Thursday, August 2, 2007

Dissertators, has this ever happened to you?

Leftovers: A Play in One Act

Scene: A small grad student kitchen, filled with bags of groceries. The sink is full of dishes. Two people, or possibly one person and her alter ego, are unpacking. One is emptying bags, the other moving things around in the fridge.

Me: I am so glad we finished off the last of that Project 2. It hadn’t gone bad, exactly, but I was so tired of leftovers.

Other Me: Unh huh. (Pulls a large book out of the bag.) Hey, why did you get more Adorno? That wasn’t on the grocery list. We have no need for it.

Me: Oh, well, Adorno’s a staple; it never goes bad and we can always use some later. Just put it up on the high shelf by the flour and honey. (Starts sniffing in Tupperware containers, dumping some in the trash, others she shakes out and puts in the overflowing sink.) Why do we have empty dishes in the fridge? (turns to the other brandishing a near-empty bowl.) I’m not gonna save this. Why is this even in here? It’s like one little quote we ended up not using for Project 2. We should have tossed it long ago.

Other Me: Hey, if you wanted the fridge clean before, you could have dealt with it. (Finishes folding a paper bag, then moves to the next.) What’s here … theory … theory … Oh, could you put this novel in the freezer for me? … theory … Ooh, Bourdieu, that looks tasty … Ok, let’s put the historical context books on the bottom shelf … context … context … Huh. Is this biography for the other Article?

Me: (turns from fridge to glance at it) Biography? Honestly I don’t even remember putting it in the cart. That’s so weird. Well, we’ll try adding some to the Article, I guess… who knows what that’ll end up like. I hope we have enough Fresh Ideas to add to the Conference Paper I want to make next week.

Other Me: Those can go bad pretty fast; we may have to head back out again before then.

Me: (reaches back into the back of the fridge, then freezes.) Oh. My. God.

Other Me: What? What???

Me: This. (holds up some very suspicious looking Tupperware.)

Other Me: Is it—

Me: I think … I think it’s the dissertation. Remember Chapter 4?

Other Me: Oh God. (holds nose. Proffers the trash can to the other.)

Me: What? We can’t throw it out! We haven’t even used it!

Other Me: When did we start that? When was the last time you even opened that?

Me: But you can’t just let all that work go to waste!

Other Me: If I recall, it was half-baked anyway.

Me: (whimpers) Oh. Dammit dammit dammit. (starts opening cupboards) Oh but there’s this, and this, and this — I have all this other material for the Chapter. Dammit, I wonder if all this is bad too… No, I am not starting over.

Other Me: Do you even know what’s in that Chapter? Honestly, I think it’s just better to start from scratch.

Me: Ugh, I don’t even want to think about it. And I was all excited to cook up some great new stuff, use my Fresh Ideas, try out some innovative tricks.

Other Me: (gently) Here. Let me.

Me starts slamming critical and historical context into the bottom of the fridge with much force, occasionally scrubbing at her face with her sleeve. She smacks the door closed and looks at a grocery list stuck on the front. It reads “Chapter 5.”

Me: Guess we’re not gonna need this for a while. (she rips the list down and crumples it.)



Sisyphus said...

Way way back when, when I was living with a Boyfriend, I think we had this conversation every week.

Uh, not actually about my dissertation, actually.

Tiruncula said...

Yes yes yes yes yes!

You win the Figurative Coping Mechanisms Prize for this decade. This is totally going to replace my previous favorite dissertating allegory: The Grinch (Grinch = advisor; Max = dissertator; load of stolen presents = diss; and the can picture the rest.)

gwoertendyke said...

lovely read, yes, throw the f**** thing out. you will draw loads of material from it and sprinkle liberally throughout your dissertation.

cut. it liberates. then you are free to marshal new ideas and synthetically paste to old ones.

Not Quite Grown Up... said...

That was pretty creative. I enjoyed it.

Dr. Brainiac said...

NO NO NO!!! Holy crap! Don't throw it out! You've worked too hard on it already! Toss it all in the pot with a little extra seasoning and call it stew!

The whole point is to get PhinisHeD. Don't try to re-invent the wheel.

*newly minted*

HumanProject said...

Very funny! I am 17 years post-PhD, and I didn't evolve as sophisticated hoarding/saving strategy as you describe until sometime in the last 10-15 years.

I do have computer directories (folders) called "Not-completed" and "On-hold" and "Back-burner" and files called "unused" etc.

"Holy crap! Don't throw it out! You've worked too hard on it already!"


There's a certain glee about being able to revive a project I stalled on 10 years ago and get it published....

Computers make hoarding of writing easy. 10 years go by and you click open an old folder and its all as perfectly preserved as the day you left it...