unravelling at night what she had woven during the day, as a clever ploy to “buy time” and stave off hungry suitors - Odyssey

Top Image

Top Image

revisiting past conclusions

From: old friend [mailto:old.friend@someuniversity.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:19 AM
To: challenger
Subject: Re: hello!

uh yes, i think you might have a vision of what it's like to be a tenured professor nearing retirement nailed, but the reality on the other side is somewhat more frightful. for certain you have that flexibility to drink cups of coffee at a leisurely pace while reading your newspapers, but always there in your mind is the guilt you carry because your funding application remains unfinished, or papers remain unmarked, or your proposal has stalled out. the leisure isn't unburdened and free: it comes at the opportunity cost of progress and you will know this all to well.

your meagre funding will carry you so far, but after four or five years this "pretirement" will catch up and your funding will run dry. you'll look at your friends you went to undergraduate with. they'll have titles like "manager" and a mortgage. you'll be overqualified for everything save for jobs in academia that don't exist except for those contractually limited term appointments where you won't have a spare moment to pursue your research passion because you're too busy lecturing a credit and a half each term, three terms a year.

you'll meet a guy and move in with him. he'll have a "real job" in the "real world" and provide for you, but you'll always envy that he earns a real paycheque while he'll resent that you sleep in mornings.

old friend

On 2012-12-17, at 4:17 PM, me wrote:

.... Do you still feel that this is our future?

From: old friend<old.friend@someuniversity.com>
Date: 17 December, 2012 5:58:02 PM EST
To: me
Subject: Re: I think about this a lot

wow, i sound bitter or something.

but i read this over and that's still how i feel.

my five years are up in september when they start billing me eight grand a year, but my supervisor's telling me that i'm optimistic if i think i'm going to be out by next december.

the people who are getting shortlisted for lectureships or tenure track positions that pay a "meagre" $65,000/year have three or four publications, if not more. i have one. and i'm desperately trying to push out eight chapters/60,000 words between now and august with not a spare moment to publish anything.

kids with masters degrees are managers and senior policy analysts making 80k +.

but it's not all bliss for those who have the three of four solid publications: my friend in this situation has interviewed thrice, with nary an offer.

if i'm "lucky" this time next year i'll be defending my phd, and i'll be unemployable without another year spent as a post-doc.

meanwhile, i've received six distracting emails from undergrads today pissed right off that they received marks of 78%+ in the bird course i teach them. believe it or not, 40% of the course receiving a's and an average of 76% isn't good enough anymore.

okay, enough of this.

old friend

Corrected scholarship application

CHAIR  <CHAIR@the.college.com> Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 10:34 AM
To: Bloke <bloke@the.gollege.com>
Cc: advisor


Here are my comments on your funding application.

The first thing that occurs to me is that this statement isn't altogether clear about what you intend to do. That is, how does your theoretical orientation and your methodology inform your analysis? It also does not help that you begin your plan of study with a series of questions. The first question posed is in the opening sentence and it is particularly awkward and would put off any reader. I think you need to rework the way that this plan of study is presented.

Are you able to complete the following sentences?

“My central research question is
“The planned doctoral thesis will be theoretically informed by
“My chosen method of investigation is
"My analytic approach and methodology therefore follow from my theoretical orientation in that
“What is missing from the literature and that my proposed doctoral studies will address is
“My object of analysis/case studies have been selected because
“In the end, what I hope to the proposed thesis will contribute to knowledge is a better understanding of

Your final paragraph is a bit weak. I would suggest you phrase it in the following way: “under the proposed direction of Great Supervisor I therefore intend toThe PhD program in awesome studies at The College is an ideal setting for this scholarship because

In the end, I think this is a worthwhile endeavor but it's not presented in a way that allows the reader to get behind the project. Primarily because it is not altogether clear how you intend to go about doing your research, what your research will offer the literature, nor how your findings will inform further theoretical considerations.


PhD bloke <bloke@the.college.com> Wed, Sep 28, 2011 at 10:03 PM
To: chair@carleton.ca


As followup to our brief conversation outside our building  this afternoon, I thought I would forward an UPDATED version of my proposal  for funding (see attached).

