People keep telling me "You're almost done," but since I have no shortage of papers to grade, 70 exams about to follow, job applications to send out, three classes to prepare for next semester, and miscellaneous other things to deal with, my usual reaction to that is "Huh? What's almost done?" It only gradually dawns on me that they must be referring to the PhD process.
I met with my advisor on Friday to see if she had any particular suggestions for the big event. To a large extent her mind was on her new subzero-rated down coat (good) and on recent university budget cuts (bad), but we had a pleasant chat about the defense and my future in general. She did not anticipate anyone saying anything too annoying, or perhaps even anything at all annoying, at the defense, and she suggested I get busy writing my book proposal and picking out my top choices among the various university presses. Well--she did not say I had to do that before 2009, merely "in the next couple of months." I interpret that as meaning "before College Art Association." I guess there is some chance that would be possible. At this point in my life a book proposal is no longer the terrifying project it once was; it's just something you sit down and do when you have time. (Time? what's that?)
So... tomorrow at 12:30 we'll all gather and talk about this large thing I've produced. One of my committee members called me last night, in the midst of reading, to suggest I hasten to read a new article on Karel Teige in the Slavic Review. I'm not so sure what the rush is. I looked up the article. I've gone out for drinks with its author and think his dissertation was excellent. Do I really need to read the article right away? Why not next week or next month? But at least my committee member admitted to enjoying my dissertation and mentioned a press I should consider approaching. I hear that another committee member also finds the dissertation enjoyable, so we'll assume that the remaining member feels the same way.
I'm glad that I'm at a university that still does dissertation defenses, that I'm in a department that doesn't schedule them until the dissertation is passable, and that all in all it's something to look forward to instead of to dread. (Of course, some people hope it could be arranged to involve armed combat, see comments here. There's no accounting for individual perversity.)
I think I will now return to grading the American Art papers, which thus far have been gratifyingly good.