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From Theory Soup to Pièce de Résistance


 

042814_1030_FromTheoryS1.jpg A colleague remarked that a student’s PhD abstract read like theory soup. I thought immediately of minestrone, thick and hearty, bright and colourful, tasty and wholesome. I know exactly what he meant though, and see it often in articles I am asked to review for journals. Usually the authors claim to draw on one or two key theories that underpin their conceptual approach, then throw in a handful of this, that and the other for effect, hoping perhaps to enhance the culinary delight of the concoction. As most chefs will tell you, Minestrone has a tomato base to which complementary ingredients add piquancy, spiciness and aroma, then cooked gently to allow flavours to infuse. In the best minestrone the texture and flavour of each ingredient is preserved within a wonderfully blended flavour that is the broth. Its taste and aroma will live in your memory forever. Get it wrong, it is just soup, and potentially unpleasant like the version in a local, since gone out of business, restaurant in which the most memorable flavour in their minestrone was turnip. It should come as no surprise then that “theory blending” is the name of the game. A few months later my student submitted his PhD. I am happy to report that the final version was blended to perfection, the theories infused throughout, but each retaining its own piquancy. On the day of the defence the critics did their best, but his courses were impeccably presented. It ended with the sweet; anticipated with excitement, as this was where it could all come to a sticky end. But he handled it with a flourish as the maître d’ handles a flambé for the top table, with quiet confidence and understatement, delivering the crêpe with a burst of flame and quick flick of the wrist.

042814_1030_FromTheoryS2.jpg
Then the twit forgot to register for graduation! What can I say? Is this a case of early-onset, absent-minded professorism?
Karl, I despair.

Congratulations Dr Warner.
Paula, you did a grand job.

2 Comments

  1. David Crick

    The PhD student’s abstract in the creative writing may have read like ‘theory soup’ but it could have been worse and be described as a weak clear broth without any substance like some claim this reviewer’s articles tend to be! Very creative Marian – well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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