potentially offensive words or actions, if at all possible, before you go to another culture (and hopefully not during or after).  It's also possible to learn how to dress in another culture, and what your dress may say about the role you play in that culture.  In cultures with a different language, it is important to learn the spoken tongue, although you might have to wait until you are living in the culture to learn local slang or idioms. 

So yes, it is possible--and frankly, vital--to learn all you can about a culture and how to function in it before you go.  But when someone says they can help you learn to "blend in" and be indistinguishable from the native population, that person is far too overconfident.

I was rudely reminded of this when I started going to church at my ward in London.  Last summer, I attended the YSA ward, and by the end of the three months, I had become quite adept at understanding the quirks of young people from England, South Africa, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, Canada, and all across America.  Most of the people I spent my time with were from these areas, and although it took quite some time to understand the differences between an Australia sense of humor and an English sense of humor, it was well worth it.

This time around, I did not attend the YSA ward on Sundays.  Rather, I went to a family ward with many people from England and America, but also many others from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Brazil.  Unfortunately, most of what I had learned about working with people in my YSA ward did not apply to this new ward.  It was somewhat upsetting to have to learn how to work with different people and different cultures all over again--I had already done this before!  Shouldn't London culture be the same no matter where you go in London?  Shouldn't living in a culture once make the next time a breeze?

What I have discovered is that there is no finite amount of "items" to be learned in order to accomplish the feat of blending into a culture.  For instance, no matter how much I had learned about Australian and English humor in my previous ward, I had to basically start from scratch when learning about Nigerian and Ghanaian in my new ward.  Culture varies greatly from region to region, and can even vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Even though I was living less than fifteen miles away from my previous residence, I felt as if I had entered a completely new world.

 I suppose I should share with you all of the stories of my blunders and how I completely embarrassed myself because I was unprepared to interpret and function within the new types of African humor that I encountered.  But I will have to disappoint you, because to be honest, I'm still nursing those wounds a bit.  Maybe one day I will become an expert on African humor and how not to embarrass yourself in front of your Ghanaian/Nigerian/Kenyan church leadership, and maybe then I'll feel confident enough to share with you all the stories of my unfortunate experiences.

Until then...

Friday, July 27, 2012

This post is to make up for one I missed

I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between travel, tourism, and "settling" (for a lack of a better word).

Let's start with definitions, because I really like to share my own opinions of the definitions of certain words.

Travel: visiting a place that is foreign to you, with the intent to learn more about the area, the history, the people, the culture etc.  A mix of leisure, discovery, adventure, and responsibility.

Tourism: visiting a place that is foreign to you, with the intent to relax, "see the sights," get some great pictures to post on Facebook, and maybe learn about the area and it's history (but only if you're into that kind of stuff).  A mix of leisure, adventure, and, quite often, pampering oneself.  Tourism also tends to treat places as if they are a number of landmarks and activities: once you've "checked off" a certain amount of these landmarks and activities, you have finally "experienced" a certain area.

"Settling": longer than both travel and tourism. Living in a place that is foreign to you, with the intent to learn more about the area, the history, and people, etc.  Also with the aim to "fit in" within the community--to learn cultural norms and be able to communicate appropriately.  A mix of discovery, adventure, a lot of responsibility, and even more hands-on learning.

As a field study student, I have tried to make my time in England more akin to settling, and less like travel and tourism.  Although I acknowledge that I am only settling in England for three months, which is a rather short time, I have tried to learn as much about how to function within the culture and its traditions as I can, as if I were living in England for longer. 

Settling in a place is an interesting phenomenon because it has a sort of permanence which has a greater effect than travel or touring.  When you are a tourist or a traveler, you are constantly functioning as an outsider.  You know the experience is very temporary, and although you might want to learn more about the culture you are visiting, it's only for a short while.  But when you're settling, you change to adapt to the culture (if you're smart).  It becomes part of every thought.  You constantly watch others, learning from them, analyzing their actions, trying to understand what they're telling you about their culture, and comparing it to how you act.  It becomes your mission to understand others: to understand their humour (which may seem a little biting), or their opinions of beauty (which may seem a little old-fashioned), or even the way they pass someone when they walk down the street.

While tourism and travel are glimpses into another world, settling is living in that other world.  As I look forward to coming home in August, I remember what it was like to come home last August from my previous field study.  I found that most of my friends and family treated my settling in England as touring.  They asked me things like, "did you go see Big Ben?" and "are Londoners rude?" and "did you eat a lot of fish and chips?"  My favorite question was "you went to London? how was it?"  While this question is fine for describing a one or two week London vacation, it's extremely inadequate for describing my settling experience.

Yes, I did go to London.  How was it?  Well, if you want the honest answer, it was wonderful, terrifying, beautiful, edifying, destructive, brilliant, boring, torturous, difficult, hilarious, depressing, inspiring, eye-opening, thought-provoking, money-draining... and the list goes on.  It contained some of the most painful experiences that I've ever had.  It taught me independence and preparation.  And it was rewarding beyond what I ever expected.

But typically, my friends don't want to hear that version.  What they really would like to hear is, "it was fun.  It was really rainy, though, and I'm glad to be back in the sun."  And so I tell them that, when what I really want to say is, "after three months of eating, breathing, sleeping, learning, and living London, of trying to communicate and understand the culture, I sometimes feel more English than I do American."

The first few weeks back home feel great, but they're always the hardest.  It's shutting the book of your London life and putting it back on the shelf so you can reopen the old one and get back where you left off.  But you're never back where you left off.  There's always the disjunction of lost time and lost experiences.  How could I explain my love for old churches to someone who has never been outside an LDS meetinghouse?  How can I explain my fascination with the English and their culture to someone whose only interaction with the English are through Sherlock, Dr. Who, and Downton Abbey?  How can I explain the peacefulness of wandering through a muddy marsh in the rain to someone who thinks of London as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Harrod's, and the Olympics?

