My incompletes were resolved in December. I started shaping my reading list immediately. Now I have a tentative exam date: April 25. The oral exam will follow on May 12. Four of five committee members have confirmed. Here's hoping for the fifth.
Although my reading list is still in formation, I have been diligently reading for several weeks now. My Mondays and Fridays are completely clear and completely dedicated to reading and notetaking. I didn't think I would really enjoy this preparation, but to my surprise, it's really satisfying. It stands to reason: I've selected the texts and shaped the purpose behind reading them. It is far more gratifying than reading for seminars. I found myself—week after week—just plowing through books for the sake of completion. I didn't establish an objective or purpose for reading. The process was arduous.
Now that I think of it, I bet my students (who may be reading this) feel the same way. They are assigned readings that come seemingly out of left field. What are they reading for? For some vague class discussion, the direction of which is unknown prior to the moment it takes place? That's hardly motivating. Once again my experiences as a student help to inform my decisions as a teacher. I need to give more direction and purpose for my students' reading.
Here's to impending candidacy—and improved pedagogy.
Twice a year we graduate students get giddy. It happens sometime in October and April each year when our teaching assignments are released. The most recent reveal has just occurred and I admit I am a bit distracted from other, more pressing matters by the prospects of my upcoming course. I know we're hardly halfway through this semester—and I'm not at all bored with it—but it's terribly exciting to think about setting up and designing another course. It glimmers like a brand new pair of sneakers when your current kicks are a bit beat up.
In the Spring Semester I'll be teaching "Literacy and American Cultural Diversity" (EngL 3741). It's a radical kind of course that integrates public, community work—usually literacy related—with academic study and discussion. It gives a rare chance for students to deeply consider the origins of their own literacy and the deployment of literacy in myriad contexts.
So while I ought to be preparing for class tomorrow or working on my incompletes, I am browsing articles and books that have been accumulating on my desk for years to find stimulating texts for a class two and a half months away. Teaching semester-long classes is a great vocation for the perpetually restless.
These many months later I have just finished my presentation/paper for the IWCA conference in Minneapolis tomorrow. Given the fact that my incompletes still dangle and my reading list exists only as the flicker of an idea, I begrudge having had to prepare this presentation. I had meant to complete it at the end of August (along with my incompletes), but my life's pattern holds true: I do nothing early.
Nevertheless, it is good to be done. The presentation will be enjoyable. I will feel a certain measure of relief and have the time to really dive in and finish these silly papers. My family asks whether I am done with them (I asked them to do as much to help keep me accountable). I can't believe I am in my fifth year and not yet a candidate. I never thought I would be in this position.
I understand why the national average to complete a PhD in the humanities is pushing ten years. I wish I didn't.
Wrapping up a week that saw some progress on my incompletes, I'm feeling pretty satisfied with what I've done. I know, however, that I won't be completed with either paper before my brother gets off the plane tomorrow. He has some work to do while he's here next week, so I won't feel too bad about having to finish up while he's attending his conference.
The weekend starts now. Home to relax with my family.
The summer has rushed by. My primarily academic goal has been to finish two incompletes by completing two seminar papers. I have had plenty of time to do it, yet I'm not sure how close I am to finishing.
I'm working on a genealogy of transnationalism—a selective review of its origination, evolution, and application, especially in literary contexts. I thought this would yield a very contained paper, but I find it turns out to be just as limitless and complicated as everything else.
The other paper is an analysis of two plays written by Hmong women playwrights. Both engage domestic violence, particularly considering the extraordinary case of Khoua Her's filicide in 1998. I'm curious about how literature works in the discourse of such violence.
Today I really want to finish one of these papers. I'd like to finish the other early next week. Then I can move forward toward my preliminary exam.
I could have done more this summer, but now I'm just trying to accomplish what I can and avoid firing the torpedo of guilt. Onward, ever onward.
Today, without notice, I decided I'd start to document my progress towards finishing my PhD in English at the University of Minnesota. My friend Dave just submitted his completed draft of his dissertation to his committee earlier this week and he told me he'd been keeping a journal of his academic work for a while. Ultimately, I may find I don't want it all to be public, and ultimately I may not find it efficient to blog it, but I'll try this for a while. I won't burden the world with detailed research notes or terrific sources I've found. Instead I'll probably just post a brief snapshot of each day—what I want to accomplish.
Here's hoping this is a ticket towards sure and steady progress towards completion.