It is now some days after D-day and it occurred to me that I should reflect upon the experience a wee bit. The problem is that I don’t remember much of it at all now.
An oral defense is one of my worse nightmares. Give me a written defense and I can kick arse but put on the spot for an oral examination and I always feel less than succinct. And yet given time to talk about my research in an informal setting I can blather on for hours. It’s the formality of it all. Being questioned on my theoretical framework, my interpretation of Bakhtin’s Utterance and Vygotsky’s Verbal Thought in relation to writer’s voice stretched me. I can write about it in detail but to talk about it and defend it in front of an audience – I do less well.
But returning to SFU for the defense was a comfort in itself. And defending in the Blue Room felt like coming home – I’d been in so many meetings in that room: staff meetings, committee meetings, even my Master’s defense had been in that room. And I’d seen friends defend there. There is something special about being in a familiar space.
I felt very supported and loved at SFU. So many old friends came to wish me well. Hugs, flowers, laughter. And then the examining room was so full – we had to get more chairs. I predicted this when the room was booked but it was still a surprise in the end.
When the defense was finally over and we were excused from the room, I had a sense of absolute doubt. 2009 had been a hard year for me. So many times I was certain I would succeed only to be told I had failed. I had a few moments of absolute terror, despite my friends hugs and congratulations and assurances that I’d done well.
When they called me back in the room and said “Congratulations, Dr. Shaw!” it seemed surreal. The Pass, As Is comment did not register. I had to ask for clarification. No revisions. I was stunned.
Twenty-four hours later I found myself back at home reading the External Examiner’s report for the first time. The report was humbling and gratifying at the same time. He referred to my theoretical framework as “a major contribution” and gave my dissertation the highest praise recommending that it be considered for appropriate dissertation awards.
Now a few days later I have finished the minor copy edits to my document and am preparing to courier it to SFU and I am aware that I have choices to make. I can let this be the ending of it all. Finish my work and move on. Or I can take it and make it into something more. Develop and articulate that most difficult Chapter 3, let it reach the true potential of becoming a major contribution or let it rest as it is.