Thursday, 10 December 2009

Term paper submitted!

In my post Term paper on 8 November I said that I was thinking of writing the required 3,000–5,000 word autobiographical essay on How the protagonists of the dismantling of apartheid regarded each other, based on the autobiographies of F W de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

In my post Seventh tutorial on 20 November I outlined the brief presentation I gave at our Tuesday meeting that week, as a result of which I concluded that the topic was either too big or too small for a term paper.

In my post Outline of term paper on 22 November I described the steps I proposed taking in order to write on another topic, Can a blog be used for writing your autobiography? This was the easy bit. Even though I got an extension of the deadline for submission from 29 November till 11 December, I found the going hard.

The problem was simple. Of all forms of writing about yourself, the blog is most like a diary and least like an autobiography. I finally started the paper like this:

In the play and film Educating Rita, the eponymous heroine is a bright Liverpudlian hairdresser who, on enrolling in an Open University Eng. Lit. course, is asked to 'Suggest ways in which one might deal with some of the staging difficulties in a production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt' and she succinctly writes 'Do it on the radio.'

In the cult TV series Star Trek , when new life is encountered on a strange planet, the onboard scientist turns to Captain Kirk and says in an ominous tone: 'It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.'

Were Rita to be asked 'Can a blog be used for writing your autobiography?', she would be torn between giving two equally succinct answers: 'No' and 'Yes, but not autobiography as we know it'.

The rest of this paper represents an attempt to help Rita make up her mind.

If only I'd been like Rita! Instead there followed four thousand words of regrettably rather superficial description of the relatively sparse academic writing on the topic and of the small number of blogs which I had come across and which could remotely be called autobiographical. I ended the paper not with a bang but a whimper, a confession that the attempt had failed.

This paper started with the intention of helping Rita to decide between 'No' and 'Yes, but not autobiography as we know it' as answers to the question 'Can a blog be used for writing your autobiography?' The paper has not done so. Both answers, surely, are valid.

I am, frankly, disappointed with what I handed in today, but at least it's done and at least it's caused me to think about avenues I should explore in the near future. More about this anon...


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