Monday, September 26, 2005

Answering the call of Husserl

I never saw it coming. Well, not exactly. I feared that it might be coming... let's put it that way. I feared that it might be coming, and I hoped with all my might against it.

Dr. Wertz couldn't be in class today. Jury duty. The class, sadly, is my favorite: Qualitative Research Methods. For those of you not following things very closely, just know that qualitative research has been my bread and butter for the past two years, since the program from whence my masters came specializes in it. Further, I've been steeped in one particular sort of qualitative research approach for the past two years... existential phenomenology. Guess what today's lecture was going to be on?

I took this class just for this lecture. Hell, I cited Dr. Wertz in my thesis... he's one of the most esteemed voices on the subject today, and I've been wanting to hear him speak about it since I found out he existed. So yeah, I was pretty bummed. We received an email last night from Dr. Wertz, explaining the situation. I figured, okay, so we take it up next week, right? No such luck. He requested that we meet without him and have the class anyway, that we discuss the readings on our own. This is where I got a little nervous... after all, people might actually discuss the reading, and then they might look to me to say something. Ugh.

It's been no secret to most of the people in the program, newcomers or old hands, that I come from an e.p. background. Until now, it's done nothing but get me funny looks. What's strange about it isn't just the fact that I'm a real live existential phenomenology psychology doctoral student in a largely quantitative program (an e.p.-leaning psych person is pretty rare, so running into someone in the field of psychology who claims it, let alone can pronounce it, isn't something you come across every day)... what's really weird about me is that I'm in the applied developmental department, and not in the clinical department under Dr. Wertz. In other words, I'm a rogue operative, doing this whole e.p. thing of my own volition, and flying solo in my extremely quantitatively-minded research department. In short, I get funny looks, and I guess I can't argue that they aren't well deserved. But hey... they knew what they were getting when they let me into the program, so I'm not gonna question it. Anyway, here I am, the weirdo e.p. kid, and everyone knows it. We're supposed to have a lecture on e.p., and Dr. Wertz happens to be gone. We get to the classroom for our professorless class meeting, get ourselves settled in, and I realize after the first few minutes that all eyes are fixed steadily on me.

At first, it was a couple of questions. What was the relationship between Husserl and Heidegger? What does it mean to 'bracket' something? How does one perform the 'epoche', and is that the same as the 'reduction'? What's the whole thing about 'Dasein' have to do with all of this? I figured I could venture an attempt at providing the best answers I could, so I offered my help, or at least I tried to. On the bright side, I did have a good idea of how to answer the questions I got from my classmates... luckily, they were simple enough questions in terms of e.p. that I could handle them well enough. If they had progressed much further than they did, I might have completely drowned, but they didn't, so I lucked out. Or so I thought.

The thing about e.p. that almost goes without saying is that there's no such thing as an easy explanation. Some of these folks had never been exposed to any of these concepts, while others had been well acquainted through their own work with Dr. Wertz. I would explain something, and then someone would ask for an elaboration, which I would have no choice but to walk right into. Before I knew it, I had been bamboozled into giving a freaking lecture on existential phenomenological psychological research to a classroom of graduate students, some of them ahead of me in the program. I lived through it, sure. But damn, did it suck. I mean, come on... who needs that kind of pressure?

When it was all over, I went to my office and sat there for a good while, staring at the wall. What if I'd screwed up? What if everything I said totally contradicts Dr. Wertz's views? What if I said too much, and now the rest of the folks in the program think I'm some kind of know-it-all bastard that can't shut up? Then, all at once, I snapped out of it. What's done is done, I thought to myself... freaking out about it in hindsight is pretty pointless. I wrote it off to another bizzare experience, settled back into my chair, and moved on with my day. Mind you, I was supposed to do some reading for my other classes this week, but my office mate and I thought it would be a much better idea to mess around online and talk for a couple of hours about absolutely nothing... thinking about it now, it was just what I needed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you for facing up to the challenge. Keep up the good work.

Saturday, October 08, 2005 1:16:00 PM  

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