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Many factors militate against a dissertation becoming a book.Yet some dissertations do, and many of these have the potential to become quite good books, a potential they often do not fulfill. Each is by the same author, each contains many of the same words and ideas, each is unpublished. In the evenings, and on weekends, you’re working on the book based on your dissertation.Disagree with some aspect of received opinion about your topic. This isn’t to say that dissertations aren’t valuable works of scholarship.
Once you leave the institution where you were awarded your degree, that support structure can seem, in retrospect, a great asset no longer in reach.
But whether one’s doctoral advisors form a well-knit team or a dysfunctional family, they form a support group, one handed to the writer by the university.
Most won’t make it even that far, but linger at the ready in electronic format waiting for some brave soul to call for a download or a photocopy.
It’s hard to pick up a dissertation and hear its author’s voice. Like the kid in the choir who’s afraid she cannot carry a tune and doesn’t want to be found out, the dissertation makes as small a sound as possible.
You pour libations to the loudest of the influential dead.
The more you do this, the more difficult it becomes to see where your own work ends and the ideas of the Masters begin, so thoroughly has your writing absorbed a way of expressing itself. Having the wrong committee can make writing slower and more difficult than it need be. Sometimes that structure may be a burden, or even an obstacle, for the writer. A dissertation is written under the watchful eyes of a director and an advisory committee.Choose a topic, preferably one sufficiently narrow that no one else has elected precisely the same territory for exploration. Demonstrate, with less or greater subtlety, that you’ve actually done this reading via hundreds of endnotes, footnotes, and superscripts. Although that may be the recipe for a dissertation, it isn’t the formula for a book.If you’re writing in literary studies, for example, your dissertation may be looking backward to be sure it’s safe from Foucault, Freud, Butler, and Bhabha, not that any of these worthies are threatening either you or your thesis in any way.To disarm your deities, you cite, paraphrase, and incorporate the ideas of leading scholars now at work.That mixture of diffidence and bravura shows up in almost all doctoral work. The “us” I want the author to speak to isn’t just anyone, either, but the targeted readership that will benefit from a scholarly book.When a dissertation crosses my desk, I usually want to grab it by its metaphorical lapels and give it a good shake. The recalcitrant garden-variety dissertation—lips sealed, secrets intact—will find a readership among two hundred library collections at best.(Become—not are already—books.) To judge by the manuscripts that scholars send to publishing houses, the majority of the theses for which the Ph. is awarded are still highly limited enterprises—confident treatments of narrow subjects, making claims to boldness but doing so by means of elaborate reference to the work of others.The average dissertation wears its confidence and its insecurity in equal measure. ” It isn’t the dissertation I want to shake, of course, it’s the dissertation’s author.