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24.10.05

A journey of a thousand miles, etc.

This post marks the place where I begin actually writing my thesis. I'm hoping to be posting a lot of research-related stuff from now on, and to create discussions with you, The Readership about this which will, in turn, help me write. This may bore the wits out of some of you, but I hope to still be posting a lot of the other stuff as well.

Basically put, my thesis is going to be an attempt to describe the weblog as a literary structure which can in certain respects be described using traditional literary theory. In particular, I hope to connect the dots between some radical modes of writing which pop up around the late 16th century, most known for producing the sorta-genre the the essay, but which also contains within itself a whole range of aesthetics, methods and forms.

I am going to be using Theodor "Dubya" Adorno's essay theory, in particular, to connect the dots between the weblog and the essay. Also featured: Roland Barthes' textual theory, Michel de Montaigne and possibly some hypertext theory a la Landow. We'll see.

My central argument is that the weblog culture represents a sort of idealised, mass-cultural explosion of an essayistic mode of writing. Essayism in its purest form, in a sense. I think that the weblog springs from the essay and the other bastard "genres." The newest branch of that particular tree.

But to begin at the beginning, let's define the subject of research. When you google for weblog definition, you get Jill Walker's definition for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, which is funny, because she's co-tutoring (is that the word?) my thesis.

I only disagree with two points in her definition. The first is that I object to her use of the word genre. I do not believe the weblog is a genre, as it adapts itself easily to a great pluralism of contents, from discussing politics, to publishing recipes, to serial novels, to personalised diary, to self-published poetry, to contact base for a social network, to hypertextual commentary, to teaching, to... [etc. ad nauseum]

Blogging is either a medium or a format. I've discussed this with Alvaro Ramirez in the past here (saying some silly things in the process), and he's advanced a definition of format here. I'm not entirely sure what to think about this as of yet. Maybe blogging is a format, maybe a medium, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure it's not a genre, at least.

The second thing I disagree with is the part where she says a blog "may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers." Cause, well, it's just too modest. The blog Daily Kos now has an average of 810.234 readers every single day. If every single one of those is a unique hit, that makes Kos bigger than the 5th biggest paper in the United States (as of 2003, at least).

In case you were wondering, that's The Washington Post. Circulation 730.000.

Well, it may not be much, but it's a place to begin. If you have any comments, tips or thoughts on this issue, I'd love to hear them.

3 Comments:

Anonymous adam said...

On the subject of MA theses and procrastination, I wrote a 20,000 word thesis on Krzyszof Kieslowski in 26 hours at the end of August.
I still haven't received my result, but I am operating under the assumption that my academic career is over.
Sigh...

October 24, 2005 7:18 pm  
Blogger Sara said...

Damn, that beats my zero words thesis (in 2 yrs). However I'm TOTALLY planning to do it soon.

October 25, 2005 12:37 am  
Blogger Álvaro Ramírez said...

Martin: very interesting subject for your thesis. And finding the roots in the essay sounds very exciting to me.

My idea of defining "the blog" entity as a format is not grounded in literary theory. Comparing it with other big mass media (the blog nowdays is also becoming a medium?).
Take Television, for example. Where single programming follows formats and within them you can find also different genre.

But I was also thinking that there is another aspect of blogging which is "the blogging" activity, which is begining to see the early moments of its industrial birth (Calcanis and Grawker). As such "blogging" as an activity performed by 15 million people and the evolution of the many blogospheres could probably be categoriza as a new mass medium.

October 25, 2005 8:35 am  

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