Much appreciated,
PhD bloke

a must read

From: Doc Sem Prof <doc.sem.prof@carleton.ca>
Subject: A must read
Date: 29 April, 2013 10:14:36 PM EDT
To: five PhD students, two of which were just about to defend their comp exam

How not to write a PhD thesis
28 JANUARY 2010
My teaching break between Christmas and the university’s snowy reopening in January followed in the footsteps of Goldilocks and the three bears. I examined three PhDs: one was too big; one was too small; one was just right. Put another way, one was as close to a fail as I have ever examined; one passed but required rewriting to strengthen the argument; and the last reminded me why it is such a pleasure to be an academic.
Concurrently, I have been shepherding three of my PhD students through the final two months to submission. These concluding weeks are an emotional cocktail of exhaustion, frustration, fright and exhilaration. Supervisors correct errors we thought had been removed a year ago. The paragraph that seemed good enough in the first draft now seems to drag down a chapter. My postgraduates cannot understand why I am so picky. They want to submit and move on with the rest of their lives.
There is a reason why supervisors are pedantic. If we are not, the postgraduates will live with the consequences of “major corrections” for months. The other alternative, besides being awarded the consolation prize of an MPhil, is managing the regret of three wasted years if a doctorate fails. Every correction, each typographical error, all inaccuracies, ambiguities or erroneous references that we find and remove in these crucial final weeks may swing an examiner from major to minor corrections, or from a full re-examination to a rethink of one chapter.
Being a PhD supervisor is stressful. It is a privilege but it is frightening. We know – and individual postgraduates do not – that strange comments are offered in response to even the best theses. Yes, an examiner graded a magnificent doctorate from one of my postgraduates as “minor corrections” for one typographical error in footnote 104 in the fifth chapter of an otherwise cleanly drafted 100,000 words. It was submitted ten years ago and I still remember it with regret.
Another examiner enjoyed a thesis on “cult” but wondered why there were no references to Madonna, grading it as requiring major corrections so that Madonna references could be inserted throughout the script.
Examiners have entered turf wars about the disciplinary parameters separating history and cultural studies. Often they look for their favourite theorists – generally Pierre Bourdieu or Gilles Deleuze these days – and are saddened to find citations to Michel Foucault and Félix Guattari.
Then there are the “let’s talk about something important – let’s talk about me” examiners. Their first task is to look for themselves in the bibliography, and they are not too interested in the research if there is no reference to their early sorties with Louis Althusser in Economy and Society from the 1970s.
I understand the angst, worry and stress of supervisors, but I have experienced the other side of the doctoral divide. Examining PhDs is both a pleasure and a curse. It is a joy to nurture, support and help the academy’s next generation, but it is a dreadful moment when an examiner realises that a script is so below international standards of scholarship that there are three options: straight fail, award an MPhil or hope that the student shows enough spark in the viva voce so that it may be possible to skid through to major corrections and a full re-examination in 18 months.
When confronted by these choices, I am filled with sadness for students and supervisors, but this is matched by anger and even embarrassment. What were the supervisors thinking? Who or what convinced the student that this script was acceptable?
Therefore, to offer insights to postgraduates who may be in the final stages of submission, cursing their supervisors who want another draft and further references, here are my ten tips for failing a PhD. If you want failure, this is your road map to getting there.

urgent question

From: Editor of Journal <editor@journal.edu>
Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 7:45 PM
To: PhD Candidate <phd.candidate.man@gmail.com>

ONE OF YOUR BIBLIO ENTRIES. Oops sorry about the caps.

The entry for the translation of Comeau, Cooper, and Vallières's book FLQ.... has the following.... "Montreal: Éditeur, Montreal, 1999."



From: PhD Candidate <phd.candidate.man@gmail.com
Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 8:46 PM
To: Editor of Journal <editor@journal.edu>


It has been a while since I was working with these resources.

I would be fine with you using the original French version for the bibliographic information.

Also, once you finalize the proof, will I have an opportunity to review it before it goes officially to press?