It is hard for most people to understand that I came to London not to tour or to travel, but to settle and live.  They don't understand why I didn't just see all the sights in a week or two and then move on to Paris or Barcelona or Rome.  And I wonder if they understand how odd it feels to be in two cultures at once: for the past few months, I've been an American in London, and in August, I will be a Londoner in America.  Tourism can have an effect on a person, travel can go a step further and change them, but settling takes your life out of your hands, shakes it around for no good reason, and then hands it back to you without explanation.  And when I return to the States, I expect to feel shaken.  I expect to feel uncomfortable, simultaneously at home and a stranger.

But I think there is something to be learned from being uncomfortable, something that you learn about yourself and your country and your culture that you can't learn unless you go out into the world and let it shake your life around.  After London, I don't want to be completely comfortable with my culture's ideas on gun control, public transportation, homelessness, city planning, homosexuality, patriotism, political parties--I could go on for pages, but I'll refrain.  I respect my culture, and I respect English culture.  But my field study in England has given me a chance to contemplate these two radically different cultures, live them, analyze them, and use them to open my mind to the possibilities of change and improvement.  This is an opportunity which few people have, an opportunity which would greatly improve our own culture if more of our citizens could live abroad and take time to understand both the positives and negatives of other cultures.

Unfortunately, most people opt for the tourism route, because it's a lot easier to pay thirty bucks for a look inside Buckingham Palace than it is to carefully study and consider the inner workings of English culture.  But for those of us who want to learn more about London than simply where the best fish and chips is served, there is a magnificent opportunity awaiting.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Finding Life in Dying Churches

There's a term used here in England called a "living church."  It refers to the amount of use that a church receives, that is, how much it is actually used as a place of worship.  Westminster Abbey is, for example, a living church.  Although it is mostly a tourist stop, it has Anglican services every day, and functions just as any other Anglican church would (except for with a lot more pomp and circumstance, and a couple thousand more Asian tourists). 

However, there are many churches in London which are, for lack of a better term, not-so-living churches.  These are churches which are only used occasionally for worship, or have been repurposed as an even center or the like.  If not for their historic import to the London community, and their beautiful architecture, these churches would probably be razed to make room for office buildings and high-end flats.  This is especially true in the City of London (the original city, surrounded by Roman walls), in which modern steel-and-glass skyscrapers mix quite oddly with ancient churches, church gardens, and bell towers.  This quirky combination is starkly obvious at St. Helen's Bishopsgate, an ancient medieval church--and one of the most successful Anglican parishes in London--which is right across the street from the Gherkin, a definitive skyscraper in the London skyline.  When wandering around this section of London, I get the feeling that more than one real estate agent or architect has cursed these tiny churches for standing in the way of their dreams of business development.

I'm not sure what the ratio is of living churches to not-so-living churches, but from my American, LDS standpoint, it seems like most of the church are simply dead.  On an average visit to a church in order to find epitaphs, I typically happen upon one of two circumstances: I enter upon a completely empty church, collect my research, and leave without being able to locate a single living soul, or, I am charged an entrance fee at the door and give a tourist pamphlet (which includes a summary of the church's history, a claim that this church is the oldest in London, and a heartfelt plea for monetary donations).  Unfortunately, because of the shrinking which is occurring throughout most Anglican parishes, the only way for these magnificent structures to make any income for their maintenance is through asking for donations and charging entry fees for tourists.  As the younger generations fall out of touch with the Anglican church, congregations have become much smaller and parishes have forced to consolidate.  For instance, instead of being large enough to support its own parish, as it did in earlier centuries, St. Helen's Bishopgate is currently a member of "the parish of St. Helen Bishopsgate with St. Andrew Undershaft and St. Ethelburga Bishopsgate and St. Martin Outwich and St. Mary Axe."

In general, it seems as if these wonderful structures are dying.  Though Anglicanism is the official religion of England, it's definitely not the most popular sect in London.  Compared to thriving Muslim, Hindu, Roman Catholic, and Jewish places of worship, most Anglican churches have rather empty services (except for St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey, but even then, about 80-95% of the audience are probably tourists).

When I visit these old Anglican churches (almost all of the very old churches in London are Anglican), I can't help but think of death and dying.  Not only do some of these churches have small cemeteries in their gardens, most of them have tombstones, epitaphs, and crypts all over their walls and even strewn across their floors.  I've walked into many an empty church, gazing at the tombs above and below me, simultaneously romanced and a little terrified that I'm the only breathing body in this city of the dead.  It's enchanting on one hand, the idea of complete stillness and solitude, with medieval, renaissance, Georgian, and Victorian corpses as my only company.  But it's also tragic: why is no one else here to enjoy this beautiful building?  Why do so many Londoners fail to support or even appreciate the faith of their fathers?

Of course, it's perfect for my research.  I can go into the stillness of a church, gather my data, and then leave, without disturbing anyone.  I don't have to worry about interrupting worship services, or about zealous members or clerics trying to convert me.  I can have silence and focus on the tombs, the epitaphs, research, and translation.

I was doing just that at St. Bartholomew-the-Less some time ago.  St. Bart's the Less is near Barbican, and is the parish church for St. Bartholomew's Hospital, which is only yards away. I was completely alone in this tiny church, halfway through recording a lengthy epitaph, when a woman walked in.  She looked tired and gaunt, and shuffled into one of the middle pews as the ancient wood floor creaked.  Lifting a prayer cushion from its hook, she sunk to her knees and bowed her head. 

It was touching to see this woman finding comfort in the church.  She had come from the hospital, no doubt, and was probably praying for the health of a loved one whom she had visited there.  She was almost bent in half as she prayed, and seemed rather desperate.  As I realized I was intruding on this extremely private moment, I felt awful.  Who was I to gallivant into places of worship, take a few notes, and then leave?  What right did I have to disturb the holiness of these churches, to interrupt conversations between man and God?  How did this undergraduate research project fit into the lives of the few who came to these churches for comfort and solace?

