Crossing the Void: The Constructive Wilderness that Is Post-Submission

Sarah Lightman presents the experience of the void from the perspective of a woman who also happens to be a successful cartoonist and a mother. Having just submitted her PhD thesis, Sarah explains how she balances the needs of her son, her artistic creativity, and her scholarly output. 

It has been three months since I submitted my thesis, Dressing Eve and other Reparative Acts in Women’s Autobiographical Comics, to the University of Glasgow. Since then, my busyness has been tempered by the sense of a vacuum, or, rather, a space of gestation. And in this no-woman’s-land before graduation, I have a thesis written, but not published; submitted, but not viva-ed; and I am still a student, yet am not studying. But I also planned in advance for this time, with a lSarah Lightman Drawingong list of academic and non-academic projects: books to co-edit, journal articles to finish, a beginner’s yoga class to attend, contemporary galleries to visit, and a CD of children’s songs to record for our synagogue. I have done some teaching and I continue to work with Nicola Streeten, and others, on Laydeez Do Comics, the foremost comic forum in the UK now, with branches worldwide, and I host in my home an artist salon, Salon 16, for women artists. In addition, my home life makes continuous demands on me. I still have to make breakfast and a packed lunch for my three-year-old son, and keep ahead of all his plans for the upcoming term – football, ballet, and a flu injection. So, whilst the PhD was a project, a big, important, time-greedy self-development project, it was never my whole life, and its completion would not leave me bereft. Continue reading “Crossing the Void: The Constructive Wilderness that Is Post-Submission”


Importance of Community and Perseverance While Riding on the PhD Boat

Ozlem Ezer writes of her experiences of both the PhD process and the post-submission period in Canada, the US, Cyprus, and Sweden, stressing the usefulness of supportive communities in these two periods. Describing her journey through the PhD and “across the void,” she explains that it is okay to stop, to take breaks, to experiment, and to realize in the process what works best for you. 

Let me be clear: I have been skeptical about “support groups” since watching Fight Club (1999) and laughing out loud. I started my PhD at York University (Toronto) in Fall 2002 and became increasingly involved in North American society since then, only to find out that support groups were really part of this culture and their extent still surpassed my imagination. In 2004, my partner and I moved to Naperville, a suburb of Chicago, where he began his full-time academic post at a community college. We didn’t know anybody in the area. I lost my York-based feminist academic circle and felt like a fish out of water. In fact, I remember coming up with a penguin metaphor in my diary. York was the sea, where I could swim fast (I finished my course work and comprehensive exams all in one year), but I was wobbling like a penguin on land in Naperville. One day, I received an email about an ABD [all-but-dissertation] support group, whose members are writing their dissertations in gender and women’s studies programs. I remembered Fight Club. I can’t recall the reasons but the support group wasn’t formed or gathered regularly. However, Michelle Morkert, a young, bright feminist ABD reached out to me, and drove to Naperville to meet me in a coffeeshop called Arbor Vitae (Tree of Life), where our friendship began. Her presence and our conversations meant a lot, and made me realize how crucial it was to have people who share the similar experiences with you. We built a strong bond despite the years and we both believe in the significance of women’s support of each other in academia as well as in other fields of life. Continue reading “Importance of Community and Perseverance While Riding on the PhD Boat”


Crossing the Void: Work Worth Doing, or How I Learned to Love the Void

Kate Browne tells how her PhD work on autobiographical dieting practices, weight loss success stories, and food journaling have influenced her online teaching and her own Facebook “autobiography-in-action.” Introducing her project, Taking Up Space, she explains how she sees her activism as a form of teaching outside academia. 

I defended my dissertation in March. In August of the same year, I decided that I would not put myself “on the market” this year, or perhaps in any other year. I blame my dissertation.

In my dissertation, I argue that autobiographical practices of dieting, which include weight loss success stories and food journaling, teach people how to live. I based my argument on Foucauldian notions of self-writing, self-care and surveillance, and put these ideas in conversation with theories from life writing, fat studies, and crip theory. My final chapter argued that teaching body-based autobiography in the undergraduate classroom can help students act as agents in their own learning processes and strengthen their self-advocacy skills. As you might imagine, critical pedagogy features prominently in this work. Throughout my dissertation, I emphasize that learning happens outside the classroom all the time and that autobiography as a site of everyday teaching and learning how to live has a substantial impact on interpersonal relationships, cultural expectations, and socialization. Continue reading “Crossing the Void: Work Worth Doing, or How I Learned to Love the Void”


On Mentorship and Godparents: An SNS Interview with Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle

Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle, Associate Professor at The College of New-Jersey, discusses life after the PhD, the transition to the professoriate, and the expectations set on emerging scholars, but most of all, on continuous mentorship in academic lives.

Maria and Orly first met with Lisa when the three presented on a panel at the IABA Americas Conference in 2015. The energizing, generous, caring, and committed energy of that panel stayed with us, to the extent that for the next two years we kept thinking together. Maria and Orly are wholeheartedly thankful to Lisa who agreed to share parts of the following conversation which was threaded in different locations across the Atlantic.

Resonating Conversations

Our interview with Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle began on a walk in Nicosia (during IABA 2016 in Cyprus). That walk sparked a conversation between Maria and Lisa about life after the PhD, the transition to the tenure track and professionalizing demands set on emerging scholars (during grad school as well as the tenure track). 

Lisa: During that conversation, Maria shared her deep concerns over the academic job market as well as her struggle through a health crisis the year before. This led to the question of personal obstacles. She asked me to elaborate (if I was comfortable doing so) on what I faced when I was ready to graduate and was curious about how I identified and worked through these obstacles. Continue reading “On Mentorship and Godparents: An SNS Interview with Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle”