Wednesday, 13 December 2006

What You/They Expect of Me/Us; or, Unquaking in My Boots, for the Moment (x-posted to the Valve, but feel free to answer here.) The more I talk to (current and former) graduate students outside my department, the more I realize how variable the graduate school experience can be. Like yours, my graduate experience is singular, determined by the temperament of my advisor and committee. The more I listen, the more I hear of expectations utterly foreign to my experience. For example, is it common for advisors to expect weekly updates about what one has read and written? I could easily produce documentation of the sort. To wit: This week, I consolidated my thought on the American reception and appropriation of English Romanticism, thought long and hard about how to frame my argument historically, considered the influence of certain exceedingly popular characters on the American literary marketplace, and shored up my argument about the significance of the Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War in the average American’s daily life. As you can see, I have no problem producing such an accounting—but as the attendant links indicate, anyone who wants such information need only consult my blog. I may not diarize it in neat vignettes, but anyone who wishes to can infer the arc of my research from what I publish online. They may not know exactly why I’m reading or thinking through or writing about what I’m reading, thinking through or writing about, but it is obvious that I’m not wasting my days futzing around and drinking my nights away, right? If my committee wants tabs on me, I provide prose enough to keep them close. But maybe I should be more proactive? Maybe I should document and email every curve the archive hurls, play Elias Sports to my own dissertation—but (he says, blithely shifting metaphors) I fear a ticker scrolling SEKCH3 -0.07/-0.39% or somesuch every Saturday morning would compel my committee to raise arms against me. So what, in your experience, do advisors and committees expect of graduate students? I know such things are variable in the extreme, so if you could recount—anonymously if necessary—what was expected of you or what you expect of your graduate students in this regard, I would appreciate it. After all, how can I talk about professionalization generally if I’m only able to speak to my own?

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