05 December 2005

- Yesterday -

I just got a message out of the blue from someone who'd read my dissertation. Weird. My dissertation is ten years old, so I was more than a little surprised—especially since mine dates from the pre-PDF days. For those of you not up on the ways of the academy, all dissertations completed since 1997 are available from UMI in digital format. If your university has a subscription, you can download them for free. Needless to say, this increases greatly the circulation of dissertations, since you don't have to shell out $40 everytime you want to see if some dissertation has anything worthwhile in it. But it also means that those earlier dissertations may as well have been completed in the paleolithic for all the readership they're going to get today. So what's weird is this: somebody not only had to read my dissertation, they had to order it on the basis of the abstract. What faith!!! And he's not even in my field.

Now I'm having a cordial conversation with the guy over email. The only problem is that he's interested in a part of the dissertation that I haven't thought much about since I wrote it, so I'm having to clear the cobwebs out of that part of the brain and try to recall what exactly it is that I was saying and why I was saying it. Sometimes when I go back and read my dissertation I swear it was written by another author—that is, somebody who isn't me. It's a very strange experience feeling so alienated from that self one used to be.