Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I'm moving again, and I'm happy about it! I don't particularly want to take much time blogging now, because my limited time needs to be spent researching, but an update is in order.

In the past week, I've spoken with a professor from my undergrad, as well as with my boss at the Kean Writing Project, Kim Kiefer, who is a high school English teacher. Between those two conversations, I'm excited to write this thesis.

In my discussion with Kim, we talked about my interest in the YA hero, and discussed using The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, as one of my primary texts, as a way to analyze the hero's journey through the books I am interested in discussing (a list that I will explain later in this post). I have never read this book personally, although it has been discussed in many courses I have taken, and I am interested to see if it helps to guide my research. (note-- after writing this sentence, I remembered that Kean has a library and promptly walked over and checked it out)

Proof that I went to the library. Not pictured-- the spine falling off the book

In addition to this book, Kim also suggested that I read into Jungian archetypes as a way of discussing my heroes. I don't know much about Carl Jung outside of the Myers-Briggs personality test, so this is something I will have to research further. However, a baseline Google search brought this list to my attention. Of course, I will find a better primary source to use in my work.

Okay so, heroes and YA literature. That's still pretty broad. This is where my conversation with Dr. Hogsette (aforementioned undergrad prof) helped me further. 

In my senior year of college, I was in Dr. Hogsette's Science Fiction Literature class, and he talked a lot about the ideas of transhumanism and posthumanism in science fiction. Transhumanism and posthumanism are two tropes that are commonly used in utopian literature, as ways of proving that humanity can be so much more than it currently is, through the integration of technology. However, even though these ideas are usually presented positively, the stories ultimately warn that "all that glitters is not gold"-- or, perhaps, all that has circuits is not better than flesh and blood? Usually, these lessons come in the way of a utopian world turning into a dystopian nightmare.

I have to read more about trans and posthumanism to refresh my memory of their respective intricacies, but my professor gave me a ton of sources to look into including:
How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics by N. Katherine Hayles
Prophets of the Posthuman: American Fiction, Biotechnology, and the Ethics of Personhood by Christina Bieber Lake 
Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution by Francis Fukuyama
Technology and Identity in Young Adult Fiction: The Posthuman Subject" by Victoria Flanagan

In considering all of the dystopian books I have read, there are a handful that I can think of that work with this idea. Right now, my list includes:
-by Scott Westerfeld
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Feed by M.T. Anderson
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (this one is still on the "to-read" list, but I'm reasonably sure it will fit the topic)

In all of these books, the characters, or their world has been altered for some specific technological end, and the protagonists have to deal with the implications of these changes. Ultimately, what the world-builders hoped would lead to utopia, has instead led to dystopia, and we are left with the question of-- why are we searching to perfect mankind through technology? Are we ultimately better for it? Have we reached the ultimate moral nirvana? Signs point to no.

Finally-- why the YA lit focus? Simply, because I like it. Maybe I'll discover some kind of theory as to why kids are into these books...and maybe not. We'll see where the research takes me. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I'm still here.

How do you write a thesis with no idea of what you want to write about? I'm floundering and I don't see any end to this struggle. If I graduate this program, it might be a miracle.

I'm scrapping all the work I have done up to this point because I'm no longer inspired. The only thing left that I care about is the literature, and I don't know what to do with that. I'm trolled the internet looking for ideas, Young Adult reading lists, trends in topic popularity, what kids look for in literature-- I've found interesting ideas, but nothing from which I can build a thesis.

Today I went back to the literature review that I wrote back in Writing Research, during my first semester at Kean. When I wrote that, I was still passionate about my topic, and I think I'm going to revisit my original ideas. I'll link my lit review here for the sake of context, but I think this is where I need to start again-- just me, the texts I love, and article talking about those texts. I do have ideas that I've explored further that I can rework into this format, but I hope this is where I start to find answers. If not here...where?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

More Sources!

