22 May, 2008

Limbo - I can't go any lower!

More like, I refuse to go any lower. Raise that stupid bamboo pole higher, please!

Okay, enough with the metaphors. I've been having advisory issues. J and N are both wonderful people, but our interests, we have found, are just a tad too far apart.

My interests have always been in religion, and I've always found Church Law interesting, as much as I knew about it. Teenage exposure to catechetical debate matured with my interactions with David and our Berthold/Hermes/Thomas of York* project. Even the incomprehensible Philosophy of the Mind course added to it.

So to me it is rather natural that I be drawn to philosophy, Church law, and pastoral manuals. When I applied to York, I did not realise that the department had very little theological focus. That part is my fault - every grad student should be very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the schools they apply to. I was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of York - and medieval disability studies practically defines "interdisciplinary."

So today I met with P, who is both a wonderful fellow and quite knowledgeable about the things I need to learn. We need to have another meeting - one with J and N, most likely - and try and sort this out. In the meantime, I will be busily proving myself as a worthy student for P to supervise, as he is understandably leery about just accepting someone "off the street," so to speak.

So I'm still in limbo, which is not exactly a fun place to be. Hopefully we can sort this out. I hope that as we branch out into into a widely-accepted (or at least widely-known) discipline, fewer students of medieval disability will feel this misfit syndrome.

I hazard the guess that students of medieval disability have an extra struggle for acceptability. Those who come to the field later on, as established (or at least accredited) scholars only have to worry about publishers and peer-reviews. Negativity on those fronts can be damaging, but it likely won't derail an entire career. As students, our advisors aren't familiar with our background, goals, or methods, because they aren't disability scholars themselves, and they really haven't even encountered much in the way of literature. And that's nobody's fault - it's just a factor of an emerging discipline. But they are responsible for our degrees, and we need to struggle extra to make ourselves comprehensible. As more of us fight our ways through and become available to mentor or supervise our own students, I hope it will change. If there are any professors in the field reading this, I tip my hat to you. It's because of you that this isn't harder still - keep up the good work.

* Hey, guess what? I'm in York! It really doesn't lose its thrill.


Pope Bonkface VIII said...

It's very true, what you said; the onus really is on us students to show that we can produce something in this field.

This is why I tend to take a pragmatic, long-term view of the field. I figure that all the leg work will only benefit me in the end, in that I'll get to see what goes into actually defining a field and establishing arguments when there really aren't very many to begin with.

It's a difficult job, but I think it's one we can both do. Sometimes I do wish I was in a field where everything is already 'set up' for me, but that's part of the thrill of this field, isn't it, the knowledge that you will produce something new and useful?

After all, isn't that the whole point of a PhD thesis, to produce a 'substantial and new contribution to the field of knowledge'? =)

Eaquae Legit said...

Yep! I'll just breathe easier to e out of limbo - hopefully into the paradisio and not the inferno!

highlyeccentric said...

When I applied to York, I did not realise that the department had very little theological focus.

Really? Huh. Thanks for the warning.

Eaquae Legit said...

Actually, highlyeccentric, I took a look at your profile, and it seems like your interests would fit in well here. Social history this school is very good with. Aquinas and Co. are more of a problem.

highlyeccentric said...

Hmm, ok :) Mind, the only reason I'm not messin' around with Aquinas and co at the moment is that I don't have any latin yet.

There's also the fact that a school's anglo-saxonists might be of an entirely different breed to its historians.

I shall take this as a Sign that I ought to do some serious investigatin' over the next year or so, afore I go applying anywhere.