I couldn't answer these questions at the time.  I still can't.  I know that there's nothing wrong with my desire to learn more about Latin epitaphs in London churches, but at the same time, it made me feel so fake to be translating hic jacet and writing notes while this woman poured out her heart.  I haven't come to any conclusion about this experience, or my other experiences in London churches.  It just seems too complicated and delicate to make a final decision about whether or not my academic presence is welcome on these holy grounds. 

More to follow.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Finding Things

As I've been wandering in and around the finest and most delightsome city on Earth, I've noticed that I have three things constantly on my mind:

1) How fast I'm walking, how fast everyone else is walking, whether or not to pass on the left or the right, if it's safe to jaywalk, where to jaywalk, how to dart past the slowly moving people in front of me, what way to look to dodge cars, how fast I need to run to catch the next train, etc.

2) Where the next rubbish bin is, and what the heck the cultural norms are when it comes to dispensing of waste. (Because I'm pretty sure there's some sort of secret combination they have to dictate when and where to dispose rubbish.  And I'm pretty sure the Londoners themselves don't even know it.)

3) How England compares to the States.  And this is probably the most important thing I think about all day, which is why it is the topic of my blog post.

I realized I compare England to the States all of the time.  In fact, I doubt that there is ever a time that I'm not comparing the two countries, either consciously or subconsciously.  I make a mental note every time I hear my English friends talk about taking a bath rather than a shower, when I hear someone say "diary" rather than planner, or when I see a shop advertising meat pies for sale.  Walking down a bustling London street, the vast amount of differences almost overloads my mind--"to let" instead of "for sale," driving on the left instead of the right, women wearing classy hats, gutters in the middle of the sidewalk (sorry, i mean "footpath"), lampposts older than my home state, policemen with silly hats and no guns--the differences are massive.  Even walking in a public park close to my house (and you'd something as simple as a public park would be pretty similar throughout the western world) reveals immense differences.

Yet in the midst of all this foreignness, there is an odd similarity to it.  There is something that feels slightly familiar in the way the English see a bath as a relaxing treat rather than an activity for babies and children (I had a very long conversation about this a few days ago, and begrudgingly realized that it maybe could be a soothing experience for an adult).  Although there are many times I look at the English way of life and think, "I don't think I could ever live permanently in England" (and I usually think this when I am offered black pudding or a Cornish pasty or some other dastardly fried meat-n-carb combo), there are just as many times that I think, "Wow, they've got it right.  This makes more sense than my culture."

I think part of this is because I don't just want to see myself in England, I want to see England in myself.  I think seeing England in myself is a major reason why I went on a field study last year, why I came back again this year.  Although I have a German surname, my heritage is probably about 80% British (mostly English with a little Welsh mixed in).  So when I look at people drinking tea--which I think is the one of the most useless beverages I've ever sipped--I can't help but think that somewhere along the line, my great-great-great-great-whatever drank tea every afternoon and absolutely adored it.  When I see people living in great rows of houses squished together and it makes me claustrophobic, I know that one of my dear ancestors probably thought that was how mankind was meant to coexist with their neighbors.

When I glance at English culture, it looks very similar to American culture.  When I look closer, it's vastly different.  And yet when I truly examine it, it seems very much the same again.  I suppose in the midst of this culture that shifts from familiar to strange, I am trying to find myself.  I am trying to discover how much of my "Americanness" is real, and how much is just a result of my lack of world travel.  Is my dislike for tea and baths really a major part of my character?  Or deep down inside, is there an ancient soul, maybe part of my genetics, secretly yearning for a good soak and a cuppa Twinings?

Part of me thinks that if I live here long enough, I'll finally return back to my English roots.  After all, America is a new country, which means that my genealogical roots have been American for four hundred years, at the most.  Four hundred may seem like a long time (to you Americans), but from a genealogical standpoint, it's nothing.  It's like spending a week in China and then applying for citizenship and enrolling in a kung fu class.  Ironically, it's also like going on a field study to England for only three months and deciding that deep down, you're English.

So what am I?  Am I as American as the Fourth of July, a holiday which would not have existed if not for England?  Am I as English as Winston Churchill, whose mother was from New York City?  Will I ask a third question, just for the sake of rhetorical balance?  I think in some ways, the answer is a hesitant "yes" to all of them.  I think there are so many connections and divergences all mixed in together in the two cultures, it's simply too complex to take a side confidently.

But back to my original idea.  When I come to London, what I hope to see is myself.  What I really see, I suppose, is a sort of long-lost identical twin, a culture than is completely different from myself, yet is myself in so many ways.  After four hundred years of separation, we're still very similar, even I can't live with tea and they can't live without it.  But at the end of the day, whether you take a bath because you need to relax or because you're an infant and you lack the fine motors skills necessary for showering, there is something intriguing, even comforting, about living in a culture that feels like a wild adventure and a journey home all rolled into one.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

London Revisited: What I Didn't Believe Beforehand, and Now I'm Kicking Myself For It

I don't like suspense, so I'll just tell you what I didn't believe: going back to a country a second time is still hard, even though it's familiar.  And now I'm kicking myself for it.

Dear experienced and wise facilitator friends, thank you for telling me about your personal journeys.  Thank you for trying to warn me that just because I was familiar with a country or a city didn't mean that I would have no problem on my second field study.  Unfortunately, like Old Testament prophets, you were cast out of my mind and your warnings were unheeded.  And I'll be darned if your prophecies did not come true.

The first few days or so of being back in London was a breeze.  Let's compare: On last year's field study to London, I arrived mindlessly jetlagged, wandered around for hours trying to find my hotel and getting yelled at by drivers, and then locked myself in the tiniest hotel room ever and cried while listening to Selena Gomez's "Who Says" on repeat for hours in order to save the tiny shreds of sanity and self-confidence I had.  My success of the day was discovering that public transportation was not free, and learning coin denominations from the nice Indian man at the post office a few miles down the road (which I walked to, because public transportation was, as previously mentioned, definitely not free). On this year's field study, I arrived a little tired, put some money on my oyster card, got the Tube to my friend's place, sent some emails letting friends and family know I'd arrived safely, did a bit of grocery shopping, and then went out to with some friends for dinner and a movie.

