And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

torsdag 20. desember 2012

Coming to a close - the final days of my thesis

I had hoped I would be able to resuscitate this blog after I had handed in the printed copies of my MA thesis in Mid-November, that I could finally take some time off academic work and that I could finally write all those pieces I've had planned for months. As it turned out, I did manage to take time off academic work, but unfortunately, my mind counted even blogposts academic work and refused to take part in it, descending into ennui, which prohibited anything resembling what I'd been doing the past few months. Even completing Robertson Davies' excellent novel The Rebel Angels took longer than I had expected, and although it was a splendid read I had to summon more willpower to complete it than normally would be the case. Completing my MA thesis had, in other words, drained me of more energy than I could possibly have foreseen back in August, when everything seemed to be coming to a close very neatly and swiftly, and when I still considered my Latin courses to be a pleasant diversion from editing my own texts.

By October reality came gradually creeping up on me and suddenly smacked me in the face with the numerous rounds of editing I had to undertake, joined of course by the still-unwritten chapter 1 which in turn very soon took on massive proportions. As a consequence I was editing my text almost right up to the very end, and Tuesday November 13 I counted myself done and decided to send in the text. However, before I could do so I had to go a few rounds with the pdf document as well, making sure that the pages were in the right place, that the chapters and the five appendices all began on the recto side and that the list of content corresponded with reality - which took a while to persuade it to do. Finally, everything was shipped off and I could afford myself one day of much-needed rest while waiting for the thesis to be printed on Thursday. It was a joy past all the care in the world - to paraphrase Geoffrey Hill - to carry a box containing copies of my thesis to the cubicle and to dole out signed copies to friends and fellow-students.

The following weekend was a busy one and I went out with friends every night from Friday to Tuesday, and I believe this, too, drained me more than I had anticipated. The week following the completion of my thesis, I was supposed to start refreshing my Latin and prepare for two exams at the end of the term. I also meant to prepare for the thesis defence sometime in Mid-December, and I had some great plans for how that should be done. Unfortunately, I managed nothing more than to sit in my flat for days - only occasionally venturing off to see other people - and watch tv series and read comics. I was completely void of any will to get things done and all the prospects I had planned sifted away into a state of suspended action. This sensation was so overpowering that even after I had learned the date for my defence - December 13 - it took me several days before I even began to try reading through my thesis, and even that cost me more strength than I would at first have believed.

On the day of the defence I spent more of that energy I didn't really have on sheer dread and anxiety. I woke up at about five in the morning after what I suspect was nothing more than two hours of sleep, and at about 10 a.m. I went down to campus to hang out with my friends, feeling very well the weight of five and a half years of work resting heavily on my shoulders and pecking at my skull. At that point four of my closest friends had already defended their theses - two graduating in history, two in art history - and they had all achieved great results. On my day of trial I was not alone as I had two friends who were defending before me, and as the moment of truth came closer, soo too came the realisation that the bar was set really high. 12 a.m. - one hour before my friends were defending - their grades were put up, and again the results were very good, adding, of course, to the pressure upon my shoulders. It was therefore a very long journey from the cubicle to the department at 1 p.m. when my grade was to be put up, and when I came in precisely on time it turned out I had come too early: the grade was not yet put up. Consequently I had to go back to my cubicle and undertake the journey once more. When I finally saw the grade, however, the weight of my world dispersed rather quickly as it turned out I could be very happy with my grade and the following hour passed in far less agony than the almost eight hours preceding it.

When the defence was done and five and half years' worth of academic labours had come to a close, I felt so very relieved and so very much on top of the world that I could hardly contain my joy. Unfortunately, that joy and the anxiety and fear leading up to that joy, drained my resources even further, and I was completely unable to care about my Latin exams of the week following, and I completed two of the worst exams I have ever conducted in my time at the University.

Now, however, I have returned home for the Christmas holidays and I can finally relax. I hope this will give me strength enough to resume my academic writing and my blogging, but I do fear also this month will be dedicated to brief pieces and self-promoting poetry.

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