What an amazing decade, the last ten years during my scholarly endeavours in the realm of a PhD.
I often find shame and self loathing that I have been mucking around in this academic space for so long. If you ask my University administration, some of my previous supervisors, and most likely my current one, I am simply either lazy and disorganised or lacking in the necessary intrinsic reward beliefs associated with successful completion. One of my oldest…sorry dearest friends Susan Dalziel will tell you that I have always been afraid of success so have never applied myself 100%.
She is correct, well partially. I have had my usual time number of life crises in physical health, financial, legal and mental illness, and that is an exceptional number of times to the average person, if such a term has any relevance.
But despite my little interruptions the latest issue has been my own self sabotage ( on three separate occasions, each related to a crisis in employment and employability). And boy do I do a great job of eliminating every Sherriff of electronic research data and hard copies. I have now learned that this is completely ineffectual now as my son and other young adults are easily able to recover deleted data from cyberspace were I desperate enough to pick up the threads.
Well, I am not.
The answer to this stems from the fact that University qualifications these days are no longer viewed as adequate academic training and preparation and no longer operate as a magic key to employment. I know the number of people holding PhDs is a comparatively small cohort of the broader population,that does not hold true for my friends and colleagues in the academic workforce.
And while I once applauded the shift away from the traditional r search thesis model for a PhD with the introduction in 2003 in Australia the adoption of practice-led research doctorates by artefact and exegesis, I now have many misgivings.
My first concern was that the theoretical basis for the doctorate remains that the exegesis analyses the production and creation of the creative artefact whilst the ‘studio’/ creation stages are occurring. For this to be successful it is necessary that he two processes be performed concurrently, then any self-reflective journallings be edited into a cohesive research frame in the exegesis.
Great idea. In theory.
I have now lost track of the number of these PhDs where despite the claim by the scholarly author practitioner that this indeed was the research pedagogy followed, by the very structure and content of the exegeses themselves, there can be enough evidence to suggest either the exegesis was written beforehand, in the style of a substantial literature analysis paper, or as I find most often, writing after the creative process and ‘retro-fitted’.
Only the author doctors themselves can know if what I contend is true, and believe me when I comment that such a candid response is not conducive to enter into the Academy. But I want to scream out loudly that ‘The Emperor wears no clothes’. Many of these PhDs are simply low standard of academic research, with minimal true engagement between theory and practice. Many are simply poor quality works.
This has permitted a backlash from me. I am actually very condescending about the material I have produced over the years. The flaws are so obvious.
As the years have come and gone, what had been my basic research ideas not written about have slowly emerged in other Countries, as books and academic journal articles by the world:S leading thinkers on mental illness, ‘madness and creativity’, creative industry discourse analysis and critique, as well as higher education policy and corporate managerialism driving the structure and functioning of the University space. There is now even an expert on comedy to break stigma and his work is highly respected. So whilst I as actually navigating through these themes and subject areas my own PhD writing has become less ‘original’ and less ground breaking.
This in turn has provided two rather large stumbling blocks in my PhD write up phases. The first as every time I articulated a belief, idea or lived experience of what I was exploring my writing always returned with supervisory comments requesting I back up these statements with citations from other sources. This in itself mystified me as my stated theoretical methodology as grounded theory and self-reflexivity where I had assumed my own voice would be prioritised, in my quest for locating additional source material I needed to cross disciplinary boundaries to then find academic writing suitable to be harnessed in the Creative Writing academic milieu.
This always proved problematic for me as a candidate due to my belief that I was ‘shoe-horning’ critical analysis from one loci to another completely different. I always felt that. Y separating research findings from within other disciplines, I was in fact wilfully decontextualising the original research. I felt my academic analytical skills were not ngwritilasufficiently versed in the various theoretical framing s required for successful interdisciplinary discourse.
Now, indeed I have the opposite problem. The idas I began to explore (and present at Conferences on) in 2007 are well and truly mapped and theorised by academics around he world, despite them all remaining in disparate fields of academic research. How can I successfully sum up my intellectual journey over this period traipsin* through well over 3,000 academic readings? Not even an annotated lit search would be useful with the word constraints of an exegeses.
I had always imagined that once my PhD was completed I would revisit every single piece of analytic writing I managed to complete as part of my Candidature, and draw them together into a seamless academic discourse of disruption. How does one do this now when the ideas are no longer novel, when others have stamped their authority on such analyses? Would completing my now woefully inadequate PhD exegesis and unpublishable ( in terms of current literary markets) artefact be of any value in the broader context than my own personal recording of my decade of thinking?
My feeling is that I am simply adding another intellectually substandard Creative Writing PhD. Only now have I discovered the writing of a kindred spirit in the U.S.A. Professor Margaret Price specialises in Higher Education, Education pedagogy with Disability Studies.
Her current book Mad at School looks into the under-discussed ( or theorised until now) poiliticalisation of discourse surrounding mental illness and madness. Not only has her work validated my professional experience in the Academy, she has reassured me that there are existing academic theoretical lenses that focus upon and identify how scholars who deviate from the ‘norm’ find themselves on the periphery if not actively locked out of the community completely. She explains how much the discourse surrounding the higher education industry is premised upon Aristotlean ideas of thought, knowledge and rationality with an agreed norm or standard from which deviation is constituted. She then neatly sums up my ‘perceived characteristics of deviance’ in terms of thinking, communicating and linearity cause and effect construction of academic writing.
Hey everybody I am not so different after all. There are other students and academics battling with value-laden terminology of privilege and exclusion.
This text has been my lightbulb moment.
Does this go anywhere near explaining and articulating my seemingly irrelevant periods of incomplete scholarship?
And more importantly do I rewrite my exegesis with reference to Professor Price’s schema?