Improvement, Watson?  Yes, Sherlock.

Another comparison: instead of spending the entire week crying, wanting to go home, desperately searching for housing, sleeping on strangers' couches, and begging my parents to buy me a ticket home, I spent the week following up on housing leads, seeing old friends, and making arrangements for my students to arrive.  It was just easier this time because I was familiar with the area, I had connections, and I did not feel helpless.  I was confident.

On the ninth, all my students arrived and I delivered them successfully to their homes.  I had a bit more work to do, because three of these homes were temporary.  But with some excellent help from Dave and the London members, I was able to find permanent housing for everyone, and my last student moved in on Wednesday.  It was great.

On Thursday it hit.  The other facilitators were right, the second time is harder.  I'm not exactly sure of their reasons for it being harder, but for me, it has to do with novelty and purpose.  The first time around, if I was feeling unsure about being in England, I could comfort myself with the fact that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that it would look excellent on grad school applications, and that I was knocking out some classes so that I wouldn't have to take so many in the fall.  This time, it is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I've already been accepted to a grad school, and frankly, it would have been a lot easier to take these classes at BYU instead of out in the field.  Furthermore, I'm not filled with a childlike sense of wonder when I see Westminster Abbey, Tate Modern, Victoria Station, the Thames, a double-decker bus, the British Museum, etc.  It's not that I don't appreciate them.  It's almost like I've gained a sense of familiarity, which for some reason, makes things less amazing.  And that's rather tragic, in my opinion.

I'm not afraid to admit it: sometimes I don't see why I'm here.  And what I'm quite afraid to admit: sometimes I am bored with London.  But in some way, this is where my students are my salvation.  For them, London is either an entirely new experience, or an experience that was a long time ago and has faded into memory.  Riding Boris bikes, touring Westminster Abbey, walking across Tower Bridge--these are all ten times better when I see how Ben, Kayla, Natalie, and Ariana experience them.  So for now, until I do some deeper introspection, my reason for being here is to help others have full and enjoyable experiences in London, to provide them with helpful guide, if needed, so they can be confident in their field studies.  And for right now, I think that's good enough.

(P.S. However, this is not to say that more suggestions for the relevance of my field studies experience would not be appreciated.  If you have one or two, please leave them in the comments.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Learning Journal 8: Gaining Access

I couldn't think of anything new to write about my project (it's rather dormant this week as I've been frantically writing my thesis), so I decided to write about what we'll be talking about in class this week: entering the community, gaining access, and finding gatekeepers.

In my line of research, entering a community usually means finding the scholars, historians, professors, librarians, etc., who are knowledgeable about my topic.  Unlike other students' projects, the average person is not a good source of information for my project: not only do they typically not know anything about my subject of study, but they usually don't care anything for it as well.  So that leaves me with a very narrow slice of the population that I could actually go to for research. 

If I've learned one thing about gaining access and finding gatekeepers from my experiences last year, it's that university professors are nowhere to be found (it's summer), and tour guides are only there to tell the most sensational stories that will grab their audience's attention.  No one wants to go to the Tower of London to hear factual, verified information about its long and glorious history.  They go because they want to hear the popular histories about Bloody Mary, the boys in the Tower, Richard the Hunchback King, and the gruesome beheadings and torturings.  Although most tour guides are pretty accurate in their history, "pretty accurate" is not good enough for the kind of research I want to do.

So my best bet in finding gatekeepers is probably talking to the clergy who work at these churches.  This seems like an obvious choice: if my "community" is a church, aren't my gatekeepers going to be the clergy who run the church?  But at the same time, I'm a little hesitant about approaching the clergy.  Who knows if they'll really know much about the architecture and epitaphs of the building itself?  Shouldn't they be studying doctrine rather than Medieval Latin?  And what if they're a little put off or hostile to the idea of me coming in and taking information from their epitaphs when I'm not a member of their church?  I think of my own bishop at my home ward--I doubt he knows much about the architecture and decorations in the stake center.  And I think he might be a little wary of someone from a different religion taking copious notes about the building and then publishing it in an article in another country.

I don't know exactly how I'm going to overcome these difficulties, but I have a basic plan.  Feel free to leave any feedback, if you want (plus, it'd let me know that someone reads this blog, because I have a nagging suspicion that I'm writing to empty cyberspace).
1) Attend a worship service or two, and then ask one of the clergy if I can stay for some time and record epitaphs.  I hope that by attending a worship service, they'll be able to see that I have respect for the holiness of their place of worship.  I'm not just a heartless intellectual taking advantage of the churches' information.
2) Explain what I'm doing, but don't go into unnecessary detail.  In order to be ethical, I think it's necessary for the clergy to understand the basics of my project.  However, I've learned that most often, less information is the best information.  If they don't really care what I'm doing, but they're fine with me roaming their church for a few hours, that's great.  On the other hand, if they want to know exactly what I'm doing and why, and then hold a lengthy conversation about it, that's great too.  And I may get more information about my project as well.
3) Make a donation at their coffers.  It's just common courtesy, and again, it shows I'm not a "heartless intellectual."
4) If they ask my religious affiliation, introduce myself as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and not a Mormon.  Not only are there less negative connotations with the lengthier name, but it's also what the prophet has asked us to do.  So I think it's a win-win.  Although I am a bit concerned that its unethical: what if the clergy are upset because they think I'm trying to lie to them about my religion?

Anyway, this is my list so far.  My hope is that between the clergy dealing with tourists and reading about charity and long-suffering all day long, they'll be very kind and gracious about my research.  However, it could be that they see me as an outsider, that they're sick of tourists and sick of catering to people who aren't part of their congregations. Although the latter option just about makes me sick when I think about it, it's all part of the field studies adventure.

Annotated Source #8

Parker, John. Reading Latin Epitaphs: A Handbook for Beginners. University of Exeter Press, 2009. Print.

