Learning Journal #15 (2-21-11)
I read Neuman's "Choosing a Site and Gaining Access," keeping my location in London in mind as I read. As he explained, "A site is the context in which events or activities occur, a socially defined territory with shifting boundaries. A social group may interact across several physical sites." In my own research, I'm not exactly studying a social group as much as a social idea, and while its territory is literally unbounded, its origins are very concentrated and accessible. And since a great part of my study is of this idea while it was yet in its infancy, studying its origins is especially important. I am also very fortunate in studying this social idea, because as a result of research and historical endeavours, scholars have attempted to move as much of its territory into a few physical field sites.
Another concept that I really connected with was the idea of a "gatekeeper." In my general studies of Tudor Queens here at BYU, I feel as if I learned the concept of gatekeeper through trial and error. Luckily, I was able to find my mentor early in my undergraduate career. Equally fortunate for my research is that she has already been researching the Tudor period for 20+ years, is very widely read in the area, and has many connections with other scholars. However, my other attempts to find gatekeepers at BYU have not been as successful. Although there are dozens of reference librarians who focus on periods or movements near my research area, their knowledge is usually too broad to help me find new or pertinent research.
My plan for finding "gatekeepers," and even potential informants, in London, is to use the connections I have with my primary mentor, and maybe the connections of one or two other professors I'm working with who have connections in London. I'm afraid that if I start from scratch and try to find my own gatekeepers, it will take me much longer than I can afford, and I may only find what I'm looking for very late in my field study, if at all.
One particular concept that I'm especially concerned with is Neuman's idea of "freeze-outs," especially in relationship to "presentation of self." In my previous experience, professors, librarians, historians, and other scholars have usually been very helpful and accommodating, even if I had difficult questions or was very misinformed/plan stupid about a topic that seemed common sense to them. But I know that a major factor in their helpfulness is that as BYU employees, they are here to help BYU students. Faculty mentoring for undergraduates is also an integral part of BYU, unlike many other universities. I worry that in London, I will have a much more difficult time trying to find experts who are willing to spend an hour or so helping a student doing undergraduate research. I expect to find many "freeze-outs." I'm not implying that experts in London are not as nice or accommodating as those at BYU, but I do believe that helping an undergraduate who doesn't attend their university or isn't otherwise part of their organization is not very high on their list. While I hope that most of my professors' connections will be accessible (because I'm a friend of a friend), I'm guessing that most of the connections I try to make by myself--and maybe even a good number of my professors' connections--will simply not have the time or want to go to the trouble of helping an undergrad on their research project.
This is why "presentation of self" is so important. I'm expecting to locate and arrange interviews mostly through email, and so it's absolutely vital to have a professional tone in my emails. Furthermore, since I might interview these experts multiple times over the course of my field study, it's important that I make a good first impression and continue to act professionally. I don't want to put so much effort into an email and a first interview only to find out that the expert is rejecting my second interview because he thought the first was a waste of time. And although I'd enjoy having friendly conversations with these experts and to feel a little relaxed around them, I don't want to cross any lines or act unprofessional in any way. I'd rather seem a little stand-offish than too familiar, and I want to keep the relationship of expert-and-learner very intact. Since I'm not there to find out their personal opinions or their private histories, I have little need to get close and personal, unless over the course of a few meetings their actions point towards a more relaxed conversation and atmosphere.
Learning Journal #14 (2-16-11)
At Cultural Inquiry last night, we watched a short film entitled Babakiueria. The film is basically a satire on the relationship between white Europeans and native Aboriginal Australians, and reverses the roles. Thus, white Europeans are the misunderstood second-class citizens, and the native Australians control the paternalistic government which subjugates the Europeans in the attempt to "help" them assimilate and improve. After the film, we had a discussion in which we talked about how Babakiueria applies in cross-cultural situations, like our field studies. Most of the comments focused on how we as students try to be understanding and helpful to people of other cultures, but we may appear fake and ignorant. In these situations, cultures clash rather than complement.
The point came up that in many countries throughout the world, Latter-day Saint temples can be clashing rather than complementing. I think this can be very true, in fact, I think most temples clash with any culture in which they are located (except possibly in Utah). Let's face it, a huge white building (as most temples are) with beautiful architecture and acres of manicured gardens, fountains, and walkways is bound to stick out amongst suburbs and commercial districts. But in some cultures, not only do Latter-day Saint temples stick out, their richness and architecture seem to be excessive, as if the LDS church built a temple in a poor city so they could show off how wealthy they are in comparison to the other churches. In cities and countries in which poverty is a huge crisis, one may be tempted to ask why the LDS church spends money on a high-maintenance temple when they could easily give the funds to the poor.
