"groundhog day" | saturday | february 2, 2008 | 9:50 am
ANUARY CAME AND WENT TOO FAST.
I guess that's the price of being busy and stressed all of the time. So many people have said
to me that they've felt like the year, as new as it is, is already racing by. It's been pretty
crazy for the past few weeks, and I'm finally finding a little time off, time to take
it easy. Hopefully, the next few weeks will be an easier and more generous pace.
Most of my time was spent on prepping for my Ph.D. writtens, the first part of my exam process.
I spent the first weeks of January just trying to cram what I could into my brain, into my
notes, and into the too few days left before my exam weekend. I did manage to read a few extra
things, primarily my committee chair's book
The Souls of Cyberfolk,
which is interesting, bibliographic, and does a lot of intellectual moves that I am interested
in in my own work. I had my final list meeting at the start of the quarter. My committee wanted
me to produce some questions that I thought would address the kinds of issues, ideas, and
critical interventions I wanted to write about for my exams. The meeting was harder than I
thought it was going to be. They asked me some tough things; they hated one of my questions,
which was about periodization and postmodernism, were ambivalent about two questions, and really
liked my fourth and final question, which was about queer theory and technology. So, after
beating me up, they sent me off to rewrite my first question and to prepare for the writtens.
My chair, Tom, did say that I was fine and he thought I was ready. (The whole tear you down,
sort-of build you back up thing is a little mean and stressful. Yes, yes, it's tradition and all.
I rewrote my first question. I pretty much had to back away from any deep understanding of the
periodization of postmodernism. My lists (and my general coursework) simply did not prepare me
to answer a question about postmodernist theory. So, instead, I tried to recircuit the question
to come at it from the fiction side, the literature side, which is my real focus anyway. And then
I went back to cramming. The weekend before my writtens, I actually took a gamble and wrote a
tentative essay answering my fourth proposed question, the one they really liked. I figured that
my committee would not try to trick me or set me up to fail or fuck up, so I was pretty sure that
I would get something along the lines of my queer theory meets technoculture question. I think
it took me nearly fourteen hours of solid writing to get it done. I didn't go back to polish or
anything; I just wanted text down on paper.
The week before my writtens, I went to see my chair again. Just to check-in. And we had a very
brief meeting where we talked about strategy and things to expect and what I should do in my
writing process. But Tom was pretty abstract in talking about the exams; I don't think he wanted
to tip me off in any way about my questions. But he was kind, supportive, and reminded me that
he thought I was ready. I left the meeting feeling better than I did going in, which is always a
plus. I had a pretty "normal" week before the exams. I taught. I went to school. I read.
I even went out to
grad pub, had a few drinks, and
hung out. I knew that if I had just gone home from campus, I would just sit around my apartment
freaking out. It was good to have a business-as-usual week. Then, Friday morning came. I
called for my questions at 9:30 AM. They arrived by email by 9:32 AM. And my exam weekend
was underway. I had 72 hours to complete two of the seven questions. Fortunately, I got the
questions I thought I would get. Here were my choices:
Ph.D. Examination for For Ed Chang
January 25-28, 2008
Directions: This exam has a limit of 30 double-spaced pages, which should be divided between
two essays. Each essay should demonstrate both critical depth and breadth, both close
reading and historical and/or theoretical conceptualization: that is, each essay should
sustain an argument that is grounded in examples of representative texts and also situate
those examples in a larger context. The major period essay must place texts on that list
in conversation with select theory texts and may incorporate minor period works. (Some of
your questions will demand this inclusion.) The second essay must engage minor period texts
in an argument that is free to draw upon your other lists. In writing these essays, take
care to employ different texts, whether as examples or context, in the service of your
different arguments – that is, be careful of repetition.
