Rachel writes: Third of five thesis chapters complete!

I am happy to report that I have completed three of five thesis chapters. Last week I received the third chapter back with comments from my thesis director; this weekend I have been preparing  to start the fourth chapter.

Are any of you incorporating translated material into your work? In my case, one aspect of my research involves a mid-nineteenth-century German personality who became a celebrity in Victorian England. Very little material was available on this person, in English or German. I did some digging, however, and found a book  through a German used-book seller online, which had a whole chapter on this person. When I received the book, I was thrilled to also find in the book a photograph of him, circa 1860. I had never seen his likeness reproduced anywhere else.

Aside from the thrill of finding a photograph of my research subject, I was faced with the problem of translating “fraktur” text, or black-letter. I have never studied German but have some knowledge of other European languages. . . some of us prepare for thesis-writing by taking a course in scholarly reading in a foreign language; since Harvard Extension did not offer such a course in German (though I have taken the Extension School’s French for scholarly reading course–wonderful experience), I found one at the Goethe Institute in Boston, not far from where I work. However, black-letter proved a problem for me. Again, a little digging on the Internet saved the day: I discovered software called Abbyy FineReader. You scan & upload your documents, and it will convert from black-letter into modern German, and from a PDF to a Word document, so you can edit. It’s really remarkable. So I was able to read & translate the German once I converted from the black-letter to a modern font.

So, two chapters to go. On schedule!

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