This can be a very tricky situation to explain to others, in fact, sometimes I find it a little difficult to explain to myself. What helps me understand why the LDS church builds temples when they could use the money for humanitarian work consists of two doctrines: 1) All Latter-day Saints need to go to the temple to receive ordinances and be sealed (and these eternal covenants are more important in the long run than a few dollars of ecclesiastical aid), and 2) if we believe the temple is the Lord's house, then assembling a cheap temple (or none at all) shows a seriously dangerous lack of respect for Him.
But these points are probably not easily explained to the native people, and even if they are LDS, they may be so burdened by their poverty that they don't understand why cheaper temples could be built. Then again, since I've never been outside the United States/Canada and I've never really lived in poverty, I don't know what people could be thinking. But I do know that wherever I go in the world, I will most likely face questions and criticisms about the church. Some of our beliefs and practices (like building expensive temples in poor countries) make no sense to the outside world, and can even be viewed as offensive, self-centered, and definitely holier-than-thou. My job as a representative of the church is to present our beliefs as clearly and as true as they really are, and hope that the people I talk to can understand and honor our doctrines. However, as we saw in Babakiueria, it's possible that my beliefs will be so foreign to others that they cannot understand me, and that I will appear fake and our cultures may clash a little. In a world of cultural studies, relativism seems to be the key in understanding each other, but in religion, there are some things which simply are or are not true (for everyone, at every place, at every time). I think that in going to London, one of my biggest challenges to face will be deciding what about my religion is actually doctrinal truth, what is just cultural beliefs, and how present doctrinal truth (when asked) without sounding naive or ethnocentric.
Learning Journal #13 (2-14-11)
One of the most interesting things that I'm learning as part of my field study project is the correct methodology of reading books and articles. Before I started doing intense research on this project, I had the idea that if you were smart enough to get a non-fiction history published, you were smart enough to have all your sources correct. I thought that publishing companies were the guardians of world knowledge, who would grant you a contract if your ideas were sensible and well-researched, and if not, they'd kick you out to outer darkness.
But as crazy as it seems, not all publishing companies have the means (or motivation) to source-check the manuscripts sent to them. As I've discovered, most books on Lady Jane Grey tend to get away with all sorts of errors because 1) the truth and lies about Lady Jane are so closely intertwined, they're hard to separate, and 2) publishers probably do not have an expert on Lady Jane (a very minor character in Tudor history) to fact check the manuscripts. Luckily, Elizabeth I and Mary I are more important, historically speaking, and thus the books written about them tend to be better edited because of their celebrity status.
Another lesson I learned is that "reinventing the wheel" happens in disciplines as professional as historiography. A few weeks ago, my project was all about "mythistory" and its effect on the legacies of Lady Jane, Mary, and Elizabeth. I had read some articles on "mythistory," and I had checked out the first books establishing mythistory as a historiographical trend. But then I discuss mythistory with my faculty advisor, and she said she hadn't heard anything about it, so she advised me to speak with one of her friends who was a history professor. I spoke with the history professor, and she said that mythistory was basically a reworking of the current historiographical practice, which is currently called "The Cultural/Literary Turn." She said that other than having a wittier name, mythistory was basically right in sync with the type of history that is being taught and studied today. This was rather depressing, since my project was built around setting modern historiographical methods up as an inadequate way of interpreting the past, and then suggesting mythistory as the new historiography. However, I'm glad she saved me from this mistake, because it'd be quite laughable to set mythistory up as battling against an outdated historiography which didn't actually exist.
As I've continued in my research, I've realized that reading books and articles is, in many ways, like interviewing people. When you interview someone about their lifestyle or opinions or culture, you don't assume that every story they tell you is 100% correct, and you don't interview only them. You interview many different people, as many as it takes until you finally feel like you know the "truth" about something. Or, at least, as close to the truth as you think it is possible to be. Most of the time, the people you interview are not trying to deceive you, but they may have just gotten their sources wrong or are too strongly affected by a bias. It's the same way with books and articles, which are difficult to analyze because they are created by biased, flawed individuals, but then are expected to be judged as truth.
