Keep On Keepin’ On

March 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

As I’ve been working on homework almost nonstop over my spring break, I’m reminded earning a doctorate in Communication Studies is no joke. It’s a lot of work, and definitely a roller coaster for the self-esteem. When I was earning my M.A. and experiencing some frustrations, I would read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made so far, as reminds me to keep everything in perspective.

Recently, I was reminded of how much longer it takes one to earn a doctorate in Communication Studies or other humanities as compared to, say, a science doctorate in a field like engineering or physical therapy. Then, while reading for my Environmental Communication class, I came across this quote by Wendell Berry in his essay, “Faustian Economics”:

It is true that insofar as scientific experiments must be conducted within carefully observed limits, scientists also are artists. But in science one experiment, whether it succeeds or fails, is logically followed by another in a theoretically infinite progression. According to the underlying myth of modern science, this progression is always replacing the smaller knowledge of the past with the larger knowledge of the present, which will be replaced by the yet larger knowledge of the future.

In the arts, by contrast, no limitless sequence of works is ever implied or looked for. No work of art is necessarily followed by a second work that is necessarily better. Given the methodologies of science, the law of gravity and the genome were bound to be discovered by somebody; the identity of the discoverer is incidental to the fact. But it appears that in the arts there are no second chances. We must assume that we had one chance each for The Divine Comedy and King Lear. If Dante and Shakespeare had died before they wrote those poems, nobody ever would have written them.

What an encouraging and legitimizing reminder for me and why I am studying such a subjective area of scholarship. I have something unique to contribute to the field, and if I do not contribute it, no one else will. While scholars like Said (1983) claim each text/art displaces other texts, there still needs to be a text to displace in the first place.

So, with this encouragement, I will put on my rose-colored glasses and forge ahead, reading, writing, discussing, repeating. And, hopefully one day I’ll be able to write on here that a text of mine, my own “work of art,” is being published.

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