Saturday, December 23, 2006

Finishing a paper

I've spent the last two days revising and cutting a paper that I plan to send out to an unnamed journal (I just realized that the blogosphere could be corrupting blind review!). I've been having a lot of success blogging my way through tough spots in papers over the last year or so, but this paper was moving along pretty nicely. I thought I was close to sending it out today, but I ran out of time, and realized that the conclusion is pretty weak.

I am applying a couple of Scott McCloud's set of concepts to Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore's The Medium is the Massage, but my ending just fizzles. I have two main sections in the paper--each one applying McCloud--so what I probably need to do is make the final section much more of a synthesis section: show how closure and word-picture relations work in the last 10 pages of the MM rather than keep the two concepts separate. I think I was stumbling towards that kind of synthesis, but I think if I really foreground what I am doing in the conclusion, that will strengthen the final section. The final 10 pages seems very much subject to subject or aspect to aspect--a distinction, I am also realizing, that could probably be strengthened in the paper. I think the final 10 pages is about subject positions and identity--that's what I am calling the scene--so the question becomes, are the transitions following any sense of chronology or inter-relatedness (subject to subject, this than that), or are they just aspects of identity: observer of the maelstrom, additional identity (who are you), get it or dont' get it? Hip or square? Probably aspect to aspect. As for word-picture relations, one of the two-page spreads has the Poe "Descent into the Maelstrom" that McLuhan loved, with an additive image--business man surfing. The image is jokey and silly, and doesn't precisely illustrate the saying, but it does invoke a later book title for McLuhan: culture is our business. The Alice in Wonderland sequence has both additive, perhaps duo-specific, although the numbered silouttes is interdependent; readers could figure out the game without the Alice quotation, but the Alice quotation brings a lot to the panels. The setting of the New Yorker cartoon adds a lot to the message of the text, making it vital to the overall message--interdependent? Very much self-contained; ending with a comic might be a strong clue to read this book as a comic.

Okay, I think I have this worked out, and am seeing other possibilities for strengthening the essay--10 a day is an amazing process.


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