Yes, I am facing up (facing off?) to the last part of my MA in as bold and no nonsense manner as the title of this blog post suggests. It is terrifying, being faced with writing a dissertation of 15,000 words. Part of me wishes I wasn’t working so I could devote myself to it full time. However I think it is better overall that I am studying part time. It cannot be an all consuming project and is (necessarily) held in balance with all the other things in my life and all my other values. Since I got the feedback on my last term paper I have been reminded with the reasons that I started this MA in the first place. I got good feedback on the last paper, but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping for. Given all the challenge and stress I put myself through to try and produce a better paper, I was a little disappointed with getting a mark at the bottom end of all my marks so far. The upshot being that I don’t think I want to write in a way (or tackle the kinds of questions) that will earn me the higher marks. That is not really why I am doing this MA and I have always been quite happy with the idea that I am not a fantastic scholar. To be quite honest, I find the quest for scholarly excellence gets a little boring after a while and I get demotivated. Or maybe I am just not very good at it. I suppose I could try and be more discplined and more rigorous and work harder to improve my academic output. I just dont’t really want to. I was always doing this MA to have the chance to explore what I find interesting. I have my day job for challenging me to work in the ways other people want me to, for increasing my output in line with the ideals of other people and for putting a value on my worth that is propotional to my socially recognised output. My studies are primarily for me.
I will admit at this point that it is not that I am without intellectual vanity. I was thrilled with the other marks I got, especially as there was an upward trend. This is partly what persuaded me to try and engage with the academic expectations from tutors, to improve my work in line with what they suggested. That and a sense that I wanted to try challenging myself in a different way, to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and not just settle for saying “I want to do it my way” purely as a rebellion; I don’t like the idea that my response is just a tantrum because I haven’t been told my work is brilliant. So I think I can say to myself that I tried it and I didn’t really feel the benefit of my struggling to mold my work in to a more acceptable style or format. I also think that part of the difficulty is that while I am fascinated by philosophy, I don’t actually want to practice philosophy in the traditional sense. The last course was distinctly philosophical and clearly set within the analytic tradition/methodology. While I respect and admire the analytic trend in philosophy, it doesn’t fully engage my attention and I do find myself becoming bored or impatient with it after a time. I am not a philosopher, though I have wanted to be at several points during the course of my studies (both UG and PG). I am a mediator and a translator – my interest is in making comparisions between different schemes of thought, exploring the implications of chosen interpretations and (by means of the other two) trying to elucidate difficult ideas from more novel perspectives. Philosophical questions don’t actually interest me that much.
It is incredibly liberating and empowering to be in the process of finding my voice. It is more important to me to write in my own voice and have that accepted by others than to chase intellectual glory in the service of some thing that feels divorced from my own interests. Studying part time seems to help keep this in balance.