Saturday, November 15, 2008

Defense Scheduled and All That

My dissertation defense has been duly scheduled for December 8, the same day I give my Modern students their final.
"Brilliant, brilliant," exclaimed one of my committee members as I handed him his copy of the thing. I pointed out that I hoped he would still be saying that after actually reading it. He must be optimistic, as supposing he concludes that it is tedious and lacking in any merit whatsoever? (Unlikely, but you can never tell about these things. Just because my advisor likes it doesn't mean anyone else will.)
The tradition of the dissertation defense is, I gather, gradually disappearing. It is fine with me that I will not be defending my work tooth and nail against fierce criticism in an amphitheater full of people--we sort of go on the humane principle that a dissertation shouldn't get to the defense stage if it isn't passable, so I anticipate a fairly pleasant talk with the committee about what to do with the thing next. But people who got their PhDs at UC Berkeley and UC Davis tell me that all they had to do was turn their dissertations in. No defense, no conversation, no champagne, no nothing.
While I guess that's better than having an unruly committee member beat you to a figurative pulp over some minor point of interpretation, it sounds pretty dull to me. What, you slave over the dissertation for years and then no one even wants to talk about it, you just fill out some forms? Faugh. The UC Berkeley alum who told me this (she had to defend her MA in an amphitheater in Russia) said she thought all these famous types were just too busy (or thought they were too busy) to collect for a face-to-face meeting. My source from Davis didn't opine on why her department doesn't do defenses. (Note: neither of the above are art historians. I will not divulge their specialties to reporters and papparazzi.)
Meanwhile, life continues along in its usual dynamic and action-packed manner. My students are barraging me with email questions about their papers. I am wrestling with the final form of next semester's syllabi and presentations. There are job applications to prepare. I have a book chapter to write and provide images for. What sort of film can I find to have shown to my American Art students while I'm away in Philadelphia carousing with other Slavic scholars next week? People who have danced with me at some point or other greet me in cafes and want to know when I will return to the dance floor (preferably immediately, they imply, and in their company). And the Spotted Pair speeds across the living room floor as I type, stopping only for a spot of mutual grooming in mid-carpet.
Well, at least I have succeeded in condensing a five-page book outline into a two-page synopsis this evening. This might allow me to feel productive until tomorrow morning or so, when I'll fret because the post office isn't open and I'll have to be content with doing the laundry.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck!!


November 16, 2008 2:33 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

Wow, things are speeding along!

I couldn't think of a full length film, but did you see this page from the Williams College School of Art? It talks about American art and early film makers and might help a bit.

November 16, 2008 3:30 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

The class is only 75 minutes, so a full-length film won't be the best bet. I'm trying to find something on 20th-century American architecture and our catalog doesn't make it easy to search for films. There seems to be something on Wright's churches... guess I could preview that.

The Williams College project sounds exciting! I want the catalog-with-DVD.

November 16, 2008 4:41 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Bravo! I've noted the date on my calendar.

November 16, 2008 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What year did you start your Ph. D. studies? -I was recently looking at going back but wondered how long I can reasonably expect to spend on the thing....(though I know it varies radically).

November 21, 2008 7:43 PM  
Blogger peacay said...

I see an opportunity for modernisation here. Reality tv meets dissertation. An arena. Broadswords, armour and art. Appropriate for a surrealist topic too.

November 30, 2008 8:39 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

I think we cannot speculate effectively on how long it would take Rabbit Girl to do a PhD without knowing the field (literature, perchance? rabbit rescue?). I began the PhD part in fall 2002 and on the whole things have moved along with reasonable speed, but of course a dissertation that didn't involve reading lots of Czech might get finished more quickly. Some of my colleagues have finished a year or two sooner.

As for dissertation defense as reality TV in an arena with broadswords, I am glad that armour is mentioned since we have seen an awful lot of pictures of nude broadsword (and rapier) combat lately. I don't mind taking off my clothes when the occasion seems right, but events involving sharp swords do not at all meet my exacting specifications for public nudity (my own, that is--if other people want to fight that way that's their problem).

December 01, 2008 12:33 AM  

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