It is proven; you can endure a lot of stress and travail if you are expecting it, or even hoping for it. Mid-December I was contacted by an academic friend with the news of an impending crisis that was also an opportunity for me. 2 Jan. I was dropped into a full-time teaching load that started on the 3rd, in a city where I do not live. I had little more than some sketchy power-point slides from my predecessors and what relevant material I already had in my head. I’m a week in and I may actually recognize the vague glow suggesting that I actually enjoy this. It cost me a lot to get here and unlike most every other stage in this long march, this is one place I hoped to be.
That makes anything worth enduring.
It is as official as it will ever be, given the indistinct nature of Oxford’s ways of reaching milestones but, as of 6 Feb. 2018, I have met the requirements for an Oxford D.Phil. I will not see the formally worded document granting me said degree until some time in July or August, but I have a simple letter, stamped with the institutional seal, attesting to this most terminal of terminal degrees.
While I may use the title Dr. of Violence, I will ever remain its student so to speak.
ABD: [all-but-defended] A kind of academic purgatory that places the student in a state of forced inactivity, before the final judgement at the defence.
A good thesis is the finished thesis, but like any dysfunctional situation that one grows accustomed to, even proud to endure, there is no sense of relief when the finish is reached. That will come eventually.
Five years total (almost to the day). Two years longer than hoped for. One year longer than was reasonable to expect. One year lost to forces beyond my control. 98,700 words, more or less. If I needed any more proof that my supervisor is a saint among the damned, it is his decision to leave most of the self-indulgent footnotes and the quotations from Borges and DeQuincy in the final draft. I don’t think it’s a very good thesis (beyond the criteria that it is done) but it may be an entertaining read, and that’s probably a rare thing in this field.
… especially if the tunnels have train tracks.
Kelly DeVries is rightly proud of this unappreciated paper and to help disseminate its message of historical empathy, I will give it another small place in the internet for people to find:
Medieval Warfare and the Value of Human Life (2006)
..but apparently, little interest in writing for it. That’s a shame, since it does contain rather a lot of stuff I wanted to write, and keep, sometime in the past. Ah, Oxford, how bad you were for my soul (not that I believe in souls mind you, but it’s more poetic than ‘Oxford, you [the abstract entity best identified as Oxford, representing 3 years of living abroad] were not constructive to my sense of self, my confidence, or emotional stability’).
Let’s stick with the poetic.
I have lost count of how many times I have written this blog entry or variations on it, over the last five weeks. It probably doesn’t matter. The process was more important than the resulting text and odds are very good that there are far better, more compelling, more readable, versions if this that will never appear online, and so it should be. This blog was always designed as a means to enable the writing process, and that process was always more important than the product that did, or did not, find its way here. Nothing I have written, with this blog in mind, needed completion and uploading but there is a motivational value in having that option. That was essential, really, because the value of practice and conditioned habits do not have the power themselves to motivate the writer.
There is some dark comfort in the knowledge that all works of creativity, given enough time in production, is transformed through a bitter alchemy, into something the creator hates. Ask any artist in any medium, or any writer who feels there is a place for art in any string of words, and they will tell you the same thing, in similar but more effective words. Given time, every masterpiece becomes, in the eyes of its creator, a tragedy that can’t be stopped. I know this because I have been there before; staring at some lump of metal that I knew was done because I hated it. My thesis is not done, but I hate it anyway. That’s probably for the good. It’s not long from being finished.