Saturday, December 20, 2008

Today I finished my final seminar paper for the semester. Immediately after I realized I was done (save final copy-editing, printing and handing in), I announced the news to Jeff and Charlotte. We celebrated by dancing to some Guns N Roses (I'm serious). Not long after, I crashed. I didn't realize I had been riding an anxiety high for the past...oh, two weeks? I'm exhausted. I need a good night of sleep (not likely to happen at nine months pregnant) and a day filled with anything but analysis of primary sources and critical texts. I need to go to bed at night without the names of the characters about which I'm writing running through my head. I need to spend some time with my family of three before it becomes a family of four.

Now that I'm done, I have feelings of both overwhelming freedom and anxiety about all the non-school-related stuff I've been postponing. I need to prioritize what really needs to happen in the next couple of days and what can wait, so I can actually find some time to relax. One thing I plan on doing is updating this blog every day until the baby's born. It might not be a big-deal post, but you can count on something here from now until the birthday (whenever that might be).

Some reflections on my first semester of my doctoral program:

In many ways, this semester was easier than any quarter I had during my time in my MA program. Primarily this is due to my fellowship, which frees me from teaching this first year. I was free to focus only on my own studies--no course planning, no lecturing, no grading. That was a huge relief.

In other ways, though, this semester was difficult. Because of my fellowship, I took three graduate classes this semester (a normal load with teaching is two). Three grad courses makes for a lot of reading, writing, and class time. At times it was overwhelming, and I didn't think I'd be able to get all the work done. I think I'm most proud to say that I completed every assignment, and that I did so in a way that I can feel confident in.

I'm also really pleased with the final projects/papers I put together for each of my classes. The seminar paper is one of the more difficult tasks a graduate student faces. It becomes more and more difficult to find something original to say about a work of literature, something that engages what has already been said but poses new and interesting questions or ideas about the topic. More than once I thought I had a great topic for one of papers only to find out after further research that Dr. So-and-so already published a paper on that topic in 2004 or whatever. Great...back to the drawing board. But this painful process forced me to come up with what I think were really innovative ideas about the texts, ideas that I can truly call my own. I think that's one of the benchmarks of a scholar--truly original ideas.

Of course, I haven't gotten any of my final papers' grades yet, so we'll see if I revise my feelings about my papers later.

I'm sure I have other things to say about my first semester here, but my brain is on shut-down mode and I think chocolate might be required.


Dale Deur said...

Jana - good for you. Hot chocolate with Godiva's chocolates on the side would be an appropriate celebration...You should be proud of your accomplishment.

Tena said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!! I still hope you got late (I know, smack me now) and go on Declan's first birthday - Jan 17!!!