Dissertationaly Useless

Clumsy analogy drawn from my adolescence:

My dad and I went backpacking quite a bit when I was in my late teens. We were sort of minor mountain-baggers: we'd hike out to some remote spot in the Cascades and climb as many mountains as we could in a few days. The biggest one we climbed was Mt. Jefferson, a respectable 10,000+ feet.

What I remember about climbing that bastard (the mountain) was that I'd look up at a spot that didn't look that far away and say "Okay. We are going to climb up to there and then rest a bit." Five rest-stops later, we'd finally get to the spot. And, the whole time, the summit never seemed to get any closer.

My experience with dissertating thus far is similar in that the end never seems any closer and the baby steps always end up being shorter than I'd hoped. I try to squeeze out a few paragraphs of writing, read an article, and make it through a few pages of the interminable phenomenological treatise (the IPT) every day, while keeping up w/ TA duties. A lot of the time, one or more of those tasks just doesn't happen.

Annoyingly, the one thing I think I'm good at (writing academic prose) hasn't been coming together as I'd hoped. The stuff I've written is pretty clumsy, and I'm not nailing down the concepts in Gorz's thought like I'll need to. On the up side, following a meeting with him last week, I decided that my audience is this guy, because he's both well-versed in the milieu in which Gorz wrote and will deliver punishing blows of critique when necessary.

The fun never stops.


noncoupable said...

Good god if you let him dictate the pace at which you write your dissertation you'll never finish. He can barely get a question out in ten minutes at those lunch talks.

Dolce Vita said...

[Comments left by "Misery"]

Wow. "That guy" is impressive.

I am selfishly thrilled to hear that the dissertation is going slow and that your dissatisfied with the prose. I've been suffering with the though that just these challenges are ones I brought upon myself (and all the normal ABDs are coasting). This lonely, dark hole I've worked myself into suddenly feels not so cold and lonesome.

Misery Loves Company!

Happy Hippo said...

I might be wrong about this but isn't writing a dissertation supposed to be a long and miserable process? You might not be able to write at warp speed, but I'd reckon that you are still moving forward at a pretty good click -- which is a lot better than stalling outright.

A~nd, I think that GB is the perfect guy for you to work with. He'll tell it to you straight.

kungfuramone said...

NP: He's really gotten a lot better about that.

DV: Yeah, schadenfreude still counts, even if you're stuck in the same rut.

HH: Word up.

Dolce Vita said...

I realized that I should also have shared some of the advice I've accumulated on dissertating over the yeas (which you certainly have heard as well, but it is worth hearing again). First, it's great that you have "that guy" (and a committee of similarly rigorous people) to challenge you along the way, but keep in mind that you're writing a dissertation not a book manuscript. That comes later (once you have your degree).

Another (annoying) comment that has stuck with me: there are only two types of dissertations ("good" and "finished"). And in my struggles with mine, I've come to realize I can settle for the latter over the former.