1. Outline what you see as the strongest periodizing arguments about postmodernism, and compare
and contrast the features of postmodern literature and/or culture that these different argument
emphasize. Then choose three main literary works from your period list that do not seem to
fit these definitions. If these works do not demonstrate the features of postmodernism that
your critical models propose as defining for the period, then what features do they seem to
you to present instead, and what does your reading of these texts say about the limitations of
the models you began by discussing? How do you explain the existence of these texts in this
period? Do they identify historical or intellectual changes in the period that your critics
fail to take into account, or do these anomalous texts identify aspects of the literature and
culture of this period that are not specifically postmodern and perhaps have to be read in a
longer historical frame?
2. Are there texts on your primary list that you would define as “queer?” If so, what textual
features would you identify as the basis for that definition? Discuss two examples. If, on
the other hand, “queerness” is a function of how you read these texts, then choose two texts
from your primary list and discuss why it is useful to read them as “queer.” Then, choose two
texts from your primary list by “minority” writers that are usually not read as queer, and
compare and contrast them to your two queer texts. In what ways are queer reading and/or
writing and literary projects of racial representation congruent or complementary, and in
what ways do they seem incommensurate with one another, if any?
3. What is the relation between postmodern literature and technoculture studies? How important
are questions of technology to the development of different literary projects in the post-1945
period? You should probably focus on three or four major examples. How does technology feature
in the literature of this period, and what is its function in postmodern writing? What are the
limits of literature as a resource or a site for reflecting on the cultural implications of
new technologies – that is, what kinds of critical issues do you have to move to other media
to address? In what ways has postmodern criticism picked up on the concern for technology in
the literature of the period? Are there any approaches to the question of technology in the
literature of this period that the criticism you have read seems to overlook?
4. What are the stakes—intellectually and otherwise—of articulating queer theory and
technoculture? That is, what does each practice stand to gain from dialogue with the other,
and what “world making possibilities” might emerge from this discursive encounter? What blind
spots does each of these discursive or theoretical formations reveal about the other? In
answering this question select three primary texts from your Technoculture Studies list and
place them in conversation with queer theory texts, at least two of which represent queer of
color critique. This question might begin to sketch out the contours, at least, of your
dissertation project, as you currently conceive it.
5. Postmodern technocultures and posthumanisms are often read (as in the work of Katherine
Hayles) as privileging disembodiment, or rather a concept of information understood as
abstract and disembodied, over the materiality of bodies. Other theorists, such as
Allucquere Rosanne Stone, argue that a relation to embodiment always structures virtual
systems, the spaces of prosthetic or computer-mediated communication, and new media, even
if bodies are no longer present to one another in the same way. In the context of these
kinds of debates (which you are free to elaborate on or qualify, by using other theorists),
how would you characterize the attitude toward embodiment implicit or explicit in the practices
and cultural representations of or narratives about “body hacking” or body modification?
Be sure you define the range of practices that this term might refer to. What different
perspectives on the possibilities of body modification do you find in your primary texts
(whether literary or from other media), either from your technoculture or your period list
(be sure you cite at least three primary examples)? How would you characterize the politics
of body hacking (or the different politics you find in different versions of these practices),
in relation to feminism, queer theory, and/or critical race theory? Is body hacking a
problem or a symptom of one? Or is it a solution, a resource for political change?
6. Lisa Nakamura argues that, in technoculture or online contexts, race is often figured
as more “solid” than gender or sexual categories, with the latter seeming to lend themselves
to performative modes of online play and masquerade and to the proliferation of alternative
and possibly contestatory practices. Do you agree or disagree with this argument? What is
the status of race in technoculture, as you see it? Be sure you offer specific examples to
support your position. How does the status of race in technoculture, as you would define
it, compare with the status of race within queer theory? In other words, does technoculture
have a special need for queer of color critique, as indicated by Nakamura’s suggestion that
race and sex/gender issues remain relatively distinct and defined by very different practices
and dynamics within technocultural contexts? Or does the way race functions or is deployed
and perhaps transformed within technoculture offer some specific resources for developing
queer theory and queer of color critique in new directions?
7. To what extent is technoculture studies an offshoot and a development of postmodern theory
and criticism? On the other hand, what challenges do technoculture practices and forms of
cultural production, in literature and/or other media, pose to postmodern theories and
postmodern modes of critical analysis or reading?
