Dr. Derek Mong’s Dissertation Acknowledgments - October 14, 2015
Last Thursday I defended my doctoral dissertation on Whitman and Dickinson at Stanford University, but–as anyone who has ever written anything knows–I didn’t exactly accomplish that feat alone. Below are my acknowledgments, just as they appear in the dissertation. One shouldn’t have to navigate ProQuest to be thanked.
I am grateful to my dissertation committee for the helpful and supportive comments made during the writing of these chapters: Gavin Jones, Kenneth Fields, and Roland Greene, my advisor. Roland had the generosity and grace to support me when I chose to work on this project from afar. Though begun in a carol in the basement of Stanford University’s Green Library, this dissertation was completed in and around Portland, Oregon, the bulk of the writing done between January of 2014 and August of 2015. Roland’s Skype and phone conversation let me know that the dark tunnel of dissertation writing would only be dark for so long.
Thank you to those members of my Orals Committee (Phoebe Putnam and Sianne Ngai) not included above. There would be no Emily Dickinson in this dissertation were it not for Phoebe’s seminar on Dickinson in the winter of 2012. Thank you to Paul Kiparsky for moderating my Orals exam and for teaching a course on Metrics in the fall of 2011.
Two other faculty members deserve special mention. I would not have finished this dissertation, let alone my coursework, were it not for Christopher Rovee, now at Louisiana State University. Academic writing is not my first language. Chris assured me, with patience and understanding, that I could find music in my second tongue. My third chapter began as a seminar paper for his course on Victorian Literature and Photography (fall 2010). I dedicate it to him. I’m also indebted to Alex Woloch, who shepherded me through my Qualifying Exam and this doctorate, my second (and far harder) graduate degree. His time as the Director of Graduate Studies produced a series of excellent Orals and Dissertation Workshops. His door was never closed.
I was privileged, in the fall of 2010, to be admitted into Stanford’s English Department alongside a smart, collegial, and blessedly uncompetitive cohort. Thank you Dalglish Chew, J.D. Porter, Erik Johnson, Vanessa Seals, Hannah Walser, and Morgan Frank for your friendship and the comments provided on an early draft of the first chapter. Thank you Judy Candell for running a tight departmental ship.
There are those outside the Stanford orbit—scholars, poets, and those who (like me) identity as both—whose comments helped shape this project. Some are associated with my alma mater, Denison University: Sandy Runzo, Dennis Read, Ann Townsend, John Miller, and David Baker. David continues to teach me about Whitman some 17 years since we first met. I am grateful to count him and his colleagues as my friends. John Whittier-Ferguson, Linda Gregerson, and Laurence Goldstein—all from the University of Michigan—remain my scholastic models. My publisher at Saturnalia Books, Henry Israeli, provided a timely note of encouragement when I would rather have given up. Thanks to Tom Byers and Alan Golding, my former colleagues at the University of Louisville, for their kind words and for writing about American poetry. My work on Edward Weston’s Leaves of Grass, presented at The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900 in February of 2014, was inadequate recompense.
Most scholars, if they’re lucky, work from large and well-stocked academic libraries. My own home base has changed daily, and my research was conducted in a variety of stacks. I am thankful then for the following institutions, none of which objected to my rattling cart of books or my propensity to take up space: the Cascade Park Branch of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library (Vancouver, Washington), the Reed College Library (Portland, Oregon), the Woodstock branch of the Multnomah County Public Library (Portland, Oregon), and the library at Clark College (Vancouver, Washington). I’m thankful for the collections at these institutions, particularly Multnomah County Public Library, and for the librarians who aided me in my academic pursuits. There is one patron at Cascade Park in Vancouver who will be happy to see that I’ve finally left for good. Thank you Coffee Revolution in Vancouver. Thank you Papaccino’s in Portland. Thank you Powells Books. Thank you Rebecca Wingfield, Curator for American and British Literature at Stanford University’s Green Library, for providing online access to All Things Dickinson: An Encyclopedia of Emily Dickinson’s World. And thanks to Rose Harrington, also at Green, who still remembers me when I pass by the Information Desk.
A number of friends provided beds during my travels, though it was their company that was, in the end, most restorative: Kyle Coma-Thompson and his wife Marie in Louisville, Kentucky; Lev Osherovich, his wife Molli, along with their children Ezra and Auri in San Francisco; Nancy Ganner in our old neighborhood of Bernal Heights (San Francisco). Thanks as well to Nathan Boyer, Sarah Johnson, and their daughter, Ingrid Kesswood.Together you made our Sunday nights sing. Thanks to Eric Parrish for listening to my complaints.
And then there’s family. My parents, Robert and Jean, offered their home for mid-day writing. This was only the smallest of the many gestures that helped me complete this work. My brother Ryan encouraged me to find a use for my body other than holding up my head. (I’m not sure I’ve succeeded.) My wife, Anne Fisher, understood from the beginning just how hard this would be and offered the time and space to help me finish. Her advice has been inestimable, her editorial eye exact. She will always be the Good Doctor in our family of three. Thank you once again. As for our son, Whitman Avery Mong, born one week after I entered Stanford, now five as this degree comes to a close—tonight we read in bed.
One final note: this dissertation is dedicated to my aunt and uncle, Susan and Leslie Mitchell of Berkeley, California, who have repeatedly opened their home so that I could continue my academic pursuits. I’ve spent one summer, one fall, and countless evenings as their live-in guest. I’ve lost count of the nights I’ve spent drinking wine at their kitchen table or the times that Leslie has ferried me to and from North Berkeley BART. I’ll never forget how much you both did to help me see this degree to its end. I love you both.