The spring semester commenced in mid-January, so classes have been in session for a few weeks. Let’s take a look at what I’m studying this time around.
My first class for the week is
On Wednesday I have Ethnic Modernism. This course looks as modernism as it developed through various ethnic groups in order to demonstrate that white men alone did not invent it. While it takes a look at art, literature, and music, it’s primarily a literary course, so I’m getting the opportunity to read a lot of seminal works I hadn’t gotten around to yet, such as Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives. I haven’t taken a literature course since college, and that focused on Yuan-dynasty drama, so I’m enjoying the opportunity to critically read fiction again.
Thursdays are dedicated to an independent study I’m taking with the professor who taught my capitalisms course last fall. Since there’s currently no course on the New Deal in the course catalog, I talked to him about putting together an independent study about it, since my dissertation will concentrate in this area. In addition to the New Deal, we’ve also been looking at museum history and world’s fairs, topics that I’ve always wanted to read more about but hadn’t gotten around to in a conventional class setting. What I really appreciate about this course is that, aside from being able to read more about the subjects that most interest me, it’s an opportunity to more clearly articulate and refine the questions that underpin my scholarly practice as a whole. The dissertation, after all, is not the pinnacle of my career, so taking the opportunity to really explore why I’m interested in certain topics will enable me to more thoughtfully craft research projects and inquiries in the future.
The spring semester definitely has a different feel from the fall. The biggest difference is the amount of reading I’m doing. I read plenty last semester, but since Digital Humanities had a big project attached to it, I also worked a great deal on the computer. This time around, the focus in on reading multiple books a week, and more importantly, mastering how to read for comprehensive exams. After I finish my coursework next fall, I’ll have to complete several reading lists on different subjects, with the combined lists usually totaling around 200 books. Unless you’re the Sonic the Hedgehog of reading, there’s no way you can actually read them all cover to cover, so you have to learn to assess the argument from the introduction, conclusion, chapter headings, and other organizers. I was hesitant to do this last semester because I wanted to get all the content out of the books, but with so much reading to do this term, I’ve decided to practice this approach now so I’ll be ready next year.
The classes themselves also feel different because they’re smaller. Since second-year Ph.D. students generally finish their coursework in the fall, enrollment tends to be lower and classes have a more intimate feel.
So here’s to a new semester of learning and discovery!