Learning Journal #12 (2-9-11)
Although I did read and prepare an articles for class--
Reynolds, Nedra. "Ethos as Location: New Sites for Understanding Discursive Authority." Rhetoric Review 11.2 (Spring 1993): 325-338. Print. JSTOR
--I found that today I really wanted to discuss some passages which I've been reading in Selling the Tudor Monarchy, by Kevin Sharpe, which is the book I am reading for the class. The passage which I read deals directly with my project, so I'll quote it here:
"From the Reformation (if not earlier), rulers and/or their ministers favoured plays as a means of persuading audiences to adopt a position, or of proclaiming and publicizing power. At the same time and later, a succession of Tudor and Stuart monarchs had occasion to lament the staging of plays critical of the royal policy or person. The danger... lay in theatrical representation itself. On the stage, a boy performed the role of a king (or queen) and so drew attention to regality itself as play and performance. On the stage, too, royal words (scripted by another) were refuted or disputed and the actor playing the king depended, no less than his fellows, on the reaction, the approval and applause, of the audience... theatrical 'representation offers an inherent challenge to the fundamental categories of a culture that would organise itself hierarchically and present that organisation as inevitable', such representations, by refiguring all as performed and enacted, was inherently 'subversive'." (pp. 16-17)
According to Sharpe, the problem with theatre is that it deconstructs social hierarchies (like royalty) into just a bunch of really talented actors. While it may seem like the awesome power of a monarch comes from Deity Himself, seeing a lower-middle-class actor get up onstage and inspire the audience with the same power of a monarch makes one question exactly where royal power comes from. The actor's power comes not from heaven, but from his ability to keep the audience's attention. He is completely at the mercy of the audience: if they are in a bad mood, they might not clap; if they think he's boring, he might get booed off the stage. And so the big question during the flourishing of theatre in Elizabethan England was, "If actors can impersonate monarchs so perfectly, is there really a difference between them? And if the power of the actor comes from the audience, then does the power of a monarch come from the people?" The idea that power came from the people was quite a radical notion in the 16th-century, and seemed to go against everything England stood for.
Two of the plays which I am analyzing for my project have Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I as their protagonists and are written to celebrate and flatter these women. However, just the act of putting a monarch (or other powerful historical figure) in a play actually reduces their power rather than celebrates it. I will explain. There are two different types of power associated with a person like Elizabeth I. The first type is her own personal power: her ability to order people around, her mental capacity for maneuvering complex situations, and her basic physical strength. The second type is her mythical power: by evoking her status as the Virgin Queen, she convinces Parliament not to force her to get married; by evoking the idea that, as a monarch, she has both masculine and feminine characteristics, she convinces her subjects to fight the Spanish; by referencing her famous ancestors, she is able to claim the throne. While the second type of power is infinitely more powerful, it is also more dangerous. In order to get people to obey this power, she must remind them of certain myths about herself; myths which have a dangerous tendency to change or to mean different things to different people. Furthermore, myths can be interpreted differently, and sometimes to the monarch's demise. For instance, the myth of absolute power worked fine for the Tudor monarchs, but when the early Stuart monarchs tried to use it, the people interpreted it differently and committed regicide. In many cases, myths are so powerful that no one can control them.
This is what I find so fascinating about these queens. In order to rule the English people, they had to embrace and create myths about themselves in order to increase their power. However, as time went on, did they still have that power and that control over the myth, or had they become simply a character in the potent myth they had created, forced to obey the rules of the myth?
I hope to answer at least part of this question in my project.
Learning Journal #11 (2-7-11)The culture I live in actively encourages (sometimes over-actively encourages) keeping a daily diary, taking notes in church, and keeping a notebook with you all the time to record fleeting thoughts and impressions. However, even though I've lived in this culture all my life, for some reason or another I have never really caught on to keeping notes and records. I have a journal, but I write in it every few months or less, and although I have a personal blog, it is usually neglected as well. And unless I have a class which demands memorization and attention to detail, I rarely take notes in my classes.
But I do pride myself on a few areas of note-taking. I do have a little black Moleskine notebook that I occasionally write in. Sometimes I jot down funny things I hear or great lines of poetry or ideas for a film. In general, though, the black notebook is for my thesis (which is also my field study project): notes from meetings with professors, book and article titles, essay outlines, etc. While I fail in all other aspects of record-keeping, I pride myself in keeping notes about my thesis.
With this long introduction to my current note-keeping status, you can probably already guess my response to Bernard's "Field Notes: How to Take Them, Code Them, Manage Them." After finishing his chapter, I was simultaneously excited and fearful of the record-keeping task awaiting me in London. (Actually, now that I think of it, I should be starting it now.) I love the idea of notes because they keep things organized, because sometimes I feel that when I'm researching my project, a Niagara-Falls-flood of information is rushing past me. When I don't take notes, it's like trying to scoop the information into a few buckets. When I do, it's like building a dam so I can keep all (almost all) the information in one area and observe it without worrying about it rushing by. I like the idea of coding notes as well. In my own rudimentary note-taking, I've noticed the need for methodological, analytical, descriptive, and jottings labels. Although I wasn't able to classify them as neatly as Bernard does, and I'm grateful for the classifications.
