Slouching Towards a PhD in Rhetoric

I started the PhD in Rhetoric program at TWU in January 2019. I started my program a bit behind the 8-ball because I didn’t have a Master’s in English. My Master’s is in Library Science so I only had a few classes that would successfully transfer. As such, I have taken 8 graduate classes a year for the last 2.5 years in order to catch up and get through the program in a reasonable period of time.

It’s felt like a horrible slog much of the time. I’m glad I’m doing it but I’m also in my mid-40s so I’m tired. I’m really tired. And there have been times (too many times) when I have felt as if I really didn’t belong in this program. But I’ve also had to remind myself that I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t deserve to be. I’ve busted my ass since 2012. I earned my place. But sometimes, it’s still hard to acknowledge.

When I started this journey I was 36 years old, I had undiagnosed ADHD and dyscalculia, two failed marriages under my belt, more than 12 jobs on my resume and over 15 addresses since 1996. I also had (and have) chronic migraines, endometriosis, and psoriatic arthritis. I attended college (Tarrant County College) in 1995/1996 for 1.5 semesters and so had 3 credits to my name. I started at the bottom at North Central Texas College in developmental math. I earned an Associate of Arts in 2015, a Bachelor’s in General Studies (concentrations in English, History and Women’s Studies) in 2016, and a Master’s in Library Science in 2018. I did things that I never thought that I could do, and I did it well. My GPA has never been below a 3.6, and in fact, it was a 4.0 in library school, and remains a 4.0 now, as a PhD student. I beat all the odds that were ever placed on me by my parents, my teachers, my counselors, my romantic partners, and even many of my pre-2012 friends. I developed coping mechanisms before I even knew I had ADHD and I made things work.

And now, I’m nearing the end of my journey, and I want other people like me to know that they can do it too. Has it been hard? Abso-fucking-lutely. It has been brutal. But I needed to know that I was actually capable of doing this. I needed to know that I could reach a point where I was capable of taking care of myself and that my pretty face was actually not the most important thing about me.

Having said that, I wouldn’t change a thing, no matter how hard it’s been. I know that I want to work in academic libraries with a focus on Open Access, Open Educational Resources, and instructional programming, preferably with First-Year Comp programs or information literacy for non-traditional students. I believe that the Rhetoric program has given me a really good foundation for these plans.

So, with all of that in mind, I’d like to announce that…

When I first started the program I knew that I wanted my eventual dissertation to be focused on steampunk AND libraries, in some form or fashion. I wasn’t really sure how it would work but I WAS FOCUSED! I mean, I’m the steampunk librarian, y’all. What else could I POSSIBLY do?

Over the last 2.5 years that idea had has to be refined and redefined. There simply isn’t enough steampunk-specific library fiction in order to justify such a narrow focus. So, I changed that to libraries/archives in the broader category of speculative fiction but what else? I had to find an actual argument, a hook, something substantial to write about for an entire dissertation. That was when my advisor and I hit on the idea of connecting these books to Open Access and the idea of who has access to the knowledge, how, and why. Thus was born the idea of the Rhetorics of Knowledge Control and Dissemination.

Before I can finally begin writing that long-awaited dissertation I have to take (AND PASS) comprehensive exams on the history of rhetoric, rhetoric in practice, and a 3rd area of our choice, which will be our focus. I’ll be taking my exams in April 2022. The lead-up to the exams is a required reading list and justification for the choice of 3rd area, which has to be turned in 6 months before the exam date.

The reading list has to be roughly 80 sources that exemplify the 3rd area that we have chosen. The 5-page justification has to, well, justify the reading list that we have created and how we will use these sources. I started my reading list in May, even though it wasn’t due until October 1st. I topped out at 122 sources, which was bonkers and just unnecessary. After working with my advisors my list was trimmed down to 90 sources and my justification was completed. In my defense, my reading list is over limit because 19 of my sources are primary sources, the novels I will be examining.

So, the justification and reading list have been turned in and are awaiting Grad School approval. I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done, which is why I’ve decided to start keeping track of my progress here, with y’all. And that starts with sharing my justification and reading list, so y’all can see where I am and what I hope to achieve in the coming months, and years. There’s a lot more hard work to go but I think I’m off to a good start.

The Rhetorics of Knowledge Control and Dissemination: Comprehensive Exams 3rd Area Justification

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