Twenty-five years ago this day I defended my PhD thesis. I have several times described a Scandinavian PhD defence, but I can add some details. Swedish PhD theses are published as books. So there was a book that by the time of defence had been sent out to media. I was interviewed in major newspapers, I believe because fantasy was a hot topic, and it makes a good interview and a good book review as well. There were newspaper reports from the defence itself. I was terribly nervous (surprise!) and used a bad word when we were getting in the car to go to the university. I mean, a really bad word; I don't think I ever used it before or since. I still feel ashamed.
Somebody had told me to be prepared for the chock of the whole thing ending very fast. It was a good warning, because it did. I have no memory of the examiner's questions or comments, but I do have two photos of the event, one of which has a chalk figure on the blackboard, representing a Closed Secondary World. The other photo does not have this figure, so there must have been some time in between. I was wearing black, my examiner white, which was duly reported in the press and ascribed a significance.
After it was over the examiner and the examination board went into their meeting, while the closest circle of friends, about thirty people, had sparkling wine in the Department coffee room. My oldest son, then fifteen, was angry with the examiner for being nasty to me (she was incredibly nice) and anxious to know whether I had “defended”. When the exam board came in to announce and congratulate, I asked what took them so long. “Oh, it was such an interesting thesis, they said. We couldn't stop discussing it”. I am trying to remember who was on that committee. There would typically be one from the department, one from another department and one external. I frankly don't remember.
The doctoral dinner was in the wing of the Army Museum, with brick vaults. Some of my friends had prepared a fabulous feast. There was a chocolate cake with a marzipane book on top. Again, from the photos I guess there were speeches, possibly singing, but I have no memory of it.
I don't think my thesis has changed the world, but it sold steadily for twenty years, and it is still used as required reading in some places.