Monday, September 19, 2005

After the defense

Well, I made it. I flew back to Boston from CA last week and had my dissertation defense on Tuesday. I think I'm still in shock.

I had gotten far too stressed out about the defense in the couple of weeks leading up to it. I was convinced that I was going to get a lot of questions about what didn't go in to the dissertation and that the defense would turn into something more like orals (qualifying exams). Everyone around me--including my husband and a friend who have their Ph.D.s--were telling me that I was too stressed out. Even my advisor was telling me not to worry in the days before the defense. I was expecting some weirdness with my committee--the prof. who vanished for the two months before the defense and the prof. I had never met before--so I think that made me nervous. I had an upset tummy and what for the life of me felt like heart palpitations the morning before the defense. Icky and so not worth it.

I can't say that a defense is nothing to worry about, but in my case it certainly wasn't anything that I should have been stressing so much about. I had tried to foster an attitude about the defense, one that diffused the fears that a word like "defense" is meant to evoke. I had been trying to think of it more as a collaborative two hours, where the five committee members would be trying to help me improve the dissertation. And that is exactly what happened.

I’m still sort of stunned by the supportive feeling I got during the defense. The questions began with the phrase "When you turn this into a book, you might want to…" I was told that I wrote a very "sensible" dissertation. I was glad to hear that, especially since one of the aims of my research were to correct some heavy-handed casuistry created by other scholars about my topic.

So I'm still in the Sally Field 1984 Oscars "You Really Like Me" stage. I had an especially virulent case of "Impostor Syndrome" before the defense and I'm just now feeling the end of the aftereffects.

Over the course of my Ph.D., I ended a marriage and started a new one. I moved from one side of the country to the other. I dealt with a mother with mental health issues. I handled money troubles. And I even recovered from an accidental deletion of 100 pages of my dissertation. If I can make it to this point, anyone can.


Blogger Porkorama said...

Well, I for one am bursting with pride and vicarious pleasure at your success!!! I can't wait to join you on the greener side.

When I did my chapter defense (which actually they now call chapter workshop), my committee head said "when this is published as a book, because there is no question this is going to be a book..." too, and I could tell she was genuinely excited. It almost made me consider it! But I am so anxious for this to be over, I kind of feel I'll never want to look at the thing again after I finish. What about you? Do you want an academic career? Do you want to turn your diss into a book?

7:08 PM  
Blogger Francesca said...

That is a great feeling--when you see that others realize your research is making a real contribution to the field.

Yes, I do want to turn the diss. into a book, pretty much as soon as possible. I don't know the first thing about talking to publishers, but I guess I'll figure it out. Another possibility is to publish one chapter as an article, the chapter that has the most new stuff in it.

And yes, I'm applying for academic jobs this year, as well as at least one museum job (I already had an unofficial interview for that). The number of academic jobs this year is pretty bleak and I'm very picky about where I want to live. So I'm kind of pessimistic about getting a good job this year. We'll see.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Porkorama said...

Museum job, museum job!! No...don't listen to me, I'm just very weary of academia. I need a break. I'm glad you feel inspired to publish your dissertation! I hear it is very helpful as far as getting a job. The job market is awful lately. PhDs are a dime a dozen now it seems. I have so many overqualified friends that are struggling. But then again I know a few others who got great jobs. Good luck with that and keep us posted!

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