Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cathedral of Christ the Neurotic

Just the other day Homer emailed me a link to an article published in last spring’s issue of the journal History and Memory. The article is a discussion of The Cathedral of Christ the Savior as an object of national memory and memory-making policies.

Seeing the link, I felt the stomach drop, the mark of the first sharp descent in a roller coaster. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on that same object, in much the same framework – and finished just before the publication of this article. Crap, I thought, and now I’ll see just how shoddy the work I did really was.

I just finished reading the article. And you know what? For once in my life I’m not plagued by self-doubt. For once I feel content with what I did. There were sources Haskins used that I had missed – primarily theoretical and in relation to the post-Soviet reconstruction – that is, those articles as help her discuss the contemporary status of Christ the Savior as a memory object – but I had already come to terms with the fact that my chapter on the post-Soviet context really deserved a whole thesis to itself, and I hadn’t gotten into as much depth as I could have, there. She and I differ in what we term analogous structures built under Luzhkov & Friends, but our conclusions are roughly the same.

I finished reading the article, and I didn’t think, Man, this is better than my thesis. Rather, the first thought was Huh, that was different than my thesis. And yes, there were many aspects of Haskins’s work far superior to my own. But there were other areas in which I was able to employ, if not a more skilled analysis, thicker description of the events that transpired, less reliance on outsourced footnotes to breeze past two hundred years of Russian/Soviet cultural history.

So maybe I’m having a bit of an egotistical moment, and perhaps I’m too blinded to the true nedostatki [inefficiencies/errors] of my thesis. But I’m not trying to publish that thesis, and I’m not looking at it as an incomplete or poorly-written first step into the professional discipline. I can relegate it to its place as the cusp between student and scholar.

More importantly, I don’t feel like a group of five girls I remember from middle school, who, having performed Titanic at a talent show, went running off the stage and started crying because they didn’t feel they’d done as well as Celine Dion. I don’t feel the need to log onto amazon.com and write anonymous reviews of my competitors.

Oh. Wait. I said I wouldn’t write undiplomatic commentary…

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