It was a mad mad fired-up burning grit and brain, body and heart to finish; hot-with-passion-then-cold-with-fear insane year of stress--the academic year 2007-08 was. My few remaining loved ones stayed the course. I passed all of my courses, but my joy shivers with trepidation as I eyeball the future.
The fear seems bound up inside the 80 pages of my senior thesis and the "you are brilliant" but "you don't know what the hell you are doing" praise combo censure I received at the oral presentation. I went away feeling beheaded and big-headed. It's all the standard metaphors of the two-sided coin, the double-edged sword, a wolf in sheep's clothing. Some love you, some hate you. But it's all You they are looking at, no two ways about it.
Prof One said I was appropriately ambitious and achieved my goal (thank god he gave the grades); Prof Two said "Do you realize you are INSERTING YOURSELF into this paper? You are BREAKING the long-standing rule of third-person academic writing?" Well...I didn't know I was actually, didn't know there were silly rules, didn't know there were lit-gods controlling my pen. (He didn't read my drafts, did he?)
But I learned. I learned some history from the dissenter, the extreme critic of my hard-won pages: Always, always get all the pronounciations (his) down before opening lips. Always, always stop, wonder and question if any Academic with influence over diplomas granted will in any way be offended by brazen methods of comparing the art image with the literary text. I dissected Tracy Chevalier's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" to delineate at her methods (she used a lot of color!) in how she saw Vermeer's painting and wrote a story; how she fictionalized one of the most famous paintings in the art world and has a personal worth on par with Vermeer's. Then I morphed the idea of circa 16th century painting=fiction into 20th century photograph=fiction. I made up a story about Dorothea Lange's photograph, Migrant Mother (I used a lot of blacks and whites.) I put all of this into 80 pages and called on John Berger, W.G.T. Mitchell, Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes to support my argument: writers give birth to the stories images tell. Two weeks before graduation (in fact, the oral presentations WERE the key opening the door to graduation), it seems one can suddenly mingle too many colors and centuries; making too large a cross-section between painting and photography; artist and photographer; story and story. Yet it is done. I did it.
I look at my college degree as a six-year history lesson. A lesson in how academicians take "truth" or "rules" or "protocols" from what is historically done. "History" here meaning the body of knowledge we have of what has been witnessed and reported. I shouldn't let history repeat itself exactly; that is my duty as an educated citizen of the world. No, warp it to my cause, that's fine, (as all the politicians do) but respect the Heads. Know the Heads enough to argue efficiently. Know the Rules. They like that. Even when I don't know what I'm doing, I should always find out why I don't know anything. And play the damn game. (Always a game, isn't there?) Then later, walk across the stage at graduation in faux mink pumps and pink tights, head high, handshake the school president, face the mass of spectators, (ah, there is Prof Two, with steely-eyed smile) and scream "SUMMA!!!!"