After a solid week of sorting back through my research, making notes on index cards, rereading source materials, sitting and outlining and thinking really hard, I finally managed to write thesis statement.
At least, i think it’s my thesis statement.
It isn’t full of rhetorical questions, it isn’t full of unanswered literal questions, it doesn’t have a question mark at all. Behold! I have made a statement! Granted, it took me three paragraphs to do it, ut by the end I have drawn a line in the sand and dared the rest of my paper to try and cross it.
So now the fun part: actually rewriting it.
To be honest, I feel like I wimped out a bit. In narrowing the focus I took a stand that makes me fell a bit like a crusty old man. It’s a bit conservative. Not politically conservative, but theoretically conservative.
I didn’t realize I felt this way about biographies, but in defense of my research the fact is, a lot of what is passed off as biography – especially in picture books – is simply not biography. There’s a lot of fancy “biographical fiction” out there, and some “historical fiction” and some weird hybrids of biography called “faction” but in the end it’s all the slippery end of a greased snake that is creative non-fiction looking for legitimacy under the moniker of biography.
What’s scary is that I went into this with the idea that the research would better inform me for projects I wanted to pursue, biographies I was interested in chasing down. Now I’m not so sure. There was a line I remembered seeing once — was it on a button in a hippie head shop in the 70s? — that went “You’re never more dangerous than when you know too much.” I always took it as sort of a joke, but the truth is that when you know too much there is a danger there. It is possible for too much knowledge to get in the way of your creative side, to overthink things. At the same time, once you know it’s hard to ignore what you know. I can never again innocently blunder into a picture book biography without considering and question every statement, every shred of proof of authenticity. I’ll never consider the word and the image on a page without understanding the distance between the narrator and the events portrayed, or without wondering about the uses of pictorial irony.
They say there comes a point in ones studies where you can never go back and be innocent. You never fully enjoy the things you study from the persepctive of a novice or even a spectator or on-looker. That’s the day you cross over ad become a journeyman on the road to professionalism.