Monday, December 16, 2013

Which key?: Unlocking Milton (social proof and scholarship)

I don’t think I have ever been more satisfied with a research paper in my whole career of paper writing! Maybe its because I had it almost entirely done a full day before it was due or because my ideas had had plenty of conversation and percolation. I actually managed to get to the point where I was in control of the paper rather than the paper in control of me.

The Milton controversy with Christianity and paganism was something we talked about from the beginning of the course. My blog posts pretty well document the progression of my idea itself (first here, then here and here). I initially thought I would focus on what kind of Christ Milton was depicting and why. But research, interviewing with Dr. Burton, and some of your suggestions led me more in the direction of why the use and then rejection of classical allusions and just letting the Christ and Christianity aspect work itself in.

The social proof aspect was what I think really made this project for me. Realizing that anyone could be a potential help, even if its just that I am able to reach a higher plane in talking with them made it exciting. I bounced ideas off of my husband, was super helpful in that regard. We so often assume people won’t be interested that we don’t say anything. (But really, we are writing the paper so that people will be interested, right? And if we hope to publish we need people to be interested.)
Another cool moment (that didn’t even hit me till right now) was actually in talking with my mother-in-law. In passing she asked what my paper was about, while I was working on it and I started to go through my thoughts. We had a nice little conversation about it, about Christ and classical learning, etc. What I had forgotten was that she was born and raised in the Catholic church before she became a member of the LDS faith and so had more of a background in to Milton’s world and what he was dealing with than I ever will. As it was, our brief talk helped me start to think more along the lines of what of Milton’s environment would have lead him to write what he did.

I started to get a little anxious-crazy when I realized I had a question and a good start on research but not really an answer. My vital claim was missing. Turning to the text in an in-depth effort to locate the bits and pieces I had been finding in my research cleared this up for me. The text sparked my question and after a look at what was going on, gaining an understanding of the pertinent background other than my own limited one, my answering could be found by returning to the text.

It’s like finding a lock and searching the whole house for the key. Once you’ve found a couple likely ones you can’t remember exactly what the lock looks like and so you have to take them all back to see which one fits.

Enthusiast and expert social proof quest was invaluable. My classical traditions professor (a combination of the two) was wonderfully helpful, reminding me of things we had talked about in class that connected with what Milton was doing as well as other sources. I only wish I would have asked her sooner so as to be able to better explore all of her suggestions.
My email to Dr. Lewalski was immensely helpful, even though I didn’t receive a response. (I honestly and no idea how influential she was regarding Milton. Paraphrasing Jon, I didn’t know enough to be intimidated.) Considering the questions in as politely conversational yet as clearly and concisely as I could helped me place in context why I was asking her what I was asking which helped solidify what I had conjectured to be the most probably responses.

Knowing that I was heading for submission to publish was daunting, but in the same way exciting. In a way that pushed me to really work out my paper. I realized that in the past I would gloss over weak spots or potential holes in the logic of everything in order just to get the paper done. Not so with this one! I submitted my paper to the British Milton Seminar as well as the BYU scholar archive. I think it is significant to this audience because throughout all of my studying I didn’t find even a hint of people discussing the portion of Paradise Regained regarding classical learning (or much of Paradise Regained at all) which I think is a pity. And this is a seminar all about new and original study regarding Milton. Obviously, since I wrote on it, I think this aspect is really important to how we read Milton, understanding his mindset when including and employing classical learning in his texts. In comparison with Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained is punted aside as the low budget sequel, when, as one of the last things Milton was able to write and publish before his death, it holds more importance than it is given.

Anyway. To close, just a little more reflection.

Leaving class every day I would feel like “Wow! The world we live in and the technology we have is awesome!” Going through the lectures especially regarding Twitter, Google+, social networking and social proof, the limits just seemed endless. Reality punched me back down a little bit, there is a definite process involved here. Its like weaving a very large web, that takes a lot of reinforcing. But I am so excited that I’ve managed to find a part in it. From now on its just a give-and-take process of finding, contacting, conversing with people. My conclusion and goal is to put out more, establishing a presence within the networks I am interested in will be extremely helpful working on later projects. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad that you went through this process and that you felt it was valid and meaningful. I especially liked how you had the discussion with your mother-in-law.