I suggested three and a half months ago, right after I passed my exams, that I might defend my dissertation proposal by the beginning of May. Well, for reasons of the availability of committee members, it didn’t get scheduled until 10 July, this last Wednesday. Between 29 March (my oral exam) and 10 July, I finished out the semester, presented part of an earlier draft of the proposal at the International Medieval Congress in at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI, started a 9-week intensive summer Arabic course, and did a page 1 rewrite of the dissertation proposal about two and a half weeks before the defense.
I’m not even going to suggest that Wednesday was a smooth ride. They grilled me so thoroughly I felt like St. Laurence of Rome by the end — black and crispy on both sides. Still, I passed, which means I’m now a Ph. D. candidate and not just a student — ABD, “all but dissertation”. I’ve gotten over all the hurdles I’ve needed this year (although it might fairly be said that I caught my toe on one or two of them in the leap), and now it’s time to actually demonstrate I can write a dissertation — “Civic Devotions to the Mother of God in Late Antique Constantinople” is the working title right now, although that will likely change. In a nutshell, I’m foregrounding liturgical issues in the growth of Byzantine Marian devotions between the Council of Ephesus and the Persian/Avar siege of 626 and trying to see what that can tell us about why the Constantinopolitan cult of the Theotokos develops the way it does.
That said, my first task as a newly-defended candidate is to rewrite my proposal from scratch (again) by the beginning of August. Yeah. There’s a story there that I’ll have to save for another time; suffice to say that, like I said, I was black and crispy on both sides by the time we were all done on Wednesday. Still, we’re all shooting for me to be done by the end of the 2014/15 academic year, and I think that’s going to be very doable, God willing.
I’d like to take a moment to thank two people in particular (not that they will ever see this blog, but never mind): Professors Edward Watts and Deborah Deliyannis. I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with both a wonderful Doktorvater as well as Doktormutter in this crazy experience of getting into (and checking the boxes to then get out of) grad school, and without their advice, guidance, and occasionally pugilant advocacy since before I even got admitted to the department, I’d have been up a creek from the start. I’m thankful for both of them, to say the least.
More a bit later.