Elation. The moment when you see a printed and bound copy of the project you have pour, heart, body and soul into finally complete and ready to hand in. I know that was certainly how I felt in those moments when I finally got my hands on my dissertation, knowing that the project was done and that I could hand it in. I think it’s a feeling most students feel as their third year draws to a close. But also, a sense of dread because this is it and for me personally I only have two more assignments to hand in before it’s all over and done with. By July I should have an estimated grade back for the whole of my degree and then by November, I will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in English Literature.
I don’t know whether to be thrilled, excited or nervous because unfortunately when university ends, I have no immediate plans at all! Which is slightly terrifying because after spending so many years in education it strange to know that come September that I won’t be going back. Though I never say never, I’m wanting a year out to see what happens before I start to consider going for my Master’s something which I have been considering more and more this past year. Especially since with the dissertation project, I seem to have finally had that moment were everything clicks and my love of academia has grown tremendously. My thoughts have even travelled towards thinking about eventually going for a PhD though that is a bit off yet and I have no idea where the next year will take me.
Anyway, this post isn’t about the ending of my time at university but a post that I wanted to dedicate purely to my dissertation and celebrate it. If you had asked me a year ago what my plans were exactly concerning my dissertation then I wouldn’t have been able to give you a straight answer other than I knew I would write something relating to children’s literature. After all, because my university offered a module studying children’s literature during my second year it reaffirmed that my passion for literature stemmed and focused on contemporary children’s fiction. It wasn’t until after numerous brainstorms in my bullet journal that I finally settled on a theme, something specific which I wanted to research, study and explore which was the theme of the family which often features throughout children’s fiction.
But then it came to the texts, my mind first jumped to the Harry Potter series but I worried that it wouldn’t be deemed academic enough and because of that, I pushed it aside for the longest time. Instead, I looked at other young-adult and middle-grade texts for the longest of times, even at one point deciding that I could focus on Jaqueline Wilson texts since family is often a prominent feature in her work. But still, I felt drawn to the Potter universe, books which I have cherished since I was a child, a world which I often think about at least once a day. So, I put it down as a text I was interested in studying and waited to see what my tutors said – at worst they would reject it and tell me to focus on other texts but to my joy they didn’t. I got appointed a dissertation supervisor who happened to be my academic tutor throughout my time at university anyway, who was intrigued by the project and incredibly supportive of it too. She made me realise that it didn’t matter if Harry Potter was deemed ‘high brow’ or ‘academic’ enough but more about how I approached it the theory that I used and examined.
I remember going to the library late one night and browsing through the shelves to see if anything sprung out at me that I thought I could use for my research. I was delighted to see there was a whole shelf of texts which had already worked on Harry Potter. Academic books which were purely focused on examining the world of Harry Potter and working on the theory sounding the texts – admittedly they were nearly all American critics but it made me realise again that Harry Potter was good enough for my dissertation. That I could easily work on my dissertation using these books that I had grown up with and to my delight, could dissect and examine through hundreds of layers. When I finally finished my planning and writing, it became clear that I had so much to work with that I could probably write several academic texts purely examining the series and the role which it has played in contemporary children’s fiction.
One thing I have to say, it’s been a journey from late nights studying at the library, watching numerous documentaries surrounding the series, reading and rereading interviews relating to the series along with rereading and listening to the audiobooks of the series. I swear I have whole passages now completely ingrained and etched on my brain and that they will be there for the rest of my life. In fact, when I was beginning to research, I honestly thought that I would end up hating the series – after all don’t people often say they ended up hating the books they studied for their dissertation. But I didn’t instead my love and passion for the series grew and grew into a genuine academic interest. I know now that if I go onto masters that my research focus will be on contemporary and children’s fiction and that is alright and I can do it. When I first went to university I thought something could only be academic if it was at least 70 years old but that isn’t true. It’s the theory that’s academic and if it can be applied to a contemporary piece then it’s academic.
Anyway, I may be rambling now but I did it! I’m incredibly proud of myself and feel that I have finally realised my ability to work and research academic pieces and it’s made me excited for the future.