Today’s uniquely EPIC brand of writer’s block or structuring chapter 2

Uncle Walt~

I would venture to say that most of the people reading this blog are friends or family, if there are any readers out there at all…*quizical brow* That means that most of you are kept abreast of the recent writing momentum occurring in the depths of dissertation hades, where I currently reside. For any of you who aren’t, let’s just say that two weeks ago, I wrote over twenty pages, sketching out my lit review, and getting to a stopping point that I felt deserved a week-long break.

Now I return. And I find myself paralyzed by some sort of a blockage (and trust me, it is as painful as it sounds). I have decided to let that lit review and chapter one rest for a while, which means that I will be moving on to chapter two (as I absolutely NEED  to get this proposal done).

I originally thought I would write chapter 2 as a excursus on ritual theory, and I think I will still do so. However, the way that will play out is still up in the air. Kitty suggested that I outline possibilities for the chapter, and I think that is a fabulous idea. However, my ADD is taking over…jumbled thoughts…inability to focus…so here I am, blogging about it and hoping that the process of doing so will help the chapter make sense.

First question: whether to focus this theoretical discourse on ritual itself or on pilgrimage. Or to write about the ways in which pilgrimage is a ritual. In short, this thesis seems to continue to revolve around the same topic again and again: sacred space and our interaction with it.

Perhaps that is the perfect topic for this chapter two. Myth studies insists that the development of a balanced ritual life is of vital importance to a cohesive personal myth. Traditionally, the creation of sacred space has been a central aspect of ritual making. While, as Eliade has suggested, creating a sacred space does not necessarily involve traveling to a holy site, that travel itself is sacred ritual. The general consensus of the academy on this topic is that humanity, at least in certain parts of the world,  lacks the ability to make meaningful rituals out of the material that makes up our lives. I began to work this issue in my chapter one when I talked about the demonization of American culture. How and when this disconnect happened in modern America is an interesting topic, and might warrant a short excursus, but isn’t really the focus of the diss. The focus of this chapter is meaningful ritual making itself. I’m questioning the assumption that Americans have lost the ability to make meaningful rituals. I don’t think we’ve lost our ability to MAKE the rituals. I do, however, think we’ve repressed the ability to experience the sacred mystically. And, since rituals require transcendence, our rituals don’t carry the same psychological heft as ancient rituals and/or the rituals of “indigenous” cultures. Transcendant rituals require submission. They require suspension of disbelief. That’s the subtext of all the academic examination of rituals. The discourse develops in circular patterns about the necessity for rituals, the functionality of rituals and the presence of these rituals in culture. However, there is one aspect to meaningful ritual life that is often overlooked in academic discussion…belief. The experience of wonder, awe, transcendence. Analysis can’t interpret this aspect of experience.

So, I get back to my topic of Disneyland and chapter 2. Why Disneyland? What is its relationship to American ritual making? That’s the rub. That’s the topic of chapter two. That will weave together both theory and the beginnings of an interpretation of Disneyland as a ritual center.

Huzzah for processing!


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Filed under Reflections on the Dissertation Process

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