Doing a thesis
This page contains some analogies and images which it seems to me shed
some light on what it is like to write a phd thesis. WARNING: you may
find some of these revolting, or disgusting. Nevertheless they seem
to me accurate. I live in the city of Irwin Welsh, author of Filth
Of course, you have to be insane. Many people are insane however
without feeling compelled to write phd theses. What extra thing is it
which is responsible for this particular form of madness? Maybe it is
a kind of absurdity; but maybe it is a kind of moral degeneracy, of
abandoning oneself to the seductions of Beelzebub.
- Writing a thesis is like being confined in a pit of your own sewage,
well over your head. It is little comfort that it is your own sewage.
Indeed by comparision, other people's sewage is like the crystal waters
off an island in the Bahamas. This, but for the fragments of semi-digested
carrion still visible in it, is all entirely of your own making.
I am not sure if there is a circle in Dante's hell reserved for
people who write phd theses, but IIRC there is one which is
modulo poetic licence the same as floundering till eternity in a lake of your own excrement -- or
is it burning tar? I suspect that the sin which gets you into
these conditions is the one which consumes the phd candidate.
Round this lake, your supervisor patrols with a bayonette.
There may also be half-dead foetuses floating in it, and hideous
ravening monsters that detect their food by its whimpering.
- As for giving one's supervisor drafts of parts of a thesis, I
have on every occasion been reminded of handing over a stool sample to
a the nurse, to check it over for blood, condoms of cocaine, or signs
of a tumour.
- Writing a thesis has parallels with giving birth to a
child. There is a long and protracted labour, with little opening of
the cervix. Then application of forceps, and finally a bloody and
painful Caesarian. In a cow-shed. Using a piece of scaffolding. The
midwife here is the thesis supervisor, before whom it is vain to try
to maintain any dignity.
There is also the possibility that the thing will be dead on
arrival, or too miserable and monstrous to let live. The
examiners don't want to do much more than cut the cord, hold
it up by its feet and slap its arse. Or give it a couple of
kicks of a shit-stained abbatoire boot. Else it gets slung out
for the crows.
- It is not easy to tell whether a swelling is due to pregnancy
or an advanced case of constipation.
Last modified: Wed Nov 10 12:03:36 GMT 1999