pre-thesis week 3

I started this week with my one-on-one with Elizabeth — I thought coming into it, I’d still be torn between my topics, but I must’ve subconsciously realized which one I was most drawn to, since I didn’t even bring up the other two. I went for the New York accent idea, and over the course of the week started mapping out the research buckets I want to go over before committing to a precise area and figuring out my end project. The Mapping Your Topic exercise was particularly helpful here, allowing me to see some connections between them:

From this mindmap, I developed these questions in the wheel and spoke exercise —

Essentially, I’m interested in how/why/when the New York accent formed; how it’s been perceived (and how perceptions of native New Yorkers/transplants/outsiders about it differ, if at all); and how it relates to the City and its identity in general. 

After fleshing out these interests, I made a reading list to start my research, and checked out some of the books I could from Bobst. Split into my areas, the list is:

  • New York City immigration history
    • City of Dreams by Tyler Anbinder — started reading
    • Mirror For Gotham: New York as Seen by Contemporaries by Bayrd Still — checked out
    • Jewish New York by Deborah Moore et al — a potential narrowing; have not checked it out yet, but wanted to keep it as a reference
    • I’d also like to visit the Ellis Island museum at some point for this.
  • Sociolinguistics
    • The Guidebook to Sociolinguistics by Allan Bell — not available as a physical copy, so I’ll read it online
    • New York City English by Michael Newman — started reading
    • The Social Stratification of English in New York City by William Labov — checked out
    • If These Knishes Could Talk (2013) — a documentary, which I’m planning to watch this coming week
    • You Talkin’ To Me?: The Unruly History of New York English by E.J. White — checked out
  • New York City in media
    • Imaginary Apparatus: New York City and its Mediated Representation by McLain Clutter — not available for outside circulation, so I’ll have to go to the IFA library to read the table of contents and then request chapter scans (what a weird problem to have at this day and age)
    • New York City as Film Set: From Mean Streets to Clean Streets — a short New York Times article, finished reading
    • Branding New York: How a City in Crisis Was Sold to the World by Miriam Greenberg — ​​not available as a physical copy, so I’ll read it online
    • New York, New York!: Urban Spaces, Dreamscapes, Contested Territories by Sabine Sielke —  checked out

In terms of the end product, I’m still not sure about what I’ll make, but I would still like it to be graphic in nature. I’m thinking an interesting route would be to create something that visually embodies this dialect in a way that’s authentic instead of stereotypical. In talking with Elizabeth, the idea of using typography came up — how could I make type look like New York? How could it capture the New York City English sound? 

The Inspiration to Questions assignment got me thinking about this end result.

Some of the “whys” of my inspirations that I think could fall into whatever I end up creating are:

  • Storytelling/mix of broad themes + personal/intimate stories/Telling personal/local/universal stories/Smaller stories crating a larger whole
    • This all boils down to compelling stories, really, and I’d love for it to be a component of my project. I’m seeing this in City of Dreams already, with the prologue focusing on the story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island, before delving into a larger narrative.
  • Strong aesthetic/Capturing a location/Formalizing something informal
    • These could refer to the visual nature of my project; I’d like it to manifest NYC English in some way. 
  • Cataloguing a practice/Keeping something alive
    • These fit neatly into the idea — if this accent is dwindling or changing, I’d like to capture it as it was and is.