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.