so, now i've lost the momentum to write about my MA defense. It all went fine. My committee asked me a few scary questions that I don't think I answered very well, they basically said that I wasn't really doing anything original, that my theory seemed a bit muddled, and that my title was too descriptive. But most of the discussion seemed to be less about the actual thesis than "lessons to learn for your future career in scholarship."
Despite my best efforts at being zen, that all disappeared with the first question--after which I was fighting back tears the whole time--not that I was especially surprised or hurt by anything they were saying--but somehow my body physically reacts to situations in which I am having to defend myself to authority figures--and unfortunately it reacts in that way. I was so GLAD I had preceeded myself by bringing in a bottle of water which I would take a big swig from everytime I felt my mouth trembling too much. One of the committee members said that "surprisingly, I seemed to hardly deal with the idea of the postcolonial at all." This observation also surprised me because i kind of thought i had. And my advisor said his signature harsh comment of the day, "Reading this, you would think this novel was the only piece of African literature Carmen has read... although I know Carmen and I know that's not the case...." This bemused me as I had written a whole chapter on intertextuality with other works of African literature in the novel. But their overall point was right: the most polished part of the paper was the most unoriginal stuff.... the stuff that excited me I didn't articulate as well.
All that to say, it was a surprisingly short process, and despite some of the harsh things they said specifically about the thesis, they said it was perfectly fine for an MA thesis, and they were very encouraging about my overall work as a student. The discussion seemed mostly about general things to know in the field and in scholarship and had very little to do with what I had actually written. In addition to his one or two token harsh comments, my advisor (talking to the committee and not me) gave me several wonderfully backhanded compliments: 1) Sometimes we have students who struggle with writing; Carmen obviously does not have this problem. 2) For class (we have a class listserve we post to every week), she will write these long but extremely provocative and eloquent posts, and she does it on the spur of the moment--that's what you need more of here, the combining of the close reading with the broader theoretical.
So, basically... I needed to write my thesis a little more like I write class posts... or perhaps blogs? Finally, they sent me out of the room, and called me back about two minutes later, and there my intimidating advisor is standing there, with the warrant in his hands, grinning and shaking my hand. And another committee member hugs me, the other one pats my back and hands me two tickets to the South African film U-Carmen, which is playing at a film festival this afternoon, and which I've been wanting to see for ages. I felt horrible telling him I wouldn't be here this weekend, because I'm going to a cousin's wedding.So, they signed the warrant, and said, of course you are continuing in the PhD programme, right? And of course I am. I FINALLY feel like I've caught up to myself. For the past two years, I've cringed everytime someone has asked me where I am in the programme. Since I've been doing PhD research for the past year and a half, I hated to tell people I was still an MA student. I felt like such a loser. There are reasons this has taken over three and a half years--a strange culture of long MAs in my dept, me being gone doing language training or research every summer, long lags in communication with those in charge. I finally feel like I'm at the right level, and it's such a huge relief.
Anyway, enough blather. I'm off to Atlanta tomorrow for a cousin's wedding this weekend. I took her engagement photos over Christmas. We had planned to do it outside, but it ended up raining most of the day, so they decided they wanted me to take pictures of them shopping in bookstores and Trader Joes and video game stores. I had so much fun trailing them around and photographing them that I thought that the job of a "documentary 'wedding' photographer" might not be a bad fall back plan.... I'm sure I'd get sick of it very quickly, but I do love an excuse to take lots of photos.