Crazy, right? I answered #1 and #4. I pretty much worked all day on Friday answering question
one. I knew that they would ask some sort of periodizing question (even after all of my protestations
about not knowing enough about it). But the periodization is framed through the texts on my first
list. So, I chose three texts I thought did not usually get taken up by postmodernism and thought
about how they did fit, didn't fit, and how to extend the definition of the period. Question four
pretty much was the question I thought they would ask and I got to use all of my pre-written essay.
Though I did have to rearrange it, add some, and shift a few main ideas. After I wrote all day, my
brain was fried. I went to the movies that night; I went to see
Juno, which I loved.
Then I spent pretty much all day Saturday going over my two essays. The main thing was that
both were too long. Ostensibly, I was to write two 15-page essays and no more. So I needed to
cut. I also wanted to make sure that I hit the main points of the questions as best as I could.
Frankly, there's only so much you can fit into fifteen pages. After reading for a year, I had
too much to say. Too much. I know part of the "test" is to see if you can produce some sort of
controlled argument. Focus, Edmond-san, focus. Or some sort of Yoda sagery about needing
discipline. So, I did my best. My first essay was 15 pages. My second was 17 pages. My chair
said he didn't really care. So hopefully it will be fine.
On top of the two essays, I was required to turn in a sample syllabus with a brief rationale for
how I designed the course and why I chose the particular reading list. It is a perfunctory
requirement, really. I understand the spirit of the syllabus thing, but in a department like UW's
English Department, which allows
its TAs to design their own courses, the requirement isn't as necessary or robust. I used the
syllabus for my
ENGL 200: Literatures of the Fantastic
class last quarter. Moreover, I wanted to do something special for my exams, something that
said "this is all Ed." So, I wrote a short story. I made sure to have it done before the
exams (so I can say I didn't use the 72-hours to work on the story). The story is about eight
pages long, called "iYou," and is a sort of post-cyberpunk homage set in near-future Seattle.
It is about a young man's walk down Broadway Street, the things he observes, and how his
"modification" technologies interface, interact with other people's mods. I wanted a story
that deployed the technocultural and queer ideas and theories that I'm interested in writing
about and working on. I also wanted to open the possibility of doing a non-traditional chapter
for my dissertation project. I really like the story; two of my friends have read it and gave
me good feedback. I might even try to vet it out.
By Saturday night, I was pretty much done. I went out to my friend Lindsay's party. It was
nice to be away from my computer. But I was really tired. Exhausted. I may have finished early
but I still used up a lot of mental and physical energy. Everyone that showed up to the party
was surprised (a little) that I was there. I kept telling them that I was lucky, a lot of
pieces came together, and I was really well prepared for the weekend.
Sunday, I just fiddled with the texts. I was tired of looking at them. I worked on formatting
them nicely. Finished up the bibliographies. And the printed everything out hardcopy. Sunday
afternoon, I went to lunch with Jason and Jane. Then we went to see
Cloverfield, which had the
potential to be really interesting and scary but failed miserably. I don't like scary
movies and even the cheesiest ones scare me. This one did not. The first 30 minutes were
interminable. The pace was off. The monster was cliche. Plot? Character? Even the fucking
camerawork (or lack of it) wasn't even smart. I can see the video game, which clearly informed
the aesthetic of the film, being better than the movie itself. The movie did make me sick
enough (after being hungover and full from lunch) that when I got home I had to throw-up. Now
I can say that it was so bad that I barfed. Enough said.
Monday morning I woke up to snow and crappy roads and slow buses. I had to get to school by
9:30 AM to turn in my exams, and the weather was conspiring to make me fret. But I did manage
to get there on time. I turned everything in. I even ran into one of my professors in the
mail room picking up the exams. Now I just have to wait and see. I should get responses soon,
probably Monday or Tuesday. Then I have to prep for my orals in two weeks on February 14.