I forgot to add-- here are the additional sources I have discovered in my reading today:

"Network Analysis and the Sociology of Modernism" by Richard Jean So and Hoyt Long

"The Werther Effect I: Goethe, Objecthood, and the Handling of Knowledge" by Adrew Piper and Mark Algee-Hewitt

"Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning" by Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O'Donnell

Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities  by Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt

The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age by William Kist

Handbook of Research on New Literacies by Donald J. Leu Jr., Julie Coiro, Michele Knobel, and Colin Lankshear

Literacy Remix: Bridging Adolescents In and Out of School Literacies by Jessie Gainer and Diane Lapp

Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage by Axel Bruns

"New Learning Environments for the 21st Century" by John Seely Brown

Reconceptualizing the Literacies in Adolescents' Lives: Bridging the Everyday/Academic Divide by Donna E. Alvermann and Kathleen A. Hinchman


It is a good thing I am a graduate student, I suppose, the work keeps me busy on my frequent 3 hour train rides down to visit my fiance and friends in Washington, D.C. I will hardly know what to do on the train once I graduate and don't have tons of reading!

Tallies and work

Forgive the format of these blog posts, but I've found that stream-of-conscious writing works best for me to detail my thesis work. To begin for today:

I often joke that in the past few months I've developed running tallies for things that I've considered innumerable times. To date, the list includes:
-Rewrites to my thesis
-Times I've asked myself, "Is a Masters degree really worth it?"
-Throwing my computer out the window and quitting my job
-Eloping rather than dealing with the intricacies of planning a wedding

and, my latest addition:
-How many Starbucks iced coffees have I bought so far this semester?

That new addition to the list scares me the most. 


As for my thesis work, last night I started reading through some of the sources I've compiled thus far, and I found myself feeling disheartened. A few that I thought would be spot-on proved to be disappointing, and I'm hoping that I have more luck today. What worries me more than anything is that I'm going to spend a lot of time doing research, only to prove to myself that my thesis isn't valid. Sometimes I wonder why I let myself wander so far from my literary roots.

Other times, however, I am heartened by my ability to tie the literature I am passionate about to methodologies that may help teachers, and I do genuinely believe in the validity of my work. I'm excited by the potential to go to OER18 and possibly present my work, and in those moments I find the strength to move on.


I have my research split into three piles-- "Education," "Digital Humanities," and "Literature." I've been sorting my sources into these three piles as best I can, to pretend I have some semblance of order, even though some of my research crosses boundaries. First, I read through my "Education" binder and found one dud article, one kinda-outdated-but-maybe(?)-helpful article, and one great article. I used the Works Cited article to find about more sources I may be able to use. I'll look them up on my train ride tomorrow. 

The education sources have been great ways to learn about how teachers have worked in introduce technology to their classrooms, although in reading through these sources I find more mention to tools, rather than blatant mention of the digital humanities-- which makes sense, coming from an education standpoint. For this reason, I'm glad for my wealth of DH sources.

I found similar success with my DH sources, in reading through the articles I found more sources to check out and, even better, I found examples of DH projects which, in my opinion, will be powerful arguments for the cross-disciplinary nature of DH.

The thought occurred to me that I might use more advanced DH work as a way to either start or end my thesis, to show readers why digital tools are important. On the one hand, using and Voyant is much different than using a text analysis program, but on the other hand, you have to start somewhere. By making students aware of what can be done with digital tools, you are showing them potential doors they might consider going through in the future.  

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Uninteresting Updates

Reading, reading, reading, reading, reading! That's what I'm up to!

Today I braved the Kean computer lab for the second time in my graduate career and printed out my list of sources from last week. It was a fairly uneventful experience, and I'm excited to see the resources I have so far.

In talking to Alan, he made me think harder on how I'm going to include my love of dystopian lit into the piece, and I'm hopeful that it will still shine through strong, despite my focus on DH tools and analysis. In order to draw a strong parallel between my work and dystopian lit, I'm going to have to delve into research explaining the themes of dystopian lit-- such as control, fear, and pushing forward into the future, and include that as a substantial part of the start of my paper, which is just fine with me!

I'll blog more tomorrow about what I find in my reading, and, speaking of which, back to that!

Progress and challenges

In the past month, I have summarized and written the bulk of my sections on  Extras ,  The Adoration of Jenna Fox , and  Feed . Although I w...