Monday, April 09, 2007

I'm about to leave town for just a few hours short of an entire week. That would almost qualify as a vacation if it didn't involve going to the SAH annual meeting. I have to say, I'm not highly excited about the program (sorry to all those who worked very hard putting the panels, etc. together, but...I'm just not). I know there are tons of people out there not studying European or American architectural history, but apparently they are not proposing sessions for SAH. Give me a year, and I'll have something to say myself.

Anyway, we're taking a road trip. Has anyone else noticed that the only time I get to spend time with my wife, we're on our way somewhere else? She's taking time off work at a very horrible time to be doing so because this may be our last "vacation" together until Thanksgiving. We've got tickets to see two houses by Frank Wright (doesn't he sound just *normal* when you don't use his middle name), Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, on Saturday. That may be the most interesting part of the week, we'll see.

Then it's back here for one final push on those four research projects. I'm stalled on project two right now. I need to stop thinking of it as potential dissertation material and think of it as just one last seminar paper to knock out and finish. But it's for one of the smartest people I've ever met, and I don't want her to think it sucks. I psyched myself out this same way last semester, and I've got to just stop obsessing about quality and write the damn thing.

Still and all, it's looking like I might get through the program. I'm worried about exams--less about the historiographical/methodological exam questions and more about my basic lack of knowledge of South Asian architecture. I don't even have a Master's level competency in the built environment of India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Sri Lanka. It would have helped if I'd actually had a class on say, oh, Indian Architecture, at some point in my endless years of education. But, no. I had a ten week class on Indian art in 1990, and a ten week class on "humanities of India" in 1986. Can I be expected to remember the content of a class I took 17 and 21 years ago? No.

I am taking a seminar on Rajput architecture this semester, and it's helped immensely. I'm learning tons, but mostly it all predates my time period, so it's not directly related to my exams. I'm trying not to get too anxious about it all because it does seem as if the dissertation is already taking shape. At least, I turned in a rough draft of a seminar paper on the colonial historiography of my site, and the professor thought I was well on my way to having the first chapter. That's putting the cart before the horse, I need to actually defend the proposal before writing the chapter, but at least I now know what to propose for my first chapter--something slightly different than the expected literature review, but still demonstrating that I know my postcolonial theory. I have a date of January 15 for my minor field exam. I'd still like to take the two major field exams in November, but we'll see.

Did I say site? I meant sites. This is the first time I've ever tried to work on multiple sites simultaneously. Try coming up with a filing system for a literature that covers five observatories. Thank god for bibliographic software. As long as I note on the computer which article is stored in which manila folder, I don't have to obsess quite so much. "This article covers both the Varanasi observatory and the Ujjain one. Where do I file it? If I file it by author's last name, how will I know by looking at the file label which observatories it covers?" and so on. Anyway, thank you Endnote, you've made my life much easier even if you hard-coded the Ibid. record wrong for the Turabian output style (idiots).

So, yes, I am guardedly optimistic that I will finish the program. My dissertation committee is in place. I have two architectural historians, one landscape historian, and two "regular" historians. I am spending a lot of time with a third historian, reading interesting books together and just generally working my way toward friendship (keeping in mind that I have an abysmal track record in that area). I'm hoping that between these six people, someone will keep me from dropping out again. If I quit, it will clearly be because of exams--they seem dark, mysterious and terror-inducing. If I can get through those, I think I'll be fine.

Not sure how much typing will get done in this little box between now and May 14. My one goal for the summer is to write more--I did a horrible job posting about India last summer. This summer, I will do better. Wait, what? I forgot to mention I was going to be in India this summer? I guess I did forget. I leave June 7, get back August 18. Catherine is being an amazingly good sport about it. I'm horribly sad about missing YET ANOTHER SUMMER AT HOME, but also looking forward to being in Jaipur again. I am a conflicted individual, no doubt about it.

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