Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dissertation talk

I might be radically changing my dissertation. I might be crazy. The two are only tangentially related.

The original idea: looking at Spain's two major world's fairs (1888 in Barcelona, and 1929 in both Barcelona and Sevilla) to see how they were defining and creating images of Spain as modern, with the hopes of seeing how these definitions were played out in urban transformations after these fairs.

The problems: This is an overwhelming amount of work, especially since I don't have grants and have extremely limited time to be in Spain. I have no idea how to do this, especially given the HUGE amounts of material in even one collection - and this would require pouring through no less than 5 collections: 3 expositions and two cities' urbanization activities. I cannot seem to get a good handle on modernity that doesn't sound like I'm just parroting some awful theorist who doesn't make sense.

There are more issues, but those are the ones that made me most nervous. So I was doing a bit of research on Thursday, looking at some related dissertations. I started reading one on urban spaces, cosmopolitanism and the Jazz Age in Spain. The author made very strong claims about Primo de Rivera, but never cited anything. It made me start thinking about the Primo Regime, my sources (thus far), and how much I had been struggling to come up with a narrative structure (or, outline, as some call it) for the dissertation. As I started thinking, a new idea came. I started writing out the changes it would mean, the problems I saw with it, the benefits it held, the questions it would ask, the sources it could use, everything. And by 6p.m., I had a 7-chapter basic outline.

The new idea:
1. Drop the 1888 exposition except to use in the first narrative chapter as a discussion of the exposition in Spain, and precedent. Instead, I'd focus solely on the 1929 Joint Exposition. From my previous research, I know that the planning for these expositions began around 20 years earlier (1910 for Sevilla).
2. The main focus, then, would be on the competing visions of the expositions - and thus visions of Spain - put forth by the committees of the two expositions. But it would also consider how these interacted with and contested the vision issued by dictator Primo de Rivera (after he came to power in 1923), and perhaps by visions put forth by the public press.
3. The primary questions would still deal with the construction of Spain, but it would be placed in the context of the local-national negotiation of ideas. It would question the nature of the relationship of the dictatorship with these two expositions, and, by extension, with these two regions - Andalucia, his home, and Catalonia, the up-and-coming industrial center of Spain.
4. It would still also question how these two very different regions - differing in culture, history, language, economy, and politics - created connections and worked together to ultimately create a joint exposition to present the best of Spain to the world.

As I said, within hours, I had a basic dissertation outline, complete with at least some ideas of where I could use certain kinds of sources, and what I'd be looking for in each chapter. I sent the idea and outline to my advisor, with the hopes that we can talk on the phone after he's looked it over and thought about it a bit. I really hope he's on board. I think my other committee members might be a bit confused... and a bit disappointed at what I'm cutting out. I'm hoping that he can get everyone on board and excited for me.

We'll see. I've been really excited, though. I hope it works!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Working in my heart

Today was kind of a cruddy day, up until about 7 p.m. Again, long story, involving family stuff, grocery shopping, an over-zealous, psychotic advisor, a migraine, and somehow screwing up cooking pancakes (that were supposed to be dinner, but were a train wreck).

But after dinner, I was in Google Reader, catching up on the blogs I follow (mainly those of friends, but some re: migraine stuff, some church stuff). I was reading the blog run by Beth Moore - a teacher and writer of amazing bible studies - and her daughters. [I have the chance to attend a simulcast of one of her conferences this weekend - she'll be in Green Bay, and over 700 locations will receive the live broadcast. I am so excited! Friday night and Saturday morning will be filled with worship and teaching.] So the cool part. One of her daughters had posted an update about the simulcast, including a very dorky promo video Beth did (complete in cheesehead). At the end of the post, she had a p.s. that said Beth had told her that she'll be teaching on Psalm 37.

So why is that a big deal? Well, 10 days ago, when this renewal of my spirit began, one of the first verses that started really working in me was Psalms 37:4 - Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

It was this that made me take a serious look at my desires, my priorities, and decide that they had to change. Not because of the promise at the end, but because I know that my priorities were skewed. I felt so overwhelmed by the desire to change, that I went and bought a journal to try (again) to be consistent with journaling what God was teaching me. On the front of the book is Psalms 37:4. And now, at the end of two weeks of commitment and study, I'm going to get to hear one of the most amazing bible teachers I've ever heard teach on this scripture.

I have no doubt that this verse is becoming a heart verse - one that, in the darkest of times, brings comfort. Two others for me are Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future"; and Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nothing to do with the dissertation at all

This week, I've rediscovered a hunger I haven't felt in a terribly long time.

Sunday morning, I was in a bit too much pain to go to church, but I got out my bible and spent some time reading. I started a bible study on the book of Esther, and ended up spending about an hour studying, pondering, and praying. And it was glorious. Monday morning, I got up, went to the kitchen table, and did it again. And I did it again on Tuesday and again today.

I know, I know - four days is not much to rejoice over. I've had migraines almost that long. But I am rejoicing. It's like someone opened up my heart and things are pouring into it, out of it, through it. Well, upon looking at that last sentence, it's not "like" that - it *is* that. God opened up my heart and is pouring himself into it and I am overwhelmed.

I never quite understood that part of the beatitudes that said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled." Or when Christ said that he is the bread, or living water. I'm all for metaphors, but I didn't ever get it. I think this week, I can say I know what it feels like to hunger and thirst - not for food, but for the presence of God. I've been ravenous.

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him." ~Psalm 34:8

I haven't done anything on my dissertation this week, and I'm sure my advisor is getting anxious because I haven't sent him anything substantial. But for the first time in... well, honestly, I can't remember how the last time... I am taking time to work on me - me and God. I'm not being unproductive because I don't feel well; I'm actually taking a break to feed that part of me that has been slightly dead for a long time. I've had hints of it over the past few months, but this is by far the most profound desire I have ever felt.

I know it probably won't last - at least, not in this ravenous stage. But I want to enjoy it while I can. The past two days, I've felt like I have been in a semi-constant state of prayer. I've been reading a great deal. Just not about work. I've read 2.5 books since last Wednesday, because I crave their teachings.

"Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." ~John 6:35

"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." ~Revelations 22:17

I am thirsty, truly thirsty. And you know what? It's wonderful.

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." ~Psalms 37:4-6