A Very Good Day.

Yesterday was a very good day. In case you didn't know, yesterday I had my defense for my master's thesis. Some of you asked what my thesis topic was, and this is it, in a nutshell: Displacement, Identity, and Assimilation in Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. That was my thesis title. Still doesn't make sense? Here's my abstract:
Displacement is a prevalent issue today, with immigration being such a contentious topic. Immigrants often find themselves marginalized and must sublimate the irreconcilable aspects of their past in order to assimilate. Much of postmodern literature explores the issues of displacement and marginalization, with emphasis on the concept of the Other.
The purpose of this discourse is to discuss how author Michael Ondaatje develops the themes of displacement, identity, and assimilation in the novel The English Patient. Both a biographical and a postcolonial approach were utilized in my discussion – biographical, because Ondaatje himself experienced displacement as an immigrant, which greatly influenced his work, and postcolonial, because The English Patient explores the tension between Eastern and Western cultures, particularly in postcolonial India.
In case you've never heard of the book before, here's its Amazon page, which has a brief synopsis. The English Patient is my all-time favorite book -- has been, ever since I first saw the film my senior year of high school and learned it was based on a book. As much as I loved the movie (even though I cried like a baby at the end), the book was a million billion zillion times better. But isn't it always?! As romantic and haunting as the film is, the novel is just amazing. If you are looking for a good book to read, a book in which to really lose yourself, give this one a try.

But anyway, I digress. Back to yesterday. So I was a nervous wreck all day. Worried I would forget to bring something important, worried my outfit wouldn't look good, worried there would be traffic causing me to be late, and generally worried I would make a fool of myself. My loving boyf lovingly drove me to the university and sat in the hall while I met with my committee. Thank God for him -- I honestly don't think I could've gone through the entire process without him. He really calmed me down yesterday.

My committee members were great, too. These were the professors who agreed to be part of my team, two of whom I'd met as their students at FIU. So they knew me and were familiar with my work. My third member was a last-minute addition after my original lead member retired before I could finish my thesis (this was totally my fault -- I had major writer's block shortly after picking my thesis topic). I gave up all hope when I couldn't find a new committee member. And I knew time was running out -- I had only until Fall 2010 to complete my thesis and graduate on time. And then the head of the English department (who just happens to be a member of my committee) stepped in to save the day. He found me a new lead professor. He pretty much saved my life!

And oh yeah, my new lead professor kicked ass. As much as I love my original lead professor, I think my new lead professor gave me that sense of discipline I so desperately needed. He would gently urge me in the right direction every time I lagged, and he writes the.most.encouraging.emails. Seriously, they would make my day and inspire me to keep writing.

As supportive as my committee was during the writing process, they were especially so during the defense. I had no idea what to expect. I thought it would be like those scenes in in detective shows, where the suspect is handcuffed to a table with a bright light shining right into his eyes, blinding him. Thank goodness that wasn't the case at all! The meeting was held in a conference room on the English department floor. There was no one else present, just my three committee members and me. And there was no handcuffs, no blinding light, no incriminating questions. They just asked me questions about my thesis that were honestly a pleasure to answer, things like, what inspired you to choose this topic? And, how does this relate to your life? As displacement is something that greatly interests me, my being the daughter of immigrants, this was a topic I could warm up to easily. And obviously it helped that I love the book so much.

After 45 minutes of this informal Q&A session, they asked me to step outside the room so they could deliberate. This is when your committee decides whether or not they're going to approve your thesis. I sat on a chair in the hall with Ricky, nervous as heck, but I was confident my defense had gone well and that kept me hopeful. Five or ten minutes later, they called me back into the room and congratulated me on being approved. They even brought out a little cake! I was so touched. :*)

Here are some pictures we took:

My committee members and me. I love how ginormous my smile is here, heh.

Ricky, me, and my congratulatory butterfly cake.

After we left FIU, Ricky took me to a nearby Borders to kill some time while the traffic died down (it was rush hour at that time), and I got to use a giftcard I'd received for my birthday. I bought myself two new books: Harry Potter Film Wizardry and Crescendo. Then Ricky took me to Carrabbas for dinner and we followed that up with an impulsive trip to Yogurtland, where I discovered to my extreme happiness that they now have red velvet yogurt. SO HAPPY. That was an excellent way to celebrate my defense, as I got to experience all my favorites: books, Italian food, and frozen yogurt!

So what's next now that my defense is done? What's next is turning in the final copy of the thesis, which has to be printed on bond paper (fancy, no? ;D) and turned in inside of a box. What's cool about this is that my university, FIU, will publish it and then I will be able to visit my thesis in the school library, where it will live with the other books. How cool is that?!

Today some coworkers were asking what I am going to do with all my newfound free time now that my thesis is done. Honestly, it feels a little weird not having that responsibility in the back of my mind anymore. For years now, I've been neighbors with that thought -- I came to know it very well. I think I'll need to continue writing in some way to help ease myself out of that routine, so I'm considering doing NaNoWriMo. I have an idea for a novel I'd like to flesh out some, and it would be amazing if I could write an entire novel in just one month.

Surely this isn't impossible -- after all, I wrote my thesis, which wound up being about 63 pages, in less than a month. ;)

Before I close, I want to thank my sweet, sweet readers who wished me well every step of the way. Thanks for putting up with my thesis rambles both here and on Twitter/Facebook! You were an important part of the process, and your encouragement meant a lot to me.


6 comment(s):

danielle and dinosaur toes said...

yay, i'm so happy i could just bear hug you!

so funny that you thought your defense would resemble a criminal interrogation, but if i were in your position, i'd probably have the same thought.

i think you'd make an amazing author, and because of that i have one request. could you write a vampire novel with a main character even sexier than edward cullen? i know, it's a tall order.

.adri. said...

Yay! :o) SO EXCITED for you! I knew you'd be fine :) You're too intelligent not to. I can't believe I will have to go through this whole process for my dissertation o.O Eepp! I'm so glad you had Ricky there to help calm you down!

Oh! And I love the photos! You look great!!!!!!!!!!


~kiMbeRLy~ said...

Yay!! So happy for you!!

Unknown said...

whoa, you're totally speaking my language in that abstract! your thesis sounds like the kinda stuff they have us doing in Cultural Studies, just more, well, extensive. (:

{andthisiswhatshesaid} said...

Awwwwww so happy for you.

Kim @citygirlinak said...

yay Annie!! I'm so proud of you.
and now I need to procure myself a copy of The English Patient.
love the pictures and red velvet yogurt sounds ah-mazing. =D