A quick update on my dissertation progress before this blog finally returns to its regularly scheduled programming: books and backpacking.
Last week, I successfully defended my dissertation. I’m eager to wave the checkered flag over my graduate school career, but I’m not going to file immediately. Instead, I’d like to take some more time to edit it (slowly, carefully, and with a fresh mind).
Last year, I was up-close-and-personal at a much different race. I went to my very first Indy 500 with my Dad. We were on the infield near the back stretch, so we didn’t actually see Dan Wheldon’s come-from-behind win, but we heard about it on my dad’s radio. (During his trip to Indiana, he also climbed the Hardin Ridge fire tower in the Hoosier National Forest for the first time.)
I had a good Memorial Day weekend last year, but as the summer of 2011 opened up, I became increasingly more frustrated with graduate school, my dissertation, and job prospects, in general. Around July, after a break from all things dissertation-related and a backpacking trip to the Grand Teton National Park, those feelings began to lift.
I felt reinvigorated–and not only because of the time I spent away. I had been blogging steadily (I started The Ambulant Scholar in February of 2011), and I believe that developing this site was therapeutic. Blogging gave me (and still gives me) intellectual freedom: it allowed me to think deeply and critically about topics, texts, and concepts that weren’t related to my dissertation. Blogging also gave me an opportunity to hone my writing skills, and I was surprised to find that the work didn’t feel like drudgery. Blogging made writing fun again!
I recommitted myself to the dissertation and spent the latter-half of the summer immersing myself in the final chapter, which focuses on pandemic influenza and newspaper reading in “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” and They Came Like Swallows. When school started at the end of August, I was able to submit a draft of the chapter to my chair. After revising it based on his comments, I sent it to my committee in October. I was elated!
When I consider the nine years I spent in graduate school (an average time-to-degree for PhDs in English, I must add), I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that it took so long. That it all happened so fast. That I finished. But those years have gone by. I have earned my PhD.
I’m still struggling to find a place not only for my feelings about graduate school and the dissertation, but also everything else that has happened in my life during this time. I do know, though, that I’m thankful for the advice, friendship, and love from so many people. I name many of those people in the acknowledgments page to my dissertation, which can be accessed below. To honor those individuals while protecting their privacy at the same time, I identify some by their initials only.