Monday, December 15, 2008


Please excuse the emoticon. It won't happen again, I promise.

It reflects, however, that I have now officially entered the holiday spirit, since my paper on Bernard Mandeville is finished. (well, actually, it needs a round of editing, a spell-check, page numbers added, and a title, but why split hairs?) It was pretty much the only thing I had to do since coming back, and it was weighing pretty heavily on me. Luckily, it turned out to be one of those essays where I just sit down and the ideas flow out, into the keyboard, and onto the screen. I think I almost resent those more: if all the ideas are there, and I KNOW they're there, typing them out seems so redundant that it actually offends me to be forced to do it. I know that makes very little sense, but that's why they're called emotions instead of logical tenets.

I was also a little worried about length, since the paper was to be 15-20 pages, and there was a point when I would have been certain I would barely squeeze in at 14 1/2. Well, I'm standing at 20 now, and the addition of the title, name, and date may just push the whole thing over to 21. I like meeting the upper end of a page length requirement; it allows me to feel very accomplished.

But the main source of worriment on this essay was that I did rather terribly on my presentation. It was a general overview on how the satirists of the eighteenth century undermined the authority of the medical practitioners, and the professor flagalated me for:
-relying too heavily on material discussed in class
-relying too heavily on a single critic rather than my own ideas or actual primary texts
-summarizing rather than arguing
-choosing a topic that was too broad

All of which was fair enough, to be honest. So I scraped that direction entirely, and a new idea eventually came to me. (Honestly, these occasional brilliant lightning bolts of ideas that come out of nowhere are the best part of grad school, and basically the only things that suggest to me I'm in the right field.) New idea: an eighteenth century writer named Bernard Mandeville made basically a career out of saying that the English economy is propelled by the production of vice-filled goods. I wanted to show that he practiced what he preached, that through promoting his own written works, he promoted his own vice-filled commodity, the book, and set up terms for how that book should be consumed. And I do all this by a close-reading of his final, and often ignored book, A Letter to Dion, in which he defends his most famous work, The Fable of the Hive, from an attack a man named Dion made on it in Dion's book, Alciphron.

So, as an argument based on a close-reading of a little-known author's most obscure work that itself was a response to a response of his best work, I'm hoping that I've dealt with most of the complaints with my presentation. And I feel good that I've done that, and that I've written a good essay that stands on its own.

On the other hand, it's a course about satire and the city in the eighteenth century, and I've written a paper that is about neither a) satire, nor b) the city. So even though I've discussed the topic with the professor, if he/she wanted to get nasty about it, she/he could really ding me on that front.
But hey, at least I got the century right. That counts for something, right?

Later HoliDays.

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