I’m home from another bi-weekly meeting of my program’s job-seekers and
dissertators. The second portion–a meeting of dissertators–focused on
my first twenty-pages, a chunk from the start of the second chapter where I
try to make a quick-light-profound path through the fiercely guarded junkyard of
abstraction, speculative instruments, Science v. Art, and so on and so on,
writing through concepts and leveling out some of the rutty groundwork. Of
course, part of the point is that it’s not junk in the junkyard.
One of the more challenging dimensions of a session like this is the degree
to which a chapter or a section from a chapter must account for all of the terms
it invokes. In an article, by contrast, we would expect everything to be
set up, plainly laid out (right, or else not). But much of what I do at
the outset of the second chapter takes the unwritten first chapter for granted.
This is a matter of given and new: how do we locate the given and new in a
dissertation? Will chapter one definitions, arguments, and discussions
constitute givens in chapters two through six? Or must they be re-capped,
re-introduced? If they are re-introduced, does the dissertation then come
to function more like a collection of articles and chapters that can stand alone
(because we desire for some of them to be ready for the transformation into an
article)? I know the simplest answers to these must include caveats, but
I’m only trying to capture a few of the things I thought about on the bike road
home from campus.
My next small step will be to draft another ten pages on visual models (ch.
2, section 2), locating the rise of particular models in composition studies
before dealing with a couple of perspectives that contribute conceptually to a
rhetorical understanding of models. After that, maybe I’ll get going on chapter
one and/or rework some of the section that was generously and thoughtfully taken
up this afternoon.