For those who are not aware of the academia, a Doktorklub refers to a doctoral seminar (or a doctoral colloquium) for faculty and students; an avenue to present and respond to papers of academic interest by students and faculty. SAIACS’ Doktorklub was started by my supervisor after seeing/attending such Doktorklubs at McGill (he is a McGill alum). Thus, it was interesting to attend the place where “it all began”… so to speak.

I attended my first Doktorklub at McGill on Oct 30. A doctoral student, D. K., presented a paper on Julia Kristeva, particularly on her usage of literature and religion.  The following are my impressions of the structure of the event, rather than the actual paper.

The Doktorklub was held in the Birks Building faculty lounge, pretty informal, really (deep lounge chairs and all). The student was given about 30 minutes to present his paper, and about an hour for discussion to follow. He read his paper, while everyone else only had outline to follow. Only the moderator had a copy of the paper.

After the student presented his paper, the moderator then allowed the student to raise one/two (pre-prepared) questions for the group to consider. The questions would then be a launch pad into both the paper and the issues it is raising.

The faculty and students (there were about 20 in all), both of whom were present (though I don’t think all the faculty were there, nor all the students), had equal opportunity to respond as they wished to the paper (though there wasn’t that negative a tone, and a kind of gentle critique even).

The Doktorklub was followed by snacks in the hall-area.

My reactions… well, I liked the idea that anyone could speak. Even I got a chance to talk twice! (though I’m sure most people don’t know who I am, still). I also liked the idea of giving the student the space to raise pertinent questions. Then, also, I liked that the tone of the entire seminar wasn’t overly negative, in fact the faculty were pretty nice to the student (even though I felt the paper wasn’t the strongest). I also liked the idea of having snacks after the event, gives people the chance to talk about the paper further.

I did have a problem with the fact that we didn’t get the manuscript of the presentation… it is a little difficult to follow the full measure/force of the argument just orally… even an outline doesn’t really help.

I also prefer the new-SAIACS idea of having an official respondent. While it is good to get the student to raise issues; still a deeper engagement by a single-member can help stimulate healthy discussion.

All in all, I found the seminar an enriching experience, and I’m looking forward to attending the many more to come.

Below is a quote from the McGill website (http://www.mcgill.ca/religiousstudies/graduate/phd/) about the purpose of the Doktorklub in view of the PhD programme:

Doctoral colloquium (Doktorklub)

As one of their requirements, all Ph.D. students in residence shall attend the monthly graduate colloquium, at which time a student’s thesis project is formally presented and discussed. Each student is required to present an aspect of his or her thesis research to a meeting of the Doktorklub before the thesis is submitted.

Named after a more famous Doktorklub in 19th century Berlin, of which Karl Marx was a member, this Doktorklub is intended to debate theses and discuss dissertations. It serves two purposes:

  1. to allow doctoral students to present their theses at the stage when the outline is settled and work well in hand – usually the year following acceptance of the thesis proposal. Consultation with the supervisor is necessary to confirm readiness to present.
  2. to foster general discussion as to dissertation goals and method. Faculty members, or invited speakers on occasion, may present their own research as example.
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