Last week, I finally managed to meet with my advisors about my reading list for my PhD candidacy exams. Since my advisors are two of the busiest people in the department, it took me approximately 384883947 years to secure this appointment, which lasted approximately twenty minutes.
I hadn’t received much guidance as to how to construct this reading list aside from the fact that it should probably include about 50 novels or so (a figure that made my insides cringe, as most nineteenth-century novels are hefty enough to use as murder weapons). But it turns out the lists I had constructed — one a “field” list, which should prepare me to teach survey courses and the like, and the other a “focus” list, which is meant to cater to my personal research interests — were relatively acceptable to my advisors. They advised I delete a few canonical texts that really wouldn’t serve my purposes (woohoo I got rid of a Trollope!) and suggested a few non-canonical works that could interest me.
It’s interesting to see how my professors’ personal preferences inform their comments and suggestions. For example, my focus list includes A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, a text that was published much too late to be rationally included in my exams. But when I suggested that it should be removed from the list, both professors groaned, one insisting that he had waited years to ask a Winnie question on an exam. Looks like the Pooh stays.
The highlight of the meeting: one of my advisors mentioned that reading for exams is very much an exercise in sorting information into useful categories. This information thrilled me almost as much as a Starbucks chocolate cupcake. Sorting? I can do that. I can sort. Just check out my underwear drawer. I am a sorting master. The problem, of course, is formulating the categories into which this information is to be sorted. Bikini brief and only-on-special-occasions aren’t appropriate in this case.
My enthusiasm for reading for exams was definitely flagging before the meeting, and thankfully I feel very revitalized and ready to go. I’ve plowed through Villette with a vivacity and rigor that, in my opinion, the book doesn’t really deserve. Mostly because I want to start Alice in Wonderland. Woohoo for getting paid to sit at home with a cup of coffee and read! Woohoo!
P.S. GAH I want my wedding photos. Want them NOW. Now now now. Now. (now.)