Of course, I’m still writing my chapters longhand, in pencil, in a college-ruled, spiral bound notebook, but I estimate that I’m on page 130-ish in my dissertation. I’ve written an actual introduction (as opposed to the let’s-jump-right-in critical sources review that was my working intro) and the sunuvabiatch transition chapter from the first part of the diss (medieval exegesis and drama) to the second part of the diss (O’Connor fictional analysis proper). Now that I’ve done all the preliminary stuff (good God, 130 pages is *preliminary*?), then the O’Connor analysis should be a piece o’cake. As my fellow ABDers and those who have made it on the other side of the Ph.D. DMZ, the diss is really more an endurance test than anything else. If the past four years of classes and tests were the training for the marathon, then the diss research and writing is the marathon itself.
Speaking of which — as of this week I am *officially* done with the research phase of my diss: no more hunting down books and articles, no more interlibrary loan waiting, no more reading till my eyeballs fall out, no more note-taking. Ah iz DUN wid dat! I have about 150 sources on my working bibliography, of which about 50 sources have yet to be in the text of my diss but will be in the text by the time I’m done with the diss. For my non-academic readers, diss research can *easily* spiral into a hellish example of Xeno’s paradox, in which the ABDer *never* gets out of the research phase because there’s one more book to read, one more article to track down, one more thing to research, check out, cross-reference, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseaum.
There was a philosophy instructor at the University of Dallas who never finished his dissertation because one of his chapters kept getting bigger and bigger with additional research, so he’d divide it into separate chapters, only to have the separate chapters start growing again with super-added research so that he never fully finished any one chapter. He’s not the exception in the diss process — he’s, unfortunately, the rule, hence the marathon to the Ph.D is littered with the tired, broken bodies of ABDers.
So it’s a milestone of sorts that I’ve declared that I’m *done* with the research phase, and so I better get this thing written out quickly before anything new gets added in O’Connor scholarship. The goal is to have a finished draft by the end of this summer (I’d say by the end of this spring, but I don’t want to be in *that* much despair — savate’s kicking my ass as it is).
I feel like, oh I dunno, I should celebrate or something — no more researching! I can just *write*! Yay!