November 9, 2010

The Final Countdown

Now that I’ve turned in my midterm and had about half a week to gloriously rejoice in its completion, it’s time to turn my mind to what already should have been brewing within it for the past month and a half:


It’s that point in the semester, folks.  They’re close enough that you can’t quite feel them breathing down your neck, but you can certainly feel their gaze on you from across the room.  They stare, awkwardly, until you wonder if your shirt is on backwards or you forgot to put pants on or something.  Their stare sends that sort of chill through your spine that doesn’t really mean abject terror, but the knowledge that you probably forgot something at home that’s crucial to the rest of your evening… like your keys or your wallet. 

And you flounder, trying to find a way to make all of the information you have absorbed (or failed to absorb) in the past few months form some cohesive argument.  Trying to find time, amidst your still-full reading schedule, to put in enough research hours that you can at least have some hint of an argument before you meet with your professors about what it is you’re working on.  Trying to cram together interest, passion and deep thoughts with citation and scholarship so that you can have something tangible to hand in at the end of the semester.

I’m just a little bit on edge about getting all this together.

I think that part of the problem is the wide array of courses which bolster the diversity of my program.  We are a generalist program, a program that doesn’t really offer much by way of specialization.  As such, my classes are all over the place in terms of time period, criticism, and subject matter.  Because of this, it’s a HUGE shift in thought process simply to go from class to class, reading to reading… never mind having to switch research gears.  There’s essentially a three-lane highway going on in my head right now and the lanes sometimes travel neatly parallel to each other, and sometimes cross, sometimes traffic clover, sometimes decide to go off on their own little ways before converging again.  That’s a lot to process.  That’s a lot to think cohesively about.  That’s a lot to contend with.

I must admit that I haven’t been coping well (as demonstrated by my succumbing to the inevitable winter cold/flu thing that’s lain me out for the past day and a half).  However, despite this, I think I have a few ideas.  Research has begun, I simply hope it’s not just a series of dead-ends.

It did get me thinking, however, of some more… creative methods for choosing final paper topics.  Here are a few for your enjoyment (and possible future edification).

1)    The Old Stack and Spill – Stack all of your course books up in a huge pile.  Conveniently knock them over.  Find the book that lands the closest to you and randomly place your finger on a sentence in the page it opens to.  This should be the backbone of your thesis.

2)    Stairmaster – Throw your books down the stairs.  Take a slinky and allow it to climb its way down after them.  Where the slinky lands should be your sticking place.

3)    Bull’s Eye – Arrange papers with the names of the major works you read in class upon a large corkboard.  Find someone who is already bad at darts, give them a beer, then spin them around a few times.  Have them throw two to three darts at the board.  String together the names the darts land upon for the title of your soon-to-be-brilliant paper.

4)    Scrabble – Cut out a few words from: the front page of the New York Times, your favorite recipe for holiday turkey, Hamlet, and the seminal work of your course.  Re-arrange them until they make sense.  Voila, supporting arguments.

5)    Family Game Night – Arrange your course texts on the ground and use them to play a slightly modified version of Twister.  Rather than spin to determine where your limbs go, have your colleagues shout out quotes from the texts upon which you should place your next appendage.  Inevitably in this process, pages will be ripped out.  Take those pages and arrange them in an aesthetically pleasing order to formulate the core of your paper.

6)    Spin the Bottle – Place the texts in a circle on the ground.  Drink a beer.  Place the bottle in the middle and spin it a few times.  Piece the resulting texts together with the words “demystifying” and “archetypical”.  If these aren’t enough, words of at least four syllables to fill in.

7)    In the Cards – Use the course texts to make a card house.  Build it as tall as you can.  When it falls over, find the most apparent pages that are open to you.  Write down the sixth sentence of these pages in quick succession.  Find a way to make it work.

8)    MacGuyver – Use your texts, a paperclip, and a cantaloupe.  Make something spectacular.  Extra points if it explodes.

9)    Casino Royale – Roll a series of five six-sided dice.  Use the numbers that come up in conjunction with your course syllabus to craft a cocktail of prose and slam that together with some Foucault for style.

Of course, there are multitudes of other methods for crafting ideas.  Hopefully, there are enough to get you started….

1 comment:

Lyzard said...

It's eerie how similar your strategies to create papers are to my strategies to grade papers. The key components in either case are simple: beer and fate.

For the record, I am totally down for extra credit versions - that is, doing these things over winter break.