Monday, January 21, 2008

Still Life with Dissertation

Life in Pittsburgh continues to be nearly All Dissertation, All the Time. (This is, of course, not counting emptying the litterboxes and replacing phone cords that Orion bites into as many pieces as possible in an effort to thwart potential employers from reaching me.)
While I like working on my dissertation, even nearly all the time, I do not feel the same way about having to turn it in by the end of February if I am to graduate in the spring. I really detest this deadline.
Granted, the world will not end if I don't graduate this spring--I still have a year of funding left, and furthermore my department has instituted two Visiting Professor positions that give preference to its own ABD students and graduates. But I would not like to have to turn down an offer from somewhere else on the grounds that I hadn't finished when I expected to.
Finishing in the spring is entirely possible, it is merely a stressful prospect for a person who revises slowly and has a lot of text and images to deal with.
Grad students who do not deal with images really don't know how fortunate they are, time-wise. I have been scanning and photographing images for my dissertation for about five years now, so you would think I could hardly have any problem here, but there are always images one realizes one ought to get, or that somehow one hasn't gotten details about, or some stupid thing. The average art history dissertation uses several hundred images, and mine is no exception.
Once one has most of the images, there's the question of how to put them in order and caption them. Word-processing programs are not really all that great at handling high-res images and their captions. Neither Word nor Nota Bene really pleased me on this. Nota Bene at least admits that this is not its forte; Word likes to pretend it can do anything, but I've always had a lot of trouble getting images to stay where I want them in Word. For awhile, I was sticking each image in a separate Word file, but then it occurred to me that while I don't especially like using Powerpoint for presentations (it is not very art-history friendly, being designed for business), it might work just fine for this purpose since (due to copyright issues) the only persons allowed to see the images are members of my committee. (Yes, this is absurd, but that's how we're getting around the electronic-publishing aspect of dissertations and copyright. I will be happy to show my friends and family the images privately.)
Powerpoint does have its own peculiarities. It doesn't allow portrait and landscape orientations in the same file, for example. This is incredibly stupid, and means that I have to put the landscape-oriented pages in separate files. The committee will only see the printout, though, which will be properly collated. Powerpoint also has very few layout templates. In the 2007 version, it no longer has the four-image layout, so you have to make your own for pretty much everything with a caption at the bottom of the page. I created a couple of templates, but they aren't completely satisfactory.
Meanwhile, of course, the text still has to be cut and polished. I grew weary of cutting for cutting's sake and turned to polishing up Chapter 4, which is now in the hands of My Sibling for editorial comments. With luck I will finish off 5 and 6 this week (at the same time as revising a journal article, so let's not get too optimistic here). Ideally 5 and 6 would collapse into the one chapter they once were, but this isn't looking very likely. I think my advisor will have to start suggesting cuts if she wants me to get rid of entire sections rather than paragraphs here and there.
I wouldn't say there are hordes of amusing quotations in Chapter 5, but I will offer up the following:
"When the modern woman... strives fanatically toward equality with the man and uses the means of fashion to demonstrate her masculinization by suppressing the female and imitating the male secondary sexual characteristics, the sexual instinct is bound to be irritated and enter the dangerous field of perversion." (Curt Moreck)

"In our capitalistic circumstances we only hear that the stork brings children, but that's not true." (Marie N., in Tvorba)

"In Prague there are, as already stated, a great many inverts." (Moravská orlice as quoted in Nový hlas)

"The sexual question takes up almost the largest part of our magazine, because sexuality was, is, and will be the most newsworthy life problem and the whole world revolves around it." (Moderní hygiena)

And there you have it.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Kristen said...

Several hundred images??!! Not likely for my dissertation, I must say! Maybe you need to work on cutting those down too, you overachiever? On a serious note, we believe in you--you can meet the deadline. On another serious note--perhaps you need to put all your phone cords in PVC pipe?

January 22, 2008 12:13 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

Well, every dissertation has different needs. Be glad that you don't need lots of images. (But I am curious why you don't, given the topic.) Cindy's was pretty much devoid of images, saving her considerable hassle. All in all, I just go on the assumption that if something is mentioned, the reader will probably want to see it. After all, it's probably the last time I'll ever get to put in almost all the images I or the reader could possibly want. After this it's Permissions Fees time.

January 22, 2008 3:27 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

Great idea about powerpoint. That is how Will presents images for history lectures too. I was going to recommend InDesign, but I think PowerPoint will be easier in the long run, and if you need template help, just let me know.

Drzet palce and all the best on this.

January 22, 2008 11:51 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Perhaps my artists simply weren't as productive as yours? I expect a 100 or so images, but not "several hundred"!

January 22, 2008 11:23 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

I do use Powerpoint for lectures, I just don't like its conviction that one wants bullet points and not nice little captions.

As for the quantity of illustrations, well, I can't imagine I will use more than 100 of even the prolific Toyen's works, but then there are all those comparative and collateral items by other artists along with cartoons, ads for sex education books, etc.

January 23, 2008 1:54 PM  

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