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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Postgraduate Diary: Thesis? What Thesis?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I recently posted about the way I feel a loss of identity having submitted my thesis but prior to my viva. One other thing that has disturbed me is this:

As I have moaned on numerous occasions, you do not so much do a PhD as live it, lugging its intellectual baggage around with you inside your head. Every radio programmme, casual conversation, conference, news bulletin, magazine, lecture, book, article, student essay, web page becomes potential material, sparking off a synaptic connection between the thing you are watching, reading or discussing and your research. Furthermore, a new thought or setence or way of restructuring a chapter can sneak up on you just as easily at 3.00 one sleepless morning, or in the shower, or whilst out for a walk as when you are sat in front of the computer ostensibly "working."

So knowing the way I have not so much lived a postgraduate life, as had the PhD inhabit me, I expected that I would not be able simply to let go of the thesis I had nurtured into the world. The surprise has been that since I submitted just before Christmas, my thesis has lain quietly on my pile of papers, gradually sinking to the bottom beneath sheafs of other material, like some archaeological relic. I have, quite remarkably, simply discarded the thing from my mind. I have no desire to go an just check over that chapter one last time, in the hopes of catching some errant full stop wandering off the page. No sitting bolt upright in the middle of the night with some fresh idea which yes, dear, I simply must jot down before it goes. Zip. Blank.

Partly, I guess, I benefited from handing it in, and then going off for two week's break at my parent's over Christmas, slouching in front of a fire with a glass in my hand. Partly, too, I have been so busy teaching this term that I have not had time to consider researching anything (which makes me wonder how on earth that other person, who only hazily seems to have been me, managed simultaneously to do teaching, writing up, and a new job at a library last term). But even so that obsessive compulsion to write, read and (to quote E.M. Forster) "only connect," seems to have vanished as if by some magic therapy.

Until now, that is, when the repressed returns, as at last I have the date set for my viva (early April). Now that term has finished I must switch - or flicker - back into research mode. I will pick up the thing one more time and, no doubt, spot a million mistakes and things I wish I had changed. That's just the nature of the beast, but the question is whether, in a fortnight's time, I will be Doctored or set back by several months. I will keep you posted.

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Posted by Alistair at 6:23 pm


Anonymous Education Tay said...

Sound similar to my life and other people writing a thesis. I like some other people at times walkaround talking out loud what referencing require done, certin chapters to add or indeed re-write. A thesis is a life and not just for the person writint it, but also for the people you socilise with, work and family life. Just finished now and ontoanother part of my life.

2:55 pm  

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