Saturday, November 3, 2012

Writing is a Process, Not a Product Part I

As a requirement for history majors at Salisbury University, you have to write three research papers.  The first one has to be in a class called Pro-Seminar where you learn how to do extensive research, find sources, write, etc.  The other two papers are completely left to you.  You write them for a history class you're taking, usually.  Some students, however, choose to do an independent study.  This allows them to delve deeper into the topic of their choice.  The catch is, you have to write a little bit of a longer paper (instead of 12-15 pages it has to be 20-25 pages).  Still, compared to other research projects, that isn't too terrible.

For the past two years, I've been talking extensively with one particular professor in the history department whose specialty is Tudor/Stuart English history, which is right up my alley.  So, after two years of doing nothing but talking about it, I wrote up a fairly detailed proposal, submitted it to the head of the department and got approval to do an independent study of my own.  So, you might be asking yourself, what type of independent study could I possibly find?  What would be so interesting that I would talk about it for two years, planning it meticulously before actually going through with it?  Well, my topic is Kathryn Howard.

Well, that's Kathryn Howard.  I don't blame you for not knowing her.  Perhaps one of the authors I read put it the best, had Kathryn Howard not married Henry VIII, King of England, she would have faded into obscurity and nobody would have known who she was, or cared for that matter.  Kathryn will go down in history for her brief marriage to Henry VIII, one of the most notorious monarchs in English history.

Henry VIII is known for his many wives, six in all.  I'm not going to go into detail about all six, but Kathryn was number five.  She will also go down in history as meeting a gruesome end at the scaffold.  Although scholars are torn about this, Kathryn may have had an affair while being married to the king.  And while it was alright for the king to have an affair, it was NOT alright for his wife to return the favor.  Henry was completely loyal to his wife, at least this wife, but he did have a handful of affairs throughout his life.  Compared to his cousin, Francis I of France, and other contemporary monarchs, Henry was very loyal to his wives.  Anyway, regardless of if Kathryn had an affair or not, she did lead a questionable life before marrying Henry.  It wasn't enough to end Kathryn's life, that with the allegation of an affair was.  Kathryn met her end at the tender age of twenty, following in the footsteps of her more famous cousin, Anne Boleyn (Henry's second wife and mother of Queen Elizabeth I).

So, that is the general gist of Kathryn Howard, I'm not going to go into more detail than that right now.  I have literally been reading about her since I came back to school in the end of August.  I picked this topic though, so I have no right to complain.

I've been doing a little bit more than just a tiny bit of research.  Pictured above are almost all the books I've read (except for three or four) and the three binders of research.  There really aren't a whole lot of sources written about Kathryn, she's one of those obscure wives of Henry's nobody really remembers.  If you want to write a paper on Anne Boleyn, you'll have too many sources (if that's even possible).  If you want to write about Kathryn Howard, however, good luck!  A lot of these books are about Kathryn's family, Henry's other wives, marriage at the time, etc.  Two of the binders contain secondary sources, mostly journal articles I got online.  The third binder is all primary sources, almost exclusively letters from the Calendar of State Papers, although a few are laws passed at the time and accounts of Kathryn's downfall.

As of right now, I haven't actually started writing the actual paper.  My research is, thankfully, complete, as is my outline.  Nearly two and a half months out, all that I have left to do is write 20 to 25 pages.  At first, I was worried that I wouldn't have enough to write 20 pages, but now I think I'll have too much.  But hey, rather have too much than not enough, right?

The writing process is a long, sometimes tedious process.  It is well worth it though.  As of right now, I have a few ideas for what to do with this paper once I'm done.  I'm going to keep those ideas to myself right now, but stay tuned, not only to see how the paper is going but what happens with it when I'm done.

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