So, here I am, back again. It's been a long and busy semester, as the cliché goes. I passed my Oral Comprehensive Exam on the 15th of April, which is nice, as I am now ABD. For that exam, I wrote and defended what amounts to the rough draft of my dissertation's theory chapter, in which I explained what I meant by "medieval utopian function" by going through some general/Marxist utopian theory (Marx/Engels, Karl Mannheim, Joseph Gabel, Ernst Bloch, Lyman Tower Sargent, and Fredric Jameson) and a few of the more medieval-oriented discussions (Michael Uebel, Hilario Franco, Karma Lochrie) that did not focus specifically on the genre of utopias. Having identified the two uses to which general theorists put utopia—ideology and culture critique—I noted that the trend in medieval uses of utopian theory has been some ideology critique, primarily by finding spaces of hope (Lochrie) or social difference (Uebel). From both major sources (general/Marxist and medieval) I derived the following definition of the medieval utopian function:
A form of social dreaming before the modern period that critiques some contemporary ideological “truth,” such as a point of church doctrine, the nature of fame, or the order of society. Part of that dream includes some solution to the problem, a solution that may take any form from basic wish-fulfillment to planned and dialectically open-ended society. The solution may or may not have been effective in the dreamer’s own time, but it can inspire hope and social critique in our own age.This is, of course, still pretty vague, but until I've done more readings in the the texts, it will have to do. Speaking of, right now, I intend to work with the following texts: House of Fame, Pearl, Winner and Waster, Piers Plowman, Regiment of Princes, and Vox Clamantis. I have some ideas about all of them, and I may float some of those ideas here as the year rolls by.
Oh—also, I received an award from my department: the Blair Rouse Fellowship, which is given for "Superior Academic Achievement by a PhD Candidate in English." It came with honor, and with money, and I'm thankful to my department for both.
Meanwhile, I have been assured that there will be no jobs whatsoever in the coming year, and that I have picked the worst possible time to try to begin a career in academia. I have yet to be sure if that's true, but it is a cause for concern. We'll see.