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Friday, April 25, 2014

Formative (6): dissertation

When it was time to write my dissertation I turned back to my undergraduate professor, Claudio Rodríguez. CR was a poetic genius and the tendency of the Spanish critics was to condescend to him, especially his earlier work, so I attempted to prove that he knew what he was doing, that his poetry had a poetics behind it, a theory of language.

His work was not extensive, so I essentially interpreted the hell of it. The dissertation forms the scholar. I had had good ideas before, but this made me an expert on something. I published articles and a book from the dissertation with very little effort. It was not just a good enough dissertation: it was exactly what I wanted to write and I still think that it kicks ass.

The main formative phase of my life, then, occurred between the ages of 8-28. The part I liked most was college. Before then it felt like I was just waiting to go to college. Graduate school was formative but not enjoyable.

The formative person in my academic life was my father. In another post I'll have to talk about his role in making me into an academic.

9 comments:

Vance Maverick said...

I'm enjoying this series. There's something about it, though, that doesn't invite or anticipate a response. I think I could even explain why, but again you don't seem to be asking....

Jonathan said...

No, partly because I am simply saying what my experience is and was. I'm the biggest expert on that, after all. I don't expect a lot of comments, but then I don't always get a huge amount anyway, and can never predict what posts will get comments.

Vance Maverick said...

Well, let's say, it would never have occurred to me to consider Firbank and religion in the same light before.

profacero said...

Gosh, if dissertation forms scholar then that is my problem. Writing mine worried me because it felt as though I were writing one of the research reports I wrote in 6th grade. These were very advanced for 6th grade but not dissertations.

Why it was like that: I was in Brazil without the right libraries, for one; but mainly, because everyone said it did not matter what the dissertation was or said, only that it was written, and that I would not get an academic job anyway, so the only point of the dissertation was to get it past committee and get the degree ... not to write on a topic of one's serious interest, or to form oneself as scholar (I had already written so many really good papers, though, that I did not need the dissertation to learn how to do research or write).

I don't know, though, that the dissertation forms the scholar, although it may do the academic career, to some extent.

Jonathan said...

I think your experience confirms my point. The idea that it doesn't matter what you dissertation says is really a bad idea.

Vance Maverick said...

That bad idea was afloat when I was a grad student in computer science. "Nobody remembers what X wrote in her dissertation," people would say of a distinguished professor. But I'm pretty sure that at the time she wrote that dissertation, she was deeply engaged in those questions -- the remarks ought to have been rephrased as "There's somebody who kept on growing for a long time after the PhD."

profacero said...

Well, I certainly did not want to publish it or even publish very much of it, because it was not something I was willing to go public with, or sign my name to except for bureaucratic purposes within a university ... it was *far* too thin and I am not being a perfectionist saying this.

Sheraz Khan Baloch said...
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profacero said...

***I think the just get it done, nobody will read it cant about dissertations is more of the self serving academic non advice I have my blog to rail against.

Why they say this: because they need to drive their stats up. The more dissertations that person directs, the faster, the more degrees the department produces, the better.

This is also why they are now promoting those non dissertation PhDs, I suspect.***