Valentine's Day. Now I can fail at love and life all in one fell swoop. Actually, it should
be fine. Passing the writtens is usually a good sign that you pass it all. I don't think
the department would put all that energy into you and not pass you. And since I don't think
I royally screwed up, I should be fine. Again, the orals will be brutal and my committee will
beat the snot out of me. But there will be the last five minutes where they go, "Good job, you
did fine, you're ready to go on, you pass."
read footnotes |
• • •
"happy superbowl birthday" | sunday | february 3, 2008 | 9:47 am
APPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FRIEND, JOSH.
I know he's not going to be spending it with a football-shaped ice cream cake. So,
let me make sure someone gets him one. Have a great day!
• • •
"writtens" | tuesday | february 5, 2008 | 4:30 pm
I just got an email from my committee chair that says, "Dear Ed, I just wanted to drop you a quick
note to let you know...all three of us passed you. Everyone thought
the essays were very
strong. So congratulations!" Hooray! Finally! I thought they were going to make me
wait a long time. But this is good news.
The email goes on to say: "Generally, I think you can expect to be asked to expand on your
readings of the novels, especially in the first question. It's also likely you'll be asked to
spell out in more detail the kinds of dialogues you set up in the questions,
between critics and theorists or theorists and primary texts...One of the things that
you do really well is pull out quotes from the critics, especially; it shows
your attention to their texts and arguments, and that technique is unavoidable
in an exam like this. I often write through touchstone passages myself, in the
same way. One response you're likely to get to that, though, is that people
want you to make your perspective and your voice clearer -- in other words,
spell out in more detail what you think about the claims made in the quotations
you cite, and maybe how competing claims compare and contrast to each other.
This is the kind of thing you'll need to do in the dissertation, so I think some
of the conversation at the oral, at least, will be about how to move toward the
dissertation project...Good work here. Everyone was impressed with your writing. The comments
I make above are really focused on things that you need to do to keep progressing
beyond the exam. The exam performance in itself was excellent."
So, now I just have to get the comments from my committee in order to "prepare" for
my oral examination next week, February 14, Valentine's Day. But traditionally if you pass
your writtens, the orals shouldn't be too big a deal. As I've said before, I know I'm
going to get asked really hard questions. But after two hours, it'll be all said and
I'm glad that I know I passed and did well. Now I'm really curious as to what my committee
has to say (and what they have to say about my little short story addendum to the writtens).
read footnotes |
• • •
"year of the rat" | thursday | february 7, 2008 | 8:17 am
EAR OF THE RAT. Happy Chinese (Lunar) New Year! We
begin another cycle of animals with the rat. It doesn't look like I'll be making dumplings
by the bushel this year--maybe just a few for a few friends. I will be going to
tonight to celebrate, though.
Here are the predictions for the coming year. Here are some general ones from
2008's socially adept Rat year brings us charisma, intelligence and the ability to charm
the pants off of just about anybody – literally. Romantically, 2008's repertory will be as
eclectic and varied as this first sign of the Zodiac. High-strung, curious, and ever alert
to sexual opportunity, during Rat years we will all feel the need to make an emotional
connection with our love partner. It is after sunset that the Rat year comes alive with
numerous acquaintances, lively discussion, and intensely romantic interludes. We will
all value companionship and love more than anything else this year. Enjoy the concealed
and stealthy midnight hours ruled by the Rat of romantic secrets and delicious debauchery.
People fall in love easily during Rat years and we will all be prone to some memorable
infatuations. In the last Earth Rat year (60 years ago) Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior
in the Human Male stuned the country with revelations about infidelity, homosexuality and other issues.
Positively, in the previous Rat year of 1948, the Jews of Palestine declared independence
and the State of Israel was born on May 14, 1948. Negatively, another major beginning
occurred that year on May 26, 1948 when the government of South Africa embraced Apartheid
bitterly dividing the country. Financially, socially and globally, for better or for worse,
2008 is pregnant with potential.
2008 will also be an intellectual one, as the Rat is the curious professor of the zodiac.
