Dissertation diaries: how I'm feeling and my current progress

One of our writers updates us on their dreaded dissertation ...

Sarah Tunstall
21st February 2024
Image Source: unsplash_Brett Jordan
Coming into second semester and the only thought that consistently crosses my mind is that due date; May 1st. I’ll admit most of my time now is attempting to do some work, panicking over this word count, then procrastinating out of anxiety. Constant cycle. 

If you ask me what my dissertation is on, for simplicity purposes, I will just say Bob Dylan. 

I grew up surrounded by Dylan’s music. My mum has always told me stories of my grandfather playing his music on his turntable. She always talks about him being in our family, growing up confused and calling him Uncle Bob; and even now I still hear her sing the lyrics to Subterranean Homesick Blues. The man became this sort of significant figure in our house for everything. The basis of our love of literature, art, reminiscing, recovering, you name it. Alongside other artists, which my peers will know of (a keen obsession with Stevie Nicks) I have a lot to hold onto with Dylan’s lyrics. 

It seems most of Dylan's music is, if not political, examples of classical love elegies

My diss will explore the connections between classical poetry and Dylan’s early lyricism in the 1960s (mostly looking at Blonde on Blonde). Since going to university, I can see Catullus, Ovid, Homer, Tibullus, and others in his lyrics and wanted to take time to explore it in a scholarly setting. Catullus was one of the first classical figures to introduce the personal love elegy into our understanding of literature; these draw on Greek/Roman mythology for allusions of human phenomenon and experience – exploring the universally common. He writes often about his beloved, Lesbia, conflicting her lyrical voice with his. Questioning the philosophy about seeing love, then actually knowing it. It seems most of Dylan's music is, if not political, examples of classical love elegies. If you listen to Girl from The North Country (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963) what practically screams from Dylan’s music is the Homeric notion of the lover leaving and the beloved staying. Waiting. Reminiscing about the other. 

This excitement, albeit nerdiness, covers up the fear. 

Have I cried? Yes, a good few times. Am I stressed? Yes, a lot.

I have not started writing it. Have I cried? Yes, a good few times. Am I stressed? Yes, a lot. But at the end of the day, I know other people are and have been in my shoes and these 10k words will be written in time. For me, so far, the best ways I have been coping of which I recommend are walks, singing/dancing around, baking and talking it out. Even if you just talk about your topics, you start to notice yourself naturally fall into that knowledge. You notice the research you’ve done click into place. Also, if the panic baking sets in, your housemates will be as happy as mine are (anxiety chocolate muffins always go down well). And as my mum said on FaceTime the other day as I cried (mums shouldn’t ask how you’re doing when you’re stressed) it’s just 2-3 essays. Break it down. You’ve got this “schmu-bug”. 

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