Sunday, May 25, 2008

was that it, then?

The deadline to apply for August graduation was last Friday. Yeah, that didn't happen. I sort of went back and forth talking to Blackwood and Descartes for a couple of weeks, and in the meantime I didn't get anything written.

The problem is that when I talked to Descartes, he insisted that my argument was completely passé, and would be even more so in another five years when I want to apply for a PhD and use my thesis as a writing sample. In addition to being very smart, Descartes is, in his field, kind of like that kid in your high school who was always wearing the hot new trendy thing a couple of months before everyone else. This means that if anyone in my department is likely to know what's hot in Romanticism, it's René. On the other hand, he also tends to think stuff is no longer current long before everyone else is finished talking about it. The phrase "so five minutes ago" is, in his lexicon, not hyperbolic.

Blackwood and Descartes are good friends outside of work, and both are very professional, but they are very different kinds of scholars. And Blackwood is, after all, my chair. So I went back and talked to Blackwood again. "Descartes says my argument is completely irrelevant, because no one is having that conversation any more." Blackwood responded bluntly, "He's wrong." Maybe I should just have the two of them meet with each other, and get back to me when they get it figured out.

Anyway, Blackwood reassured me that I did not need to rethink my whole argument; rather, I need to keep drafting, and make changes if necessary as I go along. If Blackwood suspects that I've been using this situation as an excuse to avoid drafting another chapter, he's right. If he further suspects that I'm avoiding drafting because the task seems to large, and I'm afraid of failure ... no, he'd have to be psychic to have figured that out.

One thing that came out of my conversation with Descartes, however, was a realization that I really do need to be more aware of what current scholars are saying about my topic. I've looked for recent journal articles about Edgeworth and Sensibility - there aren't any. I've looked for books about Edgeworth and Sensibility - nope. What I haven't done, however, is look through current Romanticism journals to see what kinds of things scholars are saying in general about Edgeworth, and Sensibility, and the novels I'm writing about. Rookie mistake. Blackwood gave me a list of journals to look at, and strongly suggested that I might want to give him another chapter in the next week.

At this point we both know I'm not graduating in August, but we also both know that there's no reason to drag this out into next Fall semester. Having missed the August deadline, I won't be able to graduate until December, but neither of us wants to be repeating this conversation in October, so he's approaching it from the perspective of "there's really not a deadline in August, but let's pretend there is." OK. Let's pretend.


Heidi said...

Yeah... I know how that feels! It's OK. You won't fail. If I can pass that MA, anybody can, and believe me, if anyone's topic was "so 5 minutes ago," mine was! And if anyone was a rookie and didn't have a clue what they were doing and went about it in a wholly unacademic fashion, I did! So no worries. You're doing fine!

Nicole said...

is descartes who i think he is? if so, (1) you're brave/insane for having him on your committee, and (2) your description of him is incredibly apt.

Octavia said...

If you think I'm brave/insane for having Descartes on my committee, then you probably have the right guy. I've had moments where I feel the same way, but he does specialize in my time period, and his input will undoubtedly make my project better. He's well aware that I want to go on and do a PhD, and he's looking at this from the viewpoint of "let's make sure your project is attractive to selection committees."

Octavia said...

@ heidi: Your topic was not "so 5 minutes ago." You are a medievalist. Your topic was, like, so 500 years ago. I know your thesis was on Tolkein, but that doesn't change the fact that medieval studies aren't terribly concerned with much that's happened in the past five centuries, let alone the past five minutes. :) It's one of the things I love about them.