Project Update: Finalizing the Theory

My anticipated work will combine a thorough analysis of historiography, assembled this semester in preparation for the more dedicated nature of the formal project. I will combine this segment with direct historical analysis supplemented by the statistical excavation of empirical trends in my period of study, oriented toward the theoretical formulation of the relationship between state and society in achieving practical legitimacy. The ambition of the project gives me great cause consider the value of this early summer start.


My work this summer is entering its final stage; I have completed the revised write-up of my theory of institutions and political agents and supplemented it with illustrative examples and disambiguating glossary entries. These documents represent the culmination of many weeks’ reading into the thicket of related theoretical material and the development of my own nucleus of ideas into a fuller conceptual spectrum built on revision and adaptation. Though each element has been exciting to undertake and satisfying to complete, the core theoretical piece has certainly been the most important and fulfilling component of my work. At this juncture, the only remaining item from among the objectives that my adviser and I devised for this summer period is the comparative orientation of the original theory I have produced within the existing scholarship. I look forward to adding this final dimension to the theoretical stage of my thesis.

My thesis will be a composite product; fundamentally, it is a work that proposes a political and social theory whose salient claims are applied with the sensibilities of a historian to a demonstrative instance. This summer has been reserved for establishing the theory, leaving essential time in the upcoming year for the historical project of assessing the theory through the lens of the reign of Francis I. The opportunity to focus entirely on the theory has enabled me to adopt a more conceptually contained working style whose clear objectives enable depth without sacrificing the intended scope of the project and which have produced a workable theory ready for implementation within a distinctly subsequent phase demanding a refocused mindset as much as an appreciation of the running threads of the thesis.

I find the greatest challenge of work of this nature, reading and constructing theory, to be the marshalling of sometimes disparate inspirations into a cohesive (and coherent) work. A firm concept of the project is indispensable to this effort, and I continue to find great value in the clarity provided by the weekly meetings I began holding with Dr. Modell before the beginning of the summer.

Working during this time on a topic of my choosing has been a liberating process of welcome rigor and novelty, and the development of new understanding has been complemented by the mentorship of a knowledgeable and experienced adviser nonetheless party to the project as a learning enterprise. In this respect, I felt considerably greater ownership over the thesis as an object of scholarly innovation rather than a demonstration or reinforcement of current learning. I near the conclusion of this first experience with independent research enriched by my work and excited by plans and possibilities for the next year.