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Public acknowledgments, or, everything that goes into a finished dissertation | Public acknowledgments, or, everything that goes into a finished dissertation – Paige Morgan

Paige Morgan

Public acknowledgments, or, everything that goes into a finished dissertation

In digital humanities, it is especially important to acknowledge your collaborators, and to convey the work that went into a particular project. I think that the same applies for Ph.D. dissertations, and thus I am very pleased to include my formal dissertation acknowledgments on this site.


This dissertation would never exist without guidance from Marshall Brown, who did not hesitate to tell me when something wasn’t working, and was equally jubilant when something was working. He taught me much of what I know about academic writing, but more importantly, he helped me become confident enough that I could teach myself. Just as important were his insights and encouragement regarding eighteenth-century poetry and constructing an argument that often felt like a daunting uphill slope. In short, Marshall’s guidance was perfectly suited to my strengths and weaknesses; and I haven’t even attempted to describe everything I learned at MLQ. I hope some day to achieve something like the mixture of grace and ferocity that characterizes his scholarship, editing, and teaching.

Brian Reed taught me to see my experiences as a writer, researcher, and professional academic in a larger perspective than I had on my own. He helped me to see how what I was learning – about poetry, digital humanities, teaching, writing, and project development – might fit together in different ways as I planned for my career as an academic. Undertaking a Ph.D. and an academic career are activities that are in some ways akin to sailing out into an unknown ocean, and without Brian’s wisdom and kindness, I might never have learned how to steer.

While this dissertation does not involve the digital humanities directly, becoming a digital humanist was a source of energy, growth, and inspiration, without which finishing the dissertation would have been far more difficult. I was able to pursue the digital humanities because of Kathy Woodward’s leadership of the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and her advocacy for experimentation and for digital, public, and multimodal scholarship in particular. I am incredibly grateful for her confidence in me, and in graduate students generally.

Mona Modiano’s Textual Studies program was the point of origin for my research, because she encouraged me to look at the relationship between William Blake’s The Four Zoas and Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, and without her suggestion that the connection between them was important, I might never have decided that I ought to read Young’s entire poem with Blake’s illustrations. Moreover, from Mona I learned the importance of presentation, style, and publicity, all of which have been and continue to be key components of being a successful academic.

I am also very grateful to Juliet Shields, Nicholas Halmi, and Hazard Adams, all of whom have offered valuable insights on this dissertation or other work that I have done throughout my graduate career.

Kathy Mork manages all the bureaucratic red tape involved with a graduate school without flinching, and ensures that various ritual meetings are scheduled, and that the right people show up for them — and this is essential, and I would be remiss if I did not give her credit for making sure that everything ran smoothly.

Several of the discussions in the chapters that follow were drafted and talked through first on Facebook; and I am very grateful for various friends who were willing to read and play along. Chief among those friends is Rachel Shaw, whose acuity and curiosity as a reader made her one of the best beta-readers that any writer could hope for. Her questions, comments, editorial advice, and general cheerleading helped me find traction while juggling data; and throughout, I wrote more joyfully knowing that I would be able to see her reactions. At various points, Amanda Watson and Yvonne Lam also helped me think things through, and their wide-ranging interests meant that I discovered new angles and information that I am not sure I would have found through normal channels. They have also all three been all-around brilliant friends, and I am convinced that dissertations do not get finished without such marvelous companions.

Sarah Kremen-Hicks, was and is the best co-conspirator in digital humanities that anyone could ask for, who spent many hours writing and editing grant applications with me, in person and in GoogleDocs. We founded the Demystifying Digital Humanities series together, and it would not be as successful without her energy and input. Similarly, I am also very grateful for Brian Gutierrez who has contributed a great deal to our team this year, and has been wonderful to work with. To have such supportive collaborators and friends has been a great gift. Other members of the UW digital humanities community whose work has made my work possible include Stacy Walters, Walter Andrews, Tyler Fox, Peter Wallis, Helene Williams, and Ann Lally. Ray Siemens and the DHSI community excel at putting the human in the humanities, and designing human-compatible learning experiences. The numerous participants of the Demystifying workshops got up early on Saturday mornings and made the workshops successful; and in the process taught me much of what I know about presenting complex information to new audiences.

Many people along the way were responsible for flashes of insight that stuck with me in the long-term: Sandra Kroupa and the UW Descriptive Bibliography group helped me to understand details in far greater depth than I had previously. Elizabeth Simmons-O’Neill encouraged my instincts that metacognition was worth spending time thinking about, and that proved to be important not only for my own writing process, but for thinking about the mindset of many of the poets whose work I was studying. Brian Gutierrez pointed out that the mid-eighteenth-century poets were going through a transition of their work environment that is parallel to the transition facing new academics today who are balancing between digital and traditional methods. Joan Graham and Norman Wacker provided me with vital support via IWP teaching that also informed my thinking about writing and research; and special thanks are in order for Vincent Oliveri, who is the best office mate I have had, and a fabulous collaborator in teaching.

This dissertation is the culmination of training that began as an undergraduate at Seattle Pacific University, and its English Department, especially Doug Thorpe, Jennifer Maier, Luke Reinsma, and Susan Van Zanten were responsible for giving me the training and encouragement that allowed me to imagine becoming an academic in the first place; and making me feel part of a larger community of scholarship. Doug’s early mentorship introduced me to Blake’s poetry, and taught me how to be patient and resilient in the face of thorny critical problems.

My cat, Turandot, has lolled upon or chewed the corners of most of my drafts, as well as numerous student papers; and I have benefited from the inscrutable nature of her commentary. Steph Mairs, Johanna and Jade Bissat, Chris Adams, Sharon Crowley, Sarah Kremen-Hicks, Becky Hutton, Stevi Costa, and Claire Burke have all provided care for her, making it possible for me to attend numerous conferences and research trips. If it is not already, then it certainly ought to be a truth universally acknowledged that you know your friends by their willingness to care for your cat.

Finally, since 2007, Tim Heath has challenged me to think both smaller and larger at significant moments; and has encouraged me to take on the dissertation with all my might while reminding me that it is not the sole measure of my achievements. It takes a very unusual sort of person to be able to provide such diverse support, from top and bottom alike. He has helped me find a place from which to view the infinite and unbounded. That is no small feat. Any attempt I make to detail his contributions will fail, so I will content myself with failing better repeatedly in the future.

The cumulative effect of all these people’s efforts is not only that the dissertation is finished, but that I have finished it with more excitement and delight in the project than at any earlier point. It is not always so, which makes me all the more grateful for their presence and generosity; and determined to show the same generosity to others.

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