24 Jul

So– I passed my dissertation defense on July 19…. I’m emotionally and mentally completely wrung out by the experience. However, I received some truly useful and excellent comments and advice, much of it “for the book”–which makes me feel excited, through the haze of exhaustion, about the book-to-come. And my advisor said very nice things about my work and presence in the program, so that is something I will treasure.

I have some small revisions to attend to and I’ll turn those in on Aug 5. After that–and once I’ve filed–I’ll feel like a “real” doctor and perhaps then will feel some sense of relief and accomplishment. Til then I feel in a strange twilight zone which only active writing will metabolize into energy and forward movement.

I have learned many things in this process, not all of them academic. One of these is that certain ideas and ways of thinking can materialize only at their peril in an academic context. The process of making art and of analyzing it are not the same impulses, and for me the latter proceeds at such a painfully slow speed, setting up wrestling matches with the dead in order to justify tiny incremental and often quite timid advancements in thinking. Whereas on stage and in fiction, you can have the single shattering image crystallize a world in a different and new way.

This is not to suggest that art isn’t just as social and ideological and bound by the rules of appearance as any other sphere of production. It is. But it conjugates its speeds and slownesses, affects and capacities to affect (to borrow Deleuze’s take on Spinoza) very differently to theory and historiography because it is fundamentally a different machine. Its function (as in “what does it do?”) is different. Artists want to invent and make things that don’t yet exist; critics want to understand and analyze things that already exist. This is already not a workable distinction (Deleuze and Guattari invented new models and conceptual objects, so did Marx, Foucault etc.) but there’s something in it. Perhaps the (deeply unfashionable in post-modern theory) Carl Jung nailed it after all— that all creative and critical activity is the mind playing with the objects it loves— —maybe the critic and the artist love different objects (or have different objects, in both senses of that word, in mind).

On Thursday I go to ATHE, along with a bunch of others from my program. It will be nice to be recognized again as a playwright, after mud-wrestling with citation for so long. I’m really looking forward to the reading of TROJAN BARBIE, even though it’s a “cold” reading—the sociality of being in a room with actors, focused on creating something together, is particularly appealing.


3 Responses to “Defense”

  1. David Williams July 24, 2007 at 2:20 pm #

    Congrats Christine!

    The US system of PhD examination seems very stressful, but at least you don’t have to wait around for months to see if you passed…

    have fun at ATHE!



    ps. I think the artist and the critic can love the same object, simply in different ways at different moments. This is especially true if artist and critic converge in the same person…

  2. xtine3 July 24, 2007 at 3:14 pm #

    yes, much better modulation of my idea… I’m a bit tired and I’ve lost perspective. It will return!

    In any case, as more artists enter academic positions and programs (as is definitely happening here in the US) I think there’s going to be a very interesting push-and-pull between ways of doing things and talking-about-doings. I do think artists have a huge amount to offer academia and ALSO vice-versa. -xtine

  3. Enrique July 25, 2007 at 5:35 pm #

    Congratulations, Christine! This is truly wonderful news. I’m so happy for you, knowing only the surface of what has sounded like a difficult experience. You truly are one of my heroes.

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