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A second hurdle cleared…

As chronicled somewhat after-the-fact, in November of 2010 I cleared the first of a handful of hurdles towards finishing graduate school — I passed my third semester review, which meant that I had finished my Masters degree.

For a number of reasons, I took an incomplete in a seminar that same semester. I’d planned on a paper for that seminar that had the severe discourtesy to show up in a major journal written by somebody else that same fall, which really threw me for a loop, and for a number of reasons the prof was largely unavailable (for good reasons, I should stress) for consultation on other possibilities. I sort of cobbled together some thoughts from the rubble, and showed them to the prof in March of this year as something of an abstract/outline/stream-of-consciousness, and he found them largely incomprehensible. When I tried to re-explain what I was shooting for, he had some more or less decent suggestions, but he didn’t exactly seem thrilled, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled either. By May I had completed all coursework requirements except for this seminar.

When I feel like I’m on shaky ground with my subject, my instinct is to show my work. So, taking some of the professor’s suggestions and trying to turn them into a paper, but not feeling totally confident it by any means, I showed my work. A lot. I turned in a rather long paper in June, and I still think it’s work that had a good point to make, but I got an e-mail from him a week later asking if it was a draft to be discussed or a final paper that needed a grade. The vibe I got from the question indicated to me that it would be in my best interest to say, Oh, it’s a draft, of course it’s a draft, yes, since is the last seminar paper I get to write I’d love to have feedback.

Thus it was in July that my instincts proved correct; he gave it back to me and said, in essence, I don’t know what the hell you thought you were writing, but try again, and good luck, because I don’t really know how you’re going to fix what you have.

I still think, as I said, that what I wrote was more reasonable than what he thought. However, I also have to acknowledge that I wrote a patristics paper for a political historian, and therefore it should be no real surprise that the political historian took one look at it and said, “Huh?” I’m absolutely certain it wasn’t a perfect patristics paper, but I’m positive it wasn’t the awful one he said it was — it just wasn’t a good enough one to really be able to transcend methodological boundaries.

Well, anyway, I kind of flailed about with what I wanted to do for a couple of months. Then I had a conversation with a different faculty member who revealed that she had been one of the reviewers for the article that had knocked the wind out my sails on my original topic, she said her feedback had been rather clumsily incorporated, and that there was lots wrong with the finished product. Suddenly I felt quite emboldened to return to the project the way I had originally conceived it, and once I got going on it, it went pretty quickly. The result was much leaner and tighter, and after a round of feedback on it with this second professor, I turned it in three weeks ago yesterday (Thursday).

Yesterday I got the paper back, and it was a much happier conversation than the one we’d had in July. My incomplete was changed to a grade by yesterday afternoon, and so now I’m officially done with PhD coursework. Next up, exams… which will be their own party to be sure, but the hurdles are getting cleared.

Reviewing some of my thoughts during this blog’s first year of existence (like the examples below) — well, I’ve come a long way, thank God.  I just turned 35 a couple of weeks ago, and It’s still even possible I might have a real job before I’m 40. (Assuming that higher education doesn’t completely collapse, but never mind that now.)

https://leitourgeia.com/2007/12/10/getting-a-late-start/

https://leitourgeia.com/2008/03/03/a-high-number-of-strong-applicants/

https://leitourgeia.com/2008/03/09/on-forgiveness-sunday-the-alleged-plurality-of-methods-by-which-one-may-relieve-a-feline-of-its-flesh-and-other-musings/

https://leitourgeia.com/2008/03/18/dr-liccione-my-prayeris-to-be-shown-a-way-out-of-the-box-im-in/

https://leitourgeia.com/2008/03/20/more-on-the-alleged-plurality-of-means-by-which-one-may-remove-flesh-from-a-feline/

https://leitourgeia.com/2008/04/25/a-parable/

https://leitourgeia.com/2008/07/28/that-unwelcome-guest-known-as-reality/

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2 Responses to “A second hurdle cleared…”


  1. 1 Jeremy 3 December 2011 at 1:44 am

    Congratulations from a lurker who appreciates your blog and is at this very moment struggling mightily to write a dissertation for a PhD in philosophy. Lord have mercy on us all!

  2. 2 Richard Barrett 3 December 2011 at 8:58 am

    Thank you! Good luck with your dissertation writing — I’ll be there myself soon enough.


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