Friday, September 23, 2005

Angst: Histgrad, Chapter Revisions, and the Difficulty of Composing Titles

Chapter Three? Not so much.

Very random MST 3K quote: "Slow the plot down! Slow the plot down!"... which is how I'm feeling about Chapter Three. Prior to this chapter, I was happily speeding along, a chapter per full day of work or so... until now. This one is going to take a wee bit more work. After I stopped freaking out, it really doesn't look so bad, but it is the kind of work whereupon I have to get a book from the library, skim it, and incorporate it. Hopefully it will be easy to insert this author's perspective without having to redo entire sections... a few pages at most. But still, it'll take a while. My new goal is to have it in good shape by the time I head back to teach on Monday.

Some other random thoughts about writing and revising:

Chapter Fatigue: Sometimes I think it's a wonder that I ever managed to finish these chapters in the first place, since by the end of each one, I was so amazingly tired of them and almost couldn't bear to read through them one more time, to put in a few more edits, etc. Now I'm returning to these chapters, some of them having been finished YEARS in the past. So, I figured my fatigue would have worn off and they would seem new and fresh when I went back to revise them. Unfortunately not. Like some toxin, I've become quite sensitized to my own chapters and my own writing, and now I think the elapsed time from First (Re)View to Chapter Fatigue has got to be under eight hours. Good thing most of them are in good shape, or I have no idea what I'd do. Ugh. How do you keep yourself working when you're so sick of it all??

Things I Suck At: Thinking of Titles. None of my chapters have official titles. When I e-mailed them to my advisors they were just titled Histgrad Chapter One, etc. In my computer they had their own names, such as "This is IT," "Onward and Upward," "Keep Going," and "Almost There." Obviously not suitable for the Official Dissertation. I try so hard to resist the traditional title format (which, of course, I succumbed to for the title of the whole dissertation), you know, the ubiquitous colon format... Snappy Little Phrase: Long explanation, Usually With Commas, That Describes the Subject and Argument of the Chapter in a Perfectly Compact Way. Historians also love the related version of this which is "Long Quote Before Colon:" followed by the description of the chapter. I'm not a fan of the quotation as part of the title, partially because figuring out the punctuation is a nightmare, especially when citing someone else's. I always admire folks who can name chapters or books without resorting to the colon. But I digress. Long story short: every chapter needs a title and that's going to cause me (and/or my husband) some angst.

In the end, that's the theme of the day. I kind of like dictionary.com's definition: "an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety; usually reserved for philosophical anxiety about the world or about personal freedom."

17 Comments:

At 1:25 PM, Blogger KJ said...

You forgot a third titling convention: reworking a famous title into fitting into your topic.
Real Life Example that even includes the snappy little phrase:long explanation convention:
"RLG's ILL Manager: a distributed resource sharing system for the new ISO ILL environment or, How I learned to stop worrying and love international standards"

 
At 1:27 PM, Blogger KJ said...

I also have title problems...my undergrad thesis was named by a fellow student, and an article I just finished was named by a colleague. I think some distance is required from the topic to come up with a decent title, which friends, colleagues, and strangers often have.

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger academic coach said...

Chapter Fatique - lol -- great description of a common - nay pervasive - malady during this phase.

 
At 3:06 AM, Blogger Jonathan Benda said...

My chapter titles on my computer reflect my moods more than the content--like my "Intromess" chapter (come to think of it, that also reflects the content...). The only "real" title I've got so far is "Short vague quote before colon: longer but still somewhat vague explanation"

(Just came across your blog via Inside Higher Ed, btw... good to find a community of fellow sufferers)

 
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