Last week I attended what the School of Historical Studies calls a ‘dissertation workshop’. It’s a chance for History students with the same Dissertation Supervisor to get together with their Supervisor and discuss their progress and show the others what they’ve been up to in the last few months.
It was decided that we’d present our work in chronological order. Firstly, there was a presentation on the Puritan family in Salem during the witch trials of 1692. Next there was a discussion of the war of 1812. After that came a presentation on women’s suffrage in the first half of the 1920s. And finally, it was my turn.
My dissertation title is currently (though it is not set in stone): A consideration of women’s sexuality with particular reference to novels of the 1920s.
I have decided to focus on two areas of literature, and will use these two focuses as my chapters in the actual write-up. One is the Lost Generation. This is basically your Fitzgerald and your Hemingway – what we tend to think of when we think of 1920s Jazz Age (a term actually coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald himself). The other is the lesser known Harlem Renaissance. Harlem (no, nothing to do with the Harlem Shake yet as this came about in the 1980s!) is an area of New York where traditionally many blacks lived. This literature includes the work of Nella Larsen and Claude McKay.
It was an interesting couple of hours. We were reminded of the due date (May 6th!) and given an approximate timetable as to when each section ought to be completed by, and we discussed any common problems. It was also an opportunity for students to help each other. We were suggesting alterations to titles, offering out books, etc. It gave us all an opportunity to feel pleased that we could show others our progress and feel like, even though we currently have a word count of 0, we really are getting somewhere.
The session, however, ended on rather a grim note as we were reminded how difficult this semester is going to be! Luckily for us our Supervisor has offered to help in anyway she can. Pressure’s certainly on for us final year students though!