Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Overheard in a University Coffee Shop II: Ashes to Ashes

Student 1: “I really want to do a dissertation, but I have no idea what to do one on!”

Student 2: “Oh, you can do a dissertation on anything – just interview twelve people and do a qualitative something-or-other on their… I don’t know…”

Student 3: “Dust. Do a dissertation on dust.”

Student 1: “Dust?”

Student 3: “Yes: The History of Dust.”

Student 1: “The History of Dust?”

Student 3: “Oh, well, you know, it might need to be A History of Dust…”

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2 responses to “Overheard in a University Coffee Shop II: Ashes to Ashes

  1. Russ September 14, 2006 at 9:03 am

    Sure, but you have to admit you’d be curious to read it… street cleaning and public life, allergies and disease, Victorian attitudes to cleanliness, vacuum cleaners and feminism… and it would need to be called, as seems traditional: Dust: the tiny particle that shaped a large world.

  2. N Pepperell September 14, 2006 at 9:23 am

    Oh it has all kinds of potential – they could even follow the lead of my world history teacher, start with the formation of the world, and study what happened next…

    What I really enjoyed about this exchange, though, was the sort of coy cynicism involved in the suggestion that you might have to change the title from “the” history to “a” history to get the project accepted – in its own way, it’s actually a lovely criticism of a particular dimension of academic work.

    I also enjoyed the fundamental randomness of the whole conversation – the notion that you might want to “do a dissertation”, abstracted from some specific intellectual interest driving you to do it…

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