Monday, April 23, 2012


Happy to report that I lived through the defense.  My husband accompanied me, for moral support.  Also, it's part of the entertainment, and one thing I do is keep him entertained. 

Before the session started, we talked to Dr. David Sheffler, the medievalist in the history department.  He was the other member of my thesis committee.  Undergraduate honors theses need only 2 committee members.  I asked Dr. Sheffler if he was prepared with his rubber hose, and he did let me know that the department had outlawed waterboarding last month.

Kidding aside, we began the session.  Dr. J. Michael Francis, one of the latinamericanists  in the department, and the department chair, came in and we started after I introduced my husband.

They began by asking me how I had come up with the idea of my thesis -- that is, that godparenthood in St. Augustine, Florida, during the Second Spanish Period served as a vehicle for the transmission of values, influence and status -- how I developed it, and what methodologies and sources I had used.  That was not difficult.

Then they -- particularly Dr. Francis, as he is more familiar with the location, though his period is the 16th century rather than the late eighteenth and early nineteenth that I'm working in -- asked more penetrating questions, which I was also able to respond to.  The idea is not, as some may think (and some may experience) to tear the thesis and the argument to shreds, but to bring up the questions that the material may demand.  They both said there was a lot of meat in my paper, which generated lots of questions.  And the questions were not necessarily designed to challenge either my thesis or my argument, though some were.  There were plenty of questions which dealt with collateral study opportunities which may arise naturally out of the material I am uncovering.

I am breaking new ground, and this is an important part of a thesis.  If I can complete some of my project -- enough to really show something about godparenthood, or enough to enable a really practical, useful population picture of St. Augustine to be derived -- in three years, in time for the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine's founding, Dr. Francis said I'll be "the golden girl."  It could put me very much in demand for making presentations.  That would be great.  So I have to groom some aspect of this same project for my master's thesis, so I can advance the work just that much more.

I also need to spend the summer not only reading, but also transcribing and translating original documents, either from the East Florida Papers, which are available locally on microfilm, or from actual documents held by the Florida State Archives.  I plan an archives visit this summer.  Next summer, with some of Dr. Francis's travel money for students in the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg (pending my acceptance there), I hope to go to Washington, D.C., to work with the originals of the East Florida Papers, for those portions which do not show up well on microfilm.

It is going to be a busy two years!

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