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MARIE-ANTOINETTE MARTEIL - Ph.D. in German Studies

What is your professional / educational background and what is your Ph.D. Topic?
My background is rather atypical:
- High school: (1961) at the Advanced School for Teachers in Saint-Brieuc where the regular program was over four years: tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade followed by a year of professional training
- Elementary school teacher: 1962 – 1965
- Bachelor's: 1967
- Master's (first year): 1969
- Competitive teacher's exam: 1970
- Certified teacher: 1970 – 1972
- Advanced competitive teacher's exam: 1971 and 1973
- At home from 1972 to 1980
- High school teacher: 1980 – 2002
- Master's (second year): 1996
- enrolled in a Ph.D. 2002

My dissertation topic is “The Works of Bertha von Suttner from 1880 to 1897. An Aristocratic Austrian Breaking with Tradition”. It corresponds to my life-long interests in three questions: peace, women, and God. In fact, Bertha von Suttner won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 but I studied the profound reasons for her attachment to peace, which come from her position as a woman (her gender!) and in her faith in reason which she called “the new religion.”

How has the Ph.D. process been for you?
It was a powerful intellectual time because I had to restart my education. I had an important meeting with two professors who helped me to overcome by despair caused by my first dissertation adviser. The first of these two helped me to change advisers and my new director was a true blessing. I also met with other difficulties:
- I don't live in a university town, so access to documents was not easy;
- as already mentioned, I had to read and re-read a lot of books that I had forgotten or read without having taken notes because I read them in a different context;
- it is not easy to acquire the university jargon;
- working on an Austrian, not well-known, meant that documents about her were rare.

What have you learned from this experience?

Professionally nothing since I really began after retiring. Personally, a lot: my convictions in many areas were reinforced and I thought about subjects that I did not want to think about, such as politics and the economy.

What advice would you give to a student who was considering a Ph.D.?

A dissertation is a challenge. You must know why you are writing it and where you are going:
1) Are you doing research for research's sake (my case) or simply for the title of doctor? 2) What is the importance of the title: glory? power? a career move?
3) Is the topic important to you or is it just a topic?
The questions you have to ask yourself are never easy but the road is hard, and if you simply go into it with your eyes closed you will have problems and the questions will still come up.

What are you doing now?
I am retired... but I'm starting a series of conferences and I am working on publishing my dissertation.