Ooh, the ides of March.
There's something oddly comforting about sitting in Kerckhoff during tenth week, surrounded by overcaffeinated students who are probably just as screwed as you are. The free coffee is nice too, and evidently as dangerous to me as open bar. Nooo willpower whatsoever.
I keep staring at the title page of my thesis. As I explained to my advisor this afternoon, the sight of it helps motivate me, even if it's something of a lie at the moment. It looks so scholarly and...official. She understood.
She also said my intro was terrific, which was gratifying since I've been hacking at it for some days now. Her only suggestion was to cut the "signpost paragraphs" at the end since my abstract covers most of that information already. Oops. I'd actually filched that format from a couple of dissertations I'd skimmed. According to her, it's the sort of "dissertationese" that needs to be cut for publication. Whoa. Publication?
Actually, the past few months have more or less convinced me that I wouldn't be happy writing speculative theories about dead people for the rest of my careernot even the late, great Miss Austen. The year I've now spent with my old chums JSTOR, MLA Bibliography, et al has been illuminating in more ways than one. At least half the articles out there are indisputable proof of the crap generated by the "publish or perish" machine. I've run across some witty and insightful commentary as well, of course, some by a Princeton professor whose name pops up again and again in this field. When I asked my advisor once whether she'd ever met her, she said, "Claudia? She's a good friend." Ha. After seeing some of these names recur so often as the "faces" of modern scholarship, it's hard to imagine them as real people. With, you know, faces.
At times I think it would be pretty cool to join that ivory tower, but at others... As another prof remarked recently, academic publishing is way too insulated nowadays. He remembers a time when he could read reviews of his latest work in the New York Times Book Review. But these days? No way. So the divide between the layman and the ivory tower only widens, and it becomes even more impossible to explain to your parents why an English degree isn't useless, why discussing literature still matters.
Hell, I've been trying to explain it to myself lately.
A reporter for a local paper once ambushed me to talk about some youth leadership event I was part of. I was a bit wary of him, and when he grew visibly frustrated at this, I explained that past journalistic experience had sort of turned me off reporters. He replied, "Well, now you're making news instead of reporting it." Years later, working in game development and reading wildly inaccurate articles and reviewsoftenreminded me of that incident. I realize that, in an industry that's tight-lipped about projects by necessity, it's not always the reporter's fault. But whenever people suggest I go into game journalism, I laugh. After working on the production side and seeing how utterly clueless these "journalists" tend to be, I'd rather make games than write about them.
Similar deal here. I may never make it as a published author, but do I really want to dedicate my life to writing about other authors? Granted, I could look into EALC or linguistics programs, too. Maybe even international affairs. We'll see. At any rate, I'm obviously not ready to apply anywhere yet.
Nonetheless, moments like this are seductive in a student coffee house, with a physical manifestation of your research in hand and fellow sufferers all around you absorbed in their books and laptops and chitchat. They remind me how I used to grin like an idiot my first year whenever I crossed Royce quad and heard Powell's bells chiming the hour. They remind me of the similar sort of awe I felt when I finally saw Oxford and Cambridge for myself last summer. And they even remind me why I wanted to spend a year of many sleepless nights researching a long dead lady I've adored since high school.
Props to anyone who's actually read this far. And a related link that may be of particular interest to aprendiz, both for the general topic and because the author apparently belonged to the Department of Spanish and Portugese:
Straight Talk about Graduate School, by recovering academic Dorothea Salo (found via a post in applyingtograd about reasons people quit grad school).