OxBlog

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

# Posted 6:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SCHOLAR'S SUPERSTITION: Last Friday, I flew to England. I flew to England because I had to defend my dissertation in person, in Oxford, on Monday. I didn't put up a post about my trip because I didn't want to jinx it.

When your professors are about to hand down their judgment about the work to which you've devoted the past three years of your life, it's hard not to become superstitious. Especially when your actual performance at the defense (or "viva" as we call it in Oxford) can make all the difference.

Whereas most American graduate students receive regular comments and criticism from the committee of professors who will decide whether or not they graduate, those of us in Oxford have to submit our dissertation to a pair of professors with whom we have had no substantive interaction while writing our dissertations. Although doctoral candidates have the most important say in deciding which professors will evaluate their work, the whole process is still very unpredictable.

Thus, I had to contend with the real possibility that I would be sent back to the drawing board and told to resubmit my dissertation in a year's time. And the viva itself was very, very rough. After all, how often does a pair of senior scholars spend more than an hour and half dissecting every argument you've made?

More than once, I was told that I had "no evidence" to back up some of my arguments. Thus, when I left the room at the end of the session, I really thought that I might not pass. But I did.

Afterward, I didn't feel very much like celebrating. I felt like a survivor, not a winner. But when it comes to getting your doctorate, surviving is more than enough.

So now I feel relieved.
(29) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Congratulations, David.
 
Congratulations, David! Well deserved.
 
Congrats, David!
 
Congratulations!!
 
sounds like a brutal rite of passage, but you're on the other side now, congratulations!
 
I expected nothing less from my coffee bean.
 
Anonymous had a temporary memory lapse and would like to strike "coffee" from the record and extend hearty congratulations to pundit bean.
 
Well done. But ".. most American graduate students receive regular comments and criticism from the committee of professors who will decide whether or not they graduate": goodness me, no wonder one side of politics has the Universities in its grasp.
 
Good for you.

I know just how you feel.

When I defended, we talked about my thesis for about fifteen minutes. The other two hours and forty-five minutes were spent on Korea, Vietnam and the Song dynasty for Pete's sake.

That was the most anti-climatic success I have ever experienced.

Michael
 
Congrats, David!
 
Congratulations!
 
Congratulations. Welcome to the ivory tower!
 
Much public kvelling witnessed around Kips Bay. Contratulations!
 
Congratulations! You did it. You did it well enough. And you never have to do it again.
 
Good hustle, David. Well-earned honors, I'm sure.
 
".. most American graduate students receive regular comments and criticism from the committee of professors who will decide whether or not they graduate"

if only we could be so lucky. I have likened doctoral studies as walking from NY to LA and finding yourself in Iowa: corn in every direction and thinking to yourself, "if only I could find the row of soybeans...".
 
congrats, nonetheless, and welcome to the academy.
 
Well, at least y'all don't do comps over there (at least in my field), so it probably evens out in terms of stress. Know what you mean about not feeling happy, just angry (i.e., survivor).
 
Congratulations, from one who felt much the same after defense, ten years ago, as I think you did. My mentor was kind enough to assure me that whether I passed my defense with distinction or dysfunction, the magic word was "passed." And the best dissertation is a done one. So, go celebrate! You've done what most people who set their feet on the doctoral path fail to do: finished.
 
Mazel Tov David!!
 
Congrats, David! You deserve it, Dr Adesnik.
 
Great job, David.

Rob
 
Congratulation, Doctor David.
 
Congratulations, David. My dissertation defense is a blur. All I can really remember is that: a) I felt like my brain was broken, and b) couldn't read for a few months, so I was reduced to watching videos--the dumber, the better. I have some hazy memory involving "Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo" and a family-sized bag of chips...
 
And thanks to all of you!
 
Woo,hoo! Way to go, man. Nobody is surprised, but everyone is impressed.

Don't let the Letdown Daemon get you down. Repeat after me: "I am the brightest star in the galaxy. I am the sharpest knife in the drawer. I am..."
 
Hey David, congratulations.
As a very recent viva survivor myself, your comments ring very very true...

A regular, big old shot of self-doubt is recommended for mental health.
 
Does this mean that you're a liberal now?

(PS, Congrats)
 
Congratulations David. Well done.
-Glendon
 
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