Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My final paper: A reflection

Before I go off on explaining my process for finally getting my act together and completing this final essay, I do just want to make it clear that I really did learn a lot in this class.  I greatly enjoyed the class discussions, and I feel that I gained a better understanding of how to read and analyze poetry.  I think I understand a little better just why so many Romantic poets absolutely loved Milton.

This is the story of how I finally completed my final paper the hard way.  As many in the class may have noticed, I missed a number of classes, which certainly didn’t help my ability to keep up with the reading and writing load.  I fell way behind in completing this essay, which is why it was turned in late.  Truth be told, I felt kind of swamped by the material—I mean, how do you come up with anything remotely original to say about an author who people have been debating for nearly 400 years?  As such, I felt like I was at a bit of a loss to come up with anything.  I was, however, drawn to the idea of looking first at Milton and Oliver Cromwell, specifically at the idea of Cromwell as inspiration for Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost.  I even wrote a short essay on that subject, which you might now recognize as forming a portion of my final essay.

I then got interested in looking at the intertextuality of Paradise Lost, especially concerning the concept of overreachers.  I’m fascinated by way in which the Satan character of PL was no doubt inspired by previous famous overreachers such as Macbeth, Tamburlaine, Faust, and Icarus; and the way in which PL in turn inspired other famous overreachers such as Frankenstein, Don Juan, and Manfred.  This was initially the track that I wanted to pursue for this final essay.  (I started fleshing those ideas out a bit in this blog post.) However, as I gathered resources and read them, other ideas began to come to me.  As I read about the historical context of Milton and his experiences I was drawn back in part to a previous blog post that I wrote about what I called “active passivity” in Paradise Regained.  Realizing that I had more to go on if I pursued that track, I basically changed my entire thesis at the last minute (which I realize isn’t usually the best thing to do).

My final paper idea really came to me as I was reading through my secondary texts.  I hadn’t been able to find nearly enough about overreachers on my own, which was the main frustration that kept me from sticking with my original thesis.  One good thing though was that I reached out to Prof. Burton when I initially proposed that thesis and he turned me toward the book Renaissance Self-Fashioning by Stephen Greenblatt, which I used in my final essay and which helped me to pull my essay together.

I’m sorry to admit it, but I didn’t utilize the socially optimized research strategy very well at all.  I found it difficult to reach out to people over things like Google+ and Facebook and I was never very sure what to ask anyone.  If my final essay has suffered, I think more than anything else it is because of that.  Unfortunately, I’m just not very tech savvy.  Frankly, I don’t use social networks at all even on my own time, so having to do it in a class for academic purposes felt a little odd, and I don’t think I have quite got the hang of it.

I know that my final essay is probably rough, but I hope that I brought at least a few new perspectives to the table in taking the historical point-of-view.  I submitted my essay to the Scholars Archive at BYU, where hopefully it can do someone some good.  If I can, I will return to it to improve it.

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