Student Spotlight: Caroline Guthrie Defends her Dissertation

Student Spotlight: Caroline Guthrie Defends her Dissertation

Caroline Guthrie defended her dissertation entitled "The American Historical Imaginary: Contested Narratives of the Past in Mass Culture." She has worked with Dr. Alison LandsbergDr. Denise Albanese, and Dr. Jessica Scarlata. Here is a brief interview with Caroline conducted by Severin Mueller in which she reflects on her time at Mason.


How have your research interests changed from the time you began the PhD program to now, and in which direction do you envision your work moving upon graduating?

My research interests have developed significantly from the time I began. When I started the PhD program, I knew I was interested in mass media and popular culture. However, my understanding of what that meant was fairly broad – I had not developed any theoretical or methodological commitments for the kind of research I wanted to do, and I would not have been able to confidently articulate what I saw as the stakes of those studies. For me, the trajectory of the program was invaluable; throughout coursework (particularly 802 and Visual Culture) I learned, among other things, the context for the bodies of theory I am interested in. I was also challenged to develop my own commitments, which I was able to do through fields work. I truly benefitted from every stage of the program leading to and through the dissertation.

After graduating, I plan to continue researching the theoretical framework I develop in my dissertation. I do not consider completion of the dissertation to be completion of this project – a number of questions I could not have anticipated when I began have opened up during the writing process, and I plan to continue pursuing them.

What kinds of professional development did you pursue while a student and which do you think will best position you to get the job you want: publishing, presenting, teaching, service in the department, engagement in non-university service projects, acquiring particular research skills?

For me, teaching and conference presentations were the most beneficial. My job is a teaching position, and I really enjoy being in the classroom. Having a robust teaching portfolio has been very useful.

I also presented at academic conferences on a regular basis during my time as a PhD student (seven conferences during the six years I was in the program), and I benefitted from regularly explaining my work to people I did not know, and participating in scholarly conversations outside the discipline. I absolutely would recommend regular conference attendance/participation.

What is one of your best memories from your time in the PhD program in Cultural Studies?

I came into the program with an amazing group of people, and the friendships we formed and support we shared have meant more than I can say. I feel like every time my cohort was together is one of my best memories – our 802 experience was so lovely – we really got to know and respect one another. When we were in coursework we always found each other on campus and checked in with how everyone was doing, and we had a few great holiday parties that I really treasured. Cohort love has been a major defining aspect of my experience in the program.