Lately… (Summer Research and Classes)

So I’ve been granted free research housing at the College for the summer (an easy process that requires turning in a 1 page form). I, however, seem to be the only person here for the summer that is attempting to do both research and classes (who knew?)! I’m finishing up my final science GER (by taking Geology [Dynamic Earth] with the appropriate lab), and, for my South Asian Studies major, I’m taking South/South East Asian Dance and Folklore (or SEDAF for short). In addition I am reading and scanning as much as I can for my thesis, preparing for my trip to India next month, and studying for my GRE, which I will be taking right before I head back to school. Needless to say, I’m busy. I love being back though. I never feel quite as comfortable, or as in control of my life as I do at William and Mary. I make my own schedule, I control my diet, and I can be (or at least feel) independent. It’s also beautiful here in the summer. We’ve had some hot days, but the rain keeps it mostly cool. I’m trying my best to get used to the heat, especially since the temperature won’t go below 100 (even at night) while I’m in India. I’ve gotten all of the shots I need, and we’ve gone shopping for water purifyers, etc. So I’m pretty much set on that front. I do need to review my Hindi, and they say that they want us to do the reading before we leave, but with everything else on my plate that just isn’t going to happen. Summer classes have been good so far! Geology is slow and easy to follow (so slow that I am almost banging my head against the table, but at least I understand what’s going on). SEDAF is extremely intsense! I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but a strange mixture of language, dance, yoga, pilates, meditation, weight training, and culture was not it. It is extremely informative, and (I believe) good for my soul and body.


The thesis research itself has been interesting, though not super helpful. I’ve read several biographies of Sher-Gil, and I’m reading through her personal writings, but no one has really said what I’m looking to say (so I don’t really have precedent to help me out in this journey). There’s not even a real definition of Modernism/Indian Modernism on which I can rest my hat (in fact, the plan right now is to spend the first 10-15 pages of my thesis laying out a satisfactory definition before I even get started talking about my specific topic). This is all a little disheartening for me, but my advisor (Professor Palermo) tells me its a good thing–at least there is plenty of room in my field for growth. Still, it is a bit like fumbling in the dark. I’m gathering as much information as I can on Sher-Gil, and I should be able to read every source out there on her, though I’m running into the same problem over and over–everyone romanticizes her. Most biographies of her spend half of their time listing recount after recount of friends and family and ex-es that do nothing but talk about her beauty. Those passages that are about her work rarely go beyond barebone description. When there is an art historical analysis, scholars are split right down the middle between framing her as a sentimentalist (in terms of her subject matter) or claiming that her only concentration was form and color (and that the subject matter was there only as an excuse to paint, having no bearing on the meaning of the work). Most scholars, when talking about her influences, break up her life into sections, and only the figures and works that interested her most at that specific time could have any bearing on her work. So, therefore, as soon as she left France, any figure of Western Modernism left her mind completely. Since this is exactly what I’m trying to argue against in my thesis, these sources are a little frustrating to read. Nonetheless I’m slogging through them like a good undergraduate. Hopefully some of the most recent scholarship on the topic will be less disappointing.


Till next time!