Good News/Bad News

Last night I wrote one of the best paragraphs I think I’ve written for the diss that absolutely grabs the heart of chapter two. Here it is:

The interpretation of a text is fundamentally shaped by the circumstances within which it is normatively encountered. The Gospel of Matthew was normatively encountered by early medieval monastics within the context of the liturgy, Mass and Office. The reading of Matthew within these liturgies was understood as a means of direct communication between Christ—made present as mediated by the Gospel-book—and the community at prayer. The reading of Matthew was the presentation of authoritative teachings on life, death, morals, and doctrine by Christ to His people. Complex levels and layers of meaning were teased from the text and presented for the edification of the gathered community by the preacher with the assistance of the Tradition—understood to agree but not be univocal—also presented and transmitted through the liturgy. To understand early medieval monastic exegesis and the catechetical hermeneutic, then, is to understanding the process of learning for and learning through the liturgy that grounded this encounter and the communal interpretation of Matthew.

The bad news is, now I need to rethink and restructure chapter 2 in light of this new moment of clarity. Dang. Much will be accomplished by the use of cut and paste during this period, but shuffling sections is always an awkward process compositionally since you’re no longer heading in exactly the same direction so topic sentences need revision, paragraphs must be revised in light of their topic sentences, etc.

Classical, we make the distinction between invention, arrangement, and style (mewmory and delivery are the other two since rhetorical composition was originally for oral delivery). Cicero and others imply that these are concrete–but not for me. One of the accurate criticisms that my director had as we struggled through my proposal is that the act of writing rather than abstract conceptualization is where a lot of my thoughts arise. It’s when I’m writing the actual document that I get cool new insights; my arrangement and style become my invention. That’s wonderful, but in order to make a coherent presentation I ought therefore to go back and re-arrange. That’s what this dissertation has been a process of doing. I reconceptualized and re-outlined chapter one at least three or four times and I’ve been doing the same with chapter two. With one it wasn’t until I had about 75% of the text that things really clicked. Hopefully this paragraph should fully cement the structure of 2 but we’ll see if that turns out to be the case in the long run.

Hmm. reading it over I’m not completely happy with the prose styling… The concepts are there but some of the expressions could use work…

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3 Responses to Good News/Bad News

  1. Annie says:

    Interesting. This is the stage that I hate in writing. But clarity is gained from stepping back from it for a little while. It need not be long. Like bread dough that has completed its first rising and has been punched down, it needs to rest for a short while before it is shaped into loaves.

  2. Derek the Ænglican says:

    So true…baking bread (or pizza dough :-)) is a good metaphor for the process: fermentation, rising, waiting, punching, shaping, repeat…

  3. *Christopher says:

    derek,

    I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who has those moments of clarity and has to go back cut and paste, but most importantly notice the new direction and make it apparent throughout. Oh, and keep the prose elegant. I though everyone else had this linear approach and could just whip things out.

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