While I’ve been remiss in posting for a full three months this time, I was fortunate to remember about my little ol’ dissertation blog JUST IN TIME for DAY 500! (Although, because I’m a night owl, this won’t actually be posted until the wee hours of day 501 but SHHHH—And yes, I know the reference that comes to mind…I’ve never seen 500 Days of Summer, but something tells me the first 500 days of dissertation writing are 100% less interesting than that movie). So, where am I in the process? Well, I wrote zer0 (DOS-D) words last quarter, and squeezed in maybe 4 days of research, broadly conceived, from September to December. (Which is to say, the hopes and dreams I wrote about in October all came to naught.)
Now, you might be asking yourself, “What does ‘research, broadly conceived’ even mean?” The research I managed to conduct over the entirety of my extremely busy Fall quarter includes:
- A search for and downloading of variously rare videos of the Nicholas Brothers dancing on film and television (complete with accurate file labeling!, which is harder than you might think with rare media objects)
- Some re-reading through key portions of Constance Valis Hill’s excellent dance-bio of the Nicholas Brothers, Brotherhood in Rhythm (and methodically cross-referencing my own knowledge of the brothers’ dance media with the list Hill provides in the back of her book, being careful to distinguish between what I deem the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ but similarly titled documentaries on them)
- Attending a special screening+discussion of The Littlest Rebel (1935, featuring tap dancing by both Bill Robinson and little Shirley Temple), hosted by two of my mentors
- A little revising of Chapter 2, including reshaping its opening anecdote and attempting to clarify its core argument, especially with an eye to its transition out of Chapter 1 (which hadn’t been written yet)
Annnnd that’s about it. How is this excessively low level of productivity over the course of 4 months even possible for someone who spends 3-4 (usually 4) days per week on campus AND who works most of every weekend? One word: Teaching. At this juncture in my experience as a baby academic, I honestly cannot comprehend how early career professors manage to teach 2+ courses per term AND publish articles AND work on their book AND serve on various committees AND attend conferences. I just flipped to an early week of November in my planner, and it involved a guest lecture, 15 student meetings, 2 summer course proposals drafted+submitted, a meeting to discuss previously submitted written reflections on positionality & power with my colleagues in our campus’ Teaching Certificate Program, reading and attending 2 lectures for the course I was Lead TA for, a meeting with the professor and fellow TAs for that course, and teaching 2 discussion sections. Now, bearing in mind that many of these obligations required the dreaded invisible labor of “prep time,” and that I also had other life obligations like attending colleagues’ presentation of their current projects, exercising, cooking and eating the odd meal with my partner, and of course laundry (which I find I’ve now mentioned at least 3 times in this blog about my dissertation…), it’s not entirely surprising that I didn’t get to my DOS-D at all that week. …or most weeks.
All of this being said, it’s simply a scholar’s reality that there is always too much to do in too little time. So, even as I successfully did a lot of non-dissy things last quarter, I still have to consider it an overall time management failure. I had to learn the hard way that teaching will eat up as much time as you let it. I managed many of the same responsibilities a few years ago when I also had a full courseload, so it must be the case that I managed my time a little better back then (although I distinctly remember sleeping much less, having no time to devote to a relationship, and eating 90% microwaved and otherwise prepackaged food).
Thus, one of my “resolutions” for this year, or at least this quarter, is to give over less time to teaching. It hasn’t worked particularly well so far, but I’ve also already put in more DOS-D work in the last week that I did all last quarter! I have:
- Finished re-reading and re-annotating Brotherhood in Rhythm
- Read several chapters of Jean & Marshall Stearns’ Jazz Dance, specifically tracking the essence of jazz dance develop through its prehistories in minstrelsy
- FINALLY WROTE WORDS for my second chapter (Chapter 1) in the form of an introductory paragraph
- Started my outline for the chapter
- Jotted some basic notes about the current state of my anticipated central argument for the chapter
I’m now getting to the point, however, where I feel the need to start planning another visit to the archives…I want to get a stronger sense of the brothers’ choreographic process, and also of their reception, in order to parallel the depth of access I managed for myself in the previous chapter on Gene Kelly. We’ll see if I can find the time and funding to achieve such a visit…until then, I’ll have to depend on the various digital archives I can access online (mostly newspapers). I also need to keep in mind the fact that I told too much of a basic chronological (hi)story in my last chapter–I don’t want to make that mistake again, so I’m going to need to make sure my argument is more present and powerful in my writing this time around. I’m already feeling apprehensive about that, because I worry that my argument is too simple to really carry the weight of the whole history…but that’s a problem for later, I suppose.
In short, Day 500 finds me at the beginning of writing my 2nd chapter, emerging ever so slightly from a long bout of poor time management. And now, onwards~