November 12, 2009 at 3:31 pm (Uncategorized)

I started this blog as a way to think out loud (and whinge) about my Master’s thesis, which I defended in 2007.  Then it became a place to store a thought or two and have a “base” from which to comment on other people’s blogs (as well as a place to freak out about the PhD program application process, and then the PhD program in general).

Now I’m looking at a PhD exam in the Spring, and I find that I have nothing to say in this blog.  It’s not that I’m not writing (since I’m not actually done with coursework, argh, I am writing, but I happen to be writing about Disraeli and Thomas Carlyle right now, I’m not deeply invested in what I’m writing, and none of it is very good).  I suppose I could be putting some reading notes towards my exam here, but in all honesty I’m not doing a hell of a lot of reading and note taking toward the exam.  I’m ashamed to admit this, especially when I get into the fatal “compare yourself to the progress of other people in your cohort” trap at which point I feel like a complete failure who is very far behind the curve on such things), but seriously – I have been learning Latin, teaching, and finishing required coursework. I have not been sitting on my butt.  This is the best I can do, and it’s going to be ok.  (I hope.)  It just means that right now I am not actually researching and writing about anything I am particularly invested in.

However, one of the things my advisor wants to see is some articulation of how my exam lists will help me get to a dissertation project.  Since another thing my committee wants to see is that I have any claim to present myself as qualified to teach medieval literature, my lists have to do rather a lot, sort of acting like comps while they’re also sort of acting like a prelim to a prospectus.  All of this has me feeling a bit schizophrenic, and finding that the lists, experience, and advice of other people in my cohort aren’t so helpful.  Where my friend might have a primary 19th century list, and a secondary 19th-century-women-novelists list, and a tertiary “theory” list encompassing, say, Marxism, or feminist theory, my primary lists go from Aelfric to Hoccleve, and my tertiary list has work on monsters, gift exchange, and art history as well as non-English stuff from Plato to Snorri Sturlusson to Chretien de Troyes with many bizarre stops in between.

In a very real way which has a very real impact on my time and anxiety level, my lists “act” a lot more like comps than they do like diss prep.  One might actually say “I’m working on 19th century women novelists” and have a list that has something to do with that project.  My lists can’t (and shouldn’t, I guess) do any such thing.

All a long way of saying my thinking isn’t going in any particular direction right now, and I feel a bit at loose ends.

In any case, I have decided not to lose sleep over this exam.  I know a lot of the stuff  on it, and I don’t know a lot more of the stuff on it, but I’ve negotiated it to where it is as best I could, and now I just have to keep reading, even if it’s in trickles and not bounds.  I have found that I really resent the exams and coursework because I find myself spending entire weekends reading (fill in the blank) when what I really want to do is learn more about Appolonius of Tyre or MS Bologna 1576.  I really can’t wait until this hoop-jumping is over so I can *Get to Work.*  I think this, at least, is a good sign.  I feel like there is some work I want to do.

I hope, then, that when these exams are over and I have passed them (I refuse to acknowledge the alternative), I will have something to say again.  I begin to despair that I will ever have more time — for blogging, reading others’ blogs, having a social life, vacuuming my car, or much else — but as I squeeze in diss thinking around the edges of all this other stuff I have to do, I’m remembering how helpful it was to use this blog as a place to “think out loud” about things. This is especially important since, as was the case in my MA program, I’m the only student here doing primary medieval anything, and I’m the only one doing anything remotely associated with anything Anglo-Saxon.

And at some point I have to work on that Chretien project.  Eh.  After March and before Leeds, somewhere in there!


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