Big Project Update 2

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Hello all,

So here's what's going on with my safe-space project.  I am beginning to receive a trickle of responses to an email I sent out a while ago asking several questions about safe space and the Ryan Sorba debacle.  To refresh your memory, Sorba is the asshole/conservative pundit who came to Smith my senior year to give a talk on "The Born Gay Hoax."  His thesis is that gay people choose to be gay, and therefore do not deserve civil rights.  Much chaos ensued.

I'm going to harass people some more to respond, but so far a lot of the responses have been written in a really compelling manner.  Plus, they are almost all friends of mine, so they have a conversational tone that I think will be really fun to play with in the paper.  I've also been reading some lit on the subject, the most helpful ones so far being Queers in Space and Bernice Reagan Johnson.

I guess I am having two quandaries at this point.  First, I feel really out of my element making this a thought-based project rather than a research based project.  I'm really excited about having the opportunity to just ponder at length, but I'm having trouble convincing myself that this is a legit scholarly effort.

Second, I've been thinking about interspersing some personal recollections of my coming out experience into the paper.  These have been really easy and fun to write so far, and I think that it might be a good way of putting my own positionality into the paper.  I'm also taking a personal narrative class (with Angela- woot!) and I'm intrigued by the challenge of working myself into an argument.  However, Sara, if you don't want to read about my awkward early adolescence, etc., I will not have my feelings hurt. 

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated. 

4 Comments

Sounds super interest!

I have no advice to give regarding your first quandry--I too struggle with my project being more thought-based than research based, and how that impacts the level of scholarship. I think we have to think about it from a different point of view--these are our thoughts--just because they're not published or written down on paper by someone doesn't mean they're not valid. I guess that was kinda advice-y. Thinking is useful, and we can think in a scholarly way without depending on someone else to back us up.

Second quandry--I like the idea of personalizing your work. I find that when a scholarly work includes a touch of the writer, I retain it more, and it's more interesting. I recently read an essay on Jane Eyre for a paper I did last semester, and the author used her personal experiance growing up with Jane Eyre to further her analysis. The personal aspect made it really interesting. So, if you're bold, go for it! Although I totally get your hesitation.

I agree, about just thinking - I was just about to write an update on my own project, where I'm struggling with similar issues. Although for me, the problem is more that I feel like I'm not giving enough attention to any one work, since I'm used to writing long papers and not short blog posts/responses. It's still all about going against what we've been academically trained to do, I guess - and for me, I know that it's personally valuable to be able to go down some different roads in an exploratory way, without feeling like it has to be as formal a style as I'm used to. So, again - no advice, but support! I think your project sounds great.

I think both of your quandries (using your own stories and not being "academic"/researchy/scholarly) are ones that need to be troubled. I personally think that one of the only things we can ever really (attempt to) figure out is ourselves and so it is perfectly acceptable to insert ourselves into our work. And to prove to myself that this is not just navel-gazing, I am often most moved by writers and artists who do this. And I don't think that I am alone in this. I definitely want part of my work in the academy to speak to larger spaces/audiences, and I think both of the struggles/questions you are bumping up against open up spaces for doing that.

Could you say more about the differences between a thought-based project and a research project? It might be helpful to interrogate (and explicitly articulate) this distinction and what is meant by both terms. Does a thought-based project, in your assessment, rely more on your own ideas/thoughts than on other scholar's works? What makes it not scholarly? Are you planning to weave in sources from our class--if so, how?

I agree with Sophie and Becky that your project sounds great. And I think weaving your own stories into the paper (especially since you are studying this in your other class!) is an excellent idea.

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