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More Ponderings…

I realised today that when I started my PhD that many of the PhD students further down the road told me that by the end of it all that I would detest my subject and would struggle to complete. The whole concept of writing up was demonstrated by apathy to the topic and writers’ block.

Ironically I adore what I do, I’m planning what to do next, (bit of time off I think, though I plan on maybe taking Greek classes [modern not ancient] and working on articles and conference papers). As for my subject, the iconography I deal specifically with is entertaining in its own right, it’s been described randomly as comic, caricature, pornographic, weird… (imagine grotesque pygmies doing things they really shouldn’t)… the list could go on but I’d get bored typing. Its an unusual subject where the images make you giggle.

Soon the whole process will be over, though exactly when that will be is difficult to specify. How do you stop tweaking things, editing text, refining important phrases, formatting pictures? I guess in the end, a statement that was taught to me when I was studying Art comes to mind. Things can go too far, get ruined or will never end, you’ll just keep working on things, never satisfied, always something more to do…

…the trick, in the end, is to learn when to stop.

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Positive and Negative

The negative side is that I’ve had a migraine since wednesday, which sucks. At least I haven’t I had the sensitivity to light and sound that I usually get. On the other hand I had a meeting with my supervisors on thursday and was so spaced out on migraine medication that I’m having problems remembering what was said. I think I took notes but can’t remember if I did and where I put them. The only thing I can remember is that I’m getting the internal/external examiners that I wanted and that they think the thesis as it stands is Research with a capital “R” – which can only be a good thing. Thankfully they email all the necessary information afterwards. The other negative thing was that the tv cablebox was playing up again, but that seems to have sorted itself (with a little judicious prodding of cables).

Annoyingly with the migraine I haven’t been able to get as much as I would like done. I had conference abstracts that need to be finalised tomorrow, but hopefully that is in hand. I really need to get on with the editing/finalising of the supporting material… but all I can cope with at the moment is watching re-runs of Cold Case, CSI (varying types), America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway – yes when I’m feeling like rubbish all I want to do is watch trashy American TV and eat chocolate. And I know that chocolate is not exactly the best thing to eat when you have a migraine, but I’ve had to give up drinking and coffee (coffee – my precious coffee) since wednesday and I have to draw the line at some point.

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The CFP for the conference that I’m helping to organise was finalised today and will be sent out tonight or tomorrow. It sort of hit me that I’ve managed to get myself involved in a complex situation in regards to organisation, right at the point when I really should be focused elsewhere… Ah well, I never was very good at doing nothing…

And that reminds me, I need to get abstracts for other conferences sorted.

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The Joys of Editing

I’ve spent the last couple of days stuck in front of a computer editing chapter drafts. Its daft that I spend I significant part of my time fretting that the PhD is just not going to be good enough. I mean what would I do if they (by they, I mean the evil examiners that dwell in my mind) decided that I wasn’t allowed to get my doctorate. Paranoia is so annoying. Then at other times I have moments when I’m re-reading something and wonder ‘did I actually write that?’

Its very annoying when you go through that sort of see-saw emotional ride over what you have written but at the same time, I really hope its good enough.

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So Who Are You?

I was reading through some old articles from last year that for some reason I had saved on my computer and I came across this from a column in the Guardian which was done by one of their writers who had gone back to university for a PhD. Re-reading it now I can see why I saved it, lets face it, we all know people who would fit one or other of the descriptions and I always wonder which one people think I am (unfortunately I think its probably something along the lines of No.3, maybe not the Marxism or an actual need to shave in the first place but a pet mouse would be nice).

The eight types of graduate student
Why are we postgrads here? Well, for lots of reasons, says Patrick Tomlin
Tuesday May 15, 2007
The Guardian

When I started this column, I promised myself I wouldn’t let it become a monthly whinge about how poor I am. Partly because that would be as boring as if I stood in your garden and recited excerpts from my thesis, and partly because, as graduate students go, I’m not too badly off.

But I have had to make financial sacrifices to pursue my studies. Given that everyone else has presumably had to do so too, I initially figured that we must all be there because of a pure thirst for knowledge. I’ve since realised, however, that the impulses that draw someone to academic study beyond graduation are a lot more varied than that.

While I’ve only been at it a short while, I am sufficiently aware of the unwritten columnists’ code to know one is expected to make wild generalisations, shun nuance, and present categories in a list format. So, without further ado, I present the eight types of graduate student:

1. The Wannabe Undergraduate
They had such fun as undergraduates that they cannot bear it to end. They prop up the bar, talking to undergrads about their thesis, rather than actually writing it. They judge success by notches on the bedpost and hangovers accrued instead of marks, grades and the intellectual respect of their peers.

2. The Student Who Tried Employment
Some postgraduates have been out into the real world and had a real job, with a desk and a computer and a pay cheque and a lunch break and a pension and appraisals and meetings and everything. And, for whatever reason, they have found it wanting.

3. The Couldn’t-Survive-Anywhere-but-at-University
The group most likely to be cultivating eccentricities – keeping a mouse in their pocket or wearing socks with Marxist slogans sewn into them – while still too young to shave.

4. The CV-Filler
Their primary focus is not what they study, but what it will look like on their CV. They believe this qualification will give them “that extra edge”. Most likely to end up as accountants or lawyers, never employing the knowledge gained.

5. The Prestigious Scholarship Recipient
Rather than worrying about what the subject they study will look like on their CV, their primary focus is who is paying for it. In a reversal of the usual relationship between funding and studying, in which the former is a means to the latter, the funding is regarded as an end in itself and the studying something that has to be endured to be able to call themselves a [insert name of dead white man] scholar for the rest of their lives.

6. The One Who Just Needs Answers
They really are motivated purely by the desire to find answers about their specific area of interest.

7. The Eternal Student
They are not bothered whether their academic career shows linear progress, they’re just collecting qualifications and trying to get every letter of the alphabet after their name.

8. The Polymath
These geniuses could have studied anything, anywhere. They will probably go on to great things across several disciplines, and already understand your thesis better than you do. An unfortunate subset are also charming, witty and good-looking, and therefore hated by everyone.
And which am I? I’d like to think No 6, but I suspect there’s more than a touch of No 2 about me, too.