I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but bring a work, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes ‐ all the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms.
Michel Foucault, in “The Masked Philosopher”, on criticism that brings ideas to life. I think that this is what research in the humanities is all about, and it encapsulates how I would like to think and write.
In this writing seminar we concentrated on writing conclusions. Although none of us (bar one, I think) are at the stage of writing the final conclusion chapter to our theses, the suggestion was that thinking about the conclusion earlier in the process can be useful.
In particular, by considering your conclusion you are forced to make a reality check, to see that your thesis is really focused on the things that you most wanted to discuss. Thinking about the conclusion throughout the project can also help to prevent what I would call “project creep”, which is when you allow your subject to continually grow, and thus constantly move the finishing post.
We discussed the fact that introductions and conclusions bear a striking resemblance to one another, because both summarise what you are talking about, in particular the value of what you are about to say or have said. However, in general the introduction should concentrate on the value of the questions you have decided to ask, whereas the conclusion should concentrate on the value of the answers you have found, or the arguments that you have drawn out, in your thesis. Many people seemed to find this distinction helpful in thinking about writing both introductions and conclusions.
Before you ask, no I don’t think that I can link any of the words in the following list with robots or robotics, although maybe the Czech or Slovak etymology for Robota might link with the same Latin root as Roborant, but I doubt it. Anyway, these are the twenty-four words that have recently been identified as at risk of extinction by the compilers of the Collins English Dictionary.
Abstergent Cleansing or scouring
Agrestic Rural; rustic; unpolished; uncouth
Apodeictic Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration
Caducity Perishableness; senility
Caliginosity Dimness; darkness
Compossible Possible in coexistence with something else
Embrangle To confuse or entangle
Exuviate To shed (a skin or similar outer covering)
Fubsy Short and stout; squat
Griseous Streaked or mixed with grey; somewhat grey
Malison A curse
Mansuetude Gentleness or mildness
Muliebrity The condition of being a woman
Nitid Bright; glistening
Oppugnant Combative, antagonistic or contrary
Periapt A charm or amulet
Recrement Waste matter; refuse; dross
Roborant Tending to fortify or increase strength
Skirr A whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight
Vaticinate To foretell; prophesy
Vilipend To treat or regard with contempt
I’m personally working with embrangle and all its derivatives at the moment!
This seminar related to bottlenecks in your research. Rather depressing when the whole thing feels like you’re stuck in the neck of the bottle, like a cartoon character with your head bulging out, or should that be in?
The key is to stop procrastinating (ha!) and just to start. So if there’s a section in your thesis that is weighing heavily on your mind, and you don’t know what to do about it, start writing using one of the techniques from the first session. So for example, use freewriting, freefalling (the one where you make the text white on white so that you can’t make edits) or writing in a different genre. Even if you only do 20 minutes to start with, you should gradually find that you’ve worked through the bottleneck and gone some way towards writing the section that was causing all that anxiety.