Expect a renewed passion for knowledge, and interest in the sciences in 2008. Travel and
a hunger for new experiences, will also becon. The 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar
began operation in the previous Earth Rat year of 1948 and the "Big bang" theory of
the universe's origin was first postulated. In aztec, New Mexico Three radar units tracked
a falling UFO and a military search party was dispatched from Camp Hale in Colorado. The
search team finds a crashed 30-foot disc, recovers remains which is stored in Hangar 18 at
Words and language will become ever more important and poets, musicians and writers can
easily produce their best work to date under the influence of the talented Rat.
Exchanging and communicating are the priorities of a Rat year. A hyperactive and restless
year of potential nervous disorders and neurosis of every type. A good year to explore
relaxation methods such as meditation more thoroughly. You may find yourself more sensitive
to illness, environmental insults and allergies this year as well, so be sure to get
that flu shot and eat your vegetables!
And specifically for my sign, Dog, here's what
Janarrdhana Guptha has to say:
CAREER: A low key year dotted with ups and downs. Success and failures alternate regularly. You think you have reached the target when unexpected disaster strikes. You can tilt the balance more to your favor if you become more active, participate with interest and involvement, plan strategically no matter what the result is and by being humble when victory accompanies you. Take a lot of time in thinking things through, before taking decisions. Do not allow personal emotions to influence you. You will be pestered by vile people spreading rumors and gossips about you. Do not resist but welcome changes as and when they come. Certain scheming, shady, vile characters are "eyeing" you this year. Wear an Evil Eye Beads bracelet and carry the genuine, energized photograph of the White Tiger for your protection. If you are employed, harsh internal politics will drive you to a career switch or company change, neither of which will be positive. Stay put and work hard to convince your boss about your integrity. Display the statue of KuanKung to insulate you from office politics and carry a set of 3 Rising Dragon Coins for a little success luck. If you are self-employed, collecting the outstanding money due to you and paying off your loans will become more and more tougher. Plant a Double Phoenix Coin Tree and carry a set of 3 Fortune Flower Coins with you.
MONEY: Average money luck. If you are not careful with your spending, expenses will overshoot your income. Put off large purchases. Careful investment in needed. Do not go in for new loans right now. Do not stand guarantor for anybody, on any account. Refrain from excessive generosity. Windfall luck too is average, so don't bet on gambling. Stay clear of illegal money schemes as you may run into trouble with law. Avoid legal suits as they could empty your purse. A luxurious and flaunting lifestyle could bring in unwanted visitors. Install the statue of Frogs Trio or Frogs Duo and keep a set of 3 Four Guardian Kings Coins.
HEALTH: Take quality food and that too in proper time. Chances of food poisoning exists. Rest and sleep should be given their own priority. Spend a little more time in Meditation and Yoga. Stay away from tobacco and alcohol. Drive slowly and carefully. Chances of accidents while traveling is very high. Install the statue of MaZhu in your car. Caution should be taken when practicing sports or when climbing high. Be extra careful when you are handling sharp objects and operating machinery. There will be many injuries and blood shedding. Try to pre-empt this by voluntarily donating blood. Some of you may have to undergo surgery. Females should guard against gynecological illnesses and respiratory problems. The elderly should be careful about arthritics and skin problems. Place a Brass Five Element Pagoda Tower to minimize the health concerns. Expectant mothers should fight against psychological problems and depressions, to safeguard the mental health of the unborn child. It is best that the special Sacred Geometry Yantra that focuses on Safety of Pregnancy and Smooth Delivery of Child be installed.
LOVE: An year that comes in the way of stable relationships. Singles may have some good romantic encounters but without sufficient bonding. Engagement may happen for some, but double check on an auspicious date, if the wedding has to take place in this year itself. The married will face many quarrels at home and if the misunderstandings are not cleared immediately it could even lead to separation. Gossips and rumors (some sponsored by your own relatives) will haunt you throughout the year. Plenty of temptations for flirting around. Avoid extramarital affairs and be faithful to your spouse. Place the statues of Male QuiYong on Dragon and Female QuiYong on Phoenix in the South West of your bedroom and keep a set of three Harmony Coins under your bed, for enhancing the much needed harmony.
