Quick report; Back from Bergen
I can't report any outrageous behaviour from last nights defense dinner. When I left Dr. Jill was euphoric, but still well behaved, radiant with her own brilliance. Yes, finishing a Ph.D. IS a special moment, a wonderful feat, and I become increasingly convinced that it needs to be celebrated with family, friends, colleagues, supervisors and dignitaries present. Last night was Jill's day, and we were all touched by her energy and joy.
And she deserved a celebration, the two days leading up to it had been sufficiently rough.
The trial lecture was well designed, and Jill is a warm and personal lecturer. That did however clash a little with the genre "trial lecture". While the audience may perk up at the occasional story, her presentation was stronger, more involved and more to the point when she remembered to glance at her prepared papers. She also tended to refer a little much to her dissertation, and lost sight of the relationships between avatars and hypertexts, examplifying more than elaborating. These things were however minor flaws, the lecture was well designed, warmly presented and a perfect occasion for admirers of Jill's light style to spend a pleasant hour in her company.
For the defense, Jill chose a daring combination of different shades of green. She can carry it off, but perhaps it didn't lend her the aggression she could have needed in order to seize the opponents by their well-prepared and well-educated necks? The opponents were gentle, giving their questions the shape of invitations, and in the first session Jill rose wonderfully to the occasion after some initial hesitation. We had the pleasure of watching two sharp, strong women in academic sparring as she and Marie-Laure Ryan explored the layers of depiction and texts. The audience left for the break throbbing with the energy of the exchange, happy and eager for round two.
In the second session some of that energy had somehow left our heroine. Bjørn Sørensen picked a central concept and asked for a clarification, but it turned into one of those moments when all you can say is: "Oh, thank you for elaborating on that, I have nothing to add." Those are part of a defense too, and they should be, or the opponent would not have done his job. Bjørn is a kind and caring man with no need to dwell any further on that, and he moved on, rapidly towards a solution.
The outcome - we don't REALLY know that yet. But after the comittee has signed the papers, I don't think they are going to tear that piece of paper up and send Jill a letter saying it was all a sham. So although the formally correct title is Dr. Designata at the moment, Dr. Jill slips easily off the keyboard and tastes almost familiar on the tongue, the sounds mixing like champagne and caviar.