Your Taste is Killer: Ira Glass Provides Much Needed Dissertation Motivation

Ira Glass in a heart

I’ve been slogging through the dissertation work lately. I’m getting stuff done. But the joy is fading. Then I found this:


Oh, Ira. Thanks. I needed this.

I consider our work as academics creative. The very best academic writing has a creative flair to it, whether in the prose or the theory or the narrative or the use of sources. Those of us who choose, for better or worse, a career in the academic wing of the creative classes  are drawn here because of our “taste,” as Glass puts it. We read a book, take a class, research a project, or do something that ignites that taste and motivates us. Then we go to grad school and we start to produce seminar papers, conference papers, and eventually a dissertation, all the while reading works by brilliant academics. We start to notice the gap between what we’re doing and what these writers are doing. We want to do what they are doing, we always have, but we are afraid we can’t. We are afraid that our work will never live up to our taste.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that we all feel this gap at some point in our training. For some it may come during course work or exams, but for me it has come at the dissertation phase-and not the beginning of the dissertation, about a third of the way through it. That’s why these words from Ira Glass were so motivational for me. My taste is killer. If you’re reading this, your taste is killer. Now comes the work. It’s time to fight your way through.

Ok, back to the fight.

19th Century Evangelical Print Culture or 20th Century Digital/Social Media?

Found in Candy Gunther Brown’s The World in the World on page 169 whilst doing some evening dissertation study:

Rather than providing novel information, communication networks so employed regularly portray and confirm a particular vision of the world already assumed by its participants. Readers and writers engage in a dramatic confrontation between opposing forces-such as pure and corrupt Bible doctrine-and even when the act of communicating does not change the outcome of this conflict, they feel satisfied by rehearsing a familiar explanation of how things are in the world.

She’s describing 19th century evangelical periodicals. But it sure seems like it could apply to our current media landscape. The more things change…

Good advice for those of us writing dissertations…

Over the long arc of your career, you will complete many research projects, one often leading to the next. Research is an archipelago, not a single island. Your goal should be to build a career piece by piece doing good research. A professor once shocked me when I was a graduate student by saying, “Hopefully, your dissertation will be the worst thing you ever write.” Now I give the same advice: Our goal as scholars is continual improvement. Do the best job you can on your dissertation, defend it, publish it in some form, then move on.

Yep. That’s the goal.

More good advice here for those of you who’ve crossed over the river and are on the tenure track.


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