Monday, 30 April 2012

Diary of an Honours Student Week 11

In which we will think about UNIVERSE SHIFTING MOMENTS IN RESEARCH.... for Jo, the ever-helpful Murdoch University Twitterer.  (Tweeter?  Twitter-operator?)

What does it take to shift the universe?

If we think of ourselves as essentially selfish beings who suffer from extreme bouts of solipsism* (or perhaps it is the people around us who suffer?) then the universe is the world through our eyes.  Our ideology.  Our understanding of good, evil, beautiful, ugly, right, wrong, intelligent, stupid, academic, a waste of time, of having value and of being worthless.  For me, this is constantly changing.  So constant I think I barely notice it.  I think of my expanding world view as being like my hair growing.  Every morning I wake up and at some point find myself in front of a mirror, think AAAAH there is a Cousin It like creature trying to scalp me and realise that I do in fact still have hair.  I don't however think "My hair has grown precisely 3.5 milimetres over night on the right side and the left side appears to have anti-grown."  I continue to have faith in the fact that my hair will grow, barring extremely stressful and possibly radioactive circumstances, and therefore I pay it no mind. My hair growing is my outlook changing.

I think, however, that the moment I am being asked to refer to is not so much a gradual one.  I think we're chasing an anecdote about a moment in which my world view shifted very far and very fast.

And on this, sadly, I am going to have to disappoint you.  I cannot think of a moment like this happening to me since starting honours.  Now that I have been assured they exist, I live in hope that I may have one someday.

I also live in hope that one day I might own a Unicorn.  It would be nice if it happened, but I know better than to hold my breath.

BUT.

There have been a few intellectual bonuses of doing a higher research degree.  First of all, I have had the opportunity to take something that I enjoy doing in my spare time (reading, writing and just generally living in this beautiful/occasionally boring State) and to turn it into something recognisably academic.  I know get to say to people "Oh yes, I am spending this year researching the significance of historical fiction to the literary imagination that exists in Western Australia."  And people will nod and smile, and may think I am just putting pointless words together and I am actually not.  I have theoretical sources to back what I am saying up.  And what's more, I enjoyed reading most of these sources.

Second, I've found that within my topic, my research often involves the discovery of names for things that I already sort of identify when I read.  Something that I can just grasp at but cannot explain because I don't know what it's called.  For example, this thing called the Flattery of Realism, whereby the thrill of being written about (you, your state, your ancestor) is overpowering in the face of actually analysing something for literary merit.  I got this when I read Rhubarb by Craig Silvey for the first time and he described the giant chessboards outside the Town Hall in Fremantle.  To quote that wonderful movie, The History Boys it is that moment in literature where a giant hand seems to come out of the text and take yours.

Third, I can take more books out of the library for longer periods of time.  This is good.  This is a bookworm's delight.

When I do eventually have the big realisation, I'll let you know what it was, but for now I am just happy to enjoy (or, you know, stress my way through) the journey.  It's kind of like being on a bus ride to an unknown destination, but man is that sunset pretty.  And if I'm lucky, maybe there will be unicorns.







*Don't try and tell me you are not a solipsist,  by the way because I know that you are.  Solipsism is a great word which I learned in second year from Professor Frodsham- it means an inability to see a world outside of ourselves.  We are all solipsists.  For some reason this always makes me think of Clarissa Explains it All.


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