STUDIES: Excellent luck for studies, competitions and exams. Clear mind and diligence will help you ace the class. Unsuitable companions influence you with their prejudiced views. Self induced thoughts of isolation will bring down your ranks. Ignoring parental concerns and elderly guidance will only have more detrimental effects on your academic pursuits. Display the Dragon Head Turtle carrying Pagoda Tower in the North East and carry a set of 3 QuiYong Coins, to enforce discipline.
From The Feng Shui Store,
here's their advice for Dog: "Personally I am really looking forward to 2008, I must
admit I look at it as a bit of a challenge as my office is based in the south and the south is
not so good in 2008 so I plan to do more international consultations and teaching in 2008. What
you have set in store in your mind, be it ideas, projects, work advancement etc, may not sail
as smoothly as you desire in 2008. Whatever your plans are, you must execute with forethought.
Timing is important. Work may over stress you and, as such, do take extra care with your health
in particular to your stomach. You must take care of what you eat this year and if you live
in a hotter country please be aware of food poisoning relating to food left out in the heat.
You may also find that arguments abound in the year so stay in control and do not act rashly
or there will be many regrets. Watch what you eat and if your lifestyle is quick TV dinners,
you must allow for this and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. My advice this year
is take it easy and look before you leap. You should also be very careful to note that you
should avoid attending funerals or visiting sick people in November 2008 and if you have to,
make sure you use our almanac to select a good date and time."
here's what they say for Dog this year: "The dog continues to find good fortune
as the rat opens a new cycle. Family and friends are more important than ever this year, but
avoid pressure from this source on business and financial decisions. Relationships that began
in this pig year may be a source of good fortune in this new 12 year cycle. Don't be afraid to
let superiors and coworkers see your skills. Accept both the praise and advice that comes to
you from this source. Keep your focus as you may find yourself drawn to chasing the rat, but
don't be timid when the time comes to make decisions that will bring change and good fortune."
read footnotes |
• • •
"done" | friday | february 15, 2008 | 12:39 pm
AM SO TIRED, SO WIPED OUT, SO BRAIN DRAINED.
Yesterday was a long, long, wear-your-soul-down day. But it was good, triumphant, and a little
bit blue. (It's those conflicty, perfect storm of emotion days that really get you good.)
The three weeks between my written exam and my oral exam were pretty quiet. People kept asking
me how I was doing and how the weekend of writing went and how I was feeling. I was really
happy on the Monday morning to turn in the essays (as I have said before, I hate writing
essays but I really like turning them in). By Wednesday, though, the stress high from the
weekend evaporated. And I was left in limbo, in a funk. And of course that's when my body
decides that it would be okay to get sick. I fought a headcold for almost a week as I
waited to hear back from my committee. Things picked up again when I got the word that
I passed. Then time sort of went back into limbo again.
My chair did not think it was imperative to meet right away after I got word on my writtens.
But I got feedback from my committee members about my exams. They were pretty pleased and
said nice things and asked some hard (but not surprising) questions. My second committee
member Kate said in her responses: "These are, without questions, eminently passable exams:
beautifully written, remarkably informed, and unusually generous in their criticism of writers
with whom you’ve substantive disagreements. Thanks for the reading pleasure -- including the
short fiction bonus. I look forward to an engaging oral exam where I’m likely to return to
these and other strengths of the written exams...Let me say again how engaged I was by your
exams. Look forward to the oral." She of course had questions and critiques, mainly
of my utopian impulse (I really do want to read the possibility for change, resistance,
transformation, justice, and good in the work that I do) and of how I see technology and
queer theory intersecting and informing one another. My third committee member Eva wrote:
"I'm writing to let you know that I've now read the written portion of Ed Chang's
qualifying exam, which I find on the whole very good. The exam demonstrates
both a good command exam of key conceptual issues and the ability to explore
those issues in careful and compelling at the level of literary/visual texts." She had
questions about my use of postmodernism as an analytic and wanted also more on how
I saw my work in technoculture developing into my larger project. My favorite line from
her is: "I very much liked the reading of
Bionic Woman, btw
(a good deal more, in fact, than I've enjoyed the series so far)." I met with my chair
this past Tuesday and we talked about the questions he thought would come up. It was a
good conversation, he said I was ready, and I knew that I had enough in my brain and under
my belt to do fine. But, the meeting actually made me nervous.
