Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dissertation: Maybe a light at the end of the tunnel?

In my meeting with my advisor on Monday, she agreed that it makes perfect sense to cut my second chapter. Of course, I know that the material I'd planned to cover will still need to be very briefly mentioned in my introduction, but she agreed that the chapter wasn't crucial to my argument. This means very good things for my timeline. My project will have an intro, four body chapters, and a conclusion. Three of the four body chapters have been drafted, and one of them is currently under revision. The remaining body chapter is what I call my Easy Chapter because it's primarily a survey of the types of literature and texts (which also deal with the specific discourse I'm focusing on) to which the writers I study would have had access to and/or, in some cases, responded. I will provide some synthesis of this material to help readers get a feel for the major discussions, contributors, avenues and methods of production and circulation, etc., but my task is not to bring new light to them, as I do for the texts considered in my other three chapters).

Despite discovering that revision of a chapter is soooooo much harder than drafting a chapter, I'll be finished with revisions of my third chapter next Friday. This leaves me with two weeks off to prepare for my conference presentation and trip to England. When I get back, I'll have about five weeks to draft the survey-ish first chapter. According to this timeline, the beginning of August will find me with a mostly-complete manuscript draft (with the exception of the introduction and conclusion). I'll then have to turn to the following, but I'm not sure what order they should come in:
  1. Preparing a writing sample for the job market
  2. Drafting either the introduction or conclusion
  3. Revising the first two body chapters my advisor has already reviewed

So which should come first? Do I head into them simultaneously?

In addition to these things, my advisor has decided to create a Supplemental Reading List for me to complete between now and December. Because my dissertation has taken me, quite unexpectedly, into the realm of Restoration and 18th-century drama by women, it's logical to assume that I might/should be expected/prepared to teach a course in early modern English theater. It's also to be expected that, upon reading about the women I study in my dissertation, a job search committee member might then say something like, "Well what about men's dramatic writing? What about Wycherly, Congreve, Farquhar, and Etherege?" These are questions to which I'll need to have very good answers, and the Supplemental Reading List (SRL) is designed to help with this.

On one hand, I'm thinking: Hey AcadeMama, you're doing okay. You've only been writing a year, and you've got more than 100 pages finished and 3 out of 4 chapters drafted! You can totally write a dissertation.

On the other hand, I'm thinking: AcadeMama, do you even know what a dissertation looks like? How the hell do you think you're going to pull this off? What if you don't pull this off? Then what? What if your advisor doesn't think your work is smart, sophisticated, or sufficient to earn you a tenure track position? What if other members want so many revisions that your Grand Plan to finish in May 09 is laughed at by everyone on your committee?

The thing is, I could totally keep going with stuff that's "On the other hand"... Though I'd had a sneaking suspicion of this all along, it was recently confirmed that my advisor is not the Praising-Nurturing kind of mentor, who gives you critical feedback but still somehow manages to make you feel like you're doing a really great job (if this makes sense). She's more like the Yes-You're Doing What You're Supposed to be Doing- kind of advisor. 95% of the time, I'm okay with that, now that I know that this is just her personality, rather than a reflection of my work, capabilities, or intelligence. But sometimes, like 5% of the time, I really wish I had that other kind of advisor. Sometimes, I just want a Scooby Snack and to be told that I've done better than "what I'm supposed to do." You know what I mean?


M said...

I do get what you mean, and as I know who is on your committee, I would say that you have other people on your committee who do that sort of thing. And I certain that particular person would be happy to reassure you about any and all of these things.

Unknown said...

I know exactly what you mean- But I wish we could swap brains for a while, because I think writing the chapter first is SO much harder than revising.