August 29, 2012

Conditions of Defense: Or, saying goodbye to my thesis

My oral thesis defense is in an hour and I'm at a point where I'm tired of reviewing my argument and retreading (as I've been doing for the last few days) over 12 months of research and writing. That said, I'm pretty excited to hear what others think about the project, to see how they engage it and where they locate its weaknesses. My committee is made up of one Miltonist, one historian (who specializes in the French Enlightenment), and my supervisor (who works on Dissenting readerships and women's writing in early modern England). Chairing the defense will be a previous professor of mine, a self-proclaimed material hermeneuticist and Derridean. It's a good group, especially considering the contradictory terrain of critical theory, Reformation theology, and book history that my project tries to work in.

At the same time, I'm kind of sad to let go of the project. It's been a source of joy and frustration over the last year, an endpoint for all my ideas, a place to let things coalesce. Of course, this is why the thesis twice as long as it needs to be and why some of the ideas aren't totally consistent with each other. I could be embarrassed by this, but, at this point, I'm not, really. If anything it's an indication of my own interest/commitment to what I've been studying; I mean, I'd be a little worried if my own existential dilemmas hadn't crept into my work. Such dilemmas were, in part, a natural product of this entire intellectual process, from research and writing to the sense of accountability I feel to the public--who are indirectly funding my work!--and the struggle to make my work meaningful beyond its institutional limits. Perhaps it's a bit hubristic, but it's a struggle that I'm grateful for, even if it's made for a less convincing thesis. Of course, I've over-argued a few points, made some unwieldy generalizations and analogies, and name-dropped a few too many big-name theorists; but I had license to do it, and space enough to stir up this mixture until I was more or less happy with the result.

So, finally, here's my pump-up song, the lead single from ex-Edmontonian Cadence Weapon's latest album (Hope in Dirt City), and a theme song for my thesis if there ever was one.

Conditions, yo.

August 15, 2012