Last week, I felt pretty at sea. I had just finished my transfer paper and thesis outline, and was beginning Chapter Two. It felt awfully strange to be able to stop thinking about Chapter One and be able to consider new territory.
Now, Chapter Two isn't entirely new. Both it and Chapter One look at Charlotte and Branwell Brontë's pre-1846 writing and, at one time, I mistakenly thought it would all fit into one chapter (ha!). So I've read my primary sources and I've known since January what I wanted to cover in this chapter (the shift from hero-worship and fantasy to realism and irony, as well as the possible Victorianizing and maturing of the siblings' writing). But, possibly because I already have a half-formed argument in my head, I didn't quite know where to start.
So, I went back to the beginning, to the primary and secondary sources that started me thinking about fantasy and realism, 1830s fiction, the beginnings of Victorian literature, and the pull between fantasy and realism in Charlotte's writing.
I'm also reading more Brontë background: Sue Lonoff's edition of Charlotte and Emily's Belgian essays (to see if I should be discussing them in my chapter), Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë, and Charlotte's letters.
It feels so wonderful to go back to reading and thinking and processing again, after a few weeks of writing and revising. I'm reminded why I decided to pursue doctoral studies in the first place and why, despite this being an exhausting, self-doubting, and brain-twisting way to spend several years of one's life, I love it so much.
For more on the joys and realities of thesis-writing, check out the Guardian's story Ten things I wish I'd known before I started my dissertation… Many of these points ring true, though during my Master's thesis, I never did feel like I wanted to start from scratch at the eleventh hour. The guilt and self-doubt, however, is definitely something I'm familiar with.