Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Slouching Towards Comprehensive Exams

Now that I'm done with coursework, I'm starting to read for my comprehensive exams. So far, this means tweaking the lists with advisors, color-coding the lists (what I have read, what I haven't, what I know well, what I don't--it looks like my lists are celebrating gay pride right now), making schedules for reading, and even a little bit of actual reading. For those of you keeping score at home, here are my areas:
  1. Primary: Twentieth-Century American Fiction
  2. Secondary: Twentieth-Century British Fiction
  3. Other secondary/tertiary: Literary Theory, emphasizing the History and Theory of the Novel
For my reading schedule, I've divided the first two lists into three time periods each. The plan is to read two books from the first time period of each list, then two books from the next time period, and so on and so forth. (The theory list, by the way, is very much in flux at the moment, so it's less clear right now how I'm scheduling that.) For example, here's what I've got set up so far:

1900-1940: Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (I've got 80 pages left); Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (I'm twenty pages in). Once I finish the Anderson, I read Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome; once I finish Ford, I read Rebecca West's The Return of the Soldier. Plato's Ion and Phaedrus dialogues and two books of The Republic fit in there somewhere. Then, it's onto

1941-1970: Gertrude Stein, Ida (I'm looking forward to having Stein behind me, behind me, behind me); Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory; Mary McCarthy, The Company She Keeps; Samuel Beckett, Molloy.

1971-present: Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow; Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber; Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street; Zadie Smith, On Beauty.

There's a logic to it all. Retyping this for the post, I feel simultaneously organized and anxious as hell. Organizing is useful, but I think I'm also using planning as a way to delay actual reading. We'll see how I do once my wife goes out of town tomorrow and I can only talk to the dog.


Soggy Bear said...

Color coding?

Crazy Little Thing said...

Yes, color coding.