Huzza! My dissertation is done!
After 8 long months, 1000s of pages of reading and 11,910 written words, I have successfully submitted my undergraduate dissertation (for you American folks, it’s the same as an undergraduate thesis) to the Department of English Studies, University of Durham!
Which would also explain why I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I’d have liked to. It’s been a mad rush to the end, but thankfully, with no major hiccups, I was able to produce a paper I’m rather proud of. And fortunately, instead of developing an immense aversion to the primary text, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for it—that is, Neil Gaiman’s magnum opus: his brilliant, brilliant graphic novel series The Sandman. I learn, notice, take away something new every single time I read it. What a marvellous work.
Just a quick reflection as I look back in retrospect: I’d always wanted to do something radical, something unconventional, so that I could formulate my own original argument rather than build off previous scholarship, even if that meant risking writing a paper that wasn’t well supported by critical sources.
I absolutely love graphic novels, and I had already written my Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism exam paper last year on Alan Moore’s Watchmen—to my delight, it was my highest mark to date. This gave me confidence that I could write my dissertation on graphic novels, but I had to pick something rich enough to merit academic interest. Well, what else better than The Sandman, which over 2000+ pages is one of the richest works of contemporary literature? As an added bonus, past scholarship on the series is immensely sparse, meaning I had free reign to create my own argument and establish an entirely original position never before expounded!
Sure enough, The Sandman was approved without any problems (wholly thankful to Durham University’s delightfully flexible and open-minded English department—also the #1 English department in the country, even above Oxbridge; and I say this with pride). Over the summer, I reread the series for the third time, excited to delve deep into Gaiman’s fascinating work.
I had to think of a topic by October at the start of my final uni year—I knew I wanted to do something that would incorporate my 3 biggest interests: graphic novels, postmodernism and Christianity. Just 2 weeks before heading back to Durham, it clicked: despite The Sandman being a postmodern work, Gaiman surprisingly incorporates a redemption narrative(s), ending on an arguably hopeful note. Why? And from what source does Gaiman draw his redemption from?
Thus, my eventual title: ‘Echoes of Hopes: Possibilities of Redemption in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman‘.
The first part is taken from a beautiful quote from Despair in The Sandman’s final volume, The Wake, who says:
For dreams are hopes, and echoes of hopes.
If you want to know the conclusion I reached, well, you’ll just have to read it. I’d like to make it publicly available, but I have to wait till my mark is out in June, so if you’re interested in reading it, please be patient (or email me for a copy)!
Special thanks to my wonderful supervisor, Professor David Herman, whose help was indispensable. I definitely couldn’t have done it without his constant advice, support and encouragement.
What now? Well, Easter holiday just started, and I’m taking the first 2 weeks off to do some leisurely reading and writing. Unfortunately, I still have 2 summative essays due after Easter and 3 exams in May before I graduate, but in the meantime, I look forward to relaxing and recuperating and hopefully writing more blog posts.
Thanks to everyone who supported me!
- Alan Moore
- Department of English Studies
- Durham University
- Echoes of Hopes: Possibilities of Redemption in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman
- English department
- English Literature
- English Studies
- graphic novels
- literary criticism
- magnum opus
- Neil Gaiman
- Professor David Herman
- redemption narrative
- The Sandman
- The Wake
- Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism
- undergraduate dissertation
- undergraduate thesis
- University of Durham