[Amended from Original]
The thought of embarking on a project where, in an academic capacity, I become a kind of professional writer, gives me a new confidence in writing.
Hope appears in remembrance of starting a journal in 2003. During A-Levels, English had became my weakest subject. Add to that a gap-year away from education, and I felt vulnerable approaching life in Bristol. Looking back, the respect for a rare place at such a prestigious institution and a genuine fear of failure helped me towards such a strong start. I never underestimate the influence of Dr. Stephen Cheeke as my first (and last) tutor at Bristol. His words in my first year and third year brought much better performance. The year he disappears on study-leave, I struggle. However, I also owe plenty to journalling for a positive academic start to university life.
The purpose of my journalling has changed considerably. Often, aspects of my chosen period of study – Literature of the 17th Century and English Revolution – overlap with this ‘purpose’ . Every individual feels their own consciousness, their own audience and comfort barrier, their own notions of censorship, and particularly the politics of language. I develop ideas about early-modern traditions of writing and print culture through my own practice of writing – this mere cyber-spacial meiosis. How does one determine between circulating thoughts privately and publicly? Which occasions prompt a particular emphasis to write, not to write, or to write and then conceal? Modern writing culture is one which makes or breaks: ‘Majoritarian’, as Mark Kishlansky would put it.
Now I’m a Scottish student. Memories draw back to a grand room far too small for all new postgraduate school students and staff. It took the head of graduate school’s assistance to find new supervisor James Loxley. The contact that had inspired the application was very welcoming, and I was in little doubt that the right choice had been made. There was something inherently special in identifying this opportunity with a scholar I had come to appreciate so much. Dr. Loxley’s reputation for amiability precedes him; he attracted quite a crowd. Amusingly, one of his previous students shared an anecdote about dressing up in period costume at a museum; there was the chance to spill a relatively rare story. The humour was shared by mentioning the whole Knightmare interest. Another tutee alongside me was familiar, and enthusiastic about being reminded of the greatness.
I left excited, inspired and fixed up for the following week, four 270 mile trips in consecutive days. The hours of travelling did become the marauder of memory for the week. Ironically, the majority of the Research Methods course I was there for that week was already familiar.
The first meeting with Dr. Loxley and a first assessment, an annotated bibliography to be done over a 24 hr period, both took place on a very long Thursday, when I learnt much about the year to come, and how little I know. The constraints of a Masters require something more specific than I anticipated. The most groundbreaking studies are those considering relatively uncovered writers or works. Understanding this meant that plans made over the summer were shadowed. Yet, going through the existing dissertation upon which ideas were based, an achievable project emerged early on: Royalist poet Thomas Jordan.
This started to become an attractive idea. It covers new ground, involves some travel, has some particular points of interest, and there should still be considerable flexibility. Royalist writing culture could feature, as expertly preceded by my supervisor. There is potential for mentioning the causes of the Civil War, Jordan’s links with Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, Ovid and the Classical Tradition, the emergence of women and drama.
How I will find this, knocked out of my comfort zone from the confines of Andrew Marvell and survey writing? It’s daunting that only one study on Thomas Jordan exists (1950s). Most of what I write becomes authentic, authoritative criticism. Am I really good enough for that at this stage? Doubts are coming and going in this early stage, and hopefully with some progression life will fight some stability and security back. I think I would like to use this space as an academic diary, encouraging me to work out ideas and thoughts in the environment where they uncover themselves best, and establishing a regularity to documenting notes. Writing one long dissertation over twelve months just requires steady progress, and I’m sure white space will draw it from within.