Most of my research has focused on one (maybe two) aspects of my project, because it's simply too difficult to find an overlap.  However, Parker's short book is the closest I've come to something that actually looks like my project.  According to Amazon, Reading Latin Epitaphs "reproduces fifty-two Latin memorials taken from churches situated throughout England’s West Country."  Since it's for beginners, it contains a lot of really basic Latin explanations, which are unnecessary.  However, it provides an excellent sampling of epitaphs for me to analyze, and also some excellent tips on reading them.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learning Journal 7: There is a lot I didn't know about Latin rhetorical analysis

Today's learning journal is not inspired by a prep class reading or discussion, but rather by the fear which I felt when my Medieval Latin professor, Dr. Lounsbury, explained our rhetorical analysis assignment to us today.  As he went into detail on the requirements for this paper, I realized that I needed to be paying attention, because a great deal of my project will be rhetorical analysis of Latin epitaphs.  He spoke about three key aspects of rhetorical analysis: 1) diction, 2) figures, and 3) compositio.  At first, this sounds quite easy, especially since I do this all the time as an English major.  But there's added fun.  When an English major talks about diction and figures and compositio, they usually discuss how it interacts within a text, how it adds to the beauty of the piece or how it helps convey a certain emotion.  When a Latinist talks about diction, figures, and compositio, they map exactly which ancient Roman writers that the author is referencing, they identify exactly what figures and stylistic choices (by name) the author was employing, and then they use all of this--and include a heavy amount of historical knowledge--to come up with a theory about why the author used each and every word, figure of speech, or construction, and how it adds to the message of the text.

I suppose the point I am trying to make is that even though I might possibly be able to do this for a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century English play (as I am doing for last year's field study project), I doubt that I will ever know enough about ancient Roman authors and their writing styles to do this adequately for a Medieval Latin epitaph.  Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit.  But it does seem rather daunting.

The good news is that I can communicate with Dr. Lounsbury and Dr. Christiansen about my findings. They will most likely be able to point out what I can't see, and help guide me as I try to become a quick expert at rhetorical analysis.  The other good news is that this upcoming rhetorical analysis assignment will give me a quick crash course in this field, so I won't be completely new to it when I write up my project.

The other bit of good news is that Dr. Lounsbury gave us an excellent list of texts which can assist in our rhetorical analyses, which I probably include later as annotated sources, but I'll also include right now so I can remind myself to research and annotate them later:

Texts and Transmissions by L.R. Reynolds
Handlist of Rhetorical Terms by Richard Lanham
Handbook of Literary Rhetoric by Heinrich Lausberg
DuCange's dictionary
Lewis and Short dictionary
Oxford Latin Dictionary
Thesaurus Lengua Latinae
The Perseus Project (online database)



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Annotated Sources #7

Mantello, F.A.C. and A.G. Rigg, eds. Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographic Guide. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996. Print.

Mantello and Rigg's Medieval Latin is an exhaustive introduction to the changes which Latin went through after the Classical period, as well as the different genres which are present.  Although only a short selection of pages are directly relevant to Latin epigraphy, it provides excellent introductions and bibliographies for a beginning researcher of Medieval Latin.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learning Journal 6: Lacunae--I hate them, I love them

This past week has reminded me of what I hate and love most about my research: lacunae.  A lacuna (sing=lacuna, plural=lacunae), by modern academic definition, is a gap or missing part in research.  For instance, before the latter half of the 20th century, women writers in Renaissance England was a lacuna in research about Renaissance England.  Then the feminist movement came along, and although Lady Mary Wroth still isn't as well researched as Shakespeare, there is a slew of books and articles about her and her work, and it is not a challenge at all to learn about her.

What I'm starting to discover in my own research is that it looks as if there is a big lacuna in studying medieval and Renaissance Latin epigraphs in England.  As my Medieval Latin professor, Dr. Lounsbury, said, there is a great deal of knowledge about classical Latin and even the early Church fathers, but from a period of about 500 AD to 1500 AD (and I'd argue further), there is relative silence on the subject.  This doesn't mean that medieval and Renaissance Latin epigraphs in England don't exist--any half-awake tourist can notice that some of the tombs in Westminster are not in English or French or any other living language.  It simply means that for one reason or another, Latin scholars have decided that they'd rather stick to classical Latin rather than Medieval/Renaissance Latin.  Another problem which Dr. Lounsbury discussed with me is the lax requirements (that are getting laxer) for entering today's Medieval Studies graduate programs.  Previously, it was absolutely crucial to know Latin in order to be accepted into a Medieval Studies program, so that you could be able to translate and understand primary documents in their original language.  But as enrollment in these programs decreased, many universities dropped their Latin requirement in order to make their programs more accessible to other students.  While this has increased the number of students, it also means there are fewer and fewer qualified scholars who are interested in studying Medieval Latin.

So in conclusion, if there isn't currently much secondary research on Medieval/Renaissance Latin epigraphs in England, then given the current trend, there probably won't be any more in years and decades to come.  And that's why there are so many lacunae in my research. 

This is a predicament which I often find myself in.  On one hand, it means I can write and publish something original and new, and not just another essay on Hamlet or on Queen Elizabeth as the Virgin Queen.  Research on these subjects is a dime a dozen, and the average undergraduate paper on this type of subject isn't going to make any difference in the greater academic community.  By researching something that not a lot of people know about, I can be an expert in the subject, even as an undergrad.  But on the other hand, it means that finding secondary sources is a beast.  Yes, I find a lot of sources about Medieval Latin, and quite a few on funeral monuments in Renaissance England.  But as far as connection between the two... I've only found one source which makes even as much as a passing reference to the connection.  This could mean I need to search harder, but it could also simply mean there is a lack of research on the subject.

If I weren't going on a field study, I would probably give up at this point: there simply isn't enough information for me to say anything important about the subject.  But this is why lacunae are exciting (even if they're a little scary):  I actually get to go to London and discover the answers to my questions firsthand.  Instead of relying on secondhand accounts to inform my research, I am going to engage with the original texts, the original inscriptions, and the original architecture.  Yes, it's still undergraduate research, but it's definitely the next level.

