It might not be a lifetime commitment, but the Master’s proposal sure feels like a big deal. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on mine, and practically every word has felt like a commitment in itself. I know, I know – I’ve been assured that the proposal is in fact not written in stone in the secret annals buried under Rhodes University. There are no I-do-solemnly-swears or till-death-do-us-parts, but I was acutely aware that I was busy carving out the course by which the next two years of my life will be lived.
Judging by the matching groans and nervous ticks exhibited by my peers, the proposal is a big deal for everyone. I’m used to jumping into a project and seeing where it takes me. The proposal – a document detailing your intentions for the beloved project – forces you to commit to paper what you will be researching, how you will be approaching it and why this is not a massive waste of various peoples’ precious time and resources. That last part is tricky. When getting married, the requirement is generally as simple as wanting to be married, or perhaps loving your significant other. When writing a proposal, you have to justify why you love what you love, and what about it is worth loving, and how you intend on loving this thing that may or may not be worth it (yes, relatives might ask these types of questions about your intended, but your wedding vows won’t be reviewed for approval by a committee of several massively intimidating academics who might not comprehend the specialness of your intended).
In my case, the object of love is Neo-Gothic fiction, and when you’re studying at a South African university with clear goals of promoting South African research on South African topics, justifying your somewhat frowned upon love for a rather Eurocentric genre can be difficult. It’s not overt, but there is some teasing and some squiggling of eyebrows and general hints that what you are doing better be damn good if you want to make up for your flouting of important topics like South African fiction, eco-criticism, race and feminism.
My area of investigation is mere history, and how it is represented in Neo-Gothic fiction. Particularly, the manifestation of history in the form of ‘evil’ supernatural beings like ghosts and vampires interests me to no end. I take heart from those who, upon hearing my basic premise, get a thoughtful look and a gleam in their eye. I must say that working on ghosts and vampires seems to impress first years. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing though.
However, there you have it. My proposal is done and dusted. It has been laid out, reviewed by intimidating (but very friendly) people in the department, suggestions have been made and typos have been fixed. My old enemy – the word count – has been contained. Now, on the 2nd of May, it will travel to the clocktower, where it will be reviewed and accepted (or not) by the Humanities Higher Degrees Committee – a board of sociologists, psychologists, historians and assorted other scholars. Scary stuff.
At this point only will my project be declared valid. Then, I actually have to start the thing.
Details to follow.
PS. my posting schedule, which has admittedly been rather erratic, will now also be affected by an exercise schedule. Trying to go for the whole healthy body, mind and soul thing. I also have a deadline for the exercise – a rather exciting one – but more on that later.