Date: December 17, 2008 Tampere, Finland By: Dr. Irene Gammel
On Wednesday, December 17, our small doctoral defense procession consisting of the candidate Mary McDonald-Rissanen, the custos Professor Pekka Tammi and myself as “the opponent”, marched down the stairs of the Paavo Koli Auditorium of the University of Tampere in Finland. The auditorium was filled to the last seat with the defendant’s extended family, neighbors, friends, and other academics. It was “the day of judgment,” as the custos said, and it was quite a ceremony. We took our designated seats in the front. The doctoral dissertation Sandstone Diaries: Prince Edward Island Women’s Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Life Writing offered some fascinating research on diaries of twenty PEI women, and although it included L.M. Montgomery, it was mostly women who made no claims to literary celebrity or to heroic lives. I had structured my questions thematically as we probed the archival, historical, and cultural significance of the diarists that Mary had recovered in many years of research. After the almost three-hour defense, questions from the floor, and the official closing statements by the opponent and the custos, there was a reception line, with me and now Dr. McDonald-Rissanen shaking hands with the visitors; there were many gifts and bouquets of flowers; there was cake and coffee. It was like a wedding. In the evening, there was a “karonkka” organized in my honor in Pirkkala at the Rantaniityn juhlatalo. After the banquet, several of us had to deliver “funny speeches” and we ended the evening with music and dance. It was a most memorable defense.