PhD Candidate

From: Editor of Journal <editor@journal.edu>
Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 7:48 AM
To: PhD Candidate <phd.candidate.man@gmail.com>


I will use the original French bibliographical material. We will not send you the proofs at this point. The main editing we did was to make your article conform to our style protocol (ie. punctuation).
Thanks for your quick response,


that's my experience

From: Excellent Person <excellent.person@gmail.com> 
Subject: Re: Happy holidays
Date: 23 December, 2012 10:10:48 AM EST
To:  Friend

Hello beautiful,

I miss the snow! I haven't had a white Xmas since I was 13 and I do miss them. I love when the snow is fresh and white and no cars have spoiled it on the road with their grey grit; the only marks are footprints from the sidewalks to the homes or in the yards.

It seems as if we have both had similar life challenges to approach recently. I will tell you about what my decisions have been and perhaps that can give you some context.

I have decided to withdraw from my PhD and will be returning to our home country in February. I ultimately decided to do this because in the self reflection I have been doing since April I have come to realise that I don't have passion or hope for my work or my field. My main driver has been that I am very talented in this area and have been able to coast with very little effort in a occupation which affords me a great deal of praise and admiration. This allowed me to construct a narrative for myself in which I had a passion for my work. I have realised though that I harbour a lot of self resentment and feelings of phoney-ness towards myself as a result. My work has not been a labour of love and I am thus not proud of it. 

That is not to say I don't find my field beautiful. I do: I think that there is nothing with more cold, sharp beauty. I am grateful that I understand it to a high level and I hope to convey that beauty to others throughout my life (perhaps I will end up as a teacher in the end). 

I have decided to withdraw from academia for reason related to those expounded (in a very perceptive if disparaging way) by your friend. Of course they are only reason for withdrawal if you feel that the negatives of an academic life are not worth the myriad positives. I feel that my field is a dying one and I do not believe that anything of significance will arise from it in the coming decades. Although that is my honest assessment I do sincerely hope I am wrong. In addition to my personal feelings towards the field I have decided that it is not worth it for me. I guess the ultimate question you have to ask yourself is: supposing I dedicate the next decade of my life to this field and I ultimately do not get a permanent position will I be happy that at least I tried? For me I can confidently answer no.

In the end either way you end up with high levels of qualification and will certainly be able to find some occupation to live on. It sounds to me like you have passion for your work and I think then that you should follow that. We are too young to worry about careers and mortgages and the like (unless of course that is desired as it is for some people). I've learned that people almost always know the decision they want to make way before they consciously realise it. Chances are you already know what you want to do, you just have to admit it to yourself. At least that has been my experience.

Anyways, hopefully my situation will help inform yours. Since I have decided to leave I am excited about the future for the first time in awhile. Your holidays sound fantastic and I hope you enjoy them very much.

Excellent Person

where are you?

From: advisor <advisor@oneuniversity.ca>
Subject: re: how are you?
Date: 9 November, 2012 4:52:42 PM EST
To: 'student' <student@one university.ca>


Haven’t heard from you in a while – wondering how you are doing?


On 12-Nov-12, at 10:45 AM, student wrote:

Hi Advisor, 

I'm doing well! Very busy marking 90 papers... I didn't really plan my comp proposal around the ebb and flow of TA responsibilities. My proposal is about 95% ready for submission. I won't be able to get to it until this marking is done, which should be Wednesday. 

I'm still focused and reading happily, and very excited to get this exam going.

I promise I am far from lost and discouraged. 


From: Advisor <advisor@oneuniversity.ca>
Subject: Re: how are you?
Date: 13 November, 2012 10:28:36 AM EST
To: 'student' <student@oneuniversity.com>

Thanks for getting back to me.

Thats great that you are making progress. I had thought that you were going to try and get us something earlier in October which is why I was a bit concerned by the email silence.  Would you be able to get us something by the end of this week or at the very latest, first thing Monday morning? Once you move beyond a monday submission, you need to add on time for us to read as we are all in the midst of teaching then - and the end of November is fast approaching (yikes).


have you 'learned' the harsh truth yet?

On 2012-04-23, at 11:25pm, Old Friend <old.friend@someuniversity.com> wrote:

have you learned the harsh truth yet that being a phd means never being good enough? 

On Apr 24, 2012, at 10:00AM, Me  <me@gmail.com> wrote:

Oh yes. It is a project designed to force you into a vulnerable and insecure state... Then they attack! I feel so dumb.