Annotated Source #6

Gordon, Arthur E. Illustrated Introduction to Latin Epigraphy. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983. Print.

To be honest, I hope I don't have to use this source a great deal, simply because it's about ancient Latin epigraphy, and I'd like to be looking at more Medieval and Renaissance Latin epigraphy.  However, it's a good basic text and an introduction to some of what I'll be looking at.  Furthermore, it's in-depth discussion of famous Latin epigraphers will probably help a great deal when I'm searching for allusions to ancient Roman writers in Renaissance epigraphs and inscriptions.  But at least for now, I hope further searching will turn up a book which focuses more on the later period I'll be studying.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Learning Journal 5: Trying not to get Bogged Down in Sources

I am the kind of person who can read/research just about anything.  I say that my passion is sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British literature, but I often think that this is only because my favorite professor focuses on this period of literature, and so I just like it because she has made it especially interesting to me.  I'm sure if I had first met a professor whose passion was transcendental American literature, that genre of literature would have been my passion instead.  As tasteless as that may be.

Or maybe if my theatre professors had impressed me (needless to say, they didn't) I would still be a theatre major.  The point is, I enjoy many different things.  I don't force myself to enjoy these things, rather, I just have an appreciation for multiple discplines and multiple points of view within those disciplines.  I love learning new things, so it's hard to find something that I don't like, at least in some degree.

This is usually a strength.  It keeps me from being absolutely bored in my GE classes, and it helps me connect with people who have different attitudes and mindsets.  However, when it comes to research, it turns into a monster.  Last Friday, when we discussed resources and how to map them, I saw the monster rearing its ugly head.  It was frustrating--I thought I'd already solved this problem in my countless other research projects!--but here it was again: I had too few sources directly related to my project, and too many sources tangentially or otherwise marginally related to my project.

Let me explain.  On the map I drew on Friday, I realized I can quite simply divide my project question,


Do Latin epitaphs from 1500-1666 on English tombs/monuments in London churches show any relation to/ development of the Renaissance idea of the body as architecture? If so, how?


into a few parts: human proportions in architecture, Medieval/Renaissance Latin, classical ideas of architecture, Renaissance ideas of architecture, architecture of tombs/monuments, and Christian conceptions of the body during/after death.  But even though it's helpful to divide your project into different aspects for organizational purposes, I find it makes it more difficult for me to keep my focus.  For instance, I found a really thorough, lengthy article about the "shroud monument" and its popularity in tomb architecture during the seventeenth century.  The article is all about the architecture of tombs/monuments (which is one of the aspects of my research question), so it seems to be an excellent source, right?  But here's the difficulty: it's only about the architecture of tombs and monuments, and it doesn't relate to anything else in my project question.  Furthermore, it's so specialized, there are only a few paragraphs here and there that are useful to my project.

There are hundreds of sources like this one--they apply perfectly to one aspect of my research, but they have no relation to any other aspect of my project.  Other than maybe a few lines here and there, these sources are practically useless, and only serve to distract me from my real field study plans.  Yes, as stupid as it sounds, I really could find myself absolutely enthralled by research about the "shroud monument" and its effect on English architecture.  But at the same time, I have to pull myself away, so I can focus on what I'm researching and not just gather a lot of information about unrelated subjects.

So I think the key is finding sources which relate to at least two or more of the aspects of my project.  And what's even better are sources which relate to four or five aspects of my project (though these are quite rare).  Although this will significantly narrow the amount of sources that are actually useful, hopefully it will help me keep my project narrowed and on track.  Besides, the real research is the primary research which I will be conducting in the field.

Annotated Source #5

Westminster Abbey. Famous People and the Abbey. Westminster Abbey, 2010. Web. 13 Feb 2012. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people

This is an online database of all of the people buried in Westminster Abbey, including their epitaph and a short biography.  This is immensely helpful to my research, considering it will allow me to do a survey of primary sources before I get to the field.  After a thorough investigation of this source, I should have a much better idea of the typical Latin epitaph during this time period, including any challenges I may face in translation, research, or analysis.  Problem: the database is organized alphabetically, not chronologically, so I get to sort through all of it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Learning Journal 4: Looking for Flaws

Last class period, we discussed our projects in depth and asked each other questions about how we were to go about successfully completing our projects.  Ashley grilled us and asked a lot of intense questions, which was a little terrifying but mostly helpful.  One of the issues that kept coming up when we discussed my project question was whether or not there even were references to the body as architecture in English epitaphs from 1500-1666.  This still remains a worry to me, especially since with working on my thesis, I haven't had much time to do any extensive research on epitaphs, and so I haven't been able to test the waters and see what kinds of references are being made to the body as architecture... if there are any references being made at all.
In addition, my attempt to look at the manifestations of the body as architecture in Renaissance epitaphs may be a bit of reading history backwards: just because modern historians have noticed this trend doesn't mean that the Englishmen and women of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries actually made a conscious effort to refer to the body as architecture.  (However, now that I've had time to reread this post, I think this concern isn't all that valid--there is enough of a tradition of the body as architecture in Renaissance society to assume that historians aren't reading too much into primary sources and making this up.)
Recognizing that references to the B as A (what I'm shortening "body as architecture" to) may be rather sparse and/or unrelated, I've come up with a few plans of attack which I can utilize in case my project doesn't go quite according to plan:

1) Place more emphasis on the artistic/structural analysis of the monument itself, and then analyze the epitaph for any references to the monument, e.g. "this Tomb" or "haec edificia."  This would be a bit disjointed because it would be comparing the epitaph to the monument and then to the B as A (instead of skipping the middleman and just comparing the epitaph to the B as A).  However, artistic analyses of monuments seem to be rather popular, so I would have more secondary sources to look to as an example, which would be helpful.

