Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shapeshifting Dissertation

Clearly I should have been expecting it. Things have been too calm lately with planning to lead class next week in the class I'm TAing, tutoring (which right now is a whole lotta nothin' making time go by real slow like), and containing the chaos of job-search confusion. Not even settled into a reliable schedule, I should have realized it had been more than five minutes and thus was time for another dissertation meltdown. This one started with an email from my advisor about the chapter I'd turned in. Sigh.

A dissertating friend of mine put it so well: "I just want someone to say it's okay. I know it's crap. They know it's crap. But let's all agree that it's okay for now."

My advisor didn't say anything too awful -- small stuff that amounts to merely completely rewriting the chapter. In my advisor's mind, the ideas are there enough to be plastic, ready to play with, scrunched into a ball and rolled out a bunch of different ways. But to me, they are a squirmy jiggling pile of goo; in that chapter I carefully spread out the goo, reshaped it, tacked it down. It's still squirmy, not very happy about its new shape, but it's there, parts all splayed out and pinned. But comments about major revisions are a giant magnet held out over my squirmy creature. Up come the metal tacks that were holding the ideas down, and the creature contracts, released from the sensible but overwhelming shape, and turns back into a pile of goo. Then it grows legs and scurries away.

Progress is a myth. The diss has brought me back around to postmodernism.

5 comments:

Hilaire said...

Ooh, I'm sorry...ouch. Take a few days to let that settle and for the edge to wear off, I'd say. And rememberthat it is not a reflection of *you*.

Great metaphors, by the way.

Krista said...

It's okay! It's okay for now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

medieval woman said...

hee, hee, hee - "dissertation goo" is great!

Have you tried creative visualization of your diss? When I was writing, one of my friend's girlfriend's was into psychology and did this whole Jungian thing where we named and described our dissertations as people; what color they were; what they were feeling.

Mine was a plump little girl named Bo and she was the color of a tequila sunrise (not a coincidence). She frequently had tantrums but could be sedated with chocolate or booze. I would describe her in one word as "toothsome". Another friend named hers simply "the egg"...

This comment is now completely unrelated to your post, but for some reason it put me in mind of that exercise! :)

Earnest English said...

Thanks so much for your support. I *think* I might have hunted down the beast and found a better cage for him. (Surely, sticking the poor guy with tacks just isn't good enough.) But thinking about MedWo's comment (still trying that out MW), I don't know. I think this dissertation may be The Blob. Everything I read seems to stick to him, but underneath his sprawling mass, there may just be some natural shape, some natural edges waiting to be revealed. (Does he have a thin girl in there? Maybe I just have to exercise enough and his thin girl and my thin girl can go shopping -- preferably for a cap, gown, and hood?) My dissertation definitely feels bloated right now -- but never sated. Poor thing. He does get a bad rap. But people keep wanting to make him over so much he doesn't know WHAT his real look is. Sad. Poor guy. (I like this. Now I feel sorry for him, instead of like I want to kill -- someone.)

Thank goodness and y'all for this great pack of blogofriends!

medieval woman said...

I think it's interesting that, even though you're not sure about what the diss looks like, you've already gendered it male! It's amazing how, if you think about it, you do have a sense of the project as an entity, huh? What color does Blob feel like? Or is he perhaps like a chameleon? Or a mood ring? Mood Blob?

P.S. I sign my posts over at Morgan's place as "Med Wom" (b/c she's got an LJ account and I'm too lazy to sign in to that account from Blogger). Med Wom, when said out loud, sounds a little like "Redrum" from the Shining....