The couple of days leading up to the orals were a little anxious. I think it was more
anticipatory nerves than anything else. But I was worried that I would just totally
blank on something. I don't like feeling dumb. And I have this respect and healthy
fear of teachers (I think it's an Asian thing) that I want them to think I'm smart, like me,
and be proud of me. But I tried to just have business-as-usual days. I did a little
light reading, read over my writtens again, and just tried to think about and talk about
the questions my committee asked me in their responses.
Yesterday, the day of the orals, and Valentine's Day, I woke up too early. I had hoped
that I would be able to sleep in a little. But I woke up around 6:30 AM and laid in
bed till about seven. Then I just got up and tried to get work done. It took me like
45 minutes to get dressed. I wasn't sure what I wanted to wear. I didn't know if I
wanted to get really dressed up. Or just a little snazzier than my usual clothes. Or
just go in my everyday wear. I settled on dressing up a little but not to the point
of seeming disingenuous. I wore dress pants, a plain crisp white button-up long sleeve
dress shirt, no tie, not tucked, and bright orange mohawk. I kind of looked like a
runaway groom, but that's fine by me. I went into school a little early. I actually
held extra office hours for my students just so that I wouldn't just sit in my office
freaking out. I had a couple of students drop by. And I read and skimmed while I
waited for students. Then the appointed hour arrived, 12:30 PM, and I made my way down
the hall to the little conference room (perhaps one of the most depressing rooms in
the basement of the English building). I got to the room and the door was shut and
locked. So I got the key to open it up at least. My GSR showed up, my graduate school
representative (someone outside of the department that basically makes sure that the
orals are on the up-and-up and my interests are protected). And then eventually the
whole committee gathered.
I don't think I can remember exact details of the exam. It would have been interesting
to have taped it. I was the first to speak; I had to express what I thought of the exam
process, what my academic interests are, and where I think I see my dissertation project
beginning and going. Then the discussion was opened up and everyone, including my GSR
(who usually doesn't have to actually participate), talked, asked me questions, commented
on my ideas, and riffed off of one another. They asked me about certain parts of
my writtens. Most of the questions were about my interest in technoculture studies
and queer theory. I used a lot of anecdotal evidence, actually, talking about
World of Warcraft. Then
questions got into specific theoretical perpsectives about postmodernism or queer of
color critique or posthumanism. There was a lot of "What do you think are the stakes
of X or Y?" or "How do you compare or contrast X and Y?" or "Tell me more about your
reading of X." There were a few moments were I just blanked, but I just started talking
it out and eventually talked myself into an answer. I think I was pretty calm throughout
the whole thing. The whole thing was pretty conversational (with some joking around
and laughing to boot). There was one point where I disagreed with my chair on a
reading of two particular cultural critics, and he thought about it and said my take
was a better way to go. The orals lasted about an hour and forty-five minutes. I
felt like I held my own and actually participated in a solid discussion. I did back
down from some things and I did say I needed more experience in some things before I
could really answer a question well. But it was strangely fun and fulfilling.
Of course, at the end, they sent me out of the room for about ten minutes. I just
paced around and hung out at the Expository Writing office down the hall. Then they
called me back in and congratulated me and passed me. The nicest thing was that
they said it was an enjoyable exam. My chair said that it was always a good
sign if there is a lot of conversation and not just a firing line of questions.
Now I am a PhD Candidate, a PhC. I move up a payscale level. And I can develop
my dissertation project. I will probably take a week or so off just to get my
bearings (and to work through the post-exam depression that inevitably follows).
Then I will go see my committee members to debrief and to look toward my
prospectus, which is the next step.
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