Sunday, May 29, 2011

Narrative Therapy

I have finally made a tentative prelims list. It's three pages long right now and might get longer as I run it by my other committee members. I feel like crying almost every day when I think about how long it is and how dumb I am. BUT! Like I've said before, the point of this exercise is to gain expertise. Of course I don't have the expertise already, otherwise I wouldn't need to study for prelims. Right? Right. Pass the Kleenex.

My recent trip reading/entertainment has been going really well. Earlier complaints still stand, but I am learning so much from Stephen Greenblatt's book Will in the World. Reading about early modern England in such a laid-back, narrative form is helping me remember and contextualize facts much more easily than reading extremely specific academic articles. Each chapter, while purporting to focus on one narrow aspect of $'s life, also explicates a larger aspect of Elizabethan culture. I'm learning about the religious atmosphere of the time, expectations for romantic relationships between husbands and wives, and, lately, criminal activity and consequences in London.

Along with Dat 'Blatt, I've also been watching The Tudors. Yeah, yeah, it's not completely historically accurate. Don't worry--I don't plan on writing any papers where I support my arguments with examples taken from a TV show. (Or, at least not in early modern drama; I will probably write a paper about Game of Thrones sometime soon. For fun. Because writing academic papers is so fun.) But seriously, watching The Tudors is, again, helping me to remember and contextualize who people are. For instance, why are so many people named Thomas during this time? Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, Thomas More, Thomas Wyatt . . . geez. And they don't go by Tommy, or Tom-Bo, or Big T either. So, if anything, by the time I finish watching The Tudors, I should have all my Thomases figured out.

Speaking of all the Thomases, why wasn't a king of England ever named Thomas? Is it the doubter stigma? After the Norman invasion, they're named William, Henry, Richard, Edward, James, Charles, and George. I wonder why those names became regal while perfectly normal names like Christopher, Samuel, Dylan, and Theodore were not. Even today, the three men in line for the throne are named, in order: Charles, William, and Henry.

Finally, the Neal Stephenson book Quicksilver is a lot more helpful to me than I initially supposed. It's largely set in Restoration and Interregnum England and Enlightenment Europe, but I'm getting kings and queens and takeovers and factions sorted in my head, which retroactively helps sort some of the earlier stuff, too. Also, I'm learning all kinds of awesome stuff about the history of science or, as they called it, "natural philosophy." Many natural philosophers are characters in the book: Newton, Hooke, Liebniz, John Wilkins, Benjamin Franklin, etc. As their theories are explained through the voice of a contemporary narrator, older scientific theories are displaced, many of which were in vogue in the early modern period.

At any rate, though, my life of ease and fun, light reading is at an end. I read More's Utopia today and found it better than I had supposed, but still sleep-inducing. Ah, well.