2) Look for biblical references to the B as A in epitaphs, e.g. "tabernacle of clay," "vessel of the Lord," etc.  This isn't ideal, simply because it takes away the dimensionality of analysis by only assessing the epitaphs from a religious viewpoint.  Furthermore, these references will probably be tropes and rather unimaginative quotations, while what I'm really looking for is creativity and originality, and therefore evidence of a developing theory instead of just quoting scripture.


3) Analyze any references to architecture at all, no matter how unrelated, sparse, or otherwise.  Who knows? I could very well find some excellent research out of some not so excellent epitaphs, especially with the help of my very capable and experienced mentors and professors.

4) If there are no references (or not enough) to the B as A, I might as well research what the epitaphs are comparing life/the body to.  Is life like a star, or like a book?  Is the body like a boat or a tree?  This has great potential to be even more interesting than my current project (depending on the creativity of the comparisons), but it wouldn't be ideal, because it would mean rewriting my project.

I suppose it may seem a little negative to already be coming up with plan B, C, D, and E when we're only one month into the prep class.  However, there is a very likely chance that my project will encounter some major setbacks in the field, and its weakest point is regarding the B as A, I think.  These plans will be helpful if I cannot find references to the B as A.  But even if I am able to find plentiful references, creating these other options is a good mental exercise, and I may use one or two of them anyway.

Annotated Source #4

Sherlock, Peter. Monuments and Memory in Early Modern England. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing  Company, 2008. Print.

Sherlock's book discusses the monument as a culture's attempt to "convey messages" to future generations and preserve religious beliefs.  Sherlock pays special attention to how fabricating memory affected the words of the epitaph and the structure of its monument.  This source is also quite helpful because it has a number of epitaphs from churches in England, and it has an excellent review of literature in the introduction.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Annotated Source #3


Llewellyn, Nigel. “Honour in Life, Death and in the Memory: Funeral Monuments in Early Modern England.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6.6 (1996): 179-200. Print.

Another source from Llewellyn (which is unavoidable because he is the expert on the subject, but also great because he is the expert on the subject).  In this article, Llewellyn discusses the less literary aspects of monuments and tombs.  He looks at how they were made, including craftsmanship and cost. He also discusses heraldry and effigies, looking at the different postures and poses the effigies were sculpted in.  Most importantly to my project, he analyzes the symbols and imagery of tombs and monuments, pointing them out as a separate (and possibly more important) category than heraldry and effigies.

Learning Journal 3: Project Revision and Workshopping

I've had two harrowing but exciting experiences this past weekend.  The first (which I am still experiencing) is writing my thesis, which is a continuation of my field study project last year.  The second was our project work-shopping activity on Friday.
I remember the first time did project work-shopping last year.  Maggie had us write down our project question on a big poster and then make a web of all the aspects of our project to surround our project question.  At first I thought, "Great!  Finally, I have an opportunity to take my really messy thesis idea and make some sense of it!"  However, the more I wrestled with my project question and my supporting ideas, the more I realized that it was fundamentally flawed: it was too broad in parts and too narrow in others, it was overcomplicated, and it made dozens of assumptions that weren't well researched.  I suppose I'm being a little hard on myself, but I'm currently dealing with the consequences as I write this thesis chapter, so that's my bias.
The point I'm trying to make is that although I was given several occasions to revise and redo my project idea, I was trying to make it fit into something it wasn't, so my revisions never helped.  I didn't realize how difficult my project would be in the field, but I found that out quickly once I arrived in London.  I did some excellent research, but it never connected in a way that I could utilize easily and properly.

As is typical of my previous posts, this is the part in which I compare how much my last project failed and how much this project will succeed.  So here we go:
Friday's project work-shopping was an excellent reminder to me of how many research/non-research aspects there are in a field study.  As this is my second time around, I already know building rapport can make or break a project, interviewees are not always cooperative, and probably no one cares about your project like you do.  However, this was news to most of the England students (don't take offense if you are reading this, England students.  This is your first field study and no one expects you to know this.  Which is obviously why we have a prep class).  It was fascinating to see how people reacted as they realized that certain aspects of their project were holding them back or were quite impossible to carry out in the field.  We spend a lot of time discussing how to speak to others, that not everyone wants to be interviewed, or even has an opinion about your topic.  As I looked at my project question, I felt a rush of relief when I realized how simple it was.  I think many times, students get so excited about experiencing and researching in a new culture, they just overexert themselves and want to discover and research everything.  They don't know how to simplify or focus their project, and even when they do, it's hard because they are afraid they'll limit themselves if they do.  However, one of the most important lessons I learned from the field is that even if you don't research it, you'll have time to experience it.  For instance, I am absolutely fascinated with Tube culture, which had nothing to do with my project.  But since I rode the Tube basically everyday, I had more than enough time to study the people, the codes of behavior, and other aspects of riding on the Tube.  You are not going on a field study just to do research 100% of the time, so why act as if your project has to be all-encompassing?  If you simplify and focus, not only do you have a manageable project, but you have time to enjoy what a field study is really about: immersing yourself in another culture, and understanding the workings of different societies.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning Journal 2: London--Monochronic or Polychronic?

