Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Ghosts of Semesters Past

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ghosts of Semesters Past

Hello Fordham Grad Students and Beyond!
Since it is the week of May that is the traditional last week of the term, today I’ve been thinking about my final papers from previous semesters. I was actually backing up my files yesterday and came across these digital documents. A while ago, I had organized all my files into separate folders for each course I had taken in graduate school, but I’d also created a file called “Final Seminar Papers,” in which I put the final draft, and even some copies that were graded and commented on digitally, of final seminar papers into their own folder. As I was backing up, I read a bit of some of them.  It was a trip down seminar-memory lane!

For me, now in my dissertation stage, most of these papers are not directly related to my dissertation, because I did not conjure my diss topic until after my comps,.  I actually haven’t looked at these or thought about these papers in a long time.
For others, their seminar papers and end of term projects may be feeding directly into their dissertations. This kind of focus seems rare, but in hindsight, I wonder if I should have been thinking long term earlier, trying to tailor my seminar topics towards some kind of overall goal – head start on my dissertation!
My thoughts about these final seminar papers now that I am dissertation stage?
PUBLISHING: I’m wondering if I can somehow, one day after this dissertation project is put to bed, use one or more of these capstone papers as a jumping off point for a new project or article. Of course, this revision and conversion might take a few months, but the seminar work already done might be a good kickstart to launch myself into something different once my dissertation has passed and I need a break from the material.
NETWORKING/ CONFERENCE CONNECTIONS: Maybe check out the CFP’s for upcoming regional and national conferences and see if any relate to my old seminar paper topics…. Maybe I revise one of them for a conference, and test out the argument in a panel discussion.
TEACHING: Or, perhaps they will be useful for creating lectures and class assignments for future courses I may design or teach.  You never know a text or a topic as well as you do after you’ve written about it, so why not consider yourself a growing “expert” on the topic and include it on your future syllabi?
It is interesting to me to look back and remember my trains of thought at the time, and to think about how I interpreted sources and texts years ago, and to compare and contrast how I might analyze those same texts now.
Of course, some are more relevant to my field than others – but some were connected to my most recent research interests in ways I hadn’t realized or remembered. For example, although I am concentrating on early American lit now, my Modern American Fiction class yielded a paper on The Pawnbroker which dealt with some of the very images I am looking at now in early American fiction – the contexts are different, of course, but there are parallel insights about the way fiction functioned culturally – parallels which I find to be stimulating and motivating to my current project, at least in some kind of intanglible energizing way.
I’m curious – what has become of your seminar papers and end of term projects and research? Are they still close to your current work? Have you strayed far? In terms of relevancy of seminar work to the disseration, how do the different disciplines compare and contrast? How do you organize your papers from your courses once they are finished?
For those of you still in coursework, are you thinking about building bridges from one seminar to another, within and across semesters? Should grad students design their seminar papers around a central theme to get ahead on their dissertation? Or, are our “coursework” years supposed to be about breadth more than depth?
Share your thoughts!!! 

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