Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal/Theological Notebook: Thank You and Things To Come

I just wanted to check in quickly and thank all of you who left notes after my quick report about the doctoral exams: I've been in a bit of a daze over the weekend, with the life-dominating crush of studying for the exams suddenly removed. Saturday night I took out one circle of friends--Mike and Donna Harris, Dan and Amy Lloyd, and Professor Michel René Barnes, my new advisor and a de facto advisor for the lot of us, as well as a good friend--for a good dress-up and sit-down dinner. Both couples got to take a break from their respective one year-old girls, Renee and Anna, and get a bit of "going out" that you don't get so easily your first year of parenting. I'm kicking myself for not getting a picture of us all dress with swank. I took them up to the Twisted Fork, which I've mentioned before with enthusiasm, and we shut the restaurant down with long talk, fun, and liberal use of a corking fee.

As to the aftermath of the exams themselves, as I wrote to some friends from Notre Dame:
I'm really finding that it felt like a "growing-up" experience, something of being to move from the kiddie table to the adult's table at Thanksgiving, and something of being welcomed to the Guild. Blake Leyerle had told me years ago back at Notre Dame that the Ph.D. would be a process by which I'd be convinced that I knew nothing about my field, at which time I'd be allowed to teach. And indeed, the entire hour-and-a-half of my Oral Exam was very much a humbling experience, just in that I knew perfectly well the shortcomings of what I had managed to write in each of the four three-hour Written Exams, not because the board was rubbing my face in it, or anything like that. The professors making up my board are all Big Names--incredibly respected and significant in their respective fields--and even to be brought up to the bottom of their totem pole was amazing and sobering all at once. The more I look back at the day, the more "moving" the experience seems in retrospect, even if that's not quite right to describe the experience as it seemed at the time. I felt increasingly confident and comfortable as the time went on, even comfortable enough to make a few modest and timely quips, but not to let my mouth and wit run away from me like it too often has.
So that's that. I'll meet shortly with my Dissertation Director, Professor Michael Fahey, SJ, to start figuring out the process of the DDO--the Doctoral Dissertation Outline--which I have to submit to the approval of the Graduate School. Now that I've broken with the DQEs, the DDO is the new acronym in my life.

Father Fahey is the Doerr Chair here at Marquette, and has been the Editor of Theological Studies, one of the major journals in the field, for ten years. It is a position once held by no less than John Courtney Murray, SJ, whose portrait graces both Fahey's office desk and wall. Fahey is, I say with all fondness, an absolutely brutal editor, and I stand to learn a great deal from him by having him direct my dissertation. I'm even more lucky in that he's retiring at the end of this year, and mine will be his last dissertation. He is notably enthusiastic about the teaching of writing itself, which is distinctive in our field, and that very much stood out to me when I first interviewed him when I was looking at doctoral programs. Friendly, wise and witty, and a consummate professional, just talking with him always reminds me that I'm aspiring toward something that I have not yet come close to achieving. That might sound negative, I suppose, but to my mind it is one of the most positive experiences of another person I've had. My just-retired advisor, Fr. David Coffey, hit me the same way. I've been exceptionally lucky to be at Marquette at the end of their era, with the two of them at the top of their games. It's a watershed moment for our department to have the two of them retire over the space of a year.
Tags: barnes, dqes, fahey, food, friends-marquette era, marquette, milwaukee, personal, restaurants, teachers, theological notebook, writing

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