So you’re writing a dissertation, Part 4

On October 14, 2011 I interviewed the Religion Graduate Student (RGS) for the fourth time, so she had now been working on her dissertation for a year and a half. Her project was still moving in fits and starts. Over the summer she had gone through a rather rough stretch, in which she entertained a lot of doubt and uncertainty about the overarching theme of her work. After reading her 50 page first chapter in the middle of the summer, her advisor John Raines suggested that she was not “writing where her passion is”.

Acknowledging this, RGS went back to texts on globalization that she was most interested in — by Stiglitz, Sachs, Sen, and Wallerstein — and began reexamining her ideas. The chapter had looked at the second wave women’s movement from which religion had been expunged, but it included no references to globalization. The books on globalization made no reference to feminism and religion. She began “looking for the gaps” in the conversations on feminism, religion, and globalization and she returned to the Nationwide Women’s Program (NWP) archive to see if these sources might provide some explanation. She found that the notion of progress seemed to be embedded into each of these narratives in important ways.

By the time we met RGS had realized that she would probably end up using very little of the 50 pages she had submitted during the summer. On the other hand, she had a good fall schedule that left her free on Tuesdays and Thursdays and she was getting up each and every morning to work on her dissertation between 6 and 8. Though she had not written a lot since the summer, she was ready to push ahead. The “full body dissertation” routine she had tried to establish when she began in early 2010 had flagged a little: for exercise, she was walking now instead of running because, as she explained, it was harder to talk herself out of walking. She was now hoping to finish her dissertation within the next six months.   

(I found myself wondering if she had passed through that “dark night of the soul” that all seekers of knowledge encounter just before the dawn.)

(Listen to previous interviews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

—Fred Rowland

 

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