thesis progress

I had a productive meeting with my supervisors this morning. They had just read through my monolithic ‘scene’ chapter and gave me constructive feedback.

It reminds me of the time writing an article with Mel where I would write something barely comrehensible in Glen-speak on the edge of my understanding of something, pushing ti to the absolute limit in response to something Mel had written and then Mel would have to work to understand wtf I was on about.

My supervisors are very patient with me as I often forget to write normal academic things like why some approach has value or not and go into massive theoretical reconstructions. Part of this is an anxiety about my own thinking. Part of this but also separate is the desire to not appear as a hack that simply picks up some body of work and starts using it without doing the hard yards tracing back understandings across half a dozen or so texts for every concept. I want to demonstrate I have done the reading and thinking work.

One of the best things to come out of today’s meeting is the notion I need to earn my ‘theory moments’ rather than just jump in and start swinging. I need to care for my readers and lead them along with examples and empirical work and build up to it.

PS: And my fourth iPod (third replacement) has broken. Apple? Are you smoking crack or what? Same problem as last time, so did they actually fix it? What can I do?

11 thoughts on “thesis progress”

  1. What’s your tentative date for submission, glen? Are you shutting everything else out until you finish, or are you planning on taking on a bit of sessional work throughout the year?

  2. I am not sure, rob. I need work because I am out of scholarship. I am at gleebooks and that is a fun if not slightly repetitive job. I have tapped most of my academic contacts for work but I haven’t had any luck this semester.

    One thing I realised just now when I have been at the gym doing my medidation thing lifting heavy objecs is that I am also profoundly ashamed of myself for not having finished by now. Elspeth Probyn’s book is quite good on this. However the shame I am feeling is not the sort of shame that burns on the surface. This shame creeps into into the rest of my activities and goings on. A slow burn. I am in part sorry to and for myself, and to my supervisors and friends, but mostly to my family. By what what rights do I have to put them through all this fucking shit?

    I think this blog is also evidence of how ashamed I am of my work. I don’t write on here, I produce visibilities (in the Foucauldian sense, yes d, lol) on who I am. In part I am ashamed of how fucking stupid the topic is. Cars. Who gives a fuck? In part I am ashamed of how seriously I have taken it. Yes, I need to be worthy of my research, lah lah lah. So I go mad with crazy theory shit. In part I am ashamed of how stupid I am in how shitty my research is, and then not realising how good some parts are, but then realising that I should have been able to do this in less than three years.

    It is not simply a question of not having finished as if finishing was a hoop or series of hoops that I need to juump through. Rather, I have taken a radical rejection of neoliberal modes of governance to heart to refuse judgement altogether. I refuse to be judged or to allow myself to be judged, and continually choose to forget the hard lessons learnt whenever I have got back reviewers comments or whatever for journal acticles and stuff. Is this some kind of masculine thing? I am not sure, I don’t think so. I prefer to think of it as an existential thing. Is this all I have been doing over the last five or so years, building up to some moment when I discover if I have been judged sufficiently or not?

    I can’t function like this, because to make such a refusal is a complete stupid luxury. This sort of post-Kantian luxury is one I can ill afford both economically and in terms of something like a career (which feels me with another kind of shame, that I will willing submit myself to such social mechanisms). I actually sneer at evidence of a careerist mentality while at the same time I find myself unwilling to accept the necessary sacrifices (social, economic) of giving up such notions. Sometimes I feel paralysed by this double bind. It shouldn’t be just one or the other but with all my fucking fantastic poststrucutral bullshit I can’t seem to imagine a way out. Academia was meant to be just that, a way out, and now I discover that it is on the leading fucking edge of all this shit.

    MOstly though I am ashamed of my frivolous pursuits into ‘theory’ not because they are useless but because that is not what a PhD dissertation is meant to be. Why the fuck do I need to understand Deleuze? I am ashamed that I have continued until now to write what I have written when I know I could write a chapter like what I am meant to write with well defined hoops and demonstrative jumping in about a week and in much much less time reworking from what i have written. I think this might be something pathological/phantasmatic in my psyche. Part of me thinks it is because it is too easy, like subcultural theory, which I can do standing on my head, and therefore it is just fucking boring and a waste of time. Why do I need to recite the same 3500 words that is in every introductory text just so I can say my 1500 words?

    But I have contempt for this system within which I am earning a little scrap of fucking space. Sure I am absolutely baffled by the retarded banalities I read sometimes by so-called academics, and other times there are people who think and feel in critical or engaged way that resonates to the very core of their being and they are not in academia which is an absolute fucking tragedy. All this makes me realise that the academic social mechanisms are just fucked. If I succeed then how much of a success is it really? This is the question I keep coming back to. Do I really want to succeed in this fucking thing? And it is at this point I start thinking that I would rather go get drunk. lol. But that is even more fucking stupid. Instead I write some stupid shit on here and take a deep breath and get back to work.

    Now I know it is because it is all a ritual of earning the space to speak or to argue. I need to earn my strips not just in terms of having degrees and shit, but in my actual writing. I need to convince a reader not of the argument but convince them that they could be convinced by the argument. Legitimation of a judgement-discourse has to be written into my work. I have absolutely refused it until. But now I just need to grow up and stop fucking around. The contempt is still there, and i shall learn to use it like a fuel.

  3. Quite a lot of that sound horribly familiar. Hell, it make me want to get drunk just thinking about it!

    I’ve never had any trouble with my ipod, how do you go about breaking them?

  4. lol, dammit, what happened to my esses?

    It should have read: Quite a lot of that sounds horribly familiar. Hell, it makes me want to get drunk just thinking about it!

  5. familiar(s) are bad juju

    iPod? no idea. it is getting bloody annoying.

    yeah, i went to a book launch tonight. interesting conversation and free beers!

  6. Hey glen.

    I sympathise with how you’re feeling about the whole thing (especially today: seen the responses to “The Postmodern Left: Part 1” at onlineopinion.com?)).

    I don’t know that I’d have much I could say in response that would be anything more than a platitude. I think contempt’s productive, as is getting drunk. As for the value of your work, don’t look for absolutes (not that you don’t already know this), and remember that the absence of an absolute is liberating: the proper answer to the question, “Why the fuck do I need to understand Deleuze?”, is, “Why the fuck not?!”. For what it’s worth, I look to people who I respect and assess myself in their eyes; I keep my expectations modest and I take the modest rewards those expectations return.

    The “peers” who comment on your article submissions, etc. are, largely, cunts. In my eyes, you’re right to treat (most) readers’ reports with contempt, and this is because 95% of academics — despite their self-proclaimed “openness to the other” and their insistence on the impossibility of totality, completeness, etc. — take the aim of refereeing to be the critique of arguments and theories that differ from their own and the requirement that the argument do more than it can. Fuck ’em. Respect only those comments that show their respect for you.

    As for work, I might be able to offer you something for next semester — shitty work (i.e. marking) for shitty pay (little more than some pocket money), and no guarantees at this stage, but if you’re interested email me…

  7. Amen to that Rob …

    And Glen, while you are jumping through the hoops just remember to give ’em the finger as you are doing so 😉
    Oh, and don’t worry. as soon as you finish, the hoops keep coming *sigh*

  8. I can do marking! and I have responded to the online opinion piece and responses 😉

    I wasn’t so much being critical of reviewers’ comments thing, I have found they are actually useful in redirecting me to much more sensible ways of writing. I need to focus on writing in a clear and straightforward manner. Part of this is finding the right balances between empirical work and theory (funnily enough my dissertation is actually an empirically driven piece of work lol) but the real problem is that up until now I have been writing and working towards my “operative outside” rather than constructing a text that works on the “operative outside” for my reader.

    “Operative outside” being that movement of thought that doesn’t work from understanding but that produces an understanding to come (and works from stupidity). This is quite crazy actually, writing to your own operative outside means writing to an understanding you don’t actually have, but which you are trying to invoke through the performative act of writing. This is what most of my blog writing is. Now I understand that for my PhD I need to write to my reader’s operative understanding talking about stuff I do absolutely understand and demonstrate I understand it. (and, clif, Greg actually suggested that I imagine you as my ‘reader’!)

    The problem is with the affects of writing, that writing like this just feels like I am not doing any work — in Glen’s world, I mean — in that I am being intellectually lazy only writing about stuff I already understand. But now I know I need to use what I understand to produce an understanding (of some description, and which is worthy of being passed as a PhD) in the thinking of others.

  9. “Part of this is finding the right balances between empirical work and theory …”

    Glen! Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of “radical empiricism” and the “true abstract machine”?!

    (Do you have an email address lying around here somewhere?)

  10. Glen, I have followed what you have said about TWoD at LP and elsewhere, and have kept an eye on this site, too. Just wanted to say good luck with it all. I’m just a lowly honours student (so my stress is hardly worthy of this conversation), and I am completely overwhelmed – I hate my thesis topic and think it is completely pretentious, and whenever I feel that I have come up with an original thought or interesting take on my topic (which has the potential to take it away from the pretentious), I read *my* idea within a few days in the next book from my research pile. I feel that every sentence in my thesis will be referenced, and if there is any argument that isn’t referenced — and possibly my idea — that’s only because I haven’t found the book it’s in yet. Anyway, I appreciate your honesty in your account of your research and writing process, although I wish you weren’t so hard on yourself.

    In regards to the comments at OLO on TWoD (well, the pomo paper by L&M), it is amusing to check out Keith Windshuttles entry into the debate (see comments on Part One). The *proof* that postmodernists
    claims there is no such thing as the truth is apparently not in the works of Foucault or Derrida (of course), but in an essay in Meanjin. Check it out.

  11. thanks for the words of support, ophelia! (if i was to take a name from billy it would be iago!!)

    I disagree with you in that I think I should be more hard on myself, be more disciplined, faster, accelerating. I need to keep accelerating otherwise I will not finish. However, I do have to keep reminding myself that I went from about 15k words of actual thesis and about 150k of bollocks 5 months ago to about 50k words worth of actual thesis and 45k of bollocks. This has been a rather stupendous amount of work.

    However, I agree that there should be more honesty (or more ‘visibilities’) regarding the whole process and what it means. It is all mostly a blackhole where people, ideas and light gets sucked in but from which messages can’t be sent out. I have done it myself, where as soon as I pass through a certain stage of the process the last thing I want to do is talk about it in any shape or form. There are a lot of qualitative shifts and jumps in register that occur which normal people I guess would call growing up. BUt adulthood for a cultural studies phd (or honours student) does not mean the same thing as adulthood for those people who have not been exposed to the radioactive core (just to mix metaphors) of the blackhole.

    Radical empiricism! That is another term for incorporeal materialsm, isn’t it? 😉

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