Thursday, March 7, 2013

Three Weeks to Go

All of February, and the first five days of March, I was working on a chapter about the elusive, creative  Irish poet Catherine Walsh. I find her asyntactic, paratactic writing to be extraordinarily challenging to make an argument about, because to me, it could be so easy to prove wrong. This, I've realized has been a huge problem of mine in grad school: I can always see the holes in my own argument, and that not only paralyzes me, but I keep inserting caveats and undermining my own claims. In high school I was an attorney in our Mock Trial program for  three years. I was very good at it, but partly because I always felt that I was lying because I could see all the holes and gaps in my argument and the strengths of the oppositions, so I frantically tried to fill those gaps in as much as possible. Yet, the feeling of telling half-truths was always there.

But, in any case, I finished writing 40 pages. I sent it off, despite the fact that I knew there were huge problems in it (like.... not having a convincing argument), but I had to move on, so I let it go. I promptly received feedback from one of my committee members to the effect that he loved my close-readings, but did not perceive a strong structure holding it together, and wants me to rewrite/revise. Which I expected. I didn't expect the praise for the readings, nor for him to get back to me so quickly!

I'm trying to move forward to writing the intro now. At this point, sans intro, I believe I would estimate my dissertation to be about 140 pp. A bit light, but that doesn't include the interviews I'll be including. I've been looking at tons of intros -- they vary from 15-50 pages, and I've even heard of a 95 page one! I am just hoping mine will be 30. I am excited about it, partially because it requires mostly a literature review and historical background for the project. I think it should be a matter of positioning myself among the other scholars.  My dissertation is light on footnotes, especially this most recently chapter, which I am afraid might be symptomatic of a lack of deep contextualizing reading. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to make it up in the intro.

I am taking time off from work to finish this project -- thank goodness my boss is OK with that. Only 1 more week, though, and then I'm back. That means 7 days to write the intro, then, as quickly as possible, address issues with the first  chapter, add another 10 pp to turn 1 chapter into 2 shorter ones, and rewrite my 3rd chapter. I hope the latter Herculean tasks can be accomplished in 10 days.

Simultaneously, I am trying to oversee production, acquisition, editing, etc for the publishing company, Right now, I am taking a backseat, but that doesn't stop the publisher complaining to me of costs (maybe he shouldn't have an amateur do the typesetting and maybe he should pay his printers) and the authors complaining to me about missing checks. The only thing I can do abut either of those is nag the people with money.

I joined a website called Versatile Ph.D. recently. Great forums and support for making a career outside of academia. My only concern is how many of the English Ph.D.s are now either dissertation editors (perpetuating the very system that they left) or are freelance editors. Both seem like unsavory choices, to me, but maybe I only see the instability of freelance work and not its upsides.

OK: I need to get a page or two written today, and then I will be on the right track! 5 pages every day for the next 7 days will sort me out!

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