Tuesday 6 September 2016

PhD diary #10: 05/09/2016

I've fallen rather behind on these "monthly" updates over the past few months. Consequently, I will try to write a few posts in the next few weeks to catch up (before I come to the end of the first year of my PhD).

There are several reasons for this un-prolific spell. Principally, the writing of my first chapter has turned out to be a rather more mountainous endeavour than I had anticipated.

As last I wrote, I was in the process of collating and condensing my notes, annotations, plans and ideas in anticipation of putting pen to paper (so to speak). What I had underestimated – in a good way, really – is just how much material I had amassed over recent months. The sheer scale of information is difficult to either organise or cognise. However, going back over everything also revealed to me, or reminded me of, various things that I should have also read and digested! The weaving strands continue to extend and spiral ever outwards.

With all that, it also became quite apparent that the < 20,000 word aim for this chapter was hopelessly lowballing it. I really have no idea, at this point, how long it will end up being. Fortunately, however, this shouldn't be a major issue for the thesis. I have my starting point, I know how the narrative develops, I may simply not get as far as I had originally intended (before either running out of time or, more likely, hitting the word limit).

The basic purpose of the thesis remains more or less the same as it has been in the past: to narrate the genesis of "environment" (and its cognates) as an aesthetic, scientific, philosophical and political concept (or, rather, set of concepts), starting in the late 18th century. This, I hasten to add, is in no way the earliest point at which such a narrative could begin. On the contrary, it is rather the latest point, I think, at which this narrative, as I wish to write it, can begin.

And so, the original plan to bring things right up to the present may be unrealistic (at least for the thesis, hopefully not in the long-term). However, I am really pleased with how it is all coming together. The plot is unsummarisable but the threads do, in the end, mesh together.