in which carrots considers many metaphors for her horrible dissertation chapter

The second chapter of my dissertation has been horribly disfigured by the job market.

Ugh, it’s such a mess.  I did not have this problem with Chapter Four and Chapter Three.*  While they certainly had their problems, they were not anything like Horrible Horrible Chapter Two.  And I know why.  I started writing this chapter at the beginning of last summer, and then the job market intervened.  It exploded my academic life into total chaos, and I only had the opportunity to research and write in small, two-hour sessions that were always interrupted by some ridiculous job market task, like compulsively checking the MLA Job List or making sure I included the correct institution name on a job letter.

The result is that Chapter Two is irrevocably fractured.  None of the parts fit together.  At some point, it seemed perfectly logical to follow up Margaret Gatty’s preachy stories in Aunt Judy’s Tales with James Sully and those crazy kids of the Child Study Movement (men who claim that studying children requires knowledge of the idiot and insane classes of humanity).  Now it seems ridiculous, but my attention is too short and my personally-set deadline looms too close to do anything about it.

So, to make things a little cheerier this afternoon as I attempted to cobble together the disparate elements of the chapter — Rousseau’s theories on education, English translations of German fairy tales, popular nineteenth-century stories about a talking rocking chair, pseudo-science comparing children to “savages” — I also began to compile a list of broken things that could be considered metaphors for my sad, sad second chapter:

  1. My chapter is the scarred, weird-colored ring in the great tree-trunk cross section of my dissertation.  The other rings — chapter four, chapter three — are smooth and amber-colored and not scarred by such trauma.
  2. My chapter is a layer cake for a school bake sale someone labored over all afternoon, but it still didn’t come out right.  It has weird, ragged edges, which the amateur baker has tried to disguise with particularly colorful frosting.  It looks ridiculous next to the compulsively perfect cupcakes contributed by other parents.
  3. My chapter is a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, begun patiently during a rainy day but completed, in a total and irresponsible rush, when the sun finally came out and the puzzler wanted to go for a walk but was going to finish this puzzle, dammit.
  4. My chapter is that kid in the class photo who forgot it was photo day.  While everyone else is well-groomed — the girls dressed in tights and hair ribbons, the boys in ties and loafers — my chapter is dressed, instead, in cut-off shorts and a free, XXL tee-shirt from a local minor-league hockey team.

Any contributions to the list are welcome!

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.


* I am, for some reason, writing everything out of order.  I’ll have skip down to Chapter Five after this one and then loop back to the introduction.


7 thoughts on “in which carrots considers many metaphors for her horrible dissertation chapter

  1. I’m cracking up because I feel this way about my chapter 4! Not nearly as well organized and, er, thoughtfully researched as chapters 2 and 3, I also felt pressure to meet my self-imposed deadline in order to accept a job offer.

    I consoled myself by repeatedly thinking, “A good dissertation is a done dissertation.” If you haven’t yet started incessantly repeating this to yourself like some mantra only fully understood by those at the writing stages of their Ph.D.s, I hope you can use it to find a modicum of comfort that it has brought me! 🙂

  2. That is a good mantra. Maybe I should post it about my desk! And I know that what looks absolutely beyond hope on my word processor is probably not nearly as bad as I think… but still…

    A job offer! That’s fantastic! Can you share?

    • Thanks! So I accepted a tenure-track offer at Tennessee State University in Nashville. I’m not sure how I feel about moving to Nashville, but, if nothing else, it’s a line on the CV…(another mantra I repeat, by the way :). I would, one day, like to get back to DC; I think you might be able to understand the magnetism of that city!

      • That sounds like a great job! I was just in Nashville in February for a conference hosted by Vanderbilt. It seems like a fun city. But I definitely understand wanting to stay in the DC area. I miss it all the time, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an opening somewhere in DC, Maryland, or Virginia next year.

  3. hahaha #4 is my fave, only bc that was me in the 2nd grade. i came back from being absent for a week with the chicken pox to find out it was picture day. so there i am, in the middle of the photo, wearing an oversize t-shirt with planets on it (actually, pretty cool now that i think about it), semi-crimped hair, and scabs all over my face. HOT!

    • See, I guess this is one advantage of wearing uniforms. I might not have known it was picture day, but I was probably dressed the same as everyone else.

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