On 2012-04-24, at 10:21 AM, Old Friend <old.friend@someuniversity.com> wrote:

so try this on for size

i have a project, approved by a committee after many months of hard work and countless revisions after 20 interviews and hours of documentary and archival research i spent the last 15 days making the most beautiful presentation ever seen by man to share some of my preliminary conclusions

i went yesterday to do a dry run of it and received the following feedback:

"yours is not a serious study"

"you have no real contribution"

"you will be wasting the time of the important people who are coming to this presentation"


time for relationships

From: PhD Candidate [phd.candidate@school.com] 
Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2012 11:04 AM Eastern Standard Time
To: Old boyfriend from years ago
Subject: RE: the gos 

My boyfriend and I broke up, as opposed to just having space, last night. I told him I need more time to focus on school. It’s been really hard trying to stay on track with this program, the benchmarks are challenging. Near impossible. In the interest of ensuring I meet my target to defend in September, I really need to buckle down. He said he will only stay with me if I give him the same amount of time and attention that I have been - he fell in love with me under a particular set of conditions that he feels must be maintained. In fact, he told me to quit school. Needless to say, he seems quiet needy and emotionally dependent and I can’t have that sort of distraction and I don’t have the time for that. That was the last straw in a longer argument regarding life directions ect…. In short: it’s over.

It was so sudden. I know we haven’t been together long, but I am sure he knew that I needed to focus more, try harder, write more.... I’m crazy insulted that he can’t understand why I just need a little bit of time to accomplish this personal goal of mine. Am I going to be single the rest of this degree? I wish he could have it both ways, but my time and body is finite...

PhD friend

From:   Old boyfriend from years ago [old.boyfriend.from.years.ago@job.com]
To: PhD friend
Subject: Re: the gos

Shit, well I'm sorry to hear that but it definitely sounds like a mature and responsible choice. I made the mistake once of encouraging you not to continue school and I paid the price! You've made it this far and it's obviously very important for you and he should understand that. His loss. 

Old boyfriend

Post-Comp woos

From: Parent <parent@email.com>
Date: 16 May, 2013 4:36:25 PM EDT
To: Daughter <daughter@gmail.com>
Subject: Horray you passed your comps


You slay me. I didn't want to bother you about your comps in case things didn't go the way you hoped. I thought you would let me know how you did when you were ready. Now I understand you think I didn't care how you did. I lose either way. If I give you space I'm inconsiderate and if I bother you and things didn't go as planned I'm insensitive.
Oh well. Glad you passed your comps and all went well in the end. I guess that's all that really matters.

I Love you and I'm proud of how hard you've worked to get to this point. 


PS the roses are lovely Thank you


From:  Program Admin. <program.administrator@oneuniversity.ca>
Subject: Application Update
Date:  11 May, 2011 3:13:27 PM EDT
To: "'student" <student@gmail.com>

Dear Student,

I hope all is well with you.

I have received notification back from the Selection Committee and the decision re. your application is as follows:

The Department will be recommending you for admission to the program.

This will not be official until the paper work is completed and FGPA accepts the recommendation and makes the official offer to you. Congratulations!!

Again, The Department will be recommending you for admission to the program however this will not be official until FGPA makes the offer.  My estimate is that this will not take place until early June.

Take care  and congratulations again.

Graduate Program Administrator
The Department
One University

At the cost of near-poverty

From: Masters Friend <mastersfriend@someschool.com>
Subject: Re: I think about this a lot
Date: 18 December, 2012 4:00:57 PM EST
To: friend <friend@someschool.com> 

Thanks for this... I wonder about the utility of a PhD as well sometimes, and it's why I'm not overly committed to going in Sept. Sometimes I feel like it's best if you have a clear path/goal in mind, and you're convinced a PhD is necessary in terms of practical application. I have a pretty solid goal, and I'm only mildly certain that the PhD will give me the legitimacy I need to go as far as I'd like with it. But at the cost of near-poverty and retirement savings and potential baby-making? We'll see. Maybe it's something to come back to in a few years. I'll send in my app to A University as a test run, at least. 

I've applied for a graduate certificate at this university. It starts in June and it's just two semesters. But I refuse to go if they don't give me money!!


PhD correspondence All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger