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.