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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mutually Contradictory Ideas

Profacero, in a comment on the last post, writes: "the ideas that your dissertation isn't important except insofar that it is done, and yet at the same time, it has to be your first book, are mutually contradictory." This is a point so crucial that it needs to be repeated. The dissertation is your entry into scholarship. While it is done in order to get the degree, it is not like a PhD exam (i.e., a meaningless hurdle that has no relation to your scholarly future). It represents what you will want to be known for and the source of publications during the first years in the profession. Graduate school should train you to write a good dissertation, and this dissertation should be very, very close to a finished book. The idea that a 28 or 36-year old graduate student is too young to be completing a valid scholarly project is very condescending, and part of the endless infantilization of grad students that doesn't do anyone any good.


Clarissa said...

Hear, hear! And so is the "you are not ready to publish before you get your PhD" speech one gets way too often in grad school.

profacero said...

Sometime I will post on the importance of commitment. You have to commit every time you start anything, no matter how mundane - like, getting to the store, you have to decide you'll really make it there.

But, on the dissertation, many are also being advised that this is their last academic act, since there won't be work. So they start to withdraw, the way people who are dying start to withdraw from life, and that makes it hard to commit strongly enough to actually do it.