No One Woke Me Up When September Ended: An August/September/October Research Recap

Hey, Upper East Siders, Gossip Girl here. And I have the biggest news ever. One of my many sources sends us this:


“Spotted: Jackie Keshner, hurriedly recapping two months of research and major life decisions amidst midterm season.”


While Williamsburg is sadly bereft of a local Gossip Girl, everything else is true. Life has indeed been busy, but research progress has been promising! I presented my research for the first time at the Summer Research Showcase on September 28th. My lovely advisor and many friends came through to show their support, and I got to hear about some of my friends’ ambitious and exciting summer projects.

My poster would not have been possible without its creative director and one of my dearest friends, Dani Wallace. Her Swemroma coffees are on me for the foreseeable future.

My poster would not have been possible without its creative director and one of my dearest friends, Dani Wallace. Her Swemroma coffees are on me for the foreseeable future.


The other major news is that I have completed a full, advisor-approved draft of one of my chapters! I’ve finished an 11-page draft of my opening section, where I examine the character of Dol Common in Ben Jonson’s 1610 play, The Alchemist. I’m proud and excited to have laid my analytical foundation for my Wroth and Cavendish chapters. At the same time, I’m surprised by the way my writing process played out while I was writing the section.


When I write, I crave structure. I can’t start most essays without a thesis and at least a topic outline that lays out the major analytical points I’m building in each paragraph. This draft was no different; I started out with a topic outline and decided to close-read chronologically through Dol’s scenes in the play to trace the way her value changes throughout the play. I had my game plan!


Yet part of the way through, I realized that my readings of Dol could tie even more closely with my readings of Cavendish and Wroth’s female characters. The latter authors’ female protagonists are queens and empresses, asserting their sociopolitical and economic value through those titles alone. In the Alchemist, Dol is a prostitute–a ‘quean,’ in seventeenth-century terms –who dresses up as a queen several times to scam male customers out of their money. I started thinking about this queen/quean pun alone in relation to the politically established queen in my women writers’ works. Upon my close readings, however, I realized that Dol’s “queen” two most significant instances of “queen” roleplay cast her into the role of a “fairy queen” or a ruler of a “golden age”–terminology that links her to Queen Elizabeth I. The Alchemist was written in the beginning years of James I’s reign, immediately following Elizabeth’s reign, and in the midst of several decidedly misogynistic policies that came from James’ court. While considering these different aspects of my research, I started changing the focus of my section. I wondered how Dol could be read as a reaction to Elizabeth from a Jacobean lens, and/or as a reaction to or against James I’s harsh rhetoric against his predecessor. This direction pulled me away from my initial outline, but towards a more powerful historical referent for the rest of my thesis’ analysis.



Before I sign off for October, I want to remind everyone to take care of themselves physically and mentally, regardless of where you are in your research and/or in your academic or professional career. Part of my absence from this blog was spent making the difficult decision to take a gap year before applying to grad school, and to spend this school year focusing on taking care of myself and making the most of my time and connections on campus before I graduate. That healing process has become a priority for me, and I’m glad for it.


I hope you are all proud of your work, but please remember that it doesn’t define you. You’re all wonderful, diligent people; your work is only an extension of that.



Gossip Girl