On the other hand, I'm terrified of writing so many notes. Keeping a log sounds somewhat doable: I already keep a pretty intense planner, with to-do lists, appointments, classes, and other daily tasks all written out much like Bernard suggests. But we've already established that I've completely failed at a diary, and in comparison to Bernard's note-taking models, my jottings and field notes proper are rather weak as well. In order to ensure my success in taking notes, I've resolved to make the following changes:
1) Start keeping a diary (this one hurts, but I've got to start sometime).
2) Turn my little black notebook from a field notes book to a jottings book.
3) Get a larger, sectioned notebook for my field notes proper.
4) Use my planner in a more daily log-ish sort of way (in my opinion, my planner is close to Bernard's log, I just need to tweak a few things).
With these resolutions made, I'm very glad I read Bernard's "Field Notes." I'm starting to feel the dam of knowledge building in my mind...
Learning Journal #10 (2-2-11)
In Barbara J. Harris's "Women and Politics in Early Tudor England," Harris tries to create a better picture of what women's roles may have been in the Tudor court and among the country gentry. According to Harris, the stereotypical view of women in politics during this time period is that all women, except perhaps the queen, had no role in politics whatsoever, and remained highly isolated from society. But this is far from the truth. According to letters, diaries, ledgers, and other records, women may not have had as much power or freedom as men, but this did not stop them from being active in politics. In fact, it seems as if many women made up for their lack of power by getting more involved with politics and court happenings.
There are a few paradigm shifts between modern-day politics and early Tudor politics that are usually overlooked. The first difference (which makes all the difference) between our politics and theirs was that there was almost no separation between the private/personal and the public. A king, queen, or any other influential member of the gentry could advise others on anything from what career to pursue and what people to associate themselves with, to whom they should marry or who their children should marry. Political gifts were inseparable from gifts of friendship, and visits between two friends was just as much for politics as for pleasure. Because of this, wives put as much work into "wifely duties" as they did lobbying for their husbands and trying to gain status among other families.
Since power was often gained by marriages to other powerful families, the upper classes of England were mostly all related, and thus English politics was basically a family affair. Both women and men practiced "networking," by such ways as giving gifts to their superiors, marrying their children among other families, and promising favors to those who were their inferiors. Since hierarchy was such a big part of life among the Tudor gentry, socio-economic class was much more important than gender (although gender was still an issue). Women, usually married or widowed, were active in advancing their own statuses, making friends with powerful families, getting their children married favorably, and assisting their relations in their own affairs. Unlike the negative stereotype we may associate with Tudor England, marriage was actually a very smart decision for both men and women. In most marriages, men and women gained status and/or money by marrying each other. Having children was also a political gain: children continued the family name, married into powerful families, could be sent to court and make connections with other men/women of power, and could spend time with other powerful families to make ties, just to name a few.
Because men, women, and children all participated in Tudor politics, women rarely acted outside of their "sphere" when taking part in politics. In fact, many women who had strong opinions and were not afraid to voice them did so very artfully and professionally. Those who were especially talented at this were often complimented by being compared to men (a truly sincere compliment during this era) because of their valor, courage, and smarts. The only time in which a women outstepped her bounds in politics is if she failed to return back to her female role.
While men and women had different roles in politics, and while men's roles tended to hold more power than women's roles, women were just as involved in politics as men and just as able to manipulate people and power for their own gain. Women in nowise had equal say in politics, nor did they have the same type of influence that modern Englishwomen have in English politics, but they weren't isolated either, were probably much more politically able than we suppose.
Harris, Barbara J. "Women and Politics in Early Tudor England." The Historical Journal 33.2 (Jun 1990): 259-281. Print.
Learning Journal #9 (1-31-11)
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.
Learning Journal #8 (1-26-11)
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.
Learning Journal #7 (1-24-11)
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.
Learning Journal #6 (1-21-11)
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.
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.
Learning Journal #5 (1-19-11)
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.
Learning Journal #4 (1-14-11)
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.
Learning Journal #3 (1-12-11)
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.
Learning Journal #2 (1-10-11)
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.
Learning Journal #1 (1-6-11)
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)