Sunday, 27 June 2010

Thesis Update

Seems I haven't written anything directly thesis related on this blog for a while, so here's a bit of an update. The structure of my undergrad thesis on religion in Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun has changed somewhat over the last couple of months, as these things are prone to do. Here's a bit of a run down on the evolution of the thesis thus far.

In the early planning stages, once a general thesis topic had been settled on, my supervisor encouraged me to formulate a basic three-chapter thesis plan. After playing around with different ideas, I eventually settled upon the following chapter topics (which I blogged about at the time):
1. The Outsider: The Transcendent God
2. Materialism and the 'Generation Ship' Trope
3. Patera Silk and the Role of the Priest in Science Fiction
Finding that the priest-in-science-fiction area was too broad and too complex to make a coherent analysis of in under 5,000 words (I had earlier thought of focusing my entire thesis around this topic), I soon changed my idea for the third chapter to a study of how Wolfe demonstrates transcendence in Long Sun by opening up an infinite interpretative space within the text itself.

The total word count for the thesis is meant to be between 15,000 and 18,000 words, so I had to stay below 5,000 words for each chapter. However, after writing my first chapter, I found I had written over 9,000 words. I also found that there were two distinct points I was trying to make. So, after a crisis meeting with my supervisor in which he assured me that everything was okay and it wasn't the end of the world if I deviated from my original plan, I decided split the first chapter into two chapters and eliminate the third completely. I still like my idea for the third chapter, but I realised that it wasn't integrally connected to the first two chapters and that it was a massive topic in itself. Perhaps I will give it a more thorough treatment in a Masters of PhD thesis some time in the future. My current plan is as follows:
1. Enlightenment Came to Silk on the Ball Court
2. Propounding a Theology
3. Inverting the Archetype: The Book of the Long Sun and the Generation Starship Trope
The first chapter has two parts: "Patera Silk and the Vironese Faith," in which I critically examine the character of Silk and the Vironese religion in which he was raised; and, "Silk's Enlightenment," in which I examine Silk's enlightenment by the Outsider and the profound impact this has on the rest of the series. I have also split the second chapter into two parts: "The Outsider," in which I examine the qualities Wolfe attributes to the Outsider; and, "The Book of the Long Sun and Gene Wolfe's Catholicism," in which I look at the distinctly Catholic roots of Long Sun and how Wolfe represents Catholicism and Catholic theology in the text. In these chapters I critically engage with Wolfe scholars—such as Peter Wright, whose brief analysis of Long Sun in Attending Daedalus is the subject of some scrutiny—and compare what Wolfe has said about his faith and writing in interviews and articles with what he performs in the text of Long Sun itself. I've written these first two chapters and received positive feedback from my supervisor, so now I'm doing reading and research for my third and final chapter, where I will compare what Wolfe does with the generation starship trope with what other sf authors have done (I have briefly written on this previously), specifically as it relates to the representation of religion and transcendence.

So that's how things are at the moment. I'm more than half way through, which is quite exciting. Oh, and better yet, my thesis now has a title: "Beyond the Whorl: Encountering Religion in Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun."

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