I met with my dissertation director, Dr. R, on Wednesday morning this past week to discuss the first draft of my dissertation prospectus. I must admit to some frustration at still being in this stage of my dissertation so long after achieving ABD status (All But Dissertation–it means I’m done except for the 250-300 page book). I became ABD the first week of March…and it’s October now. I feel concerned that I’m way behind schedule, but I have to keep reminding myself that there is no such thing as a schedule any more. There is a reality of running out of funded hours, but with Robert graduating next Spring, the likelihood of our moving on to bigger and better things (and my “dissertating” remotely) is fairly high. I’m not concerned about losing funding.
So, the brief recap of my meeting would go a little something like this.
Me and Dr. R: small talk, small talk, small talk….
Me: So…where should we start on this thing? (indicating the two copies of the prospectus before each of us)
Dr. R: Where do we begin…? Hm. Well, I’m still fairly concerned that you’re not writing as specifically as you need to be. I’m not sure exactly what you’re going to be looking at, specifically. (she reads me a line from my prospectus which uses the words “dangers and implications.”) So, for instance, the dangers and implications for whom? I’m assuming for the early modern British audience member…? (I say “yes.”) Okay, then the next question is: why should we care? They’re dead!
Me: (laughing a little nervously) Well…I guess that’s a good point. But here’s my problem with it. We have to care necessarily because we can’t watch a Shakespeare play today, for instance,without recalling at some basic level that all the female roles were played by men. (that’s the topic of my dissertation–early modern British stage transvestism.) When we watch a play, we’re always going to be aware of the ban of women from the stage. We can’t not be aware of it.
Dr. R: (arching an eyebrow and leaning back in her chair) It sounds like to me that you’re actually more interested in the modern audience.
Me: (grinning a little too broadly) I am, aren’t I? Is that okay? (I tend to talk too fast when I meet with my advisor for whatever reason, and I could feel that tendency coming on now.)
Dr. R: I think it’s a reasonable question, done correctly of course.
Me: (Talking too fast now) Oh my god, I am so happy to hear you say that! I think part of the reason that I took so long getting my prospectus to you is because I haven’t really been feeling in love with my topic ever since my oral exam in March. I mean, I remember feeling passionate about my thesis (which she oversaw as well, actually, and could also remember my interest and passion for it), but I haven’t felt that way about my dissertation. And I guess if I have to just press through and write it anyway, I will…but I’d really like the chance to love it.
Dr. R: No, you have to love this project. This is the longest work you’ve ever done at this point, and you have to love it. If you don’t love it, it’ll never get done.
Me: And I want to graduate. This dissertation is all that’s left to finish before I can graduate and get a real, good job. And this dissertation is what’s going to get me that job. And I want to love my job, too.
Our meeting continued much in the same way, but I won’t recount it further. We have decided that for my new topic, I’m going to maintain my plan for Chapters 4-6, convert them into different chapters, and continue moving forward for the next three-ish chapters.
I joked with a peer that perhaps I should just keep them labeled Chapters 4-6. If it worked for George Lucas, it can work for me! 😉
My new topic is a little more focused and so much more interesting to me. I can actually spend a great deal more time than originally planned on current theatrical productions, which means interviews and going to see performances for research, hehe. I’m feeling much more refreshed and excited about this topic. The other one was actually a popular topic twenty years ago, and anyone who’s researched before will know that a twenty-year-old topic of interest is not a good place to begin.
Tune in next time for Prospectus Rough Draft #2! (No telling when “next time” will be for this particular entry, though, haha.)