I have been enjoying reposting these reminiscences of my relationship with Bruce Metzger, widely seen as the most learned and important textual scholar in North America in the 20th century. I was privileged to study with him and honored to be his final student. Here I reflect on his supervision of my dissertation.
Different dissertation advisors have different approaches to supervising a dissertation. Some are extremely hands on, to the point of working over every thought and every sentence. Not too many are like that, because if they were, they would never do anything else with their life. Plus, the idea is for the student to figure it out and get good at it. That takes some trial and error. Other advisors go for the big picture and like to talk over the big ideas. Others basically don’t give a rip how the dissertation is coming along – they want to see it at the end, and when it’s done, they’ll tell the student whether it’s good enough or not. Others … well, there are lots of other approaches. Sometime I’ll explain mine, which is not quite any of the above.
Metzger took an approach that other students may have found frustrating, but that was absolutely perfect for me. He basically let me do my own thing. He would graciously read the chapters as I gave them to him. He would answer any questions I had. He would indicate where I made grammatical (and related) mistakes (he could spot a misplace semicolon from twelve pages away). And he did not get very involved in the whole process. As I said, that approach is frustrating for students who want a lot of guidance. But I was very independent minded and really wanted just to get on with it without interference. So Metzger was perfect.
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