Successful completion of a PhD will everafter require that one be able to summarize those years of work and hundreds of pages, and how that effort continues to matter in the real world, in just a few sentences. Having written what I strive to not be a demoralizing number of cover letters, I’ve become well practiced in the composition of encapsulating what is the essential thrust of the thinking that was sufficient to deem me a Doctor of Philosophy.
Here is the most current version:
The blend of the experiential and philosophic provides the underpinnings of my dissertation, wherein I explored how my Great Lakes indigenous ancestors navigated the authority of the written. Those early tribal speakers and writers of English had to advocate for lifeways that were (for outsiders, inexplicably) transmitted through oral communications expressing shared experiences inseparable from a specific place in the circle of life. That the immediate interface between people and place could be deemed secondary to a piece of paper written miles away by people and forces unseen was almost incomprehensible, and certainly alarming. This baseline tension between living interaction and removed authority compelled early indigenous authors to somehow use a static form to convey dynamic awareness. That tension between sanctioned statements and critical purposes provides impetus to much of my thinking, as I strive to articulate the conviction that there is a way to bring the enormity of our dependence on the living, breathing, momentous world into a written reckoning of how that does and ought influence our actions individually and collectively.