Words… Thesis pieces

☞ Birmingham’s regulations dictate that a doctoral thesis should not exceed 80,000 words, excluding such matters as footnotes and bibliographies. Here’s where I got to:

The Socialisation of Tristram Shandy

  • Introduction – Serial Publication and Socialisation – 6200 words
  • Chapter 1 – Shandean Bibliolatry: Authorising Textual Knowledge in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy 10,400 words
  • Chapter 2 – Tristram in Grub Street: Sterne and Swift – 5000 words
  • Chapter 3 – Eighteenth – Century Footnotes and Tristram Shandy – 15,000 words
  • Chapter 4 – A Chapter on Locke, 9300 words
  • Chapter 5 – A Compendium of Shandys – 8100 words
  • Chapter 6 Commentary – 10,400 words

Grand total: 64,400

Not included : Sterneana paper “Swarms of Filthy Pamphleteers” . c9000 including reflective commentary on why it was not very good.

Whenever i complain about having written so many words without submitting the thesis, the listener inevitably responds, “How could you have given up when you only had 15,000 words to go?”

☞ Well, let me explain.

I had originally promised to write about Sterne’s use of Locke, Rabelais and Cervantes, with perhaps a detour into Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. The easiest way to do that would be a chapter examining each in turn. However I managed only a chapter on Locke, a sidetrack into Swift, and examinations of Rabelais, Cervantes and Burton remained spectacularly unwritten or researched. The struggle to understand Locke  – a 17th century philosopher and his impact on the 18th century – proved so difficult that the thought of doing the same with Cervantes and Rabelais (at least) filled me with terror. And meant that I was still at least TWO chapters behind.

I had also got sidetracked into more interesting matters like commentary and compendia, the authority of authorities/books, as can be seen in the tally above.

I didn’t know how to reconfigure the project to accommodate these new interests, and the chapters on Locke and Swift seemed strangely incomplete without looking at the other major figures in Shandean appropriation.

☞ And of course it would all be better in the next draft.

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