In responding to today's reading for the prep class, I will be the first to admit that I do not understand polychronic time, and I have quite a difficult time appreciating its function.  In my opinion, polychronic time is messy and unstructured, it lends itself to irresponsibility and procrastination, more than it fulfills its goal to put people first.  On the other hand, in my highly biased mind, monochronic time is the bright and shining star of time management.  I am an analytic personality, so I revel in the structure of to-do lists and checking boxes and planners and making appointments.  I show respect for others by meeting with them when I said I would, and although I do acknowledge that sometimes I am late or cannot keep my appointments, these moments are few and far between.  I live a life which must be prioritized--if I don't keep to my schedule and my priorities, I end up being busy without being useful.
That said, I do believe that in some situations, polychronic time is quite useful.  For instance, if a roommate has experienced a family tragedy and needs support, but I have a class in ten minutes, I'm not going to go to class.  And if I'm spending a week with my sister and brother-in-law and their three kids, I keep my schedule completely blank: what I do for the week depends on when they need to go grocery-shopping, if one of the kids gets sick, how well they are behaved, and whether or not playdates are kept or cancelled.  I don't plan on writing my thesis or getting homework done during this time--I understand that young children resist most schedules, and it'd be absolutely miserable if I tried to keep to any sort of schedule.
The same can be said for my experiences in the field.  Yes, London most often runs on M-time, but understanding and appreciating P-time is still necessary.  For instance, sometimes the Tube just stops because of a signal failure.  Sometimes tourists clog up traffic and it's difficult to get around.  Sometimes you make an appointment with someone and they're late, or it falls through completely.  And because of the huge immigrant population, sometimes you meet with people who were born using P-time, and don't see the value of M-time one bit.  My goal in understanding M-time and P-time is not to declare one as universally more useful than the other, but rather to be able to speak both languages without being completely uncomfortable.
Personally, I think M-time is the most helpful in the culture I live in currently.  Furthermore, it helps me get more done, gives structure to my life, and enables me to be a responsible friend, employee, and student.  I disagree with Hall's assertion that P-time is about people and M-time is a barren wasteland of goals, deadlines, and human subjugation.  In my opinion, it is very complimentary when a professor asks to meet me at a certain time and then is on-time for our appointment.  And when I write down an appointment when someone in my planner, I am showing them that I care about them enough to push aside whatever else I may be doing, and give them 100% of my attention.  I only have 100% to give, and I lose focus quickly if I am distracted by others and lost without a schedule.
Yes, many of our students will be going to other locations in which P-time is normal and M-time is foreign.  However, this doesn't mean that M-time is evil, or that P-time is lazy.  Both have their advantages, and it should be our goal to be able to adapt to whichever time management strategy is asked of us.

Annotated Source #2

Gent, Lucy, Nigel Llewellyn. Renaissance Bodies: the Human Figure in English Culture, c. 1540-1660. Trowbridge, UK: Reaktion Books Ltd, 1995. Print.

A collection of essays about various aspects of the treatment of the body in the English Renaissance.  Most essays are only of minute relevance to my research, however, the chapters entitled "Self-Fashioning and the Classical Moment in Mid 16th Century English Architecture," and "The Royal Body: Monuments to the Dead, for the Living" seem especially promising.  Furthermore, from what I've discovered in my research, Nigel Llewellyn seems to be the foremost scholar in the Renaissance idea of the body as architecture, and so it's important I familiarize myself with his work.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Annotated Source 1

Shute, John. The first and chief groundes of architecture vsed in all the auncient and famous   monymentes with a farther & more ample defense vppon the same, than hitherto hath been set out by any other. Published by Iohn Shute, paynter and archytecte. London: Thomas Marshe, 1563. Print.
One of the earliest English books on architecture, and the first to use Vitruvius's idea of the body as architecture. The origin for printed knowledge and opinion about the relationship between the body's proportions, nature, and architecture.

Learning Journal 1: Round Two, More Experienced and (Hopefully) Wiser

In some ways, I'm very grateful to be the England facilitator, because as I help students plan their own field studies, I gain a lot of experience and useful knowledge about my own plans, and how to make my field study more successful.  However, in other ways, it's rather miserable: when my students ask me about my previous field study, I get to be constantly reminded of my follies and problems, the opportunities I did not take advantage of, and the many ways in which I wasted my time and my resources.
This is not to say that I just lounged around in London, making the tourist loop, eating curry and fish and chips.  Rather, I am realizing that too often, I let my culture shock, my loneliness, and my setbacks dictate the course of my field study, instead of controlling my own project.  But this is not a post about my regrets and failures.  Even though I am a little embarrassed about the attitude I had towards my first field study, it was still an excellent experience, and produced a project that is not too shabby.
This is why I am so excited about going back to London.  Not only does this entire experience look great on my CV (although that's not the most important reason), but I have the opportunity to do another project which I am passionate about, with 20/20 hindsight.  Of course, I don't expect that this means my project and experience will be flawless.  In fact, if anything, I expect this one to be much crazier and complicated than the first.  But instead of letting culture shock get to me, I now know how to combat it.  Instead of being afraid to talk to Londoners, I have a greater confidence.  Instead of looking at the Field Studies requirements and objectives and saying, "that doesn't mesh with the English discipline," I have a greater understanding of cultural interaction, and I understand the meaning behind their requirements.
The first time around, I made a lot of plans to talk to professors and scholars about my project, but then was too timid to follow through with them.  This time around, I want to make a better effort.  As I visit churches and abbeys to study epitaphs and inscriptions, I want to talk to the clergy and interview them about their artistic opinions of these monuments.  I would also love to speak to any historians who specialize in these churches.  For this reason, I'm glad to be working with Prof. Lounsbury, who has connections with a director of a cathedral in France (wrong country, but still a great lead).
The first time around, I feel like I failed to see the connections between past and present.  I was studying Tudor England, after all--why did I need to learn about modern London?  And though this time I'm still studying dead people (my apologies, Ashley), I think it's immensely important to somehow connect my project to modern London.  Even if these connections don't quite fit into the end paper I'm hoping to get out of this field study, I want to make sure that I make the most of my field study experience.  I know I will probably be spending a lot of time in libraries and historical sites and museums (again), but I don't want to overlook the modern and human aspect, as I did last time.
I could still quite easily play the discipline card, and argue that studying sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British art, architecture, and literature as an English student does not require me to do any participant observation or interviewing.  But that would be shutting down multiple facets of my experience, aborting opportunities for multi-disciplinary learning. 
Yes, I do research dead people.  Yes, I don't quite understand the merits of anthropology.  Yes, I could fill up all my time with museums and libraries and never get bored.  But I have the amazing chance to go back to London, to have another go at field research, and I have decided to explore everything London has to offer, to not let my culture shock, discipline, or anything else limit my experience.