Tactile Arguments

It’s been nearly a month since my last post so I figure I should check in.  I have two conference talks to give later this month, so those are becoming my primary focus going forward.  The good news: one of them is based on a dissertation chapter, so working on that talk = working on my DOS-D.  (The chapter in question is the Gene Kelly chapter–ergo this post’s primary image from The Pirate).  The bad news: the other talk has nothing to do with my dissertation.  That’s how it goes, though.  Not everything can be about this giant (future) tome looming over my head.

These conferences aside, I’ve spent the majority of the past month on three tasks:

  1. A thorough, annotated reading of Constance Valis Hill’s Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History up through the 1960s.  Many of Hill’s arguments are useful points of entry for my chapter on Gene Kelly.
  2. Watching a lotttt of Gene Kelly films.  I’m viewing as many as possible, and in chronological order, so that I have a general sense of how his onscreen dance style and presence morphed over the course of his career.  I’m flagging some for rewatches.  One of them is The Pirate (1948), which features not only Gene Kelly, but also the Nicholas Brothers.

    Gene Kelly joining the Nicholas brothers in one of their signature acrobatic dance sequences (from The Pirate)

    Gene Kelly joining the Nicholas brothers in one of their signature acrobatic dance sequences (from The Pirate).

  3. Getting my arguments out.  This has been tricky–I tend to get half-baked ideas at random moments, refuse to write them down because they’re only half-baked, and then regret it when I suddenly feel like I have no ideas at all.  It’s one thing to take notes on specific scenes in a film or a specific claim by another scholar; it’s another thing altogether to formulate, clarify, and articulate my own overarching arguments.  In short, I’m starting to have a lot of supporting thoughts but not enough main points.  SO, I’m trying to make my arguments tactile.  How so, you might ask?  Using index cards!
    Index cards = tactile arguments!  (Pay no attention to the box of Girl Scout cookies...)

    Index cards = tactile arguments! (Pay no attention to the box of Girl Scout cookies in the corner…)

    On one side of a card, I’ll write a keyword or three, and on the other side I’ll write a first draft of a sentence stating one of my general arguments for the chapter.  By writing them out instead of typing them into a document, I’m sidestepping the anxiety that comes with actually writing my dissertation, which I still feel a bit unprepared to do.  Hopefully, between these cards and the conference paper I’m putting together, I’ll have the guts to actually write the chapter in April, May, and June.

My cohort and I have been arranging monthly virtual meetings to check in on each other’s progress, and this has been helpful.  We troubleshoot each other’s problems, exchange archive stories, offer feedback on writing, etc.  It has been heartening to see that my colleagues are in roughly the same place I am: we’re all working on outlining or writing our first chapter, and about half of us still have research to wrap up before we can begin writing in earnest.  It still astounds me that every part of the process takes so much time!  Everything moved so much faster during coursework, but making long-term plans helps with the sense of interminability.

The X factor in all of my future DOS-D plans is my archive visits.  I’ve been contacting two archives via phone/email/in person but still haven’t made much headway on accessing what I need from them, which is worrisome.  When I return in April, I’ll also be ready to view the television episodes housed at various LA institutions, so hopefully that will be a little easier to arrange.

Well, onward!

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One thought on “Tactile Arguments

  1. Pingback: First Conference Talk; First Chapter Outline | DanceOnScreenDiss (DOS-D)

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