It is done! (PhD talk again…)

September 20, 2006

Well, kind of.

After three years of research and the best part of a year slogging through the write-up process, I finally submitted two soft-bound copies of my 373 page monstrosity of a thesis to the Graduate School at around 1pm today. If I were Napoleon Dynamite, I might make a fist, look at my shoes and say “Yessss!”.

It is done. Finished. Cast into the fire… In fact, the more I’ve written, the more I’ve come to realise that whoever first suggested Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was an allegory for the PhD was spot on:

The last and darkest period of Frodo’s journey clearly represents the writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom (submission), finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure of Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never wrote up and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow; talking less and less even to Sam. When he submits the Ring to the fire, it is in desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the world seems empty.

And that’s where I’m at right now, more or less. It feels a little strange. For one thing, it’s odd to think that I don’t have to go in to university tomorrow morning to write, proofread, or sort out fiddly diagrams and pagination and gutters and spacing and… These are the things that have occupied my time lately, and I daresay I’m not going to miss them in the short term. 

But I think I need a little more distance to fully appreciate what this means (apart from the fact that I’m unemployed now):

Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him, and for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over.

Of course, that’s not really it at all. That’s why I said “kind of”, see? Because in just over a month’s time I have to face the external examiner at the viva. That’s where we find out whether I’ve actually learned anything over these last four years:

But there is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the Shire, he must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of Gandalf, who seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival’s protege.

This is the bit Peter Jackson left out of the movie, because, let’s face it, the Scouring of the Shire is a bit of a bizarre anticlimax after the CGI extravaganza which accompanied Sauron’s demise. But Tolkien knew better. Life rarely works like the movies; it’s often not a neat build-up to a final crescendo. So it is with the PhD viva. In cinematic terms, I guess it’s the equivalent to the horror movie cliche where the zombie’s hand reaches up behind the hero, just after everyone thought he’d killed it off once and for all. But I have got one advantage, I suppose: I know it’s coming.

So stay tuned for the next instalment in roughly one month’s time. Don’t worry though, before that happens I’ll no doubt be blogging about all the usual inconsequential fluff that I know and love to fill my time with: gaming, technology, and weird news from the wonderful world of internet. But right now, I think I’m going to go and lie down.

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6 Responses to “It is done! (PhD talk again…)”

  1. lenina Says:

    Cool, I too submitted today 😀 – what a relief 😀

  2. Mark Says:

    I’m so pleased for you Dawg. Looking forward to maxing and relaxin’ with ma free homeboy tomorrow.

  3. Justin Says:

    congratulations on the completion of your PHD. I have a friend who is doing his PhD right now in Computer Science so I definately can relate to what you just went through. Congrats again dude, that sure is a huge effort.

  4. lostmoya Says:

    Thanks for the encouraging comments guys!

  5. newmw Says:

    Love the allegory from Tolkien 🙂 Currently busy with my MA thesis, and also hoping to someday get my PhD degree.


  6. […] concealed horror that I had not updated the blogosphere with the events that transpired after submitting my PhD in September. For […]


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