Thursday, February 5, 2009

I feel a little less stupid

I met with my advisor to talk about Spain, and therefore talk about comps, this afternoon. We haven't done this for a very, very long time. We're talking months. I was petrified. I walked in feeling like I knew nothing about Spain, and he was going to tell me that I have no right being here. Our meeting went very differently.

* He first asked me if I could talk about what I thought were recent trends in the historiography. So I thought for a while, trying to orient myself and put the large amount of crap in my head in chronological order, and finally started talking about questions of identity and complex relations between class, gender, regionalism, and the state.

* He was happy with that as a starting point, and so asked what historical reasons there would be for that trend popping up when it did. I thought, and came up with an answer that seemed utterly too simple. As I thought, I finally said aloud that normally when I think that an answer is too simple and overthink it, David usually tells me that was what he was looking for in the first place. So I gave him my simple answer. And he said, "Absolutely!"

* Then he embarked on what should have been a very simple question, but he wanted to make it obtuse. So, of course, I looked at him like he was insane and had no idea what he was talking about. After about 3 minutes of him continuing to ask the question in different ways, I finally figured out what he was talking about, answered it - again, the really basic answer - and we went on.

* After that stop-start-stop-start beginning, we proceeded to talk for 2 good hours about the historiography. I found that I could legitimately talk about the holes in the field, why I thought some of the holes were there, where the major trends seemed to be, when the major trends seemed to pop up, perhaps why they seemed to pop up, etc.

* He also explained his thoughts on potential exam questions. Right now there are five potentials for writtens and orals:

--Historiography question - asking some broad question about historiographic trends, akin to what we did today, or perhaps focusing in on a more specific topic, not sure yet

--Teaching question - asking how to teach Spain in the context of either an Atlantic World or a World history course - so I would have to have a plan for how to design and teach an entire course, complete with readings and strategies in mind

--Eighteenth century - question on the Spanish Enlightenment and how it connects or compares to the Enlightenment in the rest of Europe

--Nineteenth century - perhaps a broader question on the Spanish 19th century; we talked about maybe giving me a broader question here to let me play with it a bit more

--Twentieth century - a question on the impact of the end of the Franco regime and the transition era - though he told me that he's not leaning toward this question. For which I would be glad. Though I did have to ask for more books if he has any hope of making me discuss the Spanish Enlightenment, because he neglected to give me any readings that so much as discuss it even a little. So, ack, I had to add more books today. On the bright side, he said that means I can cut out three books in exchange. Yay!

When I finally got out of the meeting, I actually felt *not* stupid about my specialization. Woo-hoo!!

So, maybe I do know something about Spain... Now I just have to get the other 4 committee members to feel this good about me (and vice versa).

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