As I believe I’ve mentioned, I’m graduating soon. All I need now is a) my final results and b) a day of wearing a cap and gown, and I will officially be done with my undergraduate degree. Like a lot of people, I had to do a dissertation to get to this point. I really liked my dissertation, so I’m going to nerd out about it here. Warning: much nerdery ahead.
My dissertation began about this time last year in a bar in Bruges. While on holiday with my friends, which you can read about here, I realised that despite my best efforts I would probably have to do a dissertation, and I had no idea what I would write about. A drunken-ish discussion ensued, and the next day I discovered notes on my phone about what I should write about. It turned out I’d been really insistent about wanting to write about Harry Potter.
I think it’s fairly obvious that I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, but trying to come up with a dissertation that included that was difficult. But I eventually made it work. I was going to look at neologisms (made up words) in the Harry Potter series and how they were translated into German. At this juncture, I’d like to point out that my main motivation to write about Harry Potter was so that it would be interesting, rather than necessarily being nerdy enough to write about Harry Potter. Simply put, I desperately didn’t want to write a 4000-7000 word essay on Hitler and the Third Reich.
So I wrote about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I also wrote about a book called Die 13½ Lebens des Käpt’n Blaubär by Walter Moers, which in English is The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear. (It’s an excellent book. You should go read it.) And somehow I muddled through and handed in a dissertation entitled ‘From Albus Dumbledore to Zamonia: A comparison of the impact of neologisms in fantasy novels and their translations between English and German, focusing on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling and Die 13½ Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär by Walter Moers’. Yeah, it’s a mouthful.
Basically, I looked at four different theories of translation and how they could be applied to the translations of made-up words in Harry Potter and Bluebear. And while it took a really long time to do, not least because the first thing I had to do was write out all the made up words in each book (in English and German) and Bluebear is 700 pages long, it was a really enjoyable experience. I mean, as far as writing an essay can be enjoyable.
Undergraduate research posters. Mine’s the one with the Harry Potter writing.
And while I was doing my dissertation, the Department of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (aka CLAS aka my uni department) had a post graduate symposium which included an undergraduate poster competition. You could submit a poster of any research you’d done and so, as procrastination, I made a poster of my dissertation. And somehow I won. So that was pretty cool. Especially as when I made my poster, I hadn’t actually written my dissertation.
I had to explain my research to a bunch a postgraduates. I basically said I’m looking at made up words.
I’m not sure if there’s a point to this blog post aside from me going ‘I got to write an essay on this thing and that was super cool, because Harry Potter and linguistics and yes’, but if there were to be another point it would be this: try and do your dissertation on something that interests you. I was terrified that I’d have to write mine on something that I didn’t really care about, that I wasn’t really interested in and that I wouldn’t do very well in. Instead, I wrote about two books that I love with regards to a part of language study that I find fascinating (aka translation with a focus on linguistics). And I got my second highest mark of my university career for it, which was so unexpected. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that Harry Potter got me a first, and if that isn’t magic, I’m not sure what is.