Here’s the rundown of my defence.
First of all, I was late. But it wasn’t my fault! Since I spent the night the a hotel the night before my defence, I didn’t have access to email, and the room location was changed the evening before, but I didn’t get it. My second reader was a little bitchy about it, but she can shove it. Yeah, that’s right – I said it.
I got there, finally, and had to deliver a 10-minute speech running down the particulars of my project. I finished writing it that morning and had only finished typing it up 15 minutes beforehand. I was pretty nervous, I guess, but it was more of a dry mouth kinda thing rather than a retching kinda thing.
The speech went fine, and then the three people on my committee started asking their questions. My second reader started first. She started bugging me about the gender issues I didn’t address. This bugged me a lot because a) I’m so not interested in gender issues and b) I tried to explain the fact that I interviewed a lot more women than men. I took some hits from her, but shot her down in the end, I think.
My third reader, an emeritus prof who everyone was so excited about my having on my committee, went next. He told a cutesie-poo story about a trip he took to Prince Edward Island, and then asked this gem: "Tourism as pilgrimage? Really?" Ok, I’m paraphrasing, but essentially, that was it. He took me out at the knees. It was great. I started quoting scholars and shooting him down. He said by my thesis, him sitting down to watch "The Sopranos" should be considered a pilgrimage for him. Well, I said there was no journey and not much hardship, but if it was meaningful enough to him, I suppose it could be considered a type of pilgrimage. He also mentioned visiting war graves as a type of pilgrimage, which I addressed excellently, by citing Tony Walter, a British anthropologist. Take that.
He then asked something about the authenticity of the culture packaged for tourists and how that compares to everyday "genuine" culture on Prince Edward Island.
Next up was my advisor. She had nuthin’. She asked something about a Levi-Straussian binary opposites (or something) and asked me to respond. I did. Then she asked about the common case of locals in tourist destinations harbouring animosity towards tourists. I hit that, too.
Then it went around to my second reader one more time. She said she didn’t really have a question – it was more of a comment. She said that even after reading my thesis twice, she couldn’t get one thought out of her head: that the common denominator of pilgrimage is God. I said, a god or a deity? She said no – "capital G" God. Oh. Huh. This threw me for a loop. I tried to knock this down. I cited Graceland; I cited Hindu pilgrimages, in case she was focussing on monotheistic Abrahamic traditions; and I cited perspective and subjectivity. Then, to my great relief, my advisor jumped in and kinda turned on my second reader, to the point where it became a debate between the two of them and I just sat back and let them go.
When they were spent of questions, they asked me to go outside to make me sweat while they asked one another about their kids, and then they had me back in to congratulate me. YAY! Catherine S. Sweet, M.A.!
I went back to the hallway where all our offices are and sat with Stephanie, a second-year M.A. student. I was chatting with about how it went and trying to calm down about how awesome I am, and Kim came down the hallway to congratulate me. Then she said she heard my defence went well. Huh. How? I’d only spoken to Stephanie since I got out. Kim told me that she ran into my advisor downstairs and was told that I kicked ass. Wow.
I really don’t think I have an academic mind. Well, If I do, I just don’t like to play the game. I don’t take it seriously enough, I guess. I think since I know this, and most everyone else knows that, I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a burden and a disappointment to my advisor. I mean, she’s not going to get a lot of glory out of me, that’s for sure, so attaching her name to an MA thesis of a student who wants out of academia is probably not high on her list. So, telling people that I did well is really meaningful to me. Since then, I got word that she told an old student of hers who is teaching at MUN the same thing. Holy crap balls. Remarkable. It just makes it all the more great for me – that she was proud enough to tell people I don’t know that I did well. I think that’s great.
So, in the end, the great Inquisition I was awaiting turned into a debate, and I remembered that I actually liked my project. After a month of making sure all the margins were right and all the justification was fair, it was cool to actually talk about what I was investigating.
Do you think getting degrees is like getting tattoos? Is one enough? Are two enough? Sometimes it’s just easier to go on. Well, you know what I mean… not easier, but setting it on cruise control is like working in a trance. I know I could to a PhD. I just don’t want to. Ability is not the issue. I just know that I don’t want to be a professor, and there are enough doctors in my family as it is, thank you very much.
Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!