This is the last semester I will be adjuncting while working on a dissertation. By April, hopefully, I will have defended. Which leads me to wonder: what impact will dissertation completion have on my teaching? Has being an ABD hindered or helped my performance?
Being immersed in such an arduous project has taught me a lot about the writing/research process. I can empathize with the difficulty students have in bringing their ideas to fruition on the page; I know firsthand the importance of the revision, of multiple revisions. The rigors of intellectual work have definitely sharpened my acumen: I can give students strong feedback, identify what needs to happen to turn a rough draft into a workable essay. Designing courses related to my dissertation topic enabled me to share my expertise with my students: I’d thought so much about what we discussed in class, that I was over-prepared to challenge them.
Yet after what seems like countless years of investigating the same topic (eight, overall), I’m ready to branch out. I jokingly tell people I can’t wait to finish my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature so that I can read, and it’s true…. there’s so much great literature that I want to explore with my students, aside from Don Quixote and Madame Bovary. I look forward to creating new syllabi; teaching the same books semester was not so much of a choice as it was an obligation, if I wanted to finish my PhD within a somewhat reasonable time frame. Since I’ve kind of soured on feminist theory/criticism/literature– well, not soured, but that stuff seems dated in 2016– I am eager to see where my literary travails can lead me next. Teaching has never felt removed from scholarship: I came up with the idea for my dissertation in my women’s literature courses at Queens. My students’ insights deepened my own.
I will have a lot more time to devote to my students and to the academic job search, which I’ve pretty much abandoned since last summer. To use a crude metaphor, the dissertation has been like a huge derriere weighing me down as I go about the daily business of my life…. I will feel so much lighter once it’s done, and I think my students will reap the rewards of my new freedom.