In other news, I’m still working on my thesis

Yes, Glenn was right. I was stuck. Or maybe I am stuck.

As you may recall, I turned in my thesis on January 8. In fact, I may have said that “Our long national nightmare is over” or somesuch. As it turned out, it had only begun. While the hard part was figuring out what the hell I was going to write about and then somehow writing 45 pages about what the hell I was planning to write about, the excruciating part was what followed: revisions. What’s the difference between hard and excruciating? Making a chocolate soufflé is hard, while pouring molten, bubbling chocolate all over your hand is excruciating.

Granted, what I turned in on January 8 sucked. It sucked in a few ways: my argument was implicit, not explicit, and this stuff is supposed to be as obvious as skywriting; the third chapter was so rushed and underwritten that its relevance to the rest of the thesis was not apparent; the introduction and conclusion, which I wrote last and thus were even more rushed and even more underwritten, were both God-awful. (By the way, what does God-awful actually mean? As awful as God? That’s just weird. It should be Devil-awful. Hmm.) But I didn’t really know this until my advisers gave me their comments. I won’t go into my initial feelings about the comments, because when I expressed them to my mother on the phone, she asked, “Can anyone hear you?” I’ll just repeat what someone told me my adviser situation was akin to: “Nancy’s the carrot, and Keith’s the stick.” That pretty much sums it up.

So, after decompressing, thinking, and procrastinating, I went back to the thesis for round two. I made my argument explicit–my argument being that some people use their hybridity agentively–and I made a lot of clarifications and corrections and I expanded that rushed chapter. And I rewrote the introduction so that it seemed a little more like skywriting. And I did some actual fieldwork, interviewing an agentive hybrid, and using that interview to conclude the thesis. Also, the interview proved my thesis. At least, I thought so.

I turned it. And ten days later I got an email that read, “i read your thesis over the weekend and think you made major improvements. congratulations. keith and i still have some concerns, though.” Emphasis mine, as they say. The concerns, as it so happened, was that they didn’t like “agentive hybridity.” At all. Not that it was the title of thesis. Not that it was the point of the thesis. Not that it was… ARGH. They thought that the way I was using agentive hybridity made it sound as if not all hybrids were agentive, when everyone, even the most oppressed, have agency. Of course, I thought it was obvious that 1) I believe that everyone has agency, and 2) I believe some people have more agency than others, and 3) my thesis was explaining how all of this works. But as my Geometry teach Mr. Roll always said, “Don’t assume anything!” To be fair, when Nancy told me this, it didn’t seem to be such a big deal. She’s the carrot, remember? All I needed to do was reframe “agentive hybridity” as “cultural capital.” This means that every hybrid is agentive, but not every hybrid has the knowledge and skills to be socioeconomically successful. The knowledge and skills are “cultural capital.” Some have actual capital, too, but that’s not my point.

So, back to the revisions. Technically, the thesis has been “approved,” meaning the school has a form saying so. But I have to fix it, meaning that I have to go through the thing and remove almost every reference to agency and so on. And do some other stuff, such as put blunt conclusions in the second and third chapters and rejigger the conclusion. All of which, of course, I’d rather pour molten chocolate all over my hand than do. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of my thesis and because I thought I had a neat little idea in agentive hybridity and I wanted to write a thesis that had an original idea. Cultural capital is not new. Pierre Bourdieu came up with it in the 1970s and Philippe Bourgois perfected its application in In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio in 1996. So, instead of doing something new, I just synthesized some old stuff. Yay: This is my job. I’m an academic. This is my life.

I spent five hours at Urban Grind yesterday doing the revisions. I had thought they’d be much easier, and I’d told Nancy that I would have the final revision in her mailbox this morning. Nope. At 7:30 last night, I packed it in without writing a conclusion to the third chapter or fixing the actual conclusion. I just couldn’t do anymore. I wanted a drink, some dinner, and some “30 Rock.” (In fact, 30 Rock and the drink went well together, or at least they did until I laughed so hard while trying to swallow that I spit wine all over myself and the couch. Good thing the couch is red.) This afternoon, I hope I can finish up. I better, because if I don’t bring it to Nancy’s party tonight, I’m going to feel like a bigger loser than I already am.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Mom says:

    Yes 30Rock was sublime last night, particularly after Margaritas. It does seem that you are giving chocolate a bad name–but we get the point; glad you are making progress. Kisses, Mom

  2. TLS says:

    I feel your pain.

    My prospectus took 18 revisions throughout the course of a year to actually pass. (And we won’t mention the unethical committee which included someone who had previously filed charges against me through the Church…can you tell I am bitter? Maybe I should call your mom…)

    After I had danced the piper’s tune, I realized it was not even close to what I intended to write for the full length dissertation and I began again from scratch.

    The academy sucks.

    Funny, we are both still trying to get in!

  3. LeeHouck says:

    God-awful means “as bad as something awful handed down from God could be.” Locusts, plague, etc.

    Ohhhhhhh. —Ed.

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