Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Passed another hurdle

My dissertation proposal defense was today, and I'm happy to report that the conversation went well. I need to make the connections between my method and my questions clearer, and I need to beef up my explanation of how I will be contributing to conversations in composition.

I can handle both of these tasks. I'm most pleased to know that there were no major concerns about my method, so I can let that rest.

I celebrated with a few friends and a few drinks.

It seems that I might actually have to write a dissertation now. Huh. I wonder how that happened.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I'm Up and Running...

After almost a month, I have my computer back. But that's not the only reason I'll be posting more regularly. A few days ago, I asked this question on my blog

I want all my PhD friends to let me know if May is a reasonable goal--if I bring as close to my A game as possible. I still have to draft the conclusion (the intro exists in fragments); do whatever revisions she and the committee want; some serious crafting on my chapter 2 (because my original chapter five has been collapsed into it); and tighten up the bibliography and notes.
I got some really helpful comments, if anyone wants to check them out.

But I'm setting a mental goal of May.

Please feel free to goad, scold, coax, and encourage. :-p

Brain Clutter

Do you find you have to have things around you JUST SO before you can comfortably dissertate? I usually dissertate in my bedroom, where the feng sui is best. Today, due to a set of circumstances not worth going into, I'm dissertating downstairs at my dining room table. Before I could even think of writing, I had to change the tablecloth, clean up toys, straighten and de-lint a sofa cover, and generally de-clutter. I even had to wipe off the kitchen counters and sweep the kitchen floor, even though I can't see them from where I'll be sitting. I would be able to see them in my mind's eye.

Some would identify this as an age-old procrastination technique used by undergraduate and graduate students alike, but I really think there's more to it than that--a sort of boundarylessness that exists between the psyche and the outside world. Does this make me an ego-maniac?

There's an ice storm going on that's been raging since last night, and it's supposed to turn into a down-right blizzard this afternoon--12 inches of snow are predicted. This means my husband doesn't have to work today, which means he can watch the kids, which means a writing day for me. Thank you, Mother Nature!

Friday, February 23, 2007


I haven't been working too actively on my diss b/c the proposal is now in the hands of my committee. But don't worry, there's been plenty of grading to keep me busy.

I also emailed my proposal to a professor who used to be on faculty at this university. He left 2 years ago, but he generously offered to be available via email for discussions. I emailed him my proposal last weekend and he wrote back on Monday with exactly what I needed to hear:

Hi Meagan,

What a wonderful project! I can't tell you how pleased I am that youare doing this, and that you're doing it so well. I'm impressed by the sophistication of your approach, and by the rare sophistication of your understanding and handling of the concept of race...

It's so rewarding to get kudos from someone who you respect. I hope my committee receives the proposal just as favorably.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sharonica: An Introduction

Hey all! So, this is dissertation boot camp. Let me tell you a bit about what I'm working on. I'm writing a dissertation on representations of public women, with a particular focus on the figure of the female author, in eighteenth-century English fiction. I've been at it proposal was approved right before my daughter was born and she' five now. But, the defense is set for May and there IS a light at the end of this long, sometimes painful, and occasionally demeaning tunnel.

Right now, I'm staying home with my two kids full time and writing an hour here and an hour there...whenever I get a chance. I know a lot of people think of dissertation writing in terms of pages. I think about it in terms of paragraphs. In fact, I'm supposed to be working out a paragraph right now. I'm revising a chapter on Maria Edgeworth and trying to hash out how it connects to the theoretical approach I'm using.

Dissertating and housewifery can both be quite isolating, so I'm happy to have stumbled across this blog. I'll be snooping around when I have a chance so I can find out more about who you are and what you're working on.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Calling All Lurkers! Come and Join the Fun . . .

Occasionally, I'll post a message that will invite dissertating lurkers to join in dissertation boot camp for real. This is one of those messages.

Please delurk and join us! All you have to do is send me an email, and I'll send you an invitation to join. It's that simple. That way, you can continue to comment, but you can also post . . . and we can all get to know you and offer you support as you write the dissertation.

If you want to join DBC, please send an email to: partsnpieces [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Checking In

Hi, all-- As some of you know by reading my other blog, I've not been working on dissertation-related anything the past 10 days or so, and even though this lack of work is appropriate right now, I'm feeling like such a massively huge slacker / whiner. I don't have the energy to do this work right now and with that I feel like such a failure. I think that I should have the ability to compartmentalize the areas of my life, and I'm really able to do that. I should be able to put the stressful issues aside for a while and focus on underprepared student writers, or focus on my teaching, or whatever. But I can't. At least not right now.

I also feel that I'll ultimately end up homeless and living under a bridge. But that's just me.

I'm encouraged, though, by reading your posts. I'll be back-- working on this diss-- as soon as I can.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Carrots

Hi all. We were blogging earlier about carrots -- rewards for doing good work, or maybe promises of rewards to come if we do good work. I have, today, that rare and golden opportunity to be productive that happens with some frequency in the Northeast: a snow day. Woo-hoo! We haven't even gotten that much snow in Durham, but they closed the campus because we're predicted to get hit hard. Either way, my class is cancelled and I have the day to myself.

So, I'm going to try to comment on at least 10 embodied rhetorical analysis drafts, then either plan the next 5-6 weeks of class OR start work on my CCCC presentation. That's all if the power holds (I tend to lose power if we get a lot of snow or ice). I have to say, though, that despite weather reports it really doesn't look like it's going to be much snow. At least not today. I'm not seeing the blizzard conditions that they've been talking about. Not here at least.

Anyway, if I do all that I'm TOTALLY making popcorn and watching Curse of the Wererabbit tonight. Happy happy day.

Update: Yeah, the weather's starting to get a little sketchy. Snow and wind and maybe sleet. Not that I'm complaining. I (obviously) still have power, so we're all good.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Irons in the fire

I have a date! I'll be defending my dissertation proposal on Feb. 28th. At our institution, this is not a make-or-break moment, but more of a discussion that is (usually) pretty collegial. It's an important moment, but not as stressful as comprehensive exams or dissertation defenses. I'll email my proposal to the committee on Feb 18th. I think I'm ready for it; my friends who have been through it tell me I'm ready for it. I hope they're right. I have a bit of work to do on it before the 18th-- filling in gaps ("QUOTE HERE" and my favorite note-to-myself: "MAKE THIS BETTER"). Nothing too stressful, though.

Today I'm working on a proposal for a summer fellowship. All TAs are eligible to apply-- propose a project and perhaps get awarded $3000 to do it-- pretty sweet deal. I'm having a hard time describing my project (essentially the lit review for my diss) in 4 pages for a multidisciplinary audience. I can't just roll out the composition big guns and show how my project fills a gap-- b/c the committee doesn't care about comp big guns.

One thing that is helping is mind-mapping-- I'm using right now. I found it through Collin Vs. Blog, but I've been thinking about it for a while-- ever since Billie raved about it. It's not coming easily-- it's been a long time since I've tried to visualize my work in this way. I'm trying it out with this small project to see if it'll be useful for my diss project. If you have any insights or suggestions about mind mapping, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Writing Question

You know the literature (or enough of it).

You've resigned yourself to the fact that you cannot read every word on every issue that may come up in the chapter you're writing.

You have an outline-a brief one on paper, an absolutely brilliant one in your head.

So, why is it so hard just to sit down and write?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


I passed my writtens!
Orals are on Friday. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Hello bootcampers! How is your work coming?

I got stuck on a certain point in my chapter, and I took the evening off and read an amazing YA novel called Life as We Knew It.

What nice things have you given yourself lately? Rewards for the work you do, incentives to do more?

Friday, February 2, 2007

Doing the numbers

One down, four to go!

It's true, I finished my draft of Chapter 3 and sent it off to my advisor, a few days early, even.

Now what? The next chapter, and the next, and so forth, until the end of March or until I'm done, whichever comes last. I made a little countdown calendar for the next chapter, due on the 14th, and it seems so far away. It's easy to gear myself up for a week of work, but two weeks, followed by (etc), seems to stretch into infinity so that the deadline pressure, the nervous energy that's driving me at this point, seems to disappear.

I'm having trouble getting outside the numbers. I count down the days and the hours, I refer to my chapters by their numbers (though I gave them all extremely clever titles), I take word counts as a measure of my progress, and then I divide them by 250 to tell me how many Platonic 'pages' I have. There's a discussion on the Chronicle forums right now: "How big is your diss?" I'm having trouble thinking of other ways to think about my progress or even congratulate myself because of those numbers: "you finished chapter 3, and it went well, but you have four more to do, and only eight weeks to do them in, and they might be much more difficult, and you might not write as many words, and..."

So, my question to the Boot Camp is how can I get beyond these numbers and appreciate the work I do and the fact that I'm working hard?