So many posts to be written. So much of my thesis to be written. So many phone calls to make. Dishes to wash. And now it's the next day from when I started this post, so let's try to finish, okay?
Anyway, I'll try to touch on one of the many blog posts that I want to write right now. Even though it's not waiting its turn behind other blog posts in my brain. I read New Kid's post this afternoon about what it feels like to be on the hiring end of the market, to see all those shiny candidates and feel a bit lack-lustre yourself. And I think one of the things she said gave me a point at which draw some of my academic angst lately. ('Cause I wouldn't be a real grad student without academic angst.) The feeling of my work is so irrelevant! Not in the sense of, I'm studying old stuff, not caring for orphans in Romania; my work is so irrelevant, more like She's writing a cool thesis on the Velvet Underground; mine is on a manuscript few people would care about; my work is so irrelevant. (Not to knock your thesis, Funke; I've given up trying to be as cool as you. *grin*)
It all comes from this conversation I had last October. If you've been following my grad school saga, you'll know that I decided to end my program with a terminal master's and reapply for a newer PhD program in my new city (aka Local Fabulous University) for many good reasons and I have my dept's blessing, so all's good. Well, I got accepted at Local Fab U last spring, but wait-listed for funding (it's a very competitive program, so I was flattered to even get that far). They invited me to visit, were very encouraging, tried through late-April (!) to get me a package, but to no avail. So I was all set to reapply, because this is the place I REALLY, really want to go to. In Oct, I went to talk to the Director of Grad Studies about how to make this application a successful one. He told me that the reason I didn't get an offer straight up last spring was that my interests weren't broad enough. Yea, I was strong and definitive in my area, but I needed to show that I had diverse research interests.
okay. I'll let myself go off on this tangent.
So medieval studies, which you know encompasses a good 700 years (we don't really start until 800 or 900 CE) is not diverse enough for it to be considered broad to have an interest in 11th century theology and 14th century vernacular? I'll admit I was a little annoyed. Because when you're selling yourself in 1000 words to a major research university, don't you want to show that you have a pretty focused idea about what you want to do? I did mention secondary interests, but I didn't dwell on them. I thought I had a pretty kickass personal statement. And I was further annoyed because my competition was these fresh undergrads from elite schools who have vague ideas about what they want to do. So is that the reason for the need to be diverse? to talk about a variety of things you're interested, because you don't have enough focus to be specific about the one? [not to knock to the poor, fresh undergrads--but I was pretty focused back then, too; that's why I was applying to grad school--furthermore, my focus hasn't changed a whole lot; though my dream dissertation has now been taken over by two Important Scholars that have monopolized the use of the archives to others. Grrr.] Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Maybe my assumptions were all wrong to begin with. I just found it odd that I was waitlisted because I had too much focus.
But that begin a whole wave of self-doubt. Am I not interesting enough? Cool enough? What are my broad interests? I have some interests that would be considered broad, but I don't want to invest the time it would take in order to do them well, at least right now anyway. That's why I'm not focusing on them. (One such interest is the legacy of Hegel in 19th c music...especially Wagner; I think if you look at Gesamtkunstwerk through the eyes of Hegel it recasts our Grout and Palisca [famous music history textbook] assumptions. But then I would have to get solid in German and understand Hegel. Aiyiyi. I know enough to get me in trouble, but not enough to get me out.) It's all so exhausting. I'm interested in international hip-hop and R &B, because I find it fascinating how other cultures fuse what are essentially American genres into their own culture's music language to come up with something very interesting and often politically laden (as those genres traditionally are). But I know so very little about pop music in general that I would have to learn the history of entire genres in order to form a coherent statement of interest. It's all so exhausting!
But those kinds of projects seem more "relevant." The same fifteen people aren't necessarily going to read them. But I like medieval studies! Not that I don't like the others, but it's Car Musicology to me...theorizing about the music as I listen to it in the car (which is where a lot of my serious listening happens; sitting still with awesome CD player; toddler safely confined and entertained by the other cars).
Ugh. This post isn't really going anywhere, and now it's starting to annoy me. But it's really indicative of where I am right now. Unsure. Well, sure of where I ultimately want to end up in terms of a dissertation project, which seems to unattainably in the future.
Rather loose strings of thought flapping in the wind. Am I cool enough to grab onto a couple of those strings?
I didn't reapply for the fall. I want to use my thesis as a writing sample, and there are a couple of item that could improve my overall application that I was not able to address this fall (including a finished thesis). The deadline was mid-December, and I let it slip by me. It's taken me a while to talk about it. For some reason, I felt really weird about watching that date go by.
Not to mention some family issues that aren't necessarily related to the fact that I have a child and want at least one more, my reapplication to the grad school of my dreams leaves me in a quandry. And I shouldn't be fussing over it all anyway, until I finish my stinkin' thesis!
File this post under Brain Barf. (since barf was on our minds of late)
UPDATE: You know, I don't want this post to be about complaining about the results of my application last year. Yea, I'm confused about some aspects, but I know so much more goes into application evaluations beyond individual people. For instance, they may have a particular class forming and they see a certain dynamic/representation of interests or whatever. I don't really know. This post is about greater angst articulated in this particular instance through the conversation I had in October.
I also find it very interesting that a lively discussion is being held on my discipline's listserv about diversity of topics (and taking the road less